In about seven hours, I’ll roll out of this bed at Pond’s Lodge in Island Park, Idaho, to start what promises to be a long, hard, exhilarating day of racing bikes in a new ultradistance fatbike race, Jay P’s Fat Pursuit.
The event has two distances, a 60 kilometer short course (about 37 miles) and a 200 kilometer long course (about 124 miles). I am doing the 200km, which will probably take me about 24 hours to finish. Unlike the Arrowhead 135, which basically parallels a highway for its entire distance, the Fat Pursuit crosses areas that are as wild (even given the snowmobile trails we will be riding) as any place in the Lower 48.
The 200km course is a giant loop running from Island Park east to and north along the edge of Yellowstone National Park, turning back west at the little snowbound town of West Yellowstone, and then meandering west and south back to Island Park. The first half includes most of the climbing, though the high point of the course takes us over the Continental Divide soon after the checkpoint at "West."
Before the Arrowhead, I didn’t know enough to get very nervous. Thanks to that experience and to a very intense race orientation here tonight, I am insanely wired now. The weather is going to be crazily variable, and will – as they said at the race orientation – include just about everything possible in late winter in the mountains: heavy snow, ground blizzards, high winds, bright sun, thick fog, even sleet and rain. Temperatures should stay in a range from about zero up to 30. I guess I’m ready for all that. After the Arrowhead, I have some confidence that I can handle bad conditions. The predicted high temps here will be about fifty or sixty degrees warmer than the low temps I survived at the Arrowhead!
What I’m most nervous about is the elevation: the course includes something like 7,000 feet of climbing, all of it between 6,500 feet (where Island Park sits) and about 8,100 feet – the Continental Divide. The thin air at these relatively high elevations is going to be a major challenge, at least as much as the total amount of uphill riding, and more even than the distance. And then there are all the interesting animals we might see or even encounter: moose, coyotes (like those we saw on Thursday!), wolves, even buffalo or wolverines, and possibly early-waking bears.
The race organizers are providing two ways to track the racers: a continually-updated results webpage with separate spreadsheets for each race distance and a GPS tracker map for the whole field (click on my name to see my progress and position).
I’m anxious, excited, and ready to get the hell after it!