Fat biking, a relatively new side of our beloved sport of cycling, should definitely not be overlooked.
Fat bike season is in full swing, and I have been enjoying every freezing experience. From racing to everyday training, it has been a major focal point for me these past couple of months. I have succeeded in one event, and unfortunately, failed in another. Outcomes aside, this is one form of cycling that I am absolutely in love with, and encourage everyone to give it a try!
I am thankful to say that I have already learned a lot from this short racing season. My first race of 2017, The Lone Cone Fat Bike Challenge, taught me a lesson in patience and stamina. Here is the truth about fat biking: the work that you put in is directly proportional to the conditions of the snow pack. A nice, groomed, hard-packed trail can feel as solid as the hero dirt that all mountain bikers crave. Alternatively, a trail covered by soft, deep snow can metamorphose into a complete suffer-fest leaving any cyclist wishing that they had opted for an indoor trainer ride instead.
My first race ended up as a suffer-fest. My estimated finish time was at least two hours less than my actual finish time, but fortunately for me, every other racer had the same experience. I managed to be the first female to finish this difficult race, but even more exciting, I was third overall.
My second race of the new year, Fat Bike Worlds, taught me a lesson that I will never forget. I arrived at the start line, in my opinion, more prepared physically than I have ever been. For the first time in my short career, I actually have a great coach (Jim Capra at Tyler Hamilton Training), who has helped me to train smarter leading to many fitness gains. I had a lot of confidence in my abilities at the start of the race, but honestly made a very unprofessional rookie mistake. Before all my races, I have a mechanic look at all the equipment on my bike. I made sure to have my bike checked over before Fat Bike Worlds, but I was not willing to go the extra mile. You see, the components on my fat bike were old and of lower quality. I can't expect to pull up to a start line with other professional racers who are riding top of the line equipment and think to always succeed.
The start of Fat Bike Worlds went well for me. I was in the front pack feeling strong and positive. I knew who the former champion was, and watching her like a hawk I stayed on her wheel. The course consisted of five, six mile laps, and I knew that as time went on, I could eventually work my way up in the pack. Then, it happened; my chain broke. Without shifting, it just broke while I was pedaling up a steep hill. Thankfully, with the help of an awesome friend (Cullen Barker, who was also racing), I got the chain back on and set off at a blistering pace. Determined to work my way back to the front, I strove to ride smart but strong. My only consolation was that the chain broke on the first lap hopefully giving me time and a shot at a spot on the podium. I finished my first lap and felt a thrill as I hurried past other racers. The screaming spectators made me feel even stronger and proud to be working so hard.
On my second lap, the chain broke again. I realized the gravity of my situation as time ticked away and other racers passed me. I attempted to get another quick link on, but to no avail. I knew it was over, but it took me a few minutes to realize that I would have to DNF (Did Not Finish). I have learned that sometimes this is just a part of racing; an uncontrollable truth that hurts every time and never seems to get any easier. What can I do to try and avoid this in the future? I will make sure that I have all my gear dialed. I will make sure that I am extremely fastidious about maintenance and replacing old, overused components. I have learned a difficult, but needed lesson, and now that it is over, I am thankful.
I spent the remainder of the race cheering on my friends and fellow riders. It was great fun, and I do not regret being there.
This was definitely not my last race. There will be more competition in my future, and who knows, maybe I can even win a few.