Eagle Valley Nordic skiers eclipse 200k distance in 24-hour event | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley Nordic skiers eclipse 200k distance in 24-hour event

Bergsten and St. John take fourth and fifth respectively in Equinox Challenge

Ferguson St. John and Lukas Bergsten after their last lap at this weekend’s Equinox Challenge in Leadville.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

A Big Mac was never more well-earned.

After skiing 224 kilometers over 24 hours, Ferguson St. John patiently answered questions from a certain reporter as his McDonald’s prize waited in his lap.

“I had two of those after one lap — I was so hungry,” chimed in Lukas Bergsten, the spunk in his voice belying his efforts over the course of the previous 24 hours.

From 10:00 a.m. Saturday until the same time Sunday, the two Eagle Valley Nordic teammates lapped an 8-kilometer trail 28 and 29 times, respectively, with Bergsten fitting in an extra lap early the second morning to reach 232 kilometers of total distance.

The goal going in was to reach the 200 kilometer threshold, a mark they and their support staff knew would be a stretch.

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“I’m surprised it went that well,” Bergsten admitted afterwards.

“I thought there might be more whining,” little sister Ava, who joined for a lap-and-a-half at midnight, joshed.

Athletes at the start of the Equinox Challenge in Leadville. Skiers lapped the 8-kilometer course for 24-hours, with the winner reaching 272-kilometers. St. John is in the second row in blue with Bergsten to his left.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

At the start of the race, participants were greeted with standard Colorado styrofoam snow — not ideal for the task at hand. Conditions worsened throughout the day as temperatures reached the upper-30’s. Under a beautifully cloudless blue sky, the sun turned the tracks and into a slushy, slow mess as skis suctioned to the ground.

“The hardest laps for me were eight and nine — which seems weird, but it was when it felt like waterskiing on snow,” Bergsten recalled. For St. John, it was lap 20, finished sometime after midnight. Bergsten’s dad offered his truck camper for the athletes and support crew, which also included fellow Devils skier Justine St. John, but the temptation of a warm, cozy bed became a demon to ward off in itself as the stars came out in the Mount Massive amphitheater.

“I stopped going in there after I woke up because of the heater,” Lukas said of a decision after his lone four-hour rest.

The strategy was to stop for food and drink between each steady-paced revolution. Oreos, protein bars, chai tea, coke and of course, Big Macs, were devoured ad nauseam. “We had everything,” St. John said. “Lots of sugar,” Bergsten added.

When the full moon emerged, the once slushy tracks turned to ice, speeding things up considerably. Donning headlamps, the high school boys looked strong as observed by your humble correspondent, who ventured out to double-pole a few laps himself.

Even with an entire day — literally — to converse, the pair made men everywhere smile by sharing insight on how they passed their time: “We didn’t talk much,” Bergsten said. “We did a little during the first lap, but it was less and less each time,” St. John added.

The parking lot of the Mount Massive golf course was full of athletes, support staff and families ready to spend the night.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Though the distance was heroic, it wasn’t enough to win the $300 cash prize, which went to Tayte Pullman, who skied sans sleep for 272 total kilometers. When asked how they planned to celebrate, St. John and Bergsten provided a predictably unison reply: “Sleep.”

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