Kristi and I went back for another brutiful weekend at JayP's Backyard Fat Pursuit. This years event was held on Jan. 10th, much earlier than the March 1st date of last year. We committed and signed up back in November and started preparing for this big ride. Preparations went awry, as I sustained a serious back injury snowboarding with our daughter Sierra, at Brighton over Thanksgiving. I had to work hard to just get back on the bike. Kristi then slipped on some ice mid Dec. and suffered a bad concussion. Beat up a bit before the New Year!
Fortunately my back came around enough to get some decent winter rides in, but Kristi was still suffering from bad headaches and the Doctor's orders were to stay off the bike for the next few months.
On Thursday, we loaded up the bikes and winter gear for the trek over to Island Park, Idaho. Driving over Togwotee Pass was the highlight of the 8 hour drive to Teton National Park where we stayed the night with our good friend Chance just outside the Park boundary. I devoured some Crow Peak Brews that I had brought along and washed it down with some excellent elk steaks and pasta that Chance graciously served up. Thanks to Chance for a great first night of our vacation!
Friday Morning it was up and over Teton Pass and into Victor ID for our first stop at Fitzgerald's Bicycles. This is a great shop sporting all things bikes and serving up good coffee. From Victor it was about 1.5hrs of back road driving to Island Park. We arrived early afternoon and I geared up for a short ride and gear check. The gear check is required for both the 60k and 200k race. Jay P did the checks at the time I lined up. It was interesting to see all the assortments of loaded bikes and packing methods.
After the gear check in, and shake down ride, we checked into our condo we shared with some friends from Billings MT. The lodging and venue of the Ponds Lodge is excellent.
That night we were treated to a meal and a riders meeting with Jay P. going over some details of the race and what to expect. Some motivational words were shared by Mike Riemer from headline sponsor Salsa Cycles, and some Thank You's to all the volunteers before riders mingled off nervously for the night.
It was tough to sleep that night in anticipation of the big ride. What would the weather do? Am I bringing the right gear? How should I layer? The questions were like a washing machine, churning round and round' my mind. Finally I dozed off and got in a few hours of solid sleep before waking to mild temps in the mid 20's. I lined up at the start shortly before 7 and was surprised to find myself on the front line as Jay P. had a rider call up from the previous years event. The race started as Jay P. said it would 7am.
Riders shot off the line like it was an XC race
Riders shot off the line like it was an XC race
and I found myself on the outside line going onto the trail. My tire found a soft spot on the edge of the groomed and I did a full OTB on a loaded fattie! Yes I was that guy... I managed to get out of the way and gather myself as riders slipped by. Back on the bike it was a line of riders for the first 5 miles with little passing. The snow was softer than most expected and you had to watch your line or sink in and or fall off. Riders were letting air out here and there along the trail. It was dark for the first hour of the race and all the blinking lights were mesmerizing. The first 30 miles of trail went pretty fast to the first Check Point. Here we had to light our stoves and boil 8ounces of water. This is a little test to make sure riders are prepared for what could be a life preserving skill. It went pretty fast this year due to the warm weather and lack of wind. After a cup of soup, I filled up on water and hit the trail. Todd Johnson from Jackson Hole and I pulled into the check point together and left at about the same time. He and I ended up riding pretty close the whole race which was kind of cool since he was stoked, liked to talk and super energentic.
This pic below is Todd on the long South Plateau Trail above West Yellowstone. This section of trail between Checkpoint One and Two (West Yellowstone) maybe the crux of the ride.
I made it into West Yellowstone about 4pm with plenty of light. It was interesting to ride the streets of West looking for our checkpoint. More snowmobile traffic than cars by far. I spent about an hour in the very nice condo they had provided by a local sponsor. Grilled cheese and soup warmed me up, and a fire place dried the gear. After a big Thanks to the volunteers, I was back onto the streets of West just as the sun had set.
Time to climb up and over the continental divide and crisscross the Idaho/Montana border. Taking the Two Top Loop trail and Top Loop Trail to the continental divide at night is a challenge, steep climbing, wind and cold are almost guaranteed. We crossed the divide several times before dropping the Rail Road Trail and meeting up with the oncoming groomer. Todd and I pulled off the trail together with plenty of time to let him pass. The trail remained soft even in it's pristine condition and would need some time to set up and freeze. No time to wait ...dropping in! Man Cave checkpoint #3 (mile 102) awaited our arrival.
I rolled into Man Cave about 1:30 am and was served up BACON, eggs and sour dough pancakes, my new favorite. Unfortunately I chilled out way toooo long and took myself out of the race unknowingly. The longer I sat the better it felt and the guilt washed away with time. 3 hours later it was time to GO! I left in a stupor and cranked the remaining 23 miles nonchalauntly and dazed.
I arrived at the the finish line to be greeted by JayP, Mike Riemer and Kristi. It was great to see them and to finish another Fat Pursuit, 23 hrs. and 45 minutes, almost 10 hours faster than the previous year. The time improvement was due to much better conditions this year, not so much my conditioning.
The Salsa Beargrease and my choice of gear once again proved to be an exceptional ride for this event.
The overall energy and participation was much higher this year. JayP and his staff of volunteers know how throw down, make you feel welcome and part of something bigger than your average Fat Bike Race. The riders and volunteers are passionate and you feel at home with the Fat Pursuit family. I'm sure this event will fill fast next year.
Kristi shot a video of the start. There was almost 50 starters this year, lots more than the 18 starters the previous year.Be sure to keep pedaling, keep advocating for Fat Bike access, and sign up for the next Fat Pursuit! Thanks to the Sponsors, volunteers and JayP for making this memorable event possible.