by Jari Kirkland
A few days have past and I'm ready to put my Grand Traverse experience into words.
Stevie Kremer and I once again signed up to do the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse (thanks CBMR) as we felt we had unfinished business. You see, the avalanche danger was too high to ski to Aspen during last year's race, so the course was re-routed to what's know as the Grand Reverse - something I'd like to avoid doing again at all costs! We wanted to complete the race in its intended format and ski all the way to Aspen.
It sounds like a great, romantic way to spend a night, skiing to Aspen, but once the race was underway and the suffering began I definitely second guessed my decision making skills!
Thankfully, the weather was perfect. Not only was it warm at the start, it stayed that way for the entire race. To put it into perspective, I only wore my CAMP jacket for 30 minutes the entire race. The sky was clear and the stars were amazingly bright as well, although I have to admit to only looking up four times during the race. As usual, my NiteRider light shone bright all night long.
The skin track was a little icy as it had been sun baked for the last week or so, but my wax job from the CB Sport guys was fast. I stopped counting the times I nearly went down after fifty. Luckily, I had Stevie in front of me so I had a bit advance warning as to what was coming. We were also fortunate to be around a few other teams most of the race, which is a moral boaster, especially at 4 a.m. when you need a little extra pep.
I could not have asked for a better teammate. Stevie kept me going to the end. At times it was all I could do to keep up with her, but I didn’t want to let her down. I knew she was motivated to finish under 9 hours, so I put my head down and went to work. After all, it's the goal I had in mind as well. I didn’t feel great at the start, but I kept eating and drinking (Beta Red was amazing) and by mid-race my legs finally came around. It felt great to be the first female team to finish - in a time of 8:17:08.40!
Afterward we were able to hang out at the finish to cheer on friends, recount stories from the night, and begin to forget the pain of the previous hours. It's especially notable that this was the first time I haven’t had foot trouble; my Scarpa boots and Darn Tough socks were amazing.
I am extremely grateful to all those who support me as I couldn't have done this without them. This includes Troy, the Cristiana Guesthouse, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Griggs Orthopedics, Scarpa, Darn Tough, CB Sports, NiteRider, Enduro Bites, Reside Living, and Stevie Kremer. THANKS!!!!