Race Day Adventures- Fatbike Frozen 40 (20)

Photo Credit: TMB Images
It was a few months ago when I saw on Facebook that a friend was planning on attending an event called Fatbike Frozen 40. I will admit, I became instantly intrigued and wondered if this would be something I could potentially tackle.

Travis expressed his concern for my well being, especially since I had not ridden over 20 miles more than twice in the past year or so...and one of those times was on a stationary trainer. 

I found that there was a 20 mile option and I felt that with my lack of long-distance/endurance miles under my belt, 20 miles on a fatbike would be a great challenge.

Training consisted of:
Riding over 20 miles of groomed singletrack at Levis a couple weeks prior to the event. Thus proving I would not die.
Riding my usual mile-set on home track, which would be anywhere between 5-10.
Worrying, wondering, & dreaming. I am so great with pre-race jitters. Pepto shots for all!

With luck, I wrangled a friend into coming along. Raina has more experience with driving in heavier traffic areas, so I felt confident that we would get from point A to point B safely. Plus, she's fun. Having someone around for a few photos, food-getting, and moral support was great. 

Hotel was close to Elm Creek. Hotel had Surly Furious on hand. I banked on sleeping, but got probably less than 3 hours of crappy shut-eye that gave me some weird dreams. I wondered if it would've been better for me to have just not bothered. Either way, I was up right away and started the process of changing. I put my lucky "I "heart" Beer" socks on over my longer and thicker Sockguy socks. My racing socks will be retired soon, you could see thru parts of them. I should frame them.

We headed to the trail head and found a parking spot in the lot. (Yay!) I unloaded my bike and started the prep process. Front wheel in, check. Check tire pressure, check. Pump and re-check, check. Fingers feeling like they might fall off? Yup.

Our neighbor who parked next to us asked to borrow my pump and pressure gauge, unfortunately having broken the seal on his tubeless tire. He was going to ride the 40 mile course. He was nice and also point blank on race nerves. If you let them take over, you might as well go home- it takes all the fun out of it. I agreed. I guess you could say it was the "tough love" speech of the day.

I snagged a burrito filled with egg and cheese. It was perfect in size & texture. Just enough food for me to feel okay. (Insert more shots of Pepto)

I had so many awesome game plans on what I would do to prepare myself for this 20 mile adventure. Hot hands over the insides of my wrists and one for each calf. I didn't have room for them to be in gloves and I didn't want them to be in my boots in case I go too warm.
I told myself to put a GU in my pogie pocket.
I told myself to use my inhaler before start.
I put some Fireball in my Camelbak water thinking it would help it to not freeze. (Oh I felt smart!)
I decided my Camelbak should be on the outside, because I didn't want to take my coat off to get emergency supplies. Can you say, "Brr?" It was -8 degrees.

The announcement for lining up came and I walked to the start with my bike. I was encouraged to move forward. I chatted a tidbit with the woman next to me....not sure if I should wear goggles or not. They always ice up on me and I didn't want to bother with it. I had accidentally broken one of the arms to my sunglasses that morning...and those would fog up too. I will ride with naked eyes.
In the lineup, I suddenly realized I was closer to the front of the pack than where I anticipated I should be (middle)...."why am I up here?"

I realized that I hadn't used my inhaler. "Crap." Most of the winter I had fared okay without using it, but it was much colder today and I would be pushing myself. I hoped it wouldn't be too big of a detriment. If I had issues, I would stop, but I decided to chance it and see how it would go.

The gun went off and we started pedaling forward. The start of the loop wasn't far away and we all lined in. I was behind the woman I was next to at the start, the pace felt good and I didn't feel like passing was necessary. Not long after, a woman asked to pass, so I moved to have her pass. The woman who had been in front of me spun out on an uphill (ice) and I passed her at that moment. I had read an update on Thursday stating that studs were recommended. I'm glad we went ahead and swapped tires because they really did give me more confidence, even tho the thought of change before an event made me nervous. I rode on Bontrager Gnarwhal tires- they were fast enough for my needs.

I had the woman who had passed me in my line of vision for some time. I wasn't close behind, but I was using her as my trail guide. I hadn't ridden the trails up in Elm Creek before and was worried about taking a wrong turn/corner. It was totally a game of "cat/mouse" and there were a few times where I was scared I went the wrong way. I'd see a blue coat. A sigh of relief. I figured if people followed me I must be going the right way. Then I never saw her again. 

You'd ride for awhile completely alone (at least I did) and then you'd end up coming to a group of people ahead of you and feel confident you're in the right area. Sometimes you'd see someone behind you. For the most part, I was happy I didn't wear a winter helmet because I could hear voices slightly better. If you could hear/see often times you would move out of the way without being asked, otherwise you'd move if you heard a voice.

