Thursday, September 28, 2017

Black Hills Expedition...first attempt!

After 4 and a half days (and 4 sleepless nights),  213 miles, and 27,658 ft.  of climbing my riding partner and I decided it was time to throw in the towel on our first attempt at the Black Hills Expedition bikepacking event.  We had gone back and forth, in a muddled state of semi-delirium, as to whether to keep going or not, but in the end our reasons seemed clear that we needed to stop and discontinue with the ride.  It was a tough call, but as I sit here reflecting on all that happened, I believe it was the right call for us both, for this ride.
So going into the race I had a fair amount of bikepacking experience, having done quite a few weekend trips with my husband, Perry Jewett,  over the last 3 years.  I learned a lot on those trips, and felt fairly confident that I could succeed on my own on this adventure I was about to undertake.  However, I wasn't quite comfortable enough to set out by myself, so I was relieved that my longtime friend, and riding buddy, Heather Heynen was up to try this challenge with me.  Due to busy schedules we were only able to get in one overnighter practice run, and this would turn out to be the only experience she would have with bikepacking, before the race started.  I tried to give her as much advice as possible as to what clothing to bring, how to pack, what necessities to carry with you on the bike, etc.  and she is also a planner and researcher, so she reveled in getting things figured out and dialed in for her ride.
 My personal, biggest mistake of this ride, was to decide to ride my new bike.  I love my new bike because it's a much more fun ride and handles extremely well as it is a 27.5.'s a 1x with a 30 tooth ring, and this proved to be extremely hard pushing with the extra weight on my bike and the  tough BHX terrain,  which put a big strain and pain on the old knees.  They started aching in the first 10 miles, and continued to hurt the entire time I was out there.  I took Ibuprofen twice a day to try and help with the pain, but even so, every pedal stroke was irritating and varied between mild and extreme pain at times.  My next run, I will be sure to switch over to a 28 or maybe even 26 tooth due to the steep continuous climbs that are on this course.
We decided to do an individual time trial rather than start on the race date due to schedules, and the fact that this was our first time trying a bikepacking race so we had limited experience,  we had no idea how long we could go each day, and neither of us had ever ridden in the dark much.  Our goal was to try to get in around 50 miles a day, which was actually a lot for us both as we'd both had very little riding the month prior due to sickness and busy schedules.  We were also a bit concerned about the weather forecast as it called for a bit of rain during the week, cold nights, and a lot of rain for the coming weekend.  But overall, things looked good and we were both ready to get the wheels rolling! 
Our Sunday morning start was chilly at 37 degrees. We met at the Conoco gas station and were off by 7:45 am.  I'm very familiar with the first 22 miles as it takes place on my hometown trail, Tinton Trail, which consists of some beautiful singletrack through the Northern Black Hills.  When we got to the singletrack I was however, a bit disappointed as the previous two days of rain had made the trail a bit muddy and it was pretty torn up the whole way by the cows tramping up and down the path.  Our tires were immediately coated with a thin layer of mud that stuck with us through the whole stretch of singletrack.  Normally this wouldn't bother me too much, but when your bike already weighs 48 pounds (yes I weighed it just before I left) every extra bit of weight makes a difference.  But even with this slight setback, the ride was beautiful.  There were butterflies everywhere, to the point of it being mystically weird, and the fall colors were blossoming in the surrounding aspens.
Big Hill Trailhead

Fall colors going off on Tinton Trail!

 We clicked away the miles and made it to the first resupply at mile 22 by noon.  After quickly filling up our camelbacks and water bottles we headed up Spearfish Canyon road pedaling pavement for about 3 miles.  We then turned onto Annie Creek road, and  headed into unknown territory.  I had heard that this was a tough section with a lot of hike a bike, and sure enough, we did plenty of hike a bike through the rocky and steep sections of the trail. 
Hiking up Annie Creek

Terry Peak Summit

 We finally summited on Terry Peak, which was followed by some new trail down into lead.  Here we quickly stopped for lunch and a few more supplies from the grocery mart.  After this the riding got interesting.  We navigated the streets of Lead, which included a series of steep metal stairs that almost ended my ride as I slipped and struggled to get my bike down the "stairway to hell".  Once we reached the bottom, it seemed we turned around and headed on the steep Lead roads right back to the top of the stairs!?!  then we rode some new singletrack that wound through the hillsides and ended up right back where we started...well ok maybe not quite but it sure felt that way. 

