“It was a very nonchalant race”
Last year, Gunnison resident Eric Sullivan won the 24 Hours of Sunlight endurance ski race setting a new world record for most vertical climbed on skis in 24 hours finishing with 34 laps for a total of 51,068 vertical feet.
This year, Sullivan returned to partake in the pleasure of pain. But without anyone pushing him, he was able to retain his title in a fairly comfortable manner skiing a total of 27 laps and climbing over 40,000 feet.
So comfortable in fact that he watched the end of the race from the base area.
“I sat in a hot tub at the base area and watched the last two hours of the race,” says Sullivan.
Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 7, racers climbed over 1,500 feet up one ski trail at Sunlight ski area to the top before descending down another adjacent ski run back to the base for 24 hours straight.
Sullivan came into the race with a simple strategy this year.
“My motto was just do enough,” says Sullivan. “I thought if I pushed hard enough at the start I could back it off at the end and it kind of worked out.”
Sullivan opened the race turning a 31-minute first lap, six minutes faster than his first lap last year. In fact, Sullivan maintained this pace for the first 13 hours of the race and was ahead of his record setting pace last year. Meanwhile he had built a four-lap lead on the second place competitor and was treated to some surprising news when he hit the transition at the base area at 1:30 a.m.
“I thought I was coming in on lap 19 and I found out I had just finished lap 21,” says Sullivan. “I was two laps ahead of the world record pace before I shut it down.”
Sitting on a four-lap lead, Sullivan decided to take a break at 3 a.m. and went back to his room to tend to some intestinal issues and watch the progress of his closest competitor.
“My stomach was wrecked but my legs felt good,” says Sullivan.
Once the second place racer drew closer to Sullivan’s lap total, he returned to the race for one last push from 5 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. to rebuild his lead before calling it a day.
“It was a very nonchalant race,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan credits his support crew of Ben Johnson and Keith Brett for much of his success as they worked with Sullivan and his gear throughout the entire race.
“They worked their ass off for me,” says Sullivan. “They had it dialed and it went really smoothly.”
Sullivan took home $800 in cash for his effort. Sullivan admits the prize money was one of two reasons why he came back to the race this year.
“It’s just a really fun event with that cool vibe you get at a race like that,” says Sullivan. “I was going to ski that weekend anyway so I figured I might as well get paid for it.”