I have been dreaming about going back for the Fat Pursuit since missing my only one last year... A few weeks after the 2015 Fat Pursuit I had a snowboard accident and was life flighted to Denver for a shattered pelvis. It was a horrific recovery and I had to sit out last year. I continue to deal with some complications but have been fortunate enough and dedicated to my recovery that I can manage long rides. Riding continues to help me recover and I'm a big believer that Bikes Save Lives. Let's Ride!
Loading up and heading out of Spearfish for the 200 mile Fat Pursuit with fellow Ridge Rider
Our first night we stayed in Kelly, Wyoming at my friend Chance's yurt in the Yurt Park! There are 14 yurts in the park that share a common bathroom and community area, a really cool concept. It is always good to see old friends doing well and what they love. It's also a bonus when they throw down killer meals. Thanks so much Chance and Elle!
We woke Thursday morning 1/5/17 to -20 degrees and a beautiful sunrise hitting the Tetons. Chance was off to shred some peaks and we were off to Island Park to check into the Bunk Rooms at the Ponds Lodge.
It was a beautiful day to drive over Teton Pass and drool on the window, at all the good POW lines. We listened to weather reports of -36 degrees that morning in West Yellowstone and started getting a little nervous that we had everything we'd need!
Upon arrival a little after noon we loaded up the bikes and went for a ride! The Ponds Lodge is race headquarters and a friendly place with good food, beers and all the little last minute items a racer might need.
Out on the trails we found firm conditions and day high temps in the single digits. Josh and I rode out a few miles on the 200K course, crossed the highway, and rode back on the first few miles of the 200 mile course. It was a groomed super highway! Back at race headquarters the temps were beginning to fall. There were a few riders mingling around and I was happy to see gear check and registration was open.
Cheers to the cold TEMP Fears.
It was a fun evening of eating a lot and tipping back a few brews with old and new friends.
We retired early to the Bunk House, a comfortable room that could sleep 4 or more. Two of us managed to spread gear across the whole room. We checked the weather for Friday evenings 5pm start. We were expecting a start temp around 0 with lows around -20.
I started to look for an extra sock layer that would work. I developed a blood clot while recovering from the pelvis surgery and have had some circulation issues. My Wolvhammer boots have been adequate for years but this winter I noticed my toes are cold. I got the new boots in larger size and the new ones have a larger toe box. I also started using my RBH vapor barrier socks. I have started using compression socks and found some decent Smartwool compression socks that I use as my base layer. I put the thick RBH over the top and have been riding comfortably at -15.... I tried getting another sock over the vapor barrier but my boots were too tight. I did have a thin wool sock to add under the vapor barrier but forgot that little piece for this race... I thought I would be ok, just keep moving if it gets cold.
It was a decent nights sleep and a morning full of lounging, prepping bikes, recharging devices with fresh batteries and pacing. We got checked out of the room, packed the car and headed to the Ponds Lodge for another meal before the start. I loaded all my bottles and insulated hydration pack with hot water shortly before the start. It was finally 4:50 and time to roll out front for the start.
There were some pic opportunities while riders rolled around the start area and a call out to have riders line up for a group picture. Cameras clicked, and Mike Riemer Salsa Cycles marketing manager shared some encouraging words that hit home. He has been to many of these winter ultras and knows how to coach and stoke riders on the starting line and thru dire times. Thanks to Mike KID Riemer and Salsa Cycles a major sponsor of this event.
|Jason Wolf from Salt Lake City has became a Fat Pursuit friend! Sharing some good luck with him before the start.|
Josh Bruhn stoked and geared up for his first Fat Pursuit.
|Riders rolling out into the sunset!|
We rolled out of the arches of the Ponds Lodge at 5pm with below zero temps. Riders were hunkered down and cranking away on a well packed Snowmobile Trail Highway following the beautiful Henry's Fork River. Flocks of swans floated in the current amongst the icy banks. I was amazed by the beauty and opportunity to ride this event. Faster than the sun could set the temps started to DROP! About an hour or so into ride it was -15. Riding the groomed single track in Harriman Park was a highlight of the ride. The riding was scenic, even in the dark of night that soon surrounded us.
Dropping into Mesa Falls overlook I could feel the cold air starting to drop even more. There was a cool looking historical visitor center cabin with a single tracked pack going past to an overlook above the river. This was the out and back section that required us to pick a unique candy from the sack located by some glow sticks. I chose blueberry and thought about whether it was appropriate to bring only the wrapper? I had never seen this type of candy before, it was a Farr Candy Bar out of Idaho Falls. It was round and harder than a golf ball, it had to wait.
The climb out of Mesa Falls was a nice warm up after being down in the cold river bottom. The riding continued along the river and it was amazing. The cold air combined with the star light made for some interesting lighting. We crossed the river and began a long climb. It was cold but I felt good. I had managed to keep my hydration hose from freezing by drinking regularly. I drank a 100 oz. by midnight and was taking frequent pee breaks. It was around midnight in the middle of that climb I heard my pedal pop and groan. I pedaled a couple more revolutions and it came off the spindle still clipped to my boot. I fumbled with it and got it back on the spindle gave it a good thrust and mounted to ride. It lasted for a few hundred yards and came off. I tried this frustrating technique for awhile and resorted to riding the spindle. Mile 45 and about 35 miles to the aid station. About this time a rider went by and I told him my problems. The rider apparently rode into the Pond's Lodge headquarters but he did let race officials know of my situation. I didn't get a good look at him in the dark or see his rider plate # but Thanks to him I had a pedal waiting for me when I got to aid station #1!
