Curiosity got the best of me this past weekend. I figured joining Christy for her 5th go at the 5th Annual Coureur Du Bois, a 90km skate race from Steamboat to the Wyoming border and back, sounded like good fun. It wasn’t– it crushed me.
Who was I to think I could show up with only a single 40km training day and a few shorter races under my belt and casually cruise the course? As if covering 54 miles on skate skis, cresting the Continental Divide and climbing near 6500 vertical feet should or could be done ‘off the couch’. Or that when earlier in the week, after I saw a chiropractor for some back pain and he advised me to “take it easy” for a while, I somehow thought that this would be following his advice. Better yet, when I unpacked my bag to sort some stuff the night before, it came to my attention that I had forgot to pack a shirt, and with nowhere to get one and the race starting early in the morning, I had to show up to the start line wearing a long sleeve cotton tee shirt, basically a pajama top I brought with me only to wear to bed. But rather than dwell on my suffering and deflect responsibility for my poor performance at what has been titled the “toughest skate race in CO”, I’ll focus on the highlight. Thankfully there was one.
At around 50km, just past Whiskey Park, the loop course makes a short out-and-back to the Wyoming border. On the other side of the state line is an aid station that Christy had talked about for years. Staffed by young local sledneckers, it’s stocked with the standard aid station goodies as expected, though it’s not sports drink, bananas or energy gels they help you with. This crew encourages everyone to throw back a shot of whiskey, and a rather large one at that. And with the same crew running the Wyoming outpost every year, they were anticipating Christy’s arrival. They saw coming up the hill and the cheering erupted. They only see each other for a few minutes each year yet it seemed like some old friends reunion.
After a few minutes of Christy catching up with her favorite crew, who seemed to match each shot downed by a racer with one or two of their own, we took off and resumed with the misery.
Three hours later we finished. In true fashion, Christy crashed right before the finish line, but it wouldn’t be enough to catch her. She beat me by 9 seconds. Later, at the awards, she got special mention for being one of the few who have done the race every year. And when the state line crew pulled in during the finishing ceremonies, three sheets to the wind after finishing the whiskey, they also honored her with the distinction of being the only girl to do the shot. Does that surprise anyone?
And according to the state line crew, the preferred drink of skate racers who chose to indulge is… Jameson.