We'll, it's about 30 hours since I finished the Elk Mountain Traverse, and after an enchilada plate and 14 hours of sleep, I feel much better.
So now I'll try to answer the question, "What is it like to ski 40 miles?"
Skiing 40 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen is less about skiing and more about eating. I think, looking back, the people who did well (all other things being equal) were the people who forced themselves to eat, even if they weren't hungry. My partner, Hunter, set his watch to beep every 30 minutes. At every beep, we ate. We had rigged up small nylon bags that hung by our hips like holsters on a gun fighter. Instead of six shooters, they were packed with pb & j sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, power bars, corn nuts, and energy gels.
By the end, I loathed everything on this meager menu. Try eating a sandwich while skiing up a hill in 15-degree weather and you'll understand why. But anyway, we stuck to the eating schedule and it kept us going strong. Except for a broken climbing skin, we didn't stop once the whole way.
At times I wanted to stop, but there was always that nagging reminder that stopping would just prolong the ordeal - 11 hours and 2 minutes was enough for me.
I was wondering, at the outset, what the low point would be. I figured it would happen mid-morning, when we had skied for 30 miles and were exhausted and still had 10 miles to go. In fact, it struck much earlier, probably around 3 a.m. It was dark. I was tired. I wanted to go to bed. And I kept thinking, "Geez, if I feel this bad now, how bad am I going to feel in 20 more miles?"
But then, while we were skiing up 12,400-foot Star Pass, the sun came up and I felt instantly energized. (I also had a canned espresso, which may have had something to do with it.) At that point, I realized I had passed my low point and there was nothing left to do but push on to the finish line (where there was a free keg of Fat Tire, which may have had something to do with it).
I had also been dreading skiing down the steep blue runs of Aspen Mountain, especially since when we got there, 37 miles into the race, I was exhausted. So I pulled a trick I've been planning for weeks. At the top of the mountain, I just sat down on my ski tips and basically luged the whole thing. I think I was the only person to cross the finish line on his butt. Today, I'm sore, but utterly satisfied. That is one heck of a race.