I first decided I wanted to do the Fitz-Barn 2020 back in the spring. The guys at our local bike shop brought it up as joke and I took the bait. I started looking into the event and talking to my coaches about that being a season goal.
I reached out to Jay Petervary to see if he was interested in mentoring/coaching me, and he was! Due to the pandemic, he just happened to not be traveling. I was extremely excited to be learning from one of the best and most knowledgeable ultra-endurance racers out there.
Jay and I did a couple of overnighters in preparation for the event. He made sure I felt ready to do my first self-supported bikepacking event and when it came around I felt ready. When it got a little closer Jay reached out offering to do it as a pair. Of course I said yes! I think Jay knew that there is more to learn during the route as well.
Due to COVID-19, most of my regular races were canceled, such as the Pierres at Grand Targhee, NICA, and a few new ones I was going to attend. But I was still able to do some local events like Around the Rock, a 150-mile bike ride around the Tetons. I also did the Wydaho One Hundred, a 100% gravel ride around our valley (both events I have been the youngest to accomplish and compete in). So with no NICA, I told Jay I wanted to take this ride more seriously, meaning a less relaxed pace and not as much sleep.
The event started and we all left together, but we quickly broke up with three riders leading: Jay P, Jesse Crocker, and me. We rode together for a good bit until I got a flat. We ended up putting in a tube and moving on, until I had another flat that we re-tubed. We reached Island Park and got some food, seeing only one other rider pull up. We made the call to try to make Lima, Montana, in time to get food at the only diner. We made it with just 15 minutes to spare, catching Jesse on his way to his cabin for the night, which he was kind enough to offer us for six hours of sleep. We left around 5:00 AM the next day with the goal of reaching Jackson, Montana. I think that section might have been my favorite part because there was such a variety of terrain. We started in a canyon with 29-degree temperatures, riding hard to get to the sun as fast as possible and out into the open prairie. Once we made it to the sun it quickly heated up and got a little windy, but the views were incredible.
I’d heard stories of the miserable washboard road ahead. It was intense, with heat and a little headwind, but not too bad. In fact, Jay said it was the best he’s ever seen it. We made it to our destination of Jackson for a resupply. We got as much as we needed for the next section of climbing and made it a good way out of town before choosing to sleep for four hours. With only 85ish miles to finish and over 5,000 feet of climbing remaining, we thought it would be nice to recharge the batteries.
When we woke up at 2:00 AM we saw a light coming toward us. It was another rider! We packed up and began our climb, but during the descent, I got three more flats up front and we had to plug my ride. From there I was a little more careful with my descending. We started the almost 10-mile descent and it was awesome. But as soon as we hit the pavement, guess what? That’s right, another flat with only eight miles to the finish. We quickly fixed it and moved on crossing the finish in 54 hours. I was happy to have made it to the end of my first event like this. Afterward, taking it all in, I knew I would definitely do it again, and I will be doing many more events like it.
This was a positive thing that came out of the pandemic, for sure. A typical bike year would have been full of busy events for Jay and me, so I was extremely grateful he had time for one-on-one coaching. I learned a lot and am looking forward to my next multi-day adventure.
Congrats to Jacob and the other participants at this year’s Fitz-Barn event—it appears the next generation’s endurance athletes are coming in hot!
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