It was nice to wake up just 15 minutes from the race venue. We were starting at 9am so we left the resort at 8. My expectations were low so I did not put a lot of merit in warming up so much. I was just ready to have a good time touring the woods on the famous Birkie trail.
Here Steve D and I are waiting for the long course to leave. Short course left just 5 minutes later. Thats Gary Crandall standing next to us. He’s the guy who started and ran the fat Tire 40 in the summer for many years. He’s in the MTB Hall of Fame.
It was surreal to watch 380 or so fatbikes leave at once. I have never seen 380 fatbikes in one place ever. You for sure needed to be near the front on this one as a few handlebars locked in a crowd and half the field and to negotiate a huge bottleneck. Just part of the mass start experience.
After watching was seemed like a million fatbikes race past it was out turn. We had about 120 bikes in the shorter race and the first few rows set quickly. I came in about mid group but worked my way to about 30th bike. And that’s where I would start.
As in any mass start race the juggling for position happens quickly. You pass slow people that started in front of you and faster riders pass you that were behind. I passed some. Some passed me. After about 10 minutes you kinda settle in to where you should be, then settle down a bit and start planning your race. When to go hard, when not to. Faster riders pass you. Do you hang on to them or let them go. When your not that fastest bike in the race you need to pick and choose your battles to do well in the war.
First off, these trails have hills. Big rolling ups and downs. When your a guy my size you learn that the hills here are won by the downhills before them. I learned that when racing the summer Fat tire 40 race. I put a bigger effort going downhill and hold momentum longer going up the next. So many riders where coasting down and grabbing granny on the bottom of the next up. I would literally fly past them when starting a hill, start shifting and be over halfway up before I had to climb. This just works best for me. They usually caught me at the top. Or passed me.
Which brings to to another thought. I cant believe how many broken chains I saw. 6, maybe 7? So many times riders don’t start shifting soon enough on those steep uphills and power down when they are still in between cassette rings. Snap!
I do remember that happening to me once and I had to get off the bike and push the hill instead of forcing the gear changes. You just cant do that.
The second half of the race went better than the first. Thats always the case for me. As I get older it just seems I need so much more time to warm up. Some of those rollers in the second half of the race was a blast. You could bomb the downhill and crest the uphills only to do it again and again. So much fun.
When I race I have very attainable goals. And all based on fun, not placing. I have a simple 3 point criteria for a fun race.
- DO NOT FALL DOWN: I didn’t. Some of the better races for me would be don’t unclip but sometimes that’s not possible. All the unclips were planned.
- DONT TAKE LAST IN AGE: Im never going to win but just do not take last in your age. I think I was 15 out of 24 or something like that.
- PASS SOMEBODY LATE IN RACE: It just feels like a complete race when you pass a rider late in the race. I passed two guys with less then 4k to go. Always plan to finish strong.
I take those thoughts into every race I do and I almost always walk out happy. Remember we are doing this for fun.
As far as equipment everything was good. Running a 1×10 with a 28 tooth ring had me wishing for a lower gear on the hills. I will consider one of those 42 tooth adapters for the 10 speed cassette. Or just go to the 11 speed next year. I did hear of a dude who had one of those added rings and bent it on a steep hill. Not sure what brand it was. There are now several.
I had a choice of Knard or Nates for rubber and went with the Knard. Thinking faster rolling. That was the wrong choice. The trail had a inch or two soft snow on top and the Nates would have been a better choice. I had a few two wheel Tokyo drifts going on at the bottom of some hills. Fun stuff but potential for catastrophe. Started with 15 pounds of air and went down to 12. That worked out fine. You can run a little higher pressure as no float was needed here.
So overall I finished 59th out of 119. Very happy with the 50 percentile. Right where I should be I guess.
So another Fatbike Birkie in the books. This deal is growing fast. Bigger names will start showing up. Bike manufactures have already started sending riders. This is going to continue and will be a bigger deal year after year. And I can say I was there at the beginning of it all. Next year its March 7th. Registration opens April 1st. I have my resort reservations already made.
If you into fatbikes you need to go. Plan for it. Along with the race you can ski and enjoy the groomed singletrack and trails in Seeley. The race has plenty of riders just out for a good ride. Something for everyone.
See you there in 2015!