Last year, Hwood created a monster... he got me a fat bike. We rode all winter. And, when the temps got below 20, we bought goggles... below 10, added a layer... negative 5? Hot pads in the boots and stayed deep in the woods & out of the wind. Yep, it was awesome! No more of that lazy, bon bon eatin', beer drinking winter months, loading up on chips and unwanted lbs.... we stayed fit and STRONG! It totally blew me away come spring when I had the strength and stamina to master spring training rides with Ronnie, Timmer, and the crue.
So, once the snow started to fall, my bike beckoned me from the rafters... it's beautiful out... all you need is a base layer... don't you miss your goggles? I have pink rim tape... go show the boys a thing or two...
Unfortunately, and unbalanced work-life and another bout with the flu kept us from playing much before the holidays, but that was soon to change. We got out of the house a couple weekends ago to take on the Elm Creek trails for the first time at the Frozen Frolic (fat bike time trial). The temps were cool and the wind brisk, making me second-guess my layering skills multiple times. Luckily, our sponsor and awesome clothing supplier, Podiumwear, also specialized in ski clothing! With their jacket, hat, ear warmers, neck cozy, and ski pants on, I stayed warm and dry from start to finish. Thanks, Podiumwear! Love your gear!
We were able to sneak out for a couple miles before race start and try to learn a bit of the course. The trail was amazing, well-packed, and had some killer flow! We were allowed to self-seed at the start and I found a gap in the guys and jumped in. Within a few miles, I caught my 15 sec rabbit, but a slight dab of the foot on the turn let him get away. I tried to stay on the gas hard, trying to stay ahead of the women I knew were lined up somewhere behind me - Kris & Martha, two amazingly talented riders.
The trail undulated through the trees with enough elevation to make me work hard for it, and enough descents to provide ample recovery time. From my love of time trials, I found calm and excitement in the sound of my breath intertwined with the snow crunching beneath my Surly tires. Winding, weaving around trees, allowing my rear wheel to float through the turns, pedaling, climbing, stay in front.
I kept on the gas for 10 miles and was exhausted as I crossed the finish. Once the results were tallied, I found out that I won my first fat bike race! Martha and Kris were close in their times, so I know I still have a lot of work to do, but they were such great competition that they had me running scared the whole time. Love you gals!
We followed up the next weekend with "Get Phat with Pat", put on by Pat, owner of Penn Cycle and the one I got my sweet 9Zero7 fat bike from. Held down at the River Bottoms in Bloomington, we were in for a great treat... oh yeah, plus four inches of fresh powder to contend with. Lucky for us, they busted ass to make the race great and packed down the course with a snowmobile before the event.
I lined up with the boys & gals of the elite race and readied myself for the flat road rollout. Looking at the huge talent toeing the line, I knew it was gonna go out fast and hard, so I tried to prep myself to dig deep for the intro in an attempt to get good positioning in the single track. The race started and I tried to tuck into the slipstream of anyone I could, holding on for the 1st half of the road but missed the gap to the chase group and found myself solo in between the leaders and the rest of us.
We hit the single track and I quickly found one gal off her bike in the deep snow that lined the narrow track (one I hadn't seen before), and knew I had to give it all. I passed her and another rider within the first couple miles and made the first turn in the course when I saw a red arrow painted in the snow. As I pedaled forth, my mind second-guessed me... did you see a second arrow? In a panic, I turned around and found a second arrow.. WTF? I hung around for 10 seconds or so until Martha came upon the seen. We chatted and voted on following the first arrow - good choice! - and found ourselves back on course. But my mind now took over... you just lost 10 sec. lead you had....GO!!!
So, at every moment I could find speed, I took it. When the ruts in the snow split, I tried to choose the best one. When the course was hard packed like concrete, I was out of my saddle, punching hard and trying to get away. Clumsy, I would slip any time I attempted to look over my shoulder and gauge my lead, so I quit looking and rode. Into lap two, I struggled a bit in the first section of single track.. maybe it was fatigue setting in.. maybe I was flying even though I felt slower.. keep attacking... keep going!
Once I hit the final 180 and settled in for the last few miles to the finish, some sort of Jedi focus settled in. Breathe in, pedal, breathe out, pedal, lean, pedal, breathe, coast, turn, pedal. The trees around me melted into a blur as my eyes were deadset on the trail in front of me. As I rode under a beautiful canopy of branches coated with fresh powder, I took a moment to dream of taking a photo of it and locked it into memory.
Leaving the single track and dancing on my pedals to the finish line, I left every ounce of power I had on the trail. Collapsing at the line, Jay grabbed my bike and tried to help me as all the energy drained from my legs. I did it - I held them off for my 2nd win... now how am I gonna find the energy to go to work tonight? It was amazing and I still can't believe it all happened so fast and was so much fun!
With exhausted legs the next morning, I chose only to watch the next day's fat bike race but bailed on that when my husband decided not to ride. We headed home where he retreated to the couch for Broncos time and I headed out with Sarah and Tessy for a chilly urban ride on my skinny tires to help make a winter cycling film for Nice Ride MN. We set out for an hour ride - a perfect pace and distance to spin out my lactic acid-ridden legs. Although the wind had a chill to it, the warmth of my company distracted from the bite in my cheeks.
When we finally stopped to part ways, I was stopped by the stunning collection of snow on my rear wheel.... so pretty in the sunset. I was exhausted when I returned home, but completely understood the fatigue when the clock revealed the ride had gone three hours long. Oh how time flies when you're having fun!
If you haven't taken your cycling life outside in the winter, I urge you to try it.. it's amazing! Just be safe and prepare for the temps appropriately! It'll make the experience that much better.
Making faces at the trainer in my living room,