Steamboat Springs Several hours after winning the women's division of the grueling Ski 100 Nordic Ultra Ski Race, Steamboat Springs skier Kirsten Ames lay in her hotel bed, unable to sleep.
Her feet twitched uncontrollably under the blankets as if they still needed to carry her another mile along the snow-covered trails in the shadows of several 14,000-foot peaks around Leadville.
When she closed her eyes, she saw visions of the late afternoon light cresting those peaks during her final drive to the finish line -- which had taken place several hours before
Though the race had long since ended, she was still not finished with it.
"Sometimes the night after a race is worse than the night before a race," Ames said. "It takes a while to wind down from an event like that."
She said for an hour after the race her arms felt like they were floating.
That feeling eventually faded, but the miles of her long trek kept playing, and re-playing in her head when the time came to turn out the lights.
So she lay there, trying hard to fall asleep. "It's a funny thing, but after a long endurance event like that your body doesn't really know if it should rest or go back to work," Ames said. "So I kind of had to tell my feet to stop it and remind them that they didn't have to ski for a while."
Her legs had earned the break.
Ames had just completed four 25-mile loops in the mountains that surround the Colorado Mountain College campus in Leadville. Her time was nine hours, 58 minutes.
The race is the longest, and highest event of its type in the United States according to Bill Perkins, founder and director of the race on March 15.
He said that there is a two-day, 100-mile race in Canada and a 3-day event in Greenland that are comparable, but nothing else even comes close to this in terms of a single day.
"I've done both of the Leadville races (the running and biking 100-milers), but I always thought that a skate ski race would be the best 100 to do here in Leadville," Perkins said.
He said that skate skiing isn't as hard on the body and feels like the 52 competitors in this year's event, which included 18 soloists, five pairs and six teams, would agree.
"Everyone who finished this race had a smile on their face," Perkins said. "I think it was enjoyable for everyone."
Ames was the fastest woman in the field and had come within 20 minutes of catching the overall winner, Duncan Callahan a 20-year-old student at Western State. The only other woman was a multi-sport endurance racer from Breckenridge, Monique Merrill. Merrill actually pulled ahead of Ames in the third lap of the race, but finished fourth in the overall standings.
The race was the latest accomplishment for Ames, a Steamboat endurance athlete who has completed three Ironman triathlons as a professional and one as an amateur.
Ames said she didn't train specifically for the Ski 100, but spent last summer cycling and her winter skiing. She said her experience with the Ironman helped in the race.
"I had to tell myself to slow down during the race," Ames said. "If you try to go too hard at that elevation you can crash hard."
Fellow competitor Ed Kimm, who finished the race in seventh place, said Ames' idea of slow is flying for other people.
"She is at a whole different level," he said.
Ames credited her success to eating and drinking during the event. She also used four different pairs of skis and several sets of boots in the race.
The race was also special for Kimm, who became a footnote in Leadville100 folklore by completing his third consecutive 100-mile event in the thin Leadville air.
This summer he competed in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and then a week later tested his character in the Leadville 100 footrace. Kimm collected his third straight 100-mile results in Leadville when he completed the ski race.
For him the hardest of the three events was the run. He called the ski race enjoyable, but was quick to point out that was because of the mild weather in Leadville that particular weekend.
"It's the nice thing about skate skiing," Kimm said. "You can go a long way without getting real sore. You might get tired, but you can usually function the next day."
It was something that Kimm couldn't say about the run, which left him hobbling for several days following the event.
Kimm said he really isn't an endurance athlete. He is a cyclist, who decided to give the run a try. Then when the skiing thing came around he just couldn't pass up the opportunity.
"I knew I was never going to do the run again," Kimm said. "So this was my only shot.
Steamboat's David Carley also took part in the event. Unfortunately, he didn't have his best day. He took a wrong turn and skied seven miles off course. Then had to race to catch up. Ames said the effort took too much out of him and he had to pull out after the third lap -- she estimated that he had covered a distance of more than 80 miles because of the wrong turn.