Fatbike Birkie Race Report – 2018
This was my second Fatbike Birkie and I had a little better overall finish than my previous. That being said, I felt fairly miserable for most of the race. I just couldn’t get my legs moving… They felt heavy and I just couldn’t get warmed up and moving. I felt like I was in trouble as soon as we hit the first hill and I started falling back.
Edit: I recorded audio of the report and loaded to the podcast feed on 2/25/2019
Podcast Ep 22: Fatbike Birkie 2018 Race Report – link to episode page
Endurance Pat Podcast – link to podcast feed page with all episodes
I like point to point races, but it sure is nice to finish in the same place that you started… I think I like point to point because I get bored of repeated laps, so a course like this with 1 big loop is the best as it feels like a point to point, but you don’t have to find a ride back to your car. The course followed the American Birkebeiner skate course out to OO and then took the classic course in reverse of the American Birkebeiner back to the start.
As you can see, the course is a constant up or down. There is very little flattish areas of the course. My elevation gain on Training Peaks came out to just over 3,000 feet. That’s a lot of climbing for a sub 30 mile course.
Trek Farley Carbon w/ Bontrager Carbon Wampa 27.5″ wheels and 4.5″ Barbagazzi Tires – I continue to ilke this bike and set-up.
GX 12sp Eagle with XO Cranks (was a closeout on the cranks when I built the bike) – I’m sold on the 1 x Eagle drivetrain and it’s pretty affordable now in the GX level.
Shimano XT brakes with non heat sink rotors – hard to beat these brakes.
Spare Parts & Tools
Topeak Hexus Multi-tool
25g air cartridge with Genuine Innovations Air Chuck
Sram Power Link
I can’t actually remember exactly what I did for nutrition, but I believe I had a bottle with Carbo Rocket and 1 with water. I think I also had a package of CliffBlocs. Somewhere along the way, somebody handed me a can of Mountain Dew also. I haven’t had one of those in years, but it was good at the time; although a bit sweet for my liking.
To Timber Trail
The start of this race is awesome with such a crazy wide trail. The gate is super wide, so even if you are in the second gate, you end up only being a few rows back from the front line once everybody rolls up. I do remember during the rollout, one of the gate 1 guys yelling back at people to stop moving up because it was a neutral rollout…
Not to poke… but I found it amusing in a couple of ways… For one; the trail is 50ft wide and people are going to fill in the gaps and squeeze up. If they don’t, they’ll just start losing spots to everybody else that is squeezing up. Secondly, what’s that guy have to worry about if he’s a gate 1 racer… He afraid some gate 2 guy might beat him…? Anyways, I didn’t see anything going on that was out of the ordinary for any other typical rollout.
Edit: I mention this in the podcast recording almost a year after writing this, but I don’t like that I was poking fun at this… The folks that have earned those gate 1 starts worked their tails off to get there and some of them trained specifically for this race, so having a good start to them is really important. They earned it and deserve it.
So the race was on and I was somewhere up in the mix between the gate 1 and 2 folks as the pace started dialing up. We hit the first hill and then I knew it was bad. I didn’t really feel the greatest anyways, but I just didn’t have it and felt like I was going backwards. This whole first section is uphill with some downhill dips along the way. Things started spreading out fast and I went from being in this thing mentally for a decent race to damage control in a hurry.
I hadn’t had a chance to warm up or loosen my legs before the race as I had gotten there just in time to get my number plate, chat with a couple of folks and then drop my bike in the gate. I wish I would have been able to spin the pedals for 10 minutes at least. In hindsight, it actually probably wasn’t all that bad when I look back. It’s not like I was a slug, but I just wasn’t feeling it that day.
This went on through the entire first section of trail and then some.
To Fire Tower
The overall elevation continues to gain and I was remembering some of these hills from the American Birkebeiner a couple of weeks prior. I struggled to get up the hills on my skis also. My power is actually up a little from this time last year, but my overall weight is up also. Losing 8 to 10 lbs would do me some good.
I still felt terrible through here and actually was probably feeling worse at the end of this section than I did at the end of the previous section. I was actually getting to a point where I just didn’t even want to be out there anymore. I had some bad attitude problems for a while. Don’t get me wrong… This was far from some sufferfest slog that the long endurance races bring. This was simply just not feeling it and suddenly just not wanting to be out there anymore.
Regardless, I kept pushing on.
So after feeling like I was going backwards since the start of the race, I hit some downhill sections and gave my legs a little break. My head wasn’t quite in it yet, but I was now 45 minutes into this thing and at the end of the day… I wasn’t going to quit even though I didn’t want to be there in those moment(s). I wasn’t suffering, I wasn’t in pain, my hands weren’t frozen, etc… I was just tired and didn’t have the legs that I wanted that morning (happens more often than not I guess…).
Anyway, I think by the time I hit Boedecker I was starting to come around from the point of not wanting to be out there to… Well, I’m here and I need to finish the job the best I can.
To OO and Back To Boedecker
By the time I hit OO my legs were actually starting to feel like they were ready to race. I didn’t have the power that I wanted, but I was starting to get my head into the game more. I made the turnaround at OO and knew I was past halfway now and just needed to bring it home. I started working a little harder on the flats and taking some more risk in the downhills. The risk in the downhills was helping me pick up some places and bringing back my motivation while stomping out the whiny negative attitude in my head. I still wasn’t climbing well, but I was mentally getting back in the game.
By the time I got back to firetower, I was mentally in full race mode… About time as I was over an hour into a race that wouldn’t take much more than 2 hours to finish.
To Fire Tower
I was starting to race harder now. You can see it in my average heart rate for these last 2 sections if you look in the lap charts. My average heart rate was up 4 beats per minute in the last 2 sections of the race. I was still struggling on the uphills, but I found myself fighting harder to stay with people vs just letting them go. I would then make up places on the downhills. I was actually starting to race my bike…
To Timber Trail
I think I mentioned this in my Birkebeiner ski race report… But, these trails all kind of just blend together for me. It’s not like singletrack where I remember very specific sections of trail… This is wide groomed highway through the woods. It’s amazing, but it does blend together for me mentally.
The further I got into this thing, the more serious I was feeling about racing and I actually started making up some spots on the climbs now. I don’t know whether that was the fatigue of others or me working harder. I think it was a mix of both.
On to the finish… You keep thinking that it’s all downhill from here, but like I mentioned earlier… It’s all up and down. You might lose overall elevation through a section of the course, but you are going to climb repeatedly on your way down. I was in race mode here. I think I continued picking off a few more spots on the way to the finish, but I was still struggling on the climbs. My legs were fried when I crossed the finish line, but I felt better in my head as well for having pulled things together and getting into race mode.
I ended up finishing 83rd overall