The Fat Pursuit celebrated its 10-year anniversary last week by kicking off with a three-day workshop earlier in the week followed by the 200-kilometer race starting at 7 a.m. on Friday and the 60-kilometer race starting at 8 a.m. Saturday. The largest field of racers in the event’s history for both distances meant plenty of action and a wide range of experience levels out on the courses for the bike, ski, and run categories. We saw the youngest ever competitor, 13-year-old Edyn Teitge, crush his very first 200-kilometer winter ultra and have included a brief race report from him below. Patricia George, a first-timer to the event, joined Jay and a few other world-class instructors for the Fat Pursuit Workshop in order to set herself up for success for her first winter fat bike race, the 60-kilometer version. Find her report below, too.
The 200-kilometer racers battled with soft conditions and mild temperatures throughout the first day as well Jay’s devious surprise of having the water boil test at mile four of the race, forcing competitors back off their bikes to face the first challenge. Once past the water boil test, thanks to the new course created and perfected in 2022, all of the competitors got to experience Two Top Mountain—most for the first time—in daylight. Known for being an intimidating, storm-riddled part of the course, seeing the sun, blue skies, and rime-coated trees along the summit was a rare treat for everyone. Weather conditions seemingly improved throughout the weekend as the majority of the 200-kilometer competitors pushed on to finish their race with little to no sleep. By the time the 60-kilometer race started on Saturday morning, conditions were fast, and the first competitors were crossing the finish line around the three-hour mark. All of the final race results are posted here.
The weekend wrapped up in the usual style with a noon toast from Jay Petervary as he reflected with some emotion on 10 years of race directing. As an ultra-endurance athlete with 20 years of experience, he created the Fat Pursuit to give others the opportunity to test their mettle in the challenging winter environs of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He told the crowd assembled on Sunday that he deeply valued his stalwart team and loved to see participants learn, grow, and achieve their goals out on the course.
200-kilometer Race Report
by Edyn Teitge (@edynteitge)
I had no plans to race in the winter, as this was supposed to be the off-season for me, but when my dad, who works at a bike shop, came home one day this fall and told me that he had ordered a fat bike, I signed up for the Fat Pursuit 200K. Of course, as a tradeoff, I agreed to pay off my new bike in the summer when I could get a job.
The 200-kilometer race started at 7 a.m. on Friday, and it was quickly apparent to me that this was nothing like riding on groomed nordic trails where I had done most of my training. Within 100 feet of the start, other racers had already made wrong turns, and the trail was soft greasy snow. By the time I finally got into the groove of riding in other people’s tire tracks because it made forward progress smoother, we had to stop for the mandatory water boil test. I was able to boil water fast, as I was carrying a canister stove as opposed to a white gas stove, which needed several minutes of priming before the water actually started heating.
Once I passed my water boil test, I headed back out onto the course to start the long climb up Two Top Mountain. Initially, the trail seemed like it was riding better, at least until we started the actual ascent of Two Top. As the slope pitched steeply upward, and the leader’s tracks started to swerve from side to side. There were signs that the groomer had come through early in the morning, but the trail was still tough to pedal. Finally, I got to the summit just as the clouds cleared and revealed the beautiful scenery. I noticed the wind wasn’t blowing, and I had an easier time descending. The three miles out and back to the first aid station were long but held the promise of snacks and hot water to make a freeze-dried meal. Mmmm, crunchy Pad Thai.
Leaving the first aid station was even harder than getting to it, and the climb back out to the main loop of the 200-kilometer course was relentless. Unfortunately, there was a ton of snowmachine traffic on the trails, so whenever I found a packed bike track to follow, it would get torn up by a snowmachine. As the trail began to level out, it grew darker and started to snow. After more miles of climbing, I finally started to descend toward the second aid station. On the way down, there was a cloud of freezing rain. After only a couple of minutes, everything was coated in a layer of ice, including my glasses, which I had to take off. I made it to the second aid station at 11 p.m. and rested for half an hour while eating pancakes and adding hot water to my next freeze-dried meal. Leaving the aid station, the course then did a small loop around Harriman State Park. I stopped for dinner in the heated bathrooms at the park’s entrance before heading out into the dark, cold night.
Climbing the mountain after Harriman was hard. I decided I could go just as fast by pushing my bike, so I did that to conserve some energy. After another well-earned downhill, the trail leveled out, and I finally caught up to Rebecca Rusch. I rode with her for a few hours in the early morning, stopping at the last aid station for five minutes to see what snacks were available. The section of the course beyond the last aid station was the best of the entire race. It was very packed down, and I was able to fly through the last 10 miles. I finished the race in 8th place overall with a time of 24:50:24. This was one of the hardest things I have put my body through, but I will continue racing (next up is the Stagecoach 400 in March) and hope to return to Fat Pursuit again next year. Thanks to JayP for making this experience possible!
