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Inside the GORE-TEX® Grand Traverse with Stevie Kremer, Part 3

Wildflowers in Crested Butte

Inside the GORE-TEX® Grand Traverse with Stevie Kremer, Part 3

Crested Butte Inside the GORE-TEX® Grand Traverse with Stevie Kremer, Part 3

At midnight on March 25, 400 racers in teams of 2 will set off from the base area of Crested Butte Mountain Resort to embark on an overnight, 40 mile journey through the snowy backcountry to the slopes of Aspen Resort in the annual GORE-TEX® Grand Traverse (GT).  It sounds like a grueling adventure of epic proportions, and it is.  Tonight will mark the 8th GT for pro-trail runner and ski-mountaineer (skimo for short), Stevie Kremer.  In anticipation for the race, we’ve been discussing all things GT over the month of March.  In the first article we discussed what the GT entails for racers, in the second article we discussed preparation for the race, and today we’ll be exploring race tips and tricks straight from a seasoned pro.

But let’s recap before we get to that:

Stevie is a professional trail runner and ski-mountaineer, as well as a third grade teacher here in Crested Butte.  She started her athletic career with a simple need to stave off the “freshman 15” during college, and it blossomed into a full blown love affair when she moved to Crested Butte and competed in her first trail race.  Her love for trail running has taken her to races on every continent in the world, except Antarctica.  In 2012, she won the Long Distance World Mountain Championship, and in 2013 and 2014 she claimed the Skyrunner® World Series Champion title.

It seems trail running ultimately led into ski-mountaineering during the winter, when the cold and snow keeps trail runners primarily inside.  The low impact, strenuous sport includes steep inclines and logging significant vertical feet.  Ski-mo was a good fit for Stevie, seeing as how she has won the gold medal for the International Ski Mountaineering for the United States, and the overall female winner of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering (COSMIC) Series.

Gore-Tex Grand Traverse

Photo: Trent Bona, courtesy of Crested Butte Nordic

As we discussed in the first GT article, supporters of the race setup camp all along the trail system, setting up fires and a resting points for racers if they need a warm drink or a warm fire.  Despite this, it’s absolutely imperative racers have their food and water situation well prepared for the entire 40 mile race.  But this is easier said than done.  In the frigid temps, food and water can freeze, and you need to pack a significant amount of calories to last you anywhere from 6.5-13+ hours of hard physical work.  After 8 GT’s and numerous other ski-mo races, it’s safe to say Stevie probably has her food and water prep down.

“I carry Skratch Energy Chews as quick, energy-packed food, but I also carry regular food like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or different protein bars.”  But having to sort through your bag, or fiddle around with a sandwich during the race just won’t cut it.  The remedy? “If I have protein bars or "normal" food, I typically break them into little bite size pieces so I can eat little pieces at a time.”

Water is incredibly important, but is difficult to manage out on the course.  Overnight temps range from race to race, but regardless, racers are outside in the dead of night in the early spring, when it’s still very cold and snowy at high altitudes.  This is what Stevie had to say: “I used to use a Camelbak, but I noticed the hose would freeze a lot, the way I carried it.”  But racers have come up with a solution to the frozen bladder and hose problem: cut a section of a t-shirt big enough to act as a pouch for the bladder, then you can sew it onto the inside of one of your base layers.  The bladder and hose will be inside your clothes and close to your body, where the heat will keep it from freezing.

Gore-Tex Grand Traverse

Photo: Alex Fenlon, courtesy Crested Butte Nordic

Stevie also uses Salomon soft flasks, keeping a couple in her chest pockets, and a couple more in her backpack.  She says they’re easy to drink out of and deflate to almost nothing when they’re empty. 

The GT is a 40 mile endurance race, and Stevie says: “When I'm racing I try not to stop...I feel like when you stop, it's very difficult to get started again.”  So if she gets tired, she just tries to slow down and eat, adding fuel to her body to combat fatigue.  To keep her food and water in close reach, she uses a Function Over Fashion mini-pack, which straps to the front of her body, and allows her to keep moving while snacking.  She also saves her “real food” (rather than gels or chews) for those moments she needs an extra boost.

There is a mandatory stop along the trail for health checks, which she uses to check her food and water supplies, use the bathroom, and take that mandatory rest before the last 2-ish hours of the race. 

If anyone has raced with Stevie, or seen her race, there’s one piece of her ensemble that stands out, regardless if she’s trail running or ski-mountaineering: her pearls.  Jokingly, she refers to them as her most important piece of equipment.  Joking or not, she tries not to race without those and her lucky sports bra. 

Stevie Kremer

Never without her pearls.  Photo courtesy Stevie Kremer

But overall, she thinks “the most important thing about the race is to communicate with your partner. . .make sure when one of you eats, the other one is eating too.  Be on the same page with them.”  It’s a team race, and it’s a long one—if one partner bonks, and doesn’t make it through the finish line before the cutoff time, neither do you.  So, Stevie recommends: “if one partner isn't feeling as strong, they should set the pace to make sure the stronger partner isn't pushing them harder than they can go.” 

We wish all of the racers in tonight’s GORE-TEX® Grand Traverse strength, speed and a safe journey from Crested Butte to Aspen!  For more information on GORE-TEX® click here. For more information of the GORE-TEX® Grand Traverse, click here