Winners ski 34 laps, over 70,000 vertical
It was a laundry list of mind-blowing accomplishments on Saturday, March 5 at the second annual 7 Hours of the Banana.
The event is a fundraiser for the Adaptive Sports Center and the Crested Butte Ski Club and, as is often the case, the locals turned the fundraiser into a freakish display of athletic ability.
Sixty-eight athletes signed up for the event this year to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 total. Again there were the costumes, the parent/kid teams and the fans. Susan Sweetra was there at the timing area ringing a cowbell all seven hours each time a participant came through. ROMP Skis made a signature 7 Hours of the Banana ski for Butch Hegeman.
There was Bob “BC” Vandervoort, a man who defies time. Vandervoort is 60 years old and shows no signs of slowing down, taking third place on Saturday with 33 laps.
On the other side of the age spectrum is seven-year-old Gus Bullock. Last year Gus skied 11 laps. This year, one year wiser and stronger I guess, Gus fired off an incredible 26 laps.
Adaptive Sports Center employees Daniela Runge and Brynn O’Connell skied 31 laps each and then rallied down to town to perform in the Move the Butte at the Center for the Arts that evening.
And, just like last year, the title came down to a battle between Wendy Fisher and Johnny Biggers. Last year, the two skied 31 laps, with Fisher finishing ahead of Biggers.
This year they took it to another level, skiing 34 laps, a total of 70,720 vertical feet, with the same result—Fisher finished ahead of Biggers once again.
Prior to the event, Fisher was hesitant to say if she would be gunning for the title again but set the tone from the start line, winning the hole shot and taking first chair.
“I always second guess myself but, deep down, I knew I would go as hard as I could,” says Fisher.
Biggers credits Fisher for leading the charge to the new event record number of laps.
“I was getting ‘chicked’ from the get-go,” says Biggers. “She floored it. I was just looking through her wake, spindrift and spray.”
Biggers caught her at the bottom of the first run of the day and the two sat on the lift together aware of the pace that they had set from the start.
“It was just a blitz of a run,” says Biggers.
“After the first run, my body felt horrible,” adds Fisher.
The two skiers soon found their rhythm and were ticking off laps at a 12 to 14 minute pace, which includes the seven-minute lift ride on the Silver Queen.
As the day wore on, they showed no signs of slowing down. Fisher says the scariest part of the day came on every lap when she was exiting the Banana.
“I tried to open it up wherever I could,” says Fisher. “The scariest part was tucking out of the hockey rink and into the trees.”
Biggers is no stranger to endurance events but says the 7 Hours of the Banana has an intensity level unmatched by any other competition.
“You have to concentrate so hard on every lap skiing at that speed,” says Biggers. “You can get hurt at any second. I haven’t done anything in my life that intense.”
Biggers cut Fisher’s gap down to 30 seconds at one point late in the race but knew that if he had caught her, she would just step it up a notch.
“I knew she would just put her foot to the accelerator,” says Biggers.
Fueled by an aid station run by her parents, Jim and Diane Fisher, Wendy never felt a pinch until the final hour.
“I was surprised,” says Fisher. “I felt pretty good until the final hour. Last year I ended it saying I’ll never do it again. This year, I think I’ll do it again.”
While it was her second title in a row with a new lap record, Fisher was most excited about how much money she raised for the two local non-profits.
“I’m most proud of that,” says Fisher. “I did end up raising a lot of money.”
As for the new record of 34 laps, both Biggers and Fisher think it’s beatable.
“I felt I could have done more laps if I didn’t have to pee as much,” says Fisher.
“You never want to say you hit the limit,” adds Biggers. “If everything went right, sunshine, bluebird and you can see better, you can go faster.”