Finally after being in the Labarynth of Lead, we got to the Mickelson trail for about 15 miles of rails to trails riding.  We arrived in Dumont just before dark and decided it would be a good idea to stay in the Dumont warming hut, so we could just throw our bags out on the ground rather than setting up our tents.  It was handy having a roof over our heads and tables to organize our gear on, and it stayed much warmer inside than it was outside.  The only downside of it was that I kept waking up throughout the night whenever I'd hear a car drive by and kept thinking someone would burst in on us.  Due to this I got very little sleep on our first night out. 
Packing up in Dumont

The next morning we were up before the sun and were both eager to get going.  This would be the first time I'd ridden in the dark for years, and I actually really enjoyed it.  We rode on mostly dirt, rocky forest roads until we began to ascend the Custer Peak fire lookout road.  It was really beautiful as the sun was just beginning to rise.

Heading Up Custer Peak

Beautiful Sunrise


From the top of Custer Peak, we descended back down to a small campground called Mystic.  The store wasn't open yet, so we casually went over to an unoccupied campsite and got water from the spigot.  We weren't sure if the water was good for drinking so we used our filters for the first time, and filled up our bottles and camelbacks.   After riding more forest road for awhile, the riding suddenly got interesting.  We found ourselves on some cow trail, and eventually the track just turned into the forest.  We kept looking around for where we had missed a turn, but eventually just decided to bushwhack through the brush.  
What trail?

Learning to trust the Garmin

 We had to trust our track as there was no trail to follow, just a line on the Garmin.  The non-existent "trail" lead us along a barbwire fence and up a hill.  We were getting a little frustrated at this point trying to figure out where to go, but eventually were spit out onto some dirt and gravel roads. 
The roads took us to a really beautiful section of trail that crossed a creek about 6 times?  (I've done a lot of exploring in the hills, but had never been to this area before, and was grateful to be in such a beautiful setting)  We would find a spot on the creek where there were enough rocks to hop across, as we didn't want to get our feet wet.  We ended up being very successful at this rock hopping and rolled out of the area happy and with dry feet!
Keeping the feet dry

We continued to navigate the unfamiliar roads down into Sturgis where we would stop for our first "real" meal in two days.   I had the idea to 'drop' our bikes off at the bike shop and go next door to a brewery/restaurant.  It worked perfectly as we ordered our food, and instead of sitting and waiting, were able to go back over to the bike shop and get water and resupply for the next section.

Top notch service!!

I need to give a huge shout out to Xtreme Dakota Bikes at this point as we were treated like royalty.  They proceeded to pump up our tires, lube our chain and thoroughly go through our bikes fixing this and that (my front brakes were even replaced).  We were very grateful for this as neither of us has much knowledge on the ins and outs of bike maintenance. 

After eating half a pizza, and stuffing the other half in my camelback for later, with fully tuned up bikes, we were ready to take on the next section of trail.  Once again I was very familiar with the trails that lie ahead, and was ready for the next section of easy gravel rolling out to Bear Butte, and the start of the much anticipated Centennial Trial!

Centennial Trailhead...let's get this started!

Bear Butte

    We once again, filled up our water bottles at the trailhead, and rode the trail toward the Alkali campground where we would camp for our second night out. During this section we were joined for a while by local Kent Moore, and it was nice visiting and letting your mind shift from riding with a distinct purpose to just riding. 

Crossing bridge was tricky!
After crossing a log bridge we were into some of the Sturgis singletrack and had some hike-a-bike through a sandy steep area, but  overall this  section was a relief from the days cow trails, and we had fun twisting and turning on the sweet singletrack trails and making our way to the next trailhead.  We arrived at the Alkali trailhead/campground well before dark, but neither of us wanted to continue on.  We were at mile 112 (with 11,700ft of climbing), so we had met our '50 miles a day goal', and wanted to stay near a water source so we could fill up before leaving the following morning.  We set up camp, I ate my leftover pizza, and we both settled down to another sleepless night, as cars kept coming and going from the area (next time I'll be sure to camp in a more secluded area!).

I was a little anxious for the following days ride.  It would be a full day of steep climbing with all single track.  I'd done this section many times, but never on a fully loaded bike, and I knew the extra weight would make this already difficult section, even more cumbersome.  My legs felt great though, and we headed out in the dark, onto some of the most beautiful trail in the Black Hills.The riding was pretty much as I expected, with some great flowy trail, followed by long hike a bike sections. 
Chilly but beautiful!

Centennial Trail Bliss!!

