Utah couple to race in 24 Hours of Sunlight
Andrew McLean and Polly Samuels-McLean spend all sorts of time together skiing in Utah’s backcountry. They even got married there.But on Saturday when the well-known ski mountaineers come to Glenwood Springs to compete in the 24 Hours of Sunlight, they will do it solo. They will enter the race as individuals as opposed to a team for one major reason: If they competed in it together, they wouldn’t get to ski as much.”You gotta suffer,” Samuels-McLean said. “(Racing solo) seemed like a good idea at the time. We always enjoy a little suffer fest.”With the event, a 24-hour ski endurance race that tests how many times a participant can hike up the mountain and then ski, snowboard or snowshoe down, being the first of its kind to take place on snow, neither McLean or Samuels-McLean have raced in anything like it. McLean has competed in the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run, a race covering 24,033 vertical feet that he completed in 28 hours, but this race will be different.”I am really looking forward to this much more because it is skiing and the Wasatch was running,” said McLean, a self-employed ski mountaineering engineer, writer and photographer. “I am much more of a skier than a runner, so I am looking forward to it.”The couple has skied in a variety of endurance point-to-point races that are part of the International Council for Ski Mountaineering Competitions World Cup Tour, such as the Black Diamond Wasatch Powderkeg in Utah. The competitions follow the same hike-up-ski-down format of 24 Hours of Sunlight, but only last a few hours. While the races are slowly picking up popularity in the United States, they are incredibly popular in Europe and are even being considered to be an Olympic sport in 2010.”We both have done a lot of (ISMC) races before, which are 2-3 hours, so this should be a little different,” said Samuels-McLean, an assistant attorney general for the state of Utah. “We thought it would be a fun challenge to see how many vertical feet we can do. We are both backcountry skiers and have been around Independence Pass and the Carbondale area, but never to Sunlight, so we thought it would be fun.”The event starts at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and both plan on skiing and hiking the whole time.”My goal is to not stop, or stop minimally,” Samuels-McLean said. “I’ll try to eat and drink a little after each lap. I just want to get going and not stop. Once you stop that two minutes turns into 10, and that 10 minutes turns into two hours. I’m just going to go slow and steady, or fast and steady if I can.”Her husband has a similar plan.”I am just going to see how far I can go,” said McLean. “It’s all about pacing and I might stop to change gear, but not to sleep or anything. You just try to get a steady pace.”Greg Hill, who holds the unofficial record of 40,170 vertical feet skied by a human in 24 hours and whose goal is to ski 50,000 feet, will be one of the toughest competitors the couple will face. There will be other well-known participants as well, including Ed Viesturs, who has summited all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, and Lou Dawson, who was the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers. “I think we will see some big numbers, especially from the men up there,” Samuels-McLean said. “I am going to try to average 1,000 feet an hour – I think 25,000 would be doable. I don’t know what will happen, but I am just going to go out there and see what I can do.” To train for the event, McLean and Samuels-McLean have spent as much time as possible backcountry skiing.”We’ve just been getting out a lot in the backcountry and skiing,” Samuels-McLean said. “I made a New Year’s Resolution to ski every day in January and try to do a few big days. I’m going out a few times at night to get used to that.”McLean and Samuels-McLean will arrive in Glenwood on Thursday to prepare for the event.”I am very excited, but it is sort of a mixed feeling of excitement-dread,” said McLean, laughing.
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