Granby resident races ‘one of the toughest sporting events in the world’
Ryan Summerlin March 23, 2012
How many athletes do you know enter two races in one day?
On Saturday, March 11, Granby resident Jim Howe, 48, raced in the Frisco Nordic Race, then drove to Vail to race the Wilson Cup at 5 p.m. He placed second in the Frisco race – sixth overall.
The following weekend he raced the 90K North Routt Coureur des Bois Nordic race – now called Glide the Divide – one of 100 toughest sport events in the world, according to organizers.
Glide the Divide started in 2005 and Howe has raced every year. Four times he completed the 45K race, and he’s a three-time finisher of the 90K distance. The race starts at the Hahn’s Peak Ranger Station northwest of Steamboat Springs and continues through Colorado State Park trails at Steamboat Lake State Park and through the Forest Service trails in North Routt and Medicine Bow.
Howe wanted to break five hours at the March 17 race; and he did.
He finished the grueling race in 4 hours and 54 minutes, a personal best – and 2nd in his age group: 40-49.
Despite a great race time, it doesn’t reflect the problems he had early on in the race.
“Disaster struck at the top of the first hill when the skier next to me lost control of his body and crashed into my left ski pole, shattering it in two pieces.”
Howe had to turn around and ski back toward the starting area to tell his support team, his wife Sarah, to get his other poles from his car and meet him at the ski exchange zone. Normally at the ski exchange, he swaps out skis with different wax based on the temperature. However, this time he would need poles, too. He skied with one pole for many miles, and was dead last due to the broken pole, he said.
At the 13K mark a man handed him another pole and he was able to continue racing, working hard to catch the racers.
“When I arrived at the exchange, I was told I was six minutes behind the leaders.”
At the 50K point of the race it starts to get hard, he said.
“There was a sign painted into the snow stating ‘get ready for pain.’ They weren’t lying.”
Fatigue started to set in after all the hills and the pole incident expended more energy, Howe said.
Still, he finished with a personal best time despite the disappointment about his pole breaking.
“The conditions were so good. The ability of racers was high this year. The pace was fast and the snow was fast.”
Howe is self-coached and during the winter his training hours peak at 15 hours per week. To get ready for the Glide the Divide 90K he competed in five ski marathons, which is a 42K distance, or 26 miles. Races included the Steamboat Stampede, Alley Loop in Crested Butte, Catamount Ski Marathon in Steamboat, Snow Mountain Stampede, and Big Shooter Bonk.
“I like to race and I like the competitiveness; I enjoy skiing more than anything. You go into the woods and can get lost for hours. I can ski for five hours and not even think about it.”
The day after Glide the Divide Howe alpine skied for five hours. The following he day he Nordic skied for a few hours to aide in the recovery process.
“I’m recovered now,” he said four days after the race.
“It takes a while. I’m eating more since I think I depleted my reserves.”
There is one more race on his schedule. Dan Smilkenstein is organizing a 50K ski race on Rabbit Ears Pass on April 7.
“The race director is promising pristine grooming,” he said.
After his last ski race, Howe will begin easing into road biking after taking a one week break. He is a member of the RealD-Amgen Masters Cycling Team in Boulder and will compete in cycling races including Mount Evans Hill Climb and time trials over the summer.
You might even see him roller skiing on the smooth streets throughout the county.