Workshop and 60K Report
by Patricia George (@patriciageorge5280)
The first week of the new year was a culmination of a week of snow, bikes, learning, riding, and fun. Last fall, while scouring the internet for new winter bike opportunities, I found Jay Petervary’s Fat Pursuit 60 and 200-kilometer races scheduled for the first weekend of 2023. I also discovered there was a Fat Pursuit Workshop to learn how to bikepack in the snow. This sounded like the perfect way to start off the new year, so I signed up for the 60-kilometer race and the workshop. It would be my first winter bike race and my first trip to Idaho—just for me and my personal growth, as a deliberate step outside my comfort zone. I was stoked. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
The setting is Island Park, Idaho, which is on the outskirts of Yellowstone, right at the Idaho-Montana border. Because it is a famous destination for people who love snowmobiles, there’s an extensive network of groomed trails. It was the perfect place to practice winter fat biking. I will sum up the location and the beauty of that place with this: The whole week, I could not stop thinking about the quote from one of my favorite baseball movies, Field of Dreams, where John Kinsella turns to ask Ray (played by Kevin Costner), “Hey, is this Heaven?” To which Ray answers, “No, it’s Iowa.” And that line kept running through my head instead with “No, it’s Idaho.”
On Monday, we gathered at Jay’s garage that has been repurposed into an oasis for bikepackers on the Tour Divide route. Jay Petervary led intros, starting with our instructors. Jay is the race organizer. He started this race 10 years ago to raise awareness of winter fat biking in Idaho, and with his leadership and hard work, and the help of his volunteers, sponsors, and friends, he has seen incredible growth and success. He has also raced and repeatedly won the Tour Divide, Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI), and numerous expedition races. Joining him was Rebecca Rusch, a professional athlete who started as an adventure racer in the golden era of Eco-Challenge and then became a champion in 24-hour and ultra mountain bike racing and winter bikepacking. Rounding out the instructor team was Kevin Emery, a Fat Pursuit veteran, who also spent time on multiple deployments to Antarctica and Greenland, so he knows how to live outdoors in harsh winter conditions. Also on the support team was Nan Pugh, a Fat Pursuit veteran and bikepacker.
My class of seven fellow students was a super experienced group, with several who had even done the ITI. More than the sheer knowledge of this sport and how to survive and thrive in the cold, everyone brought their love of bikepacking and adventure to the workshop. I soaked it all in. As Jay said on day one, “Expedition riding… it never gets old.”
The workshop was organized into indoor theory discussion as these pros downloaded years of experience into our three days, and then put theory into practice with outdoor daytime riding, night riding, and sleeping outside in our sleeping bags or bivy sacks.
On the first day, we deep-dived into how to dress for winter riding. We also went into bike set up and how to organize with the key take home for me of being intentional. Pack what you need, bring what you will use, and put it in proper order on your bike. On day two, we showed our bike “kit” to the group and optimized our individual packing set ups and learned about fueling during winter travel. On the third da,y we got into race specifics, goal setting, and overall approach to a 200-kilometer expedition race. We went through the Fat Pursuit course, and I started to see into my future, as I fully intend to do the 200-kilomete race next year.
When I signed up for the workshop, I knew we would be sleeping outdoors under the stars both nights, but I did not know how I would handle it. Would I stay warm? Would I be able to light the stove and melt snow for water? Would I hold the class back? Would I get hypothermia? Would I have fun or would I hate it? The workshop was the perfect way to find out. On the first night we camped just outside The Man Cave. That way, if there were any issues, safety was just a short 100 yards away. On the second night, we rode about four miles out onto the trails and set up away from the base. It went well, although I still have to get used to sleeping in a sleeping bag inside a bivy sack.
The workshop surpassed my expectations. It was really a great time with good people in the first week of 2023. And just as significantly, I surpassed my expectations of myself. After the workshop, I continued to work on what I learned through the week. I was super tempted to dive into the 200-kilometer race instead of the 60-kilometer I had planned, but in the end I stuck with my game plan. I want more practice, and next year I will return and do the 200-kilometer race. I can’t wait.
The Race: Fat Pursuit 60K Race
On Saturday, I was set to race the 60-kilometer event. I woke up, did some last-minute journal work to mentally close out 2022 so I could focus forward, and then put my bike outside to cool down about 30 minutes before the race. I had ridden in soft conditions the day before to run a little lower pressure “crinkle tire” for grip. I thought I had enough air in the tires, but after the start I was bouncing like a beach ball on my back wheel, and people pointed out to me I was riding on the rim. I stopped, struggled a bit with my new pump, and wondered if I’d have to walk the mile back to use my floor pump in order to ride my Pursuit. And then Mark from Cheyenne stopped and by lending me his pump, saved my Pursuit. After that, I went to a Zone 2 pace, stopped several times to fidget a bit with my back brake, and rode the 60 kilometers, enjoying the experience of riding the farthest I ever had on snow. I soaked it in and was proud of my Pursuit. Thank you for making it possible, Mark!
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