Where is the fun? This simple question rolled around in my brain for the vast majority of the hell slog known as the Grand Traverse. If someone had asked me why I’d signed up for 12 hours of pain, I doubt I could have given a coherent answer, mostly because I was borderline incoherent, my body and mind wrecked from exhaustion, sleeplessness, and nausea. But that’s the abbreviated version of my Grand Traverse experience. It’s the narrative I wrote on the trail when I was one sad panda.
A few days removed from the GT, I’m still sore. The unpleasantries of the 40-mile tour linger. But I’m not such a negative Nancy anymore. The scale of the accomplishment has set in: countless hours in the gym, miles and miles of training tours, and the race itself. It’s the most dedicated to anything I’ve been in years. Sure, avalanche conditions forced a Grand Reverse, which prevented us from making it to Aspen. Sure, we finished slower than we’d hoped, and the old guys beat us. But I finished, damn it. Ask anyone who competed, that’s no easy feat. And it feels frickin' great.
The mass start at the 2014 Elk Mountains Grand Traverse.
I bitched a lot after finishing the race. As a staunch supporter of sunshine, deck chairs, and cold beer, the rigors of the Grand Traverse didn’t jive with my patio lifestyle. I swore I’d never do something like it again. But I can be full of shit sometimes. As much as the Grand Traverse killed me, as much as it broke me down both physically and mentally, I’ll be on the start line again next year if for no other reason than to complete the actual Traverse, the one that ends in Aspen.
I know I can devote another 12 hours of my life to the worst time imaginable. I’m up to the challenge the Grand Traverse presents: reaching your absolute limit, laughing, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. And because I’m more confident now that next year’s race won’t kill me, I’m sure it’ll be a walk in the park. Of course, that’s probably my undernourished, oxygen-starved brain talking again. It’s going to suck. But therein lies the fun. I found it.
Here's a short glimpse into one of the few nice moments of the race.
I couldn't have finished the race without these guys. From L to R: Jonny Holton, the author, Pat Erley, Jason Holton.