There may be numerous opinions on fats biking — the monster vans of biking— on the market however I, for one, like it. It’s an opportunity to discover acquainted or new terrain throughout the conventional “off season” at a really totally different tempo. In my decade of worldwide racing, I amassed 11 world championship titles and three Olympic medals but fats biking is among the hardest using I’ve ever completed.
The Fats Pursuit, a 60k or 200k fats bike, ski or foot race that takes place on the snow-covered roads and trails outdoors Yellowstone Nationwide Park, celebrated its tenth anniversary earlier this month. And I obtained to be a part of it.
This bodily and mentally grueling endurance endeavor is the brainchild of Jay Petervary, a dwelling legend within the ultracycling and bikepacking group, and a qualifier for the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Petervary’s resume contains wins on the Silk Road Mountain Race, Tour Divide, Unbound XL and the Iditarod Path Invitational. His personal occasion brings collectively of us from everywhere in the nation who need to problem themselves in Petervary’s yard, Island Park, Idaho, which is little city simply west of West Yellowstone sitting at about 6,300’ elevation.
As a rule, any sport or race is as laborious as we select to make it. In fact, there are exceptions to each rule. Winter racing, irrespective of the mode of journey, is a kind of exceptions: it’s laborious it doesn’t matter what.
There are numerous variables that impression the diploma of struggling an individual would possibly expertise out on target. Climate is maybe essentially the most unpredictable variable. For folk tackling the 200k distance, they have to put together to be out within the excessive elevation components for 20 to 60 hours. Meaning they will need to have the abilities, instruments and tools with them to camp, boil water and stand up to temperatures that may dip beneath -22° F with or with out blowing snow. Cyclists load their bikes with winter survival gear in a wide range of methods whereas skiers and runners have a tendency to tug equipment-laden sleds behind them.
At this yr’s occasion. 59 individuals examined themselves on the 200k distance: eight feminine cyclists, two feminine runners, 43 male cyclists and 6 male runners. Spoiler alert: Not everybody completed.
The quickest finisher, Tyson Flaharty, accomplished the 200K course by bike in 20 hours and 44min. He needed to trip laborious all day and night time with out sleeping to remain forward of professional cyclists Alex Howes and Seth Harney. The ladies’s class got here all the way down to a motorbike throw with Rebecca “the Queen of Pain” Rusch popping out forward with a time of 24 hours and 59min. Rusch didn’t sleep both.
Of the eight individuals who tried the 200k race on foot solely 5 completed. The quickest male runner coated the course in 41 hours and 28min and the one feminine finisher triumphantly crossed the end line in 60 hours flat. With cutoff occasions to cope with, the runners didn’t have the luxurious of resting a lot both.
About twice as many individuals signed up for the 60k race throughout the bike, ski and run disciplines. Regardless of being a shorter distance, the 60k is not any much less strenuous.
The path circumstances are dynamic, to say the least, and it’s unreasonable to imagine that the course may have a lot, if any, hardpack or corduroy groomed snow. The paths are shared by snowmachine customers, skiers, runners and bikers alike who all go away their marks within the snow. I liken fats biking to trials using or mainly balancing on skinny rails all day. The slender tracks of firmer snow laid down by riders forward of you might be quicker to trip alongside than the softer snow. To remain within the tracks takes unwavering focus.
I selected to race the 60k fats bike race this yr. Whereas I’ve the utmost respect for those who undertake the 200k distance, it’s simply not my jam. I misplaced my left foot 20 years in the past in a nasty automobile accident and the hike-a-bike sections on the 200k course are even much less enjoyable with a prosthetic leg. When biking, I exploit a specifically designed prosthetic leg that has a cleat bolted to foot piece that’s concerning the measurement of a deck of playing cards. My biking leg is ideal for spring, summer time, and fall circumstances. Within the winter it’s good for punching via the highest layer of snow and sinking deep.
Like every off-road race, the pre-race discuss was all about tire alternative as riders deliberated tire width and pressures. I opted for a four-inch vast tubeless tire setup entrance and rear, and adjusted the tire strain as wanted all through the day. Within the morning, when the air and snow had been colder, I ran a barely firmer tire strain. Because the day warmed up and the snow obtained extra churned up by path customers, I wanted a wider patch on the snow to drift throughout it.
Staying hydrated and fueled is difficult for all racers. Skiers and runners hold their fingers full and busy with their poles. Riders have an equally laborious time as a result of it’s rattling close to inconceivable to take fingers off the bars in tender snow to rapidly seize a bottle or a snack. When it’s chilly, our our bodies give us fewer indicators to drink fluids but racers are continually dropping fluids merely respiratory the chilly high-altitude air and sweating in winter clothes. Given the time it takes to cowl every race distance, fueling and hydration methods are essential. Racers positively welcomed the toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches supplied at help station #1 and the nice and cozy soup later on the second help station. Personally, I relied on the Gu merchandise I carried and located I solely wanted to cease to fill water bottles. With reference to water bottles: there may be an artwork to carrying water within the winter with out bottles, nozzles or hydration tubes freezing strong. I depend on insulated bottles which I fill with boiling water earlier than the beginning and carry them the other way up.
I completed simply off the rostrum, in fourth place, with a time of 4 hours and 46 minutes — a grueling 12.5kph or 7.8 mph. However I’m pleased with my time and I am already scheming up methods to make the rostrum subsequent yr.
The attraction of Fats Pursuit is that it is an expertise greater than it’s a race. Maybe these phrases are used too typically to explain races or perhaps they aren’t used sufficient. On the end line of us mull round for hours and hours round a fireplace pit to maintain heat and cheer on finishers. The later finishers get extra cheers and congratulations than the winners.
At midday, on Sunday, most everybody nonetheless drained and ragged from their very own races gathers for a toast to rejoice one another’s tenacity, power and perseverance.
This yr, the tenth anniversary, Petervary choked up as he tried to place into phrases what Fats Pursuit is. Essentially, it’s an expertise to not be missed.