Race report

A Winning Perspective - JayP's Fat Pursuit

By: Gabe Klamer/Forest Dramis

Over the years several winter ultra-fat bike races have been popping up. The sport has been gaining popularity especially in the Midwest. The Tuscobia, Arrowhead Ultra, White Mountains and the granddaddy of them all, the Iditarod Trail Invitational, pull hundreds of racers each year. Three years ago there was a new kid on the block, the Fat Pursuit, hosted by our very own world-renowned Jay Petervary. The Fat Pursuit, held in Island Park, ID has quickly gained a reputation for a relentless race course, challenging weather conditions and spectacular views. Born in 2014, the first 2 years a 200k took place.  This year Jay upped the ante and added a 200 mile distance to the race. I chose the 200k distance just to get my feet wet in winter ultra-racing. One hundred and twenty miles on snow with 8,000 feet of climbing, “meh, piece of cake” I thought from the comfort of my warm home.

For a detailed map with topography, click  the above image

For a detailed map with topography, click the above image

With these types of winter ultras there is a list of gear each racer must carry. This gear is in case of emergency. The required gear was as follows:

●      Zero degree sleeping bag minimum
●      Shelter
●      Insulated sleeping pad
●      Down jacket
●      Stove, 16oz pot and enough fuel capable to boil water several times
●      Front and rear blinky lights to be turned on at all times to avoid being run over by snowmobiles
●      Light suitable for riding at night
●      GPS and map for navigating

Jay calls his race the ‘Fat Pursuit’ because everyone has a unique pursuit of their own. Some show up knowing they will likely not finish, others show up to finish and then there’s the hardcore racers showing up to place. I’ll let you guess which category I fall into.

The 120 mile race course is broken up into three aid stations. Aid station #1 is at mile 35. Aid #2 is in a house in West Yellowstone at mile 65. The final aid is at mile 100 located in a barn known as the ‘Man Cave’, more on this later.

At Aid #1 all racers are required to boil water. This is to prove that you can make water if needed while on course. The trail travels through very remote country from this aid forward so the ability to boil water could literally save your life. I entered this aid tied for 1st riding with well-known adventure cyclist Blake Bockius. Knowing we would be required to boil here I incorporated water boils into my daily training rides. I saw the water boil as a part of the race and you need to be quick and deliberate to win the race. I was in and out in 4’30”. This stop included filling my 100oz camelback, making 20oz’s of instant mashed potatoes and restocking some of my food. I attacked for the next hour attempting to separate myself from Blake. Blake is a formidable predator and I did not want to give him a rabbit to chase so I did my best to break visual contact with him. I would look back often but no one was ever there.  I just told myself over and over, “Don’t let up, he’s just around the corner. Keep working, eating, drinking, wiggle your toes”.  This became my mantra. 

P: Gary Chrisman • Water boil

P: Gary Chrisman • Water boil

After aid #1 the trail quickly became soft and the riding was beginning to be marginal. I had to adjust my tire pressure several times to help with traction and managed to ride 100% of the trail all of the way into West Yellowstone, another 20 miles.  Although I managed to ride into West, it started to snow and the temperatures were dropping forcing me to break trail.  This added to the amount of work that the hilly terrain already demanded. 

P: Dan ReRuyter • Descent into West Yellowstone

P: Dan ReRuyter • Descent into West Yellowstone

“I want to know minutes, seconds and miles” I barked as soon as I entered aid #2. We were all carrying Spot GPS trackers so our progress could easily be monitored from a computer or wireless device. One of the volunteers told me I was 10.2 miles in the lead. At first I thought they were mistaken but realized my competitors were struggling in the same conditions. The aids offered me soup and an arm chair. I guess they thought I wanted to catch up on the football game. I apologized for not being able to hang out for lunch as Liz DeRuyter handed me a grilled cheese for the road and out the door I went 5 minutes after arriving.

The re-entry into the mountains in West Yellowstone is a daunting experience. You are riding farther from civilization, warmth, food and safety.  I was stoked for the challenge! What lay ahead of me was a 2,000’ climb up and over a beast of a mountain called Two Top. Two Top should be named Four Top because I am pretty sure I crossed four peaks, not two.

The trail was soft from the snow and hundreds of snowmobiles that passed over it earlier in the day. My speeds were decreasing as the trail steepened and my legs weakened. Often I was forced off of my bike and required to push. I found it was easier to push than grind my way up some of the steep pitches. By the time I got to the top it was 5 degrees, dark and currently a blizzard. Visibility was 5 meters and I was navigating by an arrow on my GPS. My 270 lumen headlamp could not penetrate the heavy snow and dense fog. It was something out of an Earnest Shackleton story but I was in the lead and nothing was going to stop me. “Ride forward, ride forward and get off this DAMN mountain” became my new mantra. 

 

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P: Mike Barklow • Frozen dinosaurs on Two Top

P: Mike Barklow • Frozen dinosaurs on Two Top

Once I hit the bottom of the Two Top descent I came into an intersection that was a bit confusing. My vision was damaged from the snow that had been hitting my eyes and my brain was starving for food and water. The next thing I knew there were lights. I figured the chasers had caught me but I was wrong. It was a trail groomer. He exited his machine puffing on a Marlboro and approached me. I explained I was a tad bit confused and he pointed me in the right direction with a chuckle and off I went.