The trail was fun, fast, and had great flow- just like everyone had told me. I was having a great time right off the bat, minus sketching out on icy areas here/there. I felt really proud of my riding ability, being able to use momentum and fly down some flow parts. I went over 2 bridges (which would normally freak me out) and felt I could sustain a comfortable/athletic pace.

First loop was done without incident. No falls/crashes or otherwise- instead of stopping for a break I opted to keep moving forward. It was during this time where I attempted to have a sip of my water, only to find that the hose was frozen.

I suppose I should have drank more of the mixed water prior, but I didn't because I wanted to avoid bathroom breaks. Most times when I'm riding in the cold I'm not drinking fluids (bad.) Those rides are at the most nearly 10 miles. Closer to 8 or less. Not a huge deal. 20 miles....well, I didn't have a choice. 

I then realized that my Gu was in my Camelbak.
I assessed myself quickly. I was a little tired, but overall I really wasn't that bad. I'm used to riding a bit tired/hungry because I go on my morning rides before eating breakfast. It's good to get used to feeling hungry and riding thru it sometimes, because you never know.

I kept going. I had my computer set on the mileage, so I would look down and see 12, 16, 19, etc. That was my motivation. Closer I got to 20 the more adrenaline kicked in and confidence that I would not bonk.

I came behind a fellow at one point, he had pulled off to the side because he spun out on ice (I think.) I almost did too. I got my first official "push up" and he told me I was doing great. I played leap frog with another fellow for a bit- he let me pass and not long after I wiped out on ice and opted to let him go ahead. 
I wanted to get my bearings situated, and a bit later he had me pass him.

The people I passed and some who passed me were super nice. I received words of encouragement from both men and women, which I think was really special. I attempted to give kudos back and make sure to say my thank-yous.

Photo Credit: TMB Images
At one point I tried to sing a song, but I only knew a phrase"Welcome to my house" and that really made it impossible to sing because I didn't know any other words. Only the tune and that phrase. Kind of a waste if you ask me, but it kept me focused. I had a couple points thought I might be doing really well, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself. A couple times women passed me- and without knowing 100% if they were in the 40 or 20 you really didn't know. My overall goal was to be 10th or 5th for the women's division. (Depending on how many showed)

My competitive drive came in at the end when I saw someone in a green jacket behind me close to the end of the 2nd lap. I wasn't sure of the gender and wasn't sure if they were at the start with me or not. I resigned myself, knowing that they were going at a pace that was far more powerful than mine and I moved over to give them the right of way. HE said thanks, and that lit a fire under me! I scolded myself for being competitive, but at the same time I was brimming with excitement.

I made it to the finish!

I was not quite sure what to do, it's different than the Decorah races because they had timer chip stickers, but I asked a friendly woman and then rode to the lot. I wanted to find Raina...and food...and fluid.
I filled her in on my mishaps, laughing about it. We propped my bike against her vehicle and went back to the tent. I drank some of the hydration drink they had in coolers and she got me a brat. It took awhile before my body stopped shaking. I pretty much banked on getting a large coffee at the nearest gas station.

Soon awards started, we were all outside huddled around looking at our raffle tickets hoping to be winners. They had Finisher plaques to give for those that didn't place. I wasn't sure where I placed so I grabbed one knowing I could exchange if necessary. 
They announced the third place woman in my age category and then went to "Open"...thus I was mighty confused. Maybe my chip got all wonky and nothing got read. I shrugged it off. Then I hear my name! 2nd?! What?! Besides 2nd in age category it was 2nd overall for women in the 20 mile!

We shared a hug and I frantically searched my pockets for my finisher plaque. I gave up on trying to give it back right away. I had talked with friend/rider Melissa who was in search for a finisher plaque and decided to save it for her so she wouldn't have to look for the box.

Shortly after, Raina and I decided we should hit the road back to Decorah while we still had ample light. I was ready for more fluids (Coffee & Sparkling water) and ready to eat more snacks. (My Skratch cookies that had been uneaten during the duration of the event.)

I met some remarkable individuals- some I've interviewed and some yet to be! Yet again, my appreciation for rad bike riding folks has been elevated to an all-time high. I surprised myself on multiple levels. I really can say that I can appreciate going elsewhere to ride because I learned to ride in Decorah. 

Experiencing a fatbike event in more ideal conditions than PWC of '15 elevated my confidence as well. Rather than being DFL and 2nd, I was 2nd in my category AND 10th overall for the 20 mile race. I accomplished two goals in one event, which is a first for me! A friend told me to believe in my training (cough cough...training? What's that?) and my abilities...and he bet that I would surprise myself. Besides being a great event to attend (and one I'd like to attend again!) It was also a good lesson in believing in myself and allowing myself to ride without fear of the unknowns.