It was already dumping on the day I registered, and the Tetons proceeded to get another two or so feet that weekend. The race was sounding less appealing on Friday when I and just about everyone I know charged the Ghee all day. But Derrick, the new owner of Fitzgerald's and a strident fat bike evangelist, had already kindly promised me a bike. The gauntlet had been thrown, the smack had been talked. All the bar-fly fat bikers were going to give me hell if I bailed.
On Saturday we went out for a tour with friend and long-time local Billy. He showed us around a new zone and the snow was phenomenal so we took another run, and another, and another, despite protesting limbs and encroaching deadlines. Afterwards I picked up the Farley from Fitzy's and rode it home, overheating in my ski clothes, groaning from tired legs, and freaking out because I was late and hadn't even charged my night light yet. I ran around the house in a toxic cloud, trying to eat, get my stuff together, figure out when the race started, and breathe through the stress. It didn't help that it was snowing heavily and I was scared of the treacherous drive.
|Only picture I took of our tour...forever ascending|
Our relationship survived my unpleasantness somehow and we made it up with plenty of time to spare. The crew at the Ghee was also scrambling to deal: the heavy snowfall stymied attempts to groom the intended singletrack loop and even the shortened two mile course required attention. I figured out attire (shell jacket over t-shirt, wind pants over thermal bibs, balaklava, safety glasses, and Sorels, an outfit not approved by the bike nerds but which suited me just fine) and joined the other racers in trying to practice the tough initial climb and descent. The soft snow was extremely challenging and unpredictable. At the bottom everyone milled around squeezing each others' tires and letting air out in their own. "Is three PSI too much or too little?" "Anyone have a pressure gauge?" My tires were plenty big and squishy and I was really starting to enjoy the shit show.
We lined up and started, and carnage ensued. On the first descent people flopped around like spawning salmon and I fishtailed all over but stayed upright somehow. Commuting every day and messing around in the neighborhood have given me a better idea for what snow will and won't (mostly won't) permit. If you ever brake, or lose focus, or tense up, or shift your center of gravity the wrong way, you will IMMEDIATELY be punished. Over the four mile race I came off the bike and slogged a lot but never wrecked, which I attribute to 50% good body English and line choice and 50% luck.
|The start, before the fast people completely smoked us|
Race pics courtesy of Grand Targhee
The relentless snowflakes sparkled in my headlamp and I lost track of where I was on the course, wrapped in a bubble of light and quiet and warmth, focused completely on the tire tracks in front of me. Tyler heckled me just as I've taught him: "Go faster! Stop walking!" and Sophie yelped as I pedaled (or trudged) by.
Four miles took almost an hour but I was pleased as punch at the end. We all hung out at the fire with beers in hand, rehashing the brief ordeal and waiting for the long race to end. A couple people, Derrick included, reported flat tires, which I'd thought was the one thing you didn't have to worry about on a fat bike, but I guess when you're running tubeless at 3 PSI and the tire burps...well. We talked about how ridiculous the skiing would be the next day considering the current rate of precipitation. Awards were announced and I won (the short race).
I was shellacked the next day when I tried to charge more powder, but I was glad I didn't bail on the slog fest. The borrowed bike performed flawlessly (thanks to Fitzgerald's) and the race was great despite the conditions (thanks to a heroic effort by Andy Williams and crew).