Jay P’s Fat Pursuit in Island Park, Idaho. I completed this 200 mile race in 53 hours in the snowy mountains on 1/7/17.
It’s not about the bike!
This year the Fat Pursuit will go down as a real eye opener for me; a truley enlightening experience.
Friday 5 pm, the field lined up at the start line. The overnight temps were predicted to be around -15F (-26/c). Yes, cold but something I knew I could deal with. On a clear night, we headed out. I wanted to stop and take photos but didn’t want to ride alone at the back of the pack – safety in numbers, I guess. I watched my temp gauge on my GPS start dropping -no drama yet. I rode alone into the night. I watched as the temps kept dropping -5,-10,-15. Right there I’m thinking “the forecast’s not too bad.” I made a rookie mistake, though, and left my hydration nozzle sticking out a little, which proceeded to freeze solid – not a good start. I pushed it back under all my layers to try to bring it back. I needed the calories in that bladder, or it was going to be a long night.
I was mentally prepared for -15, but the temps didn’t stop dropping: -20,-25,-30,-35. My joke the previous few weeks for anyone who would listen was “-20 -30 -40: once it gets down there how different can it feel”. Coldest temp reported by any rider was -40F; throw windchills in, and this is no joke. I apologize for my stupidity on that one; I now know it feels very different.
I was moving slower and now there was fear of the unknown, being a long way from safety and knowing every decision I make will have consequences. Do I bivvy out and hide from the cold or keep going? I passed a couple of bivvy’s but thought it might be out of line to go and ask them “how’s it going?”, “what temp sleeping bag do you have?” , “are you warm?”, etc. I had a -20 sleeping bag, but what does that mean when you’re at -35? I didn’t know and the thought of breaking it out, diving in, then realizing I was still cold was too much, so I just kept moving. I would ride a little, get off, jog on the spot, do a few jumping jacks then go again for what seemed hours on end – because it was. I basically put every piece of clothing on that I had on my bike: 3 layers of Smartwool, a SW vest, then a Puffy and then a windproof shell on top of that and it still felt like I was standing in a freezer. On one major downhill section, I probably stopped 5 times over 10 mins. I went into uncontrollable shivering a couple of times that definitely had me a little scared my body was working super hard to keep me warm,but I could feel it sapping my energy. As I headed towards the first aid station, the sun was coming up, and I could see some big cat prints on the trail in front of me -these were way too big to be any house cat that I’ve ever seen, so that got my attention.
It took me nearly 18hrs to get those first 80 miles (last years first 80 in the 200k took me 12 hours). When I arrived at the aid station, the crew got to me quickly, got me some hot soup and pointed me to the warming tent. I then heard the field had been decimated by the frigid temps and eight had dropped the first night. I felt lucky to have got through the night. I tried to warm up a little before having to pull out my cooker and do the water boil test. Many thanks to the crew there for the love!!
As I headed out of aid station one, I knew I would run into Kellie soon as the 200k and 200m crossed paths. When we saw each other, we decided to ride over to West Yellowstone together when our paths met up again.
We meet at the intersection a little later to head up to the West Yellowstone check-point, 26 miles away. It was now snowing and getting dark. My cold night was starting to catch up with me; 26 miles doesn’t sound far until you’re trying to ride in fresh snow. Fatigue starts to set in with about 15 miles to go. My energy levels were at an all-time low, so we decided a couple of hours sleep might do me good. Pulling out the bivvy’s, stomping down an area to sleep in a snow storm is not ideal, but we did it and survived all the better for it.
We arrived into West Yellowstone at approx 4:30 am, after many hours of pushing through deep snow and trying to ride. We found out more riders had dropped from here, as well, so we were some of the last riders coming through and going on. I don’t know how many people askedKellie Nelson are you going on, And the answer was always the same yes, Then most would say “really” and she would say yes again. I was very proud of her! She never blinked and eyelid. We had to be out of the check-point by the 6 am cut-off. Some hot food and a 45 min shut-eye did us wonders. The next push was to aid station 3: The Man Cave. We had 12 hours to get our to our next cut-off – should be a piece of cake. I was now at 35 hours and Kellie at 23, but we were feeling confident and strong. We left and rode for a good hour until the bottom of the two-top mountain, where major snowmobile traffic had made the trails unrideable for us, so we went about our business of slogging through. The speed was the issue; you can’t go uphill in fresh snow fast, so our 12-hour window was disappearing real quick until it disappeared altogether. We had our hearts set on finishing but with the realization that, at this speed, we could be out for another 12 hrs. There were two others still trying to get through to finish at this stage, but the storm was getting a little much. JP showed up on a snowmobile at 11 pm to let us know we had got off course and got us back on track to reach the Man Cave where our adventure would come to an end. Nearly 17 hrs after we left West Yellowstone and still 25 miles to the finish, the writing was on the wall. But we were at peace with not getting our finishing distances because we had left it all out there. We rode, we crashed, pushed and pulled, and laughed trying. As I’ve always said, sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination. Thanks to the Fat Pursuit crew for being there for us and Jay Petervary and Tracey Petervary I feel honoured to be able to ride in the pursuit. Sometimes in this day and age the word Epic is overused but not today “Epic”