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For the Luehrs, sking is a way of life

David Luehr of Barnum is all smiles after completing his 31st Birkie. At 62, the avid skier enjoys the sport with his wife, Dana. Paul Munson/For the Pine Journal1 / 2
Area resident Tim Blais skied the Kortelopet race last Saturday.2 / 2

Between them, they've skied 48 American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet races.

Dr. David and Dana Luehr of Barnum both took part in last weekend's races - David in the full Birkie and Dana in the half-length Kortelopet race.

Skiing is a way of life for the couple, who just seem to keep getting stronger.

"It never gets old," David Luehr said. "I think it's just the excitement of the night before, deciding whether you're going to make it to the finish line or not. I usually decide in the middle of Lake Hayward (about three miles from the end of the race)."

The 50 kilometer (31.5 mile) race is an excellent test and Luehr, who is a family practitioner at Raiter Clinic in Cloquet, has done it 31 times.

"You do get to know the course," he said. "Usually you think about the next hill when you're out there."

However, Luehr, 62, also takes time to enjoy the beauty of the race.

"I'm thankful that I can still be out there to enjoy the skiing and the day," he said. "But yes, you bet, you enjoy the beauty."

Luehr has even had conversations with fellow racers while on the course.

"Last year I skied next to a fellow whose birthday was three days before mine," he said. "I was in my 30th Birkebeiner and he was in his 29th. We talked briefly and we agreed that we were both happy to be out there."

The same can be said for Dana Luehr, 60, who skied the full Birkie in 2006 but has skied the half-length Kortelopet 16 times.

"I did [the full race] to see what it was like," she said. "I knew I could finish the whole race, but the Kortelopet is one I know I can finish, too, and try to do well."

And how. Dana Luehr set a personal best time in this year's race of two hours and 10 minutes, finishing in sixth place in the 60-64 age bracket.

"I thought I could do better after placing in the 55-59 bracket a few years ago," she said. "I figured as long as I didn't slow down I'd move up in the standings."

Cross country skiing is a family affair for the Luehrs.

"It's something we can do together," Dana said. "My husband skis faster than I do but we go out together." She estimates she skies 7-10 kilometers per day and another 20-30 kilometers on weekends.

"You have to keep up your training," she said. "We belong to a ski club that starts dryland training and ski imitation drills at Pine Valley the first week in October. Then we hope for early snow so we can get on our skis."

"I think it's an exhilarating sport," David added. "It's not very hard on the joints - unless you fall down - and compared to running it uses more muscles in the shoulders and back and legs. It's also beautiful skiing over the trail and watching the snow fly."

David said he rollerblades, rides a bike and pole vaults to keep various muscle groups toned when snow is not on the ground.

"In order to do the Birkie, you have to work out throughout the year," he explained.

That said, the Luehrs had different finishes for their 2012 races.

"The last 10K were tough because my legs cramped up," David said. "It was hard to ski it due to the snow conditions. I was 10 to 15 minutes slower than I wanted to be, but I finished and that's what counts."

Dana's exceptional race was cause for more celebration.

"The skis were just right, my husband waxed them perfectly and I did well," she said.

With the race over and two large dumpings of snow covering the ground in Cloquet, the Luehrs are a bit wistful.

"Maybe the season will last longer now instead of it all melting," Dana said. "But we are traveling to Mexico on vacation soon so we'll still see white. It'll just be sand instead of snow and we won't care about the


The obvious question, though, is how long will the Luehrs continue to ski


"The day before the race, I keep saying this is the last time I will do this," Dana said. "Then as soon as you finish you think about next year and how to improve your time. Because it's low-impact, I think we can probably keep doing it as long as we can move our legs and arms."

"For me, I always said I wanted finish the races on an even number," David said. "I'm at 31 now so we'll see."

The following are local results from the 39th Annual American Birkebeiner events, held Feb. 23-25, 2012


Men's 50K Skate Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

2548 125 M 60-64 David D Luehr Barnum 4:04:52.5

3154 354 M 45-49 Dan J Peterson Barnum 4:43:31.6

2655 204 M 35-39 Ryan M Harden Carlton 4:10:46.0

3342 465 M 50-54 Timothy G Couture Cloquet 5:04:27.3

881 123 M 45-49 Mark Hagen Cloquet 3:02:06.3

848 115 M 45-49 Scott D Johnson Cloquet 3:01:13.7

2161 97 M 60-64 Timothy J Krohn Cloquet 3:46:34.8

220 19 M 45-49 Kenneth Ripp Cloquet 2:30:37.2

1332 140 M 18-24 Kevin H Robertson Cloquet 3:17:22.4

1707 153 M 55-59 Robert B Schoenberg Cromwell 3:30:13.3

2749 397 M 50-54 Russell A Mattson Esko 4:15:04.1

178 12 M 45-49 Philip T Rogers Esko 2:28:18.5

1947 149 M 35-39 Brian W Zuck Esko 3:38:52.9

3617 206 M 60-64 Steve Winchester Moose Lake 5:59:05.8

Women's 50K Skate Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

3477 55 F 35-39 Erica A Chopskie Cloquet 5:25:55.5

Men's 54K Classic Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

698 88 M 45-49 Tom G Urbanski Cloquet 4:33:20.9

1222 141 M 45-49 Steve M Sharkey Esko 5:48:24.4

307 27 M 25-29 Reid C Smith Esko 3:42:45.2

368 17 M 60-64 Adrian L Watt Esko 3:51:34.6

Women's 54K Classic Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

301 5 F 50-54 Kelly A Rogers Esko 3:41:50.1

802 14 F 55-59 Nancy L Carlson Wrenshall 4:45:00.3


Men's 23K Skate Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

534 21 M 60-64 Tim Blais Cloquet 1:48:05.7

635 37 M 13-14 Lucas A Tomhave Cloquet 1:53:26.3

447 57 M 15-16 Nicholas M Tomhave Cloquet 1:42:01.6

636 28 M 45-49 Steve M Tomhave Cloquet 1:53:27.0

373 55 M 15-16 Tyler A Mattson Esko 1:37:47.6

Women's 23K Skate Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

898 6 F 60-64 Dana D Luehr Barnum 2:10:39.4

795 19 F 35-39 Melissa A Zuck Esko 2:03:25.5

Prince Haakon

Women's 12K Skate Results

Overall Place Age Group Place Name Town Finish Time

83 41 F 0-99 Kerry C Tomhave Cloquet 1:20:55.3