Ski blog: 24 hours on skis in Glenwood |

Ski blog: 24 hours on skis in Glenwood

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” When the morning dawned, people starting seeing the blood.

“Did you see the blood?” my teammates asked each other as we bustled about our room in the lodge.

I saw the blood, eventually, too, spattered along the first part of the course, when I took my last run of the 24 Hours of Sunlight.

Maybe someone had coughed it up. Maybe someone cut their finger. Whatever had happened, it seemed to be a testament to the grueling nature of this adventure race.

I only did five runs up Sunlight over the 24 hours. Each one took me between 55 and 58 minutes (if not fast, I was consistent). I had about four hours of rest between each run. For me, that was grueling enough.

But consider that the men’s solo winner, Eric Sullivan, did 34 laps. That’s 47.6 miles. Some 51,000 vertical feet. His first lap that was slower than any one of mine was No. 29.

The concept behind 24 Hours of Sunlight is simple. Climb a course that starts at the base of Sunlight Mountain and ends at a bamboo stake that’s 1,500 vertical feet up the mountain. Then come back down.

Do that again and again and again.

The potential ways to do that are endless.

You can use climbing skins ” on randonee skis, telemark ski or a split board. You can use big fat powder skis or skinny racing skis. You can use cross-country skis with fishscale bases. You can carry your skis or snowboard on your back as you hike up. You can tether your snowboard to yourself and drag it behind you. You can wear snowshoes.

You could either compete solo or as a team, whether it was two people, four people, five people, or even more people.

I was on telemark skis with climbing skins, with a team of five.

The course started off relatively flat, but the middle part was a relentlessly steep (I thought) section that culminated in an even steeper face.

The downhill course was on an intermediate trail that soon became an icy luge with exposed rocks and moguls. Pretty scary when you’re racing down at midnight.

Every time I got back to the finish area, I was out of breath, either because of adrenaline of the frenzied descent or the exhaustion of the tiring climb. (Probably both.)

Then there would be a frantic baton handoff, and then four hours of rest. I didn’t get much sleep, probably about half an hour sometimes between the hours of 2 and 3.

It was really like a big slumber party for slightly crazy, mountain-minded athletes, with music blasting from the finish area for the entire 24 hours. You develop a certain camaraderie with a complete stranger with whom you’re skinning up at mountain in the middle of the night.

And anyone could do the race, whether it was a professional adventure athlete (like Eric Sullivan) or a completely out-of-shape novice (like me).

My favorite lap was the one I started in the dark at 5:30. The skies barely lightened as I shuffled my way to the top. By the time I got to the top at about 6:15, dawn was peaking out behind the mountains. The lights of Carbondale were spread out in the valley floor.

I wish I had more time to take it in. I watched it for about three seconds. I had to take my skins off.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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