Fat Tire 40

When I found out that the Wild Flower Rush MSC race would be the epic Fat Tire 40, I was a little concerned. I'd never riden my mountain bike for that long under training situations, let alone in a race situation. I had also heard that the course was technical, challenging and had the potential for a long day on the bike. And after riding/racing for over 5 hours on Saturday, I have to say that was the hardest and one of the prettiest rides I have ever done. It was mostly single track or double track, with long sustained climbs, fast technical descents and plenty of fun riding in between. It was a challenge for sure and a good awakening for the world of Marathon Mountain Bike Racing.

Because this was one of the classic Colorado rides, there were plenty of people on the starting line. Nick was racing single speed and started right behind the pro men. I had a few more minutes to wait and watch the lines of riders climbing up the first hill. The Cat 1 women 30-39 was the second to last group to start, so we had plenty of time to get nervous. There were six women in my age group and we all decided that it would be a long day and there was no need to get crazy at the start. My plan was to ride the first hour easy, try to pick up the pace a little the second hour, maintain for the third, then survive the fourth hour and beyond. I was hoping that it wouldn't be much past that four hour mark. The start was pretty chill - nothing like the normal sprint off the line. I got into second wheel and we started the climb up the ski slope. We quickly started catching some of the Wild Cat women who started in front of us, but everyone was super nice and there were no issues with passing (I had no problems at all with passing the whole race)

The first hour of the race was mostly singletrack, tight and rocky. There were plenty of short, steep climbs and fast downhills as we traversed the west side of Mount Crested Butte. Definitly on the toes, keep your eyes on the trail riding. I walked a few of the steeper hills because of traffic and I didn't see the sense of going that hard that early in the race. After the traverse, we plunged off the mountain on a tight, twisty trail that crossed a small stream several times. Hints of things to come! We popped off the mountain onto a dirt road. Time to eat and get some calories in for the next single track section.

After about three miles, we turned off the dirt road onto a double track climb. A long double track climb. I knew we were in the Faris creek area, but nothing more then that. Far above the double track, I could see riders continuing to climb. Afraid for a moment that we would be gaining all that in the next few minutes, I was relieved to turn downhill for a moment. The riders above us were the pro men, on the main climb on the small lap in the middle of the course. We stayed on the double track for a long, false flat climb along the creek. The scenery was amazing, between the flowers and the mountains, enough to keep the mind off the distance still to ride. After the long false flat, the trail turned down. And it meant it. A fast, technical descent back down to the creek. Rock gardens abounded and picking a good line proved challenging. I plinko chipped down a few of the rock gardens, talking aloud the whole way down. I did end up in the bushes once - one of the men in front of me went down and couldn't get out of the way. He tried, but I was riding up on him to quickly. So into the bushes I went, with my bike clattering against the rocks.

Following the rock garden descents, we started climbing again. There was a rolling single track section leading into the lap I'd seen the pro men on earlier. After that, time for some more climbing! When the spectators are shouting to grab some gear, listening seemed like a good idea. As would turn out to be the trend of the day, the climb was nice smooth double track. Topping out and the trail quickly turned downhill. We rapidly lost all the elevation we'd just climbed on a flowy, switchbacky single track trail. I was a little cautious on the downhill, not wanting to crash again. I was also a little slower because I'd never seen the trails before. It's easier to point the bike down the rock gardens and bounce around then to read the lines of a new trail.

Before the dirt road and the first feed zone, there was the creek. I'd heard it was deep, but thigh deep was unxpected. And the water was cold. My shoes and socks soaked with icy snowmelt, I finally got to the feed zone. This was about the 20 mile mark and it was 2:10 into the race. So far so good with pacing and timing. I finished my ensure, grabbed a new water bottle and started up another long climb. This would be the Deer Creek climb according to some local women I was riding with. And it was brutal. Long was being nice. As far up as I could see, the double track winded up the mountain, with colorful jerseys dotting the climb. This was the beginning of the hardest climbs of the race. My granny gear has not seen that much use in at least a year! A brief respite of a downhill and the trail turned up again. Soon, everyone was walking. The trail was just too steep to ride up. I asked one of the local woman if she rode up the climb if that was all she was riding. The answer was nope! This was a long hike too. I didn't look at my watch when I started pushing my bike, but I think it was nearly 30 minutes of hiking.

Finally, the trail topped out and we started down again. Single track the whole way, winding through aspen groves, trees and fields of wildflowers. It wasn't an easy descent, with plenty of twists, turns, roots and rocks. And creek crossings. I took a bad line going into one of the small creek crossing and got my front tire buried in the mud. The mud bath felt pretty good at that time. I had a moment of panic when I heard hissing from my bike. Turned out that it was just the rear brakes steaming in the icy water. A little too much braking on the down hills! I lost the women I'd been riding with - locals who knew the trails and knew the downhills. Carefully picking my way down the long rolling descent, I managed to keep the bike upright for the rest of the single track. I had no clue how long we'd been riding and was trying to pick up the pace just a little. My plan from the start wasn't really working out anymore.

The singletrack ended, dumping us out on a forest service road. We passed the second feed zone - I grabbed another waterbottle and glanced at my watch - 4 hours plus into the race. I was hoping to be done by then! From looking at the course map, I knew there was a long road section before the final climb. Time to eat more and try to limit any time losses to the rest of the women. I hopped on the wheel of one of the men passing me and let him pull me for a few miles. The road seemed un-ending and I was ready to be finished and off the bike.

The final climb was a narrow single track reaching all the way to the top of the ski slope. My bike was filthy - covered in mud and squeaking like crazy. I used some water to rinse off the drive train a little - which helped. I was still riding my granny gear - trying the middle ring every few minutes, then backing down into the granny. At that point everything was tired. I kept looking up the hill, hoping to see the top. Finally - the climb was finished. We had a little more climbing on the ski slope roads before the last down hill. I was looking forward to that last descent and just being able to float down the trail. No such luck. The last down hill took me over 20 minutes, bouncing over newly cut trail. That was the hardest downhill I've ridden in a long time. All I wanted to do was relax, not fight the downhill. My hands were hurting, my legs were tired. I saw no point in taking chances down the hill. Finally - the finish line was in sight. 5:18 - a long day on the bike

This was the longest, most technical mountain bike race I've ever done. I was ready for a race of that lenght, but not for that hard, with that much climbing. My time was decent when compared to the Pros, the rest of the Cat 1 women and the Wild Cat race. I was really hoping to break 5:00, but that was not to be this year. It was a challenge for sure, but a fun race. After that, I'm looking forward to the Falcon 100km. That race will be faster, since the trail isn't as technical. Time to spend some time on the bike! I also need to work my my hydration and nutrition. I had Gu, Gu brew and MotorTabs all mixed together in my camelbak and was eatin Gu Chomps then whole way. I really like the Chomps - easy to eat, not messy at all and great flavors.

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