24 hours of ‘fun’ at Sunlight endurance race
For 24 Hours of Sunlight, the first time was a charm.One hundred people took part, two world records were set and $15,000 was made for the Heuga Center for multiple sclerosis in a first-of-its-kind event where people hiked, skied, snowboarded or snowshoed up and down Sunlight’s Beaujolais run from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday. “RealTime and Granny Gear are the reason why this was as organized as it was. I just came up with the idea,” said Mike Marolt, who invented the event. “Two weeks ago, there were 11 people signed up. But everyone came through, and we are supporting MS. It exceeded my expectations in every direction.”Tony Casanova, who was part of Sunlight’s ski patrol team for 21 years and now has MS, was on hand to enjoy the event.”This is great. I used to run 35-mile races, so you would think I would have been in pretty good shape, but I would never try this – it’s crazy,” Casanova said. “I can’t believe 100 people did this and everyone did it with smiles. I went to sleep and I almost felt guilty. I woke up at 2 a.m. and thought, ‘It’s so nice and warm,’ and I talked to some of the guys and they said at 2:30 a.m. it was cold as hell out there.”
Participants competed in eight different categories ranging from solo to teams of five. After climbing up and coming back down, athletes would check through the Granny Gear and RealTime produced system and head out again. Or hand off a baton to one of their teammates if they weren’t competing solo.Greg Hill and Timmy Faust each recorded 32 laps and 50,100 vertical feet, the most vertical feet skied by a human in 24 hours. Jonathan Baker also set the record for most vertical feet snowboarded by a human in 24 hours with 20,215.”This is going to put Sunlight on the map in a big way,” Casanova said. “A three-lift ski area and world records – holy smokes!” Heidi Vosbeck, who competed as a member of the 5 Person Open winning Glenwood Springs Post Independent team, loved being a part of a rotation in the competition. “Joyce Webb, Dennis Webb’s (another member of the GSPI team) wife, did all the cooking for us, so we just went up to our room and got food and got rested and replenished and went back up,” Vosbeck said. “We couldn’t have done it without her. I don’t know how the guys do it that are by themselves – it is just crazy.”Most of the athletes completed the race without sleep, whether they were on a team or not. Men at Their Peak, a team of four local men all age 55 or older, had too much going on to get any sleep.
“There was a lot of excitement to it,” said Scott Fifer. “One skier would come in and you would help them get something to eat and it just didn’t work out to sleep. Everyone’s adrenaline was high, and it was just a lot of fun.”Men at Their Peak completed 27 laps for a 14th-place overall finish, but Fifer admitted that despite training for several weeks at Sunlight, it wasn’t easy. “The hardest part was three in the morning. The top of Beaujolais has a tremendously steep pitch, and it’s just like one foot after the other and you have to keep going. I wouldn’t even look up, I kept my eyes on my feet and just took it one at a time,” Fifer said. “Then finally it would break and the terrain would get a little bit easier, then you get your energy back.”After fighting through bitter cold temperatures Saturday night, many of the competitors were given a burst of energy as the sun came up Sunday morning.”It’s nice because it’s warm and you can actually see. Today you can go way faster. The night laps are tough because you can’t see anything – it’s sketchy,” said Brian Magee, a member of the local Snowbuddies team who took fifth overall.
Instead of passing out or going straight to bed after the event, many stayed on hand to cheer on fellow racers, ringing cow bells and congratulating each racer who came down the hill.”It definitely pushes you to the limit. It was really a lot of fun,” Vosbeck said. “The people who were organizing it were great and cheered you on through the night. It was a lot of fun.”At the end of the awards ceremony that took place at noon on Sunday, the crowd at Sunlight slowly dispersed, and participants were finally allowed to rest.”I’m pretty tired – ready for a hot tub session and some food,” Magee said.With the success of the event, Marolt, Sunlight, Granny Gear and RealTime all plan on making 24 Hours of Sunlight an annual event.”We would be honored to be back here next year,” said RealTime’s Mary Kenyon.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.