I had unfinished business at the Fat Pursuit after DNFing my last two winter ultras. For some reason, fat biking long distances gives me pure joy. And one aspect I was particularly excited about was riding with other ladies. I have only ridden with three other women over two different Fat Pursuits. This year, there was a strong crew of ladies who signed up.
The weeks leading up to the Pursuit were chaotic. A loved one was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and my focus shifted from the Pursuit to supporting my family. I started to question myself. Was I ready? Could I focus on my ride? I only had a loose ride plan to take care of myself, ride until I was tired, sleep until I felt rested, repeat until done. My mind was all over the place.
Attending the Fat Pursuit is like a family gathering for me. This year was different, yet I still held the same excitement to see longtime friends. On Friday morning, I was nervous and questioning myself. At the last minute, I added a goal to celebrate every mile. At the first mile, I was riding with folks and I cheered us on, “First mile down, wahoo!” I kept celebrating miles with verbal cues, extra food, or water.
I was riding with my buddies Mark and Leigh and we shared glorious miles of amazing views that were in and out of fog. The trail conditions softened, upping the challenge. I wondered how far I could go before getting tired. Would it be before or after Two Top? I felt good and was still riding with Mark and Leigh, which was lovely. Evening came just as I started to make my way up Two Top. I was met with the groomer – what a treat to ride so much firm snow. Enjoying the smooth surface, I came upon fresh pocks in the snow. What was it? A moose? Then, about ten seconds later I realized it was Mark!
Riding up Two Top was enjoyable and while I’m still not a fan of pushing my bike, it’s part of the price I am willing to pay. I’ve been on top of this mountain several times and this was the first time it was totally still. No wind. The descent was lovely and we came across more groomers and other Fat Pursuit supporters on snowmobiles. Leigh and I made it to a closed warming hut.
Goal #1 of self-care kicked into full swing: add layers, make a hot meal, get ready for bed. I didn’t worry that it was fairly early or about the number of miles left or how long I was going to sleep. Finally, around 4:15 a.m. I committed to getting the show on the road. It was a clear night and I had a feeling that sunrise would be magical. It was. Mile 75 and I was feeling alive. I enjoyed the climb up, especially because I was sharing the trail with another lady. Mile 87 and I was feeling like I was in heaven. The conditions were truly awe-inspiring. The last 20 miles were a slog in soft conditions. We were greeted at the Ponds arch with cheers. We had Pursued the challenge and finished.
Shortly after finishing, I learned that a biking friend had committed suicide. Two days later, my loved one with cancer would be admitted to ICU. My post-ride recovery has been rough, but it made all of the celebrations of miles and sharing the ride with ladies feel even more powerful. After the Pursuit, I feel like I have returned to my fat biking roots, which ground me and keep me riding forward, despite the chaos around me.
Words by event organizer, Jay Petervary (@jay_petervary)
It’s certainly a strange time to be a race organizer but I couldn’t be happier with the way this year’s Fat Pursuit, The COVID Edition, Do-It-On-Your-Own Challenge worked out. Friends, participants, volunteers, and my wife all encouraged me to continue the event and not just cancel it. They all said you need to keep the tradition going in a way that feels real and gives people the opportunity to grow as riders.
I presented the challenge as an opportunity for a winter travel experience just like the Fat Pursuit and encouraged people to learn what to carry and how to use it (yes, the 200k participants were still asked to do the water boil test!) and to practice creating their own route.
Receiving stories, images, and messages from people all over the country has been very satisfying. And I even got to Pursue myself on the new route I created this year! When people asked what my plan was, I just said I would be under the arch as usual on the original race day, and since it was a do-it-on-your-own experience with a route laid out, anybody was welcome. Well, there were more people under that arch than I had anticipated, and the conditions were the best we’ve seen in eight years of Fat Pursuits. It turned out to be one of the best rides in Island Park I have ever had. -JayP
Stay tuned for a recap from JayP’s Winter Fat Camp next week!
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.