Friday, March 31, 2006

Ready to suffer: the Elk Mountain Traverse Check-in

I arrived in Crested Butte today for the 40-mile Elk Mountain Traverse ski race over the mountains to Aspen. We'll start at midnight so we can pass over some dicey avalanche zones at dawn before the sun loosens the snow. Now, we're packing and waiting.

As you can see, we have a lot of stuff to cram into our packs, but we have no choice; most of the stuff is required by the race organizers. We showed up this morning to have our packs checked by the judges to make sure we had everything from sunglasses to a stove.

There were about 250 other racers with their skis and packs. The scene was about what you would expect, bearded mountain folk with ratty, sun-faded baseball caps and $150 sunglasses -- and a surprising number of blue eyes.

My lovely wife, Amanda, ever the terse observer, said, "What a surprise, a bunch of white people paying to suffer in their free time." I had to agree. Looking around, you could sort of understand how Leif Eriksson got some guys to willingly sail to find the new world in an open boat.

We have 4 1/2 hours until the race starts. Now we just nap and wait and pack and re-pack. The weather looks good. It should be a balmy 19 degrees when we start tonight. Little wind. A slight chance of snow.

I can't help but think dawn will find us in good shape. Though, I have to say, last time I pulled an all-nighter, it was in college and involved beer. We'll see how it goes. The key, as Matt Carpenter would say, is CFM, constant forward motion.
I won't have a chance to post again until after the race. Don't expect it to be coherent.

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