I had 15 miles between me and Man Cave, my final aid station. The snow was soft but better than Two Top. I knew I needed to keep moving forward because the chase group was now on recently groomed trails and were likely making time on me. I would eat and drink when the trail permitted but my main objective was to get to the aid station where I knew there would be people ready to help me.

P: Fat Pursuit • Refueling at Man Cave

P: Fat Pursuit • Refueling at Man Cave

I pulled into Man Cave at 10pm and there stood the aid station volunteers, my wife, the owner of Fitzgerald Bike Shop and fellow Fitzgerald team members. Man was I happy to see those people. They stripped off my wet clothes and immediately began serving me warm food and drink. I may have been a disaster but my motivation was still strong. They told me 4 chasers were coming quickly and were now within 7.9 miles of Man Cave. That’s all I needed to hear and 20’ after arriving, still shivering, I exited the Man Cave and pushed on for the final 22 miles. My stomach was again digesting food so my legs were coming back. The trail was groomed earlier that night and I was making good time. I told myself, “This is what you wanted. You wanted this pain. You have to suffer to win this thing. If you hurt so do they”. I turned onto the Ponds Trail which takes you directly to the Ponds Lodge where the finish line was. At 12:26am I crossed the line to a serenade of police sirens and a small group of cheering fans.  I raced for 17 hours, 16mins, 2sec for 1st place.

P: Fat Pursuit • LtoR: Jay Petervary, Gabe Klamer 1st Place, Cully Todd 2nd Place, Blake Bockius 3rd Place (not shown)

P: Fat Pursuit • LtoR: Jay Petervary, Gabe Klamer 1st Place, Cully Todd 2nd Place, Blake Bockius 3rd Place (not shown)

Thank you JayP for putting on a beautiful, beast of a race and for encouraging me to register. Thank you to Derrick Nobman and Fitzgerald’s Bicycles for building a spectacular race machine on Wednesday night before the race. Thank you to HED Wheels for rushing me a set of the fastest wheels on the planet! Thank you to my wife Jenny for putting up with me the two weeks leading up to the race. I love you.

Ride forward,
Gabe

Full Gear List

Sponsors Fitzgerald's Bicycles, Trek Bikes, Snake River Brewing, Kate's Real Food
Frame Trek farley Carbon
Wheels HED B.F.D
Tires 45NRTH Dillinger 5 (tubeless)
Pressure Front/Rear Between 3 psi and 6 psi Don't be afraid to adjust pressure as conditions change
Pedals Crankbrothers 4Ti
Pogies Dogwood Designs
Computer Garmin eTrex for navigation, Garmin 510 for time, distance etc.
Lights Princeton Tec Push & Swerve for safety. Princeton Tec EOS Pro headlamp for light.
Clothing system Nike DryFit baselayer and Sugoi full zipup long-sleeve jersey. Added a LuLuLemon wind shell when it got dark and temperatures dropped (I like to look good). I wore a nordic beanie and Buff on my head at all times and added a 45 NRTH Dozer cap when it got cold. 
Gloves I rode half of the race without gloves. When it got cold I wore a light pair of Under Armor fleece gloves. Pogies work really well. 
Boots 45 NRTH Wolvhammers with an Outdoor Research 'Huron' gaiter with neoprene booties, Medium weight Swiftwick wool socks
Number of bottles consumed? Rode with a 100oz Osprey bladder underneath my outer layer and two insulated water bottles. Consumed approximately 300 oz's over the entire ride which wasn't enough. 
How many aid station stops/for how long? Aid #1 - 4'30", Aid #2 - 5 minutes, Aid #3 - 20 minutes
What did you eat? I ate 2,000 calories of homemade walnut/date/chocolate cookies, 1,000 calories of yogurt covered pretzels, 1 package of instant mashed potatoes, 8 gels, 1 grilled cheese sandwich, a couple handfuls of Pringles, a few boiled potatoes, 3 M&M's and 1 sourdough pancake
Did you do any special training or prep for this race? I practiced boiling water on my training rides because we were required to boil water at Aid #1 and I wanted to be able to do this efficiently. I also did several rides with a fully loaded bike. 

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year? Be mentally prepared for anything, but hope for the best. You CAN finish this! 

 

Cross Country Nationals - Mammoth, CA

By: Cary Smith

When it was first announced by USA Cycling that Mammoth Mountain was going to host a consolidated National MTB Championship, I immediately knew I wanted to attend. I hadn’t been to Mammoth since the early 90s when they hosted the NORBA Nationals and I was curious as to how much it had changed. And, thanks to the magic of Red Bull TV, I have become an avid DH fan even though I have been an XC racer my whole MTB career. Now I would have the opportunity to see, in person, just how fast they go.

I figured if I was going to drive 850 miles for a race, I should make it worth it. To that end, I rented a condo for the whole week and entered three races: Single speed XC, age group XC and age group enduro. Getting there a couple days early was pure luxury. I could relax, get the lay of the land, figure out single speed gearing and tire choice and watch the Tour.

