It's been almost more than three days, but I'm still sore from this weekend. Heck, muscles I didn't even know existed are still sore from this weekend. I know this sounds like a bad start to some story of Saturday night debauchery, but wait. This time my soreness comes from the 24 Hours of Telemark, or 24T, one of the near Midwest's most hardcore ski races. For years, the Carleton Nordic Ski team has made the long annual journey to northern Wisconsin to partake in the 24T. This year, 21 students on 6 teams from Carleton joined the race.
The 24T is remarkable because the winner is not the team that reaches the finish line first, but the team that completes the greatest number of laps around a 5K loop within 24 hours. Of course, you don't actually have to be skiing all 24 hours. However, every lap you sleep, even if it's four in the morning, means other teams are gaining.
This structure leads to some pretty questionable decisions. It's a lot easier to forget which foot to put forward when you've been skiing in shifts for 17 hours, your eyes are freezing shut from the cold, and you're already so sore that you can't bend your back past a fifteen degree angle.
After midnight, even seasoned skiiers are tripping over themselves. At one point, I crashed into an eight-foot ravine and had to climb out by using my ski poles as ice picks. Worse yet, we sighted one man coming in from a lap whose face was completely encrusted in frozen blood from a noseblee.
Despite this obvious deterrent, some skiers pretended like it's not hardcore enough to merely ski in shifts for the 24 hours, but want to do it all themselves. From Carleton, Ben Tyler skied in a 12 hour straight race by himself, while Peter Wilton did the whole 24 hours- and got second in his category.
You're probably thinking by now, “Blood-encrusted faces? Possibly permanently damaged backs? Why would anybody ever, ever, ever want to do this?” Well, it is fun.
I mean, it has to be for us to go back year-after-year, right? I'm pretty sure we're not entirely deranged. I'm hard-pressed to think of exactly what was fun about it, though. Perhaps it had something to do with how delicious plain, cold pasta was after one of our shifts. Or the hazy feeling you get when you wake up from a nap at three AM and begin to question whether or not you actually were skiing two hours before. Or maybe having old ladies in the warming tent complement you on your spandex. Whatever it is, I'm glad that I did the 24T, and I'm glad that it's over.