I had been riding with Graham Muir for several hours through the cold. He had a thermometer and had told me it was -31 degrees and it got colder! We had discussed the merits of taking a break and sheltering in the bivy but both agreed it might be too cold to get warm. I was extremely tired but kept pushing on and had decided to keep moving until I got to Aid Station #1 mile 80. I fell asleep riding several times both pushing and while riding. I had a funny experience where I dreamt I was on a training ride for the Fat Pursuit and suddenly woke and realized I was racing the Fat Pursuit!
Josh had caught up with me around 3am and I had been worthless as a staggering drunk but his stoke and presence brought me out of my slumber. We both agreed that it would be best to make Aid #1 and rode on into the early morning hours. Bakers Draw downhill was super cold and fresh moose tracks covered the trail. As we closed in on Aid #1 the sun was beginning to come up and the lighting was amazing.
Josh was with me and commented on the LARGE fresh cat tracks on the trail. I agreed! One of the things I love about winter is all the animal tracks stand out.
|A cold morning pedal exchange. I broke my Crank Brothers pedal around mile 45 and managed to ride the spindle to the first checkpoint at Mile 80.|
It seemed like it took a long time after sunrise to reach the party at Chick Creek Aid Station #1. Upon entry we were requested to light up our stoves and boil water. I have choose the past few years to use and alcohol stove and have had good luck. I'm aware of the drawbacks of alcohol stoves but love the simplicity. I have used it well below zero before but it was -10. This year I had to work to get the alcohol to light, but once lit it boiled water quickly. I showed the staff my blueberry candy bar from Mesa Falls and my required duties at Aid #1 were done.
While getting the boil going I was handed coffee! I loved it and I came out of my 5th slumber of the morning. I High Fived all the aid station personnel, got into the covered pop up to sip some soup and chat with Fat Friends. Bruhn was heating up his toes and we all hovered around the small heat source. It wasn't much but it gave the illusion of taking the edge off. I was now fully awake and not interested in sleeping. I got loaded up and told Bruhn I was out. He said right behind ya! Cool
It had warmed up to zero and we were off for West Yellowstone.
|Leaving Aid Station #1 mile 80!|
|The long expanse of the Black Canyon Trail setting in and getting cold again.|
|Josh Riding and throwing horns going to West Yellowstone!|
We caught up with Jason Wolf and he told us he had frost bite on his toes. I told him about Bruhn's and we rode together for the next 3+ hours in deteriorating conditions. Shortly before dark it started snowing and we were over 24hrs. into the ride. I kept thinking we were getting close to West but it was an illusion. My energy dropped off and I was slowing, problem was I was and not eating and tired. Should have bivied...
|Passing the snowmobile trail groomer before West Yellowstone.|
Coming into West I was depleted and making poor choices. I was behind Bruhn and J. Wolf and followed tracks into town that left the course gps track. I was thinking that maybe the Aid Station was off course a block or two like the previous years I had done this event? Bruhn was near main street when I came up on him and the tracks he had followed were now covered. Bruhn was now really hurting from the forstbite and needed the shelter. I should have just stayed on the GPS track and it would have lead me there... But at this point we had been on course for nearly 30 hours and 126 miles and my brain was froze. With the help of our volunteer friend Chris Gallagher we were able to locate the aid station that was right on the track... Not Funny at the time.
|Bruhn's toes purple and blistered, second degree Frostbite!|
Once in the aid station we were treated to grilled cheese sandwhiches and chicken noodle soup. Jason was already soaking his frostbit toes and they made room for Bruhn to get his soaking in warm water. As I ate my food the volunteers asked about my toes and I said they were fine. He said OK, lets see them, and for the first time I peeled back my compression sock and saw both big toes were as white as ghosts. Dang, I guess I did get nipped a bit and didn't know it. My toes had been cold several times but I felt I had walked it off. Before I knew it the volunteers had my feet soaking in warm water. Between the frostbite and extreme fatigue I was done with my 200 mile Fat Pursuit. It hurt to call it quits but I don't think my toes would have faired well to keep going. We had the volunteers call us in as a scratch...
Out of 27 entrants in the 200 mile Fat Pursuit there was ONE finisher. Congratulations to Aaron Gardner from Victor, Idaho. He came to finish and won by taking head, he bivied down when it got cold, had the right gear and knew how to use it. Chapeau Aaron!
|Aaron Gardner finisher party with his wife kids and Fat Pursuit Family!|
|Stoked to see Aaron finish and his family waiting for him.|
Thanks to Jay and Tracey Petervary for hosting this amazing event! Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors who continue to support them and of course all the amazing riders who toe the line. It was great to spend time with the Fat Pursuit family and the friends getting there and back.
Bikes Save Lives! Bruhn and I are already planning on going back to finish the 200 mile Fat Pursuit and expand our winter riding experiences. Pedal POWer!