I have raced my single speed at several XC and Marathon Nationals over the last few years, experiencing a fair amount of success with 5 wins in 6 tries. Unfortunately, the last XC race I entered I didn’t finish so that weighed heavily on my mind. In other words, this is the race in which I wanted to do well.

Some people find it hard to believe, but even after entering all manner of races for most of my life, I still get incredibly nervous, even easily agitated, as race time draws near. I start to second guess my preparation, my equipment, my nutrition, even the lens color of my Smith glasses. I believe that this shows that it still means something to me and there is still a draw to toe the starting line.

This self-induced pressure, however, can sometimes backfire. My last few training rides before the single speed race went well, with my heart rate coming up easily, even at the 8000’ elevation of Mammoth. Outwardly, I expressed this as a good sign of being rested, but I knew that, for me, this can sometimes also mean that I’m too keyed up.

I haven’t raced in California for 20 years. Since most of the field was from California and Arizona I wasn’t familiar with my competitors. So, my race plan was to start fast to be with the leaders as we entered the first single track. Mission accomplished as I hit the single track in 2nd. Kyle Trudeau and I quickly opened a gap on the field and traded leads throughout the first half of the 22 mile race. I was pushing hard but couldn’t ride him off my wheel. I knew he was also trying to get away from me and wasn’t having any luck. It was good, hard racing but I didn’t feel overextended…until I lost my focus and he opened a slight cushion. I didn’t respond and he kept the pressure up. Now I was reeling. I started having some slight cramping issues and the floodgates of negative thoughts opened wide. My 3rd lap was significantly slower than the first two and I was passed by two competitors. I didn’t even try to ride with them. In a classic “too little, too late” situation I finally ate some Gu gel, which brought me somewhat back to life. Up ahead, I saw a single speeder who I thought was the 3rd place rider slowing down. I picked up the pace, got around him and drilled the final descent. Well, drilled it until I brushed a sharp rock with my front wheel and heard the sickening hiss of a flat tire. My sealant tried to plug it but every time my tire flexed, I would get sprayed and I was quickly riding on my rim. I made a game-time decision to ride it in for the last few minutes, trying to be light on my front end through the rocks and on the off-camber sections. I rolled across the finish line only to learn that the guy I thought I passed was actually a lap down. Oh well. At least it was a good test for an Enve rim. When I got home and cleaned my bike, I pored over the rim and there was not any evidence of damage. Chalk one up to Enve durability.

Looking back on the race, I made two conclusions. One is that I was too hyped up and let the pressure get to me. The other was that I was hungry. I was drinking Gu electrolyte tabs and only had about one gel packet. I needed more on that day and should’ve realized it sooner.

I spent the afternoon moping around, debating whether I even wanted to race the XC the next day. I knew I would, but the doubts were there. Luckily, enduro practice was in the evening so it was nice to go clear my head with some good old-fashioned fear!

Warming up for the age group XC the following day, I harbored no expectations. My plan had changed to one of riding a smart race and seeing how it pans out. I figured I would ride my race and see where that got me by the end. I didn’t want to be moving backward through the pack as the race progressed.

When the starting gun went off and we rounded the first corner I didn’t need to worry about moving backward, as I was in last place! I made some passes before the singletrack but just settled in, not worrying about making aggressive passes, but passing when I could. I was having a much better time today, riding smart and not burying myself. And I kept making passes, which made it easier to push a little harder. By the end of the 2nd lap, I thought I might be in the lead of my class but it’s hard to tell with all the other age groups out there. As I came through to start the last lap, I heard the announcer say I was in the lead. I felt some pressure at the top of the first climb of the last lap and decided it was time to make some space. I upped my pace slightly and rode in for the win. My lap times were markedly different from yesterday. Instead of decreasing each lap, my first lap was my slowest, 2nd was fastest and the last two were identical, which is a much more enjoyable way to race.

I had successfully learned from my mistakes the previous day. I ate more before the race, switched my drink to Gu Brew and ate a gel earlier in the race. I also hadn’t applied any pressure on myself to perform so I rode smoother and more calmly.

I was a little disappointed in my enduro performance as I rode worse than I did in practice. But, I didn’t crash, learned a few things and stoked my fire to learn some new skills so I can be more competitive and have fun riding unfamiliar terrain.

All in all, it was a fun week and so nice to have all the different disciplines at one venue. I hope that more races incorporate XC and gravity events into their schedule.

As with any good road trip, there needs to be a little drama. Instead of driving halfway home Sunday night, I had to be in Carson City, NV, Monday morning to get my new van checked as the computer was telling me it was going to shut down in 150 miles. This is not the first time this has happened-the first was driving home from the dealer with only 200 miles on it! They couldn’t fix it immediately, so I rented a U-Haul and drove the entire way home Monday, arriving in my driveway at 3am. I was excited to get in my own bed for three hours of sleep before work, only to find that the friend who was watching the house had taken the spare key with her. Not willing to break a window, we slept in the cab of the U-Haul in the driveway until I called her at six so I could get some clothes and go to work.