 This seemed to be repeated throughout the day, as well as the constant changing of clothing, as we'd hit areas of chilly creek bottoms, then climb up and out into the higher hills.  We filtered water at Dalton Lake and then headed onto the motorized trails that would take us to Nemo. 
Dalton Lake

As we got closer to Nemo, we decided that it might be a good idea to hole up there for the night.  We knew there was a small store where we could resupply and we'd have water available.  We also knew that rain was in the forecast for the evening, and the sky was looking ominous, so as soon as we found a spot with cell service we called the guest ranch to see what kind of lodging would be available.  We didn't have any luck with the guest ranch, but were given the phone # of "Lotty", so we called to see if there was anywhere we'd be able to rest comfortably for the night.  "Lotty" ended up having to call someone else, and after waiting patiently on the hilltop for around a half hour, we were finally reconnected and told there was a room available at the old Schoolhouse that we could stay in.  Great, we'd be there within the hour!!  I was very excited to have a warm bed to sleep in, and perhaps get a good nights rest.  We made it to Nemo in the early afternoon, so the store was still open.  We stopped here and resupplied food, from a very limited selection, before heading over to the Schoolhouse.  Lotty was there promptly and informed us that we were the only ones staying for the night and could have the whole place to ourselves!  It had a full kitchen and living area, and was a super cool little place.  We showered, washed our clothes, and I warmed up my can of chicken noodle soup on the stove.  I felt revived(and lucky) as I looked out the window at the rain coming down, and felt relieved that we had just missed it.  We had only rode a little over 30 miles that day, but it was tough riding as it was a lot of single track with hike a bike, and about 5,000 ft of climbing.  I was also running on sore knees and not much sleep, so I was eager to sleep in a warm bed, out of the elements, and give my knees some much needed relief.   Since we quit early we also decided to start early and were up the following morning at 4:30am. We had packed our bags and filled up our water the night before so we could make an easy exit onto the trail. After a quick breakfast of mac and cheese (it was all I could find at the store in my muddled state of fatigue) it was fun to once again be riding in the dark and navigating the trails by headlamp.  The temps were brisk and there was frost on the ground which made for some beautiful scenery as we clicked away at the early morning miles.  
Heading up the motorized section out of Nemo.
Frosty, cold morning!
 One of the best moments of the morning was when local Photographer Randy Erickson met us on the trail to take our picture (he took pictures of all the riders) and handed us each two strips of Bacon!!!  What a treat!
The Bald Mountains =beautiful views

The trail was beautiful and we were both feeling refreshed from the previous days rest and short mileage.  But we also knew that the dreaded Samelius climb lie in wait.  Our goal for the day was to just make it up and over this section, and then see if we could muster the strength to continue on to Rockerville.  I tried just to concentrate on what was at hand and really enjoyed the days riding. 
We stopped at both Pactola Lake and Sheridan Lake to filter water.  
Filtering at Pactola
 At Pactola we were able to find a nice little stream to filter from, but at Sheridan we had to filter directly from the lake.  The water had a bunch of green moss and dirt, and all I was carrying was a steri-pen, so I resigned to drinking really nasty water for the next section of hike a bike up Samelius.  And hike a bike it was.  It took us two hours to go the three miles from Sheridan Lake to the Summit. 
Hiking the dreaded Samelius
Then another hour to descend/walk back down the other side.  Somewhere in the middle of the climb we encountered an angry rattlesnake that I completely missed as I hiked by.  Heather, wasn't so lucky as I had disturbed it from its sunning, and it was coiled and ready to strike as she approached.  Lucky for both of us,  we made it by unharmed but much more alert to watching our step as we finished the hike up and over the summit.  We were determined to make it from here to Rockerville before the restaurant closed so we could resupply food, and get fresh water.  We continued on Centennial for several more miles, before getting spit out onto the highway for a relaxing and refreshing ride to Rockerville.  We did have to ride some of the storm mountain singletrack before making it to Rockerville, but the trails were fun and flowy, and we made it to the restaurant before close.  Right away I dumped out my nasty water and filled up with fresh new water, ordered and ate a whole Indian Taco!, and we headed back out onto the trail.  We made it just to the top of the storm mountain trails as the sun was beginning to set.  It was warm up top, and we had a nice area to camp in the trees.  With a full belly, nice clean fresh water,  a secluded campsite in the woods, and a long day of riding under my belt, I would get probably the best night of sleep yet.
Another beautiful early morning start!
Once again, we rose before the sun was up, to start riding.  I felt fairly good, but immediately new my eyes were puffy and swollen.  This has happened to me before on trips so I wasn't too concerned and figured the puffiness would subside throughout the day.  The next section of the trail we'd be riding was called Fosters Gulch.  I'd never ridden this section, but had been warned of the technical riding, and the cliff that I would have to traverse.  I actually ended up enjoying this section, but it was very slow going, and very technical, and we got a little lost several times navigating the trail with our garmin.
Navigating through all the sections on Foster's was tiresome!

Traversing the Cliff in Fosters!

Pretty steep slope, no room for a fall!

Apparently we weren't the only ones having difficulty navigating, as this would be the first time we would see Rhonda Wright out on the trail.  She had started the day after us and had slowly been catching us until she just passed us somewhere near Rockerville.   We ran into her as we were traversing the cliff section of the Foster's Gulch trail, as she was walking back towards us?!  My first thought was that she had gotten injured or something had happened to her bike, but she informed us that she had missed this section of trail and had taken a cow trail below the cliff, then had to pull/drag her bike up the cliff to get back on the trail....ouch.  I knew exactly where she had missed the turn as I had almost missed it myself.   I  guess she was hiking back to the point where she had missed the turn to make sure she had completed the trail accurately.  We continued forward as she hiked backwards, and the trail continued to remain elusive as we often had to stop to try to figure out where the hell we were, and if we were still on the correct route.  My swearing may have gotten a little out of hand at this point as I was cursing race director, Jason Thorman, and then I'd find myself laughing at the absurdity of the trail we were on.  We ended up in a gully crossing back and forth across a stream.  Sometimes we were on what looked like a trail, other times we weren't. ( Now as I reflect on that time, I really do appreciate that section of trail as it took us through some really beautiful spots)
This swimming hole was one of those spots that helped me forgive the race director for taking us on such a crazy trail :)
Feeling pretty lost through this creek crossing corridor!
We were both pretty exhausted at this point and were starting to second guess where we were at on the trail.  For some reason we got confused and thought we had somehow missed a turn into Keystone.  We were out of water, and thought we had another 6 miles to go before hitting Horsethief   Lake.  We considered going back to the Highway we had crossed earlier, as we knew there was a stream where we could filter water on the way back.  But at the same time, that would be just as far as going forward to Horsethief Lake, however we didn't know if there would be any water to filter before we could make it there.  Just to put things into perspective, it had taken us about 6 hours to go 12 miles through the technical and difficult to navigate trails of the morning and we were feeling a bit defeated and lost.  I finally got some sense and decided to check for cell reception....Bingo!  I quickly called my husband and told him to look on Trackleaders to see where the hell we were at, and that we were lost, and there was no trail!  He told me to calm down and that I was acting Delirious!!  Ok maybe I was, as we found out that we had not yet made it to Keystone and were only about 3 miles away.  What a relief!  Feeling a little more confident, we blindly followed the garmin route through some grass (with no trail) where it miraculously turned into a trail and then a road, and then dumped us out onto the highway for a short stretch into the town of Keystone.   We found a restaurant and ordered food, and decided we should discuss what our plans were for the remainder of this trip.  We were 4.5 days in, with 213 miles and 27,600 ft of climbing   completed.  We knew that we only had the rest of the day and the following day to ride before the weather took a turn for the worse.  Rain was in the forecast....a lot of rain.  And at the pace we were going we knew if we tried to wait it out, we'd be out there longer that either of us wanted to be.  We weren't willing to try to ride through the rain and hike-a-bike for miles upon miles of muddy trails.  We pretty much knew our tour would be over be the end of the following day.   So the question was, do we keep riding or just quit now?  We tried to work out a few details of where the next water supply would be at, where we could camp for the night, and where we could end up the following day that would have shelter and a phone to call for someone to come get us before the rains started.  At some point during all of this, I went to use the restroom, and removed my sunglasses and looked in the mirror.  Yikes!!  My eyes were really puffy with fluid pockets, and my whole face in general looked a little puffy. I've had puffy eyes before...but never quite like this.   I also noticed my lower legs were a bit swollen.  And for some reason I also started thinking about the wreck I had a few days previous where my tires slid out and I took a tree to my left side.  I hadn't been hurt, but I smacked it pretty hard, and I started thinking about concussion issues (I've had 3 concussions in the last 2 years and seem to get them very easily now).   Was it stupid for me to continue?  In the end we both decided that we should probably call it quits as we were both a little delirious and warn down, and only had 1 day of riding left anyway, and I think the final straw was that I started getting paranoid about the concussion stuff.
Anyway, now I know that it was the right call. My husband came and gave me a Ridge Rider Rescue, and brought me home where I showered and slept like a baby for the first time in 4 nights.  The next day I noticed my stomach area was very sore.  At first I thought it was just sore muscles, but as the day progressed, it just didn't feel right, so I decided to go to Urgent Care.  They pushed on my stomach and it was very tender to the touch.  They then did blood work and found elevated enzymes (triple the normal) in my liver.  They sent me to the ER for a CAT Scan and Ultrasound where they found a large amount of fluid around my liver.  They mentioned Hepatitis, Liver Disease, Gallbladder issues.  They brought in the surgeon.  Luckily after asking me a multitude of questions, they decided to wait on surgery and hooked me up to an IV and pumped fluid and antibiotics into me.  They also wanted to keep me overnight.  My blood pressure was high and my pulse was low at 47 beats per minute.  They also gave me a dose of Morphine for the stomach pain...that was wierd, felt like my head was on fire for a moment.   After a sleepless night they released me the next morning and told me I needed to get a HIDA scan.  I scheduled an appointment with my doctor the following Monday, and the first thing she said when she came into the room was "well this is weird".  Yeah right?!  My blood pressure and pulse had returned to normal, and my stomach wasn't nearly as tender to the touch.  She told me we should still get the HIDA scan. So now I sit at home, wondering what happened?  Was it the water I drank, the food I was eating, all the ibuprofen I was taking for my sore knees??   The Hepatitis test came back negative, and I'm scheduled to get the HIDA scan next week.  My stomach no longer hurts, but I don't feel 100%.  Hopefully I'll get some answers, and eventually heal up.   I need to figure out what caused the swelling so I can continue on this crazy ride, live life, keep pedaling forward.  I could never quit riding, it's what I do, it's what I love, so my body is just going to have to figure things out.
-and thanks Heather Heynen for being such an amazing friend and riding partner!  it wouldn't have been nearly as fun without you!!  Looking forward to many more adventures with you......

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Celebrating the Last Weekend of Winter at the 28 Below!

Well, it wasn't even close to 28 below at this year's 28 Below Fatbike race/ride/tour.  While plenty of snow graced the course the weekend prior, the warm temps during the week took a little over half the snow on the course before race day.  Lucky for us the nighttime temps stayed cool enough to freeze the ground, and a 7 am, hour early start, proved to be a good move as the conditions were firm and fast until after about 10am.  Of the 60 registered riders, 53 toed the line and rolled out of Spearfish Canyon Lodge just as the sun began to rise above the canyon walls. 
The course was fast this year, with a mixture of gravel, ice, and snow, and a variety of terrain.
It was heads up riding as riders had to navigate the course, following the route across several grassy fields with only the orange diamonds on stakes and pink flagging, marking the route as their guide.

 A beautiful bluebird day, made the view from the Cement Ridge Checkpoint, worth the grueling climb.  Thanks to our sponsors at Legend Suspension and Munro Earthmoving, our volunteers were able to make it to the top and prepare the Chicken Noodle soup for the coming riders.

Eggs were scattered throughout the course and the Golden Egg is always hidden somewhere at the Cement Ridge Fire Lookout. This year's 'finder of the golden egg', recieved a "golden" framebag (among other prizes for other eggs found) courtesy of our sponsors at Dirtbags!  It Pays to Play!!
We also had a raffle to help raise money for the grooming of sweet fatbike singletrack at our local trails on Big Hill.  Kirk Munro of Munro Earthmoving, generously donated a Grizzly Cooler, and we were able to raise $330 toward the grooming efforts. Thanks to everyone who supported the raffle!
Top 3 overall men's and women's riders recieved an equal cash payout and a Fatbike Flask thanks to Dykstra Pottery!  And the overall fastest rider of the day Harley Hanson, recieved the fatbike powermeter valued at $1,200.00, courtesy of our generous sponsors at Quarq!

We hosted the after party outside this year, with Dan Sherill kicking out some tunes, and Crow Peak Beers flowing freely.  The Prize table was overflowing, and every rider ended up walking away a winner! It was a great day, and we are already looking forward to next year's race.  Thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, and riders who help to make this event happen.  We couldn't do it without you!  Pedal POWder!!

Friday, February 3, 2017

JayP's Backyard Fat Pursuit-2017

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 
Josh Bruhn.  
 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!

Making friends at the Black Canyon Trail intersection.  Kellie Nelson was waiting for Graham  and they would finish the 125k course together.

It was a pleasant afternoon of riding.  Temps had warmed up and we had the stoke from seeing a few of the 125k races and rode with some of the other 200 mile racers.  Shortly after getting onto the Black Canyon trail Bruhn was pulled over and seeking dry socks.  I ate some food while he switched socks and pulled his base layer off for the first time revealing purple toes!  I could tell his toes hurt bad and suggested he get to a clinic or the Aid Station in Yellowstone ASAP.   Bruhn is a trooper or rather a warrior.  He was back on his bike and not another word about it we needed to get to Aid Station #2.  Unfortunately ASAP would be 5 hours! 

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!