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Local endurance athlete Sunny Stroeer among the first to complete 1,000 mile Iditarod on Skis

Sunny Stroeer, known in the Southern Utah News already as a sponsor and director of a nonprofit organization helping women experience the outdoors, once again proved her own adventuring and athletic chops by blazing a previously untouched trail - Stroeer is the first woman to complete the 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI 1,000) on skis. Stroeer and four other athletes battled through subzero temperatures, through frostbite-inducing wind conditions and across frozen icefloes to complete the ITI 1,000 on skis for the first time ever.

When asked what prompted this feat, Stroeer responded, “Well, it started with the idea of skiing to the South Pole - that was a challenge I wanted to build up to. The ITI seemed to be a more approachable version of that to start with.” The ITI had two distances to choose from - 350 miles and the 1,000 - and Stroeer had completed the shorter distance three times in preparation for the 1,000-mile ultramarathon. Stroeer’s preparations were interrupted further by a stress fracture from a distance run the season before, which, according to her, “only left me with a few weeks to actually train. I’m an endurance athlete, so I have that foundation to work with, but I was spending most of my time on the elliptical at the gym at El Pueblo! I spent a lot of time trying to optimize my gear set-up and my strategy to make up for any lack of training.” Of the eight individuals on the roster for the ultramarathon skiing to Nome, Alaska, only five made it - four men, and Sunny Stroeer.

When asked what it felt like to cross the finish line, Stroeer says the only sensation she felt in the moment was, “Relief! Relief to be able to stop moving and not have to keep trying the next day. Each individual day is difficult, carrying your own gear and pulling your sled in the cold … An individual day is manageable, 30 miles is doable with a whole day to manage it. But doing it day after day after day, it wears on you, and I was just so ready to not have to do it again the next day.”

Stroeer mentioned the hardest part of the journey, a 200 mile stretch with no opportunities for time indoors or heating. “The only chance you have to dry off is in your tent, and that’s not ideal.” After that stretch, Stroeer admitted she might reconsider the challenge of the South Pole. “Skiing to the Pole … that’d be like that toughest 200 miles of the Iditarod on steroids. And much of the success of that challenge would be dependent on conditions - if you pick a bad year, the whole attempt can fail, and lose all of the fundraisers’ support, without the athlete being able to do anything about it.”

With this trail blazed and record set, Stroeer was able to respond with some advice for young athletes when prompted; “The most difficult part and most inspiring part is when you decide to try something new and put something out there. Taking that uncertainty and hesitation and discomfort at ‘I might fail’ and pushing forward anyway is the most important part to push through.” With the emotional foundation laid through that commitment, Stroeer added as a practical recommendation, “Fundraising is hard - but non-profits and foundations like mine can run scholarships for different kinds of people. To start getting ready, just spend time outside and with everything you do just go a little bit beyond what you did last time. When it comes to hard skills, it can make sense to hire a guide where you can. Like with Dreamland Safari Tours, we can teach backcountry skills like what to pack, cooking, how to pace, all of that … I didn’t start with the ITI 1,000, I started with hikes around the Grand Canyon and I invested in hiring guides. Sometimes hiring someone with experience makes the most sense.” Stroeer finished the ITI 1,000, “with just a few hours to spare,” at 29 days 22 hours and six minutes of the 30-day cut-off time.




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