“Still the same, still hard”
[ by Than Acuff ]
The slate of summer events for CB Nordic has grown the past seven years. For so long, the Grin and Bear It trail run was their main event of the summer and typically involved maybe 50 runners, almost entirely local, charging up to Green Lake and back for a cold frosty Steinlager at 10 in the morning.
Then, nine years ago, CB Nordic expanded its summer event offerings to include a running race from Crested Butte to Aspen, and a bike race the very next day from Aspen back to Crested Butte. It was all part of the winter Grand Traverse idea and an effort to expand on that brand to include summer races.
Now, nine years later, all three events have been tweaked and blown up and are either completely full, or nearly there, for the 2022 summer.
Grin and Bear It
For its first 36 years of existence, the Grin and Bear It was a race up the Green Lake trail to “touch the ponderosa” on the shores of Green Lake, and then turn around and run right back down the Green Lake trail to the finish line for a total of 15 kilometers.
Once the Baxter Gulch trail was opened and linked to the Carbon Creek trail, CB Nordic race organizers expanded the event to include a longer 25.7-kilometer loop option that tied in the new Baxter Gulch Trail while keeping the classic out-and-back 15-kilometer race still in play.
That all came about while Andrew Arell was the CB Nordic events director and it was during that first year of both events, when COVID forced it to be a virtual event, that Becky Nation gave the Grin and Bear It a go. Nation is now the new events director for CB Nordic starting in the position in May and sees the latest addition to the time-honored local event as a perfect idea.
“I think everyone loves having the two options,” says Nation. “I can only assume it helps make the out-and-back less congested and I think people like the option for more challenge as a training race for the Grand Traverse summer race.”
Nation’s words are more than speculation too because as of this week, registration for the Grin and Bear It on Saturday, July 16 is already ahead of 2021 numbers as 107 people have signed up, with 68 signed up for the longer version. Not only that, but the event is bringing in more people from out of the valley than in the valley, so far.
“At least 75% of the people signed up are from out of town,” says Nation.
There’s still time though as the event is capped at 150 total participants and Nation believes they will hit that limit by race day as the local contingent is notorious for jumping in the week of the race if not the day of the race.
“I’m assuming we’ll still have people coming up the morning of the race to register which is great,” says Nation. “Just bring cash if you are signing up the day of the race.”
Every participant in either event will receive a collapsible commemorative cup to keep the Grin and Bear It a cupless event in step with sustainability. Once finished, everyone will be treated to French toast and plenty of beer and other non-alcoholic refreshments. Prizes will be doled out to random finishers and the “awkward load” prize of $100 cash will go to first person to jump into the lake, swim out to grab the “awkward load,” and then carry it back down the Green Lake Trail to the finish line. Registration and specific course details can be found online at cbnordic.org.
The Grin and Bear It is also part of the Eddyline Trail Series along with the Living Journeys Half Marathon on July 23 and the Cart-to-Cart Trail Run on September 17.
“We’re hoping to do more races in the series next year,” says Nation.
Meanwhile, CB Nordic continues their effort to put on the Montane Grand Traverse Mountain Run and the Montane Grand Traverse Mountain Bike races presented by Black Diamond and CB Nordic on Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4.
The mountain run on Saturday starts at the base area of Crested Butte Mountain and heads to Aspen via Upper Loop, Bruch Creek, Farris Creek, Star Pass, Taylor Pass and Richmond Ridge before dropping down Aspen Mountain and into the town of Aspen for a healthy total of 40 miles of running with 7,000 feet of climbing and descending.
The mountain run is completely maxed out already at 350 runners and even the wait list is closed as the event has gained massive traction over the first eight years.
“We sold out by early May and had to close the wait list in early June,” says Nation.
And while the running event has always been the more popular of the two summer Grand Traverse races, the mountain bike race from Aspen back to Crested Butte via the same route on September 4 also filled their 150-racer limit early for this year and subsequently had to close the wait list as well.
“We were all shocked, normally the mountain bike race doesn’t really sell out until July, and I was shocked I had to close the wait list too,” says Nation.
Much like the Grin and Bear It, registrants for both the running and biking races are primarily from out of town.
“We have a lot of people from the Front Range as well as people from all over the country,” says Nation. “I do think it’s become a ‘bucket list’ race. It’s pretty cool to race from Crested Butte to Aspen.”
Unlike the Grin and Bear It, the course for these races has remained relatively the same, aside from the COVID year.”
“Still the same, still hard,” says Nation.
The mountain run and mountain bike races are also the second and third legs of the Triple Crown that starts with the ski race. Whoever does all three and turns in the lowest combined time will be crowned the men’s and women’s Triple Crown champions.
Not only that but there is some cold, hard cash on the line for the running and biking events with cash prizes going to the top six men and women in both races thanks to a grant from the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP). Race information and detailed course descriptions can be found at thegrandtraverse.org. As always, volunteers are needed for all of the events and anyone interested in helping should email email@example.com.
Overall, 2022 will prove to be the most robust for CB Nordic summer events and Nation believes a lot of the success comes not only from the growth of endurance sports, but the effort of the CB Nordic staff.
“It’s exciting,” says Nation. “I think a lot of it is the hard work Laura (Puckett Daniels) has done marketing and people posting it and then FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) opportunities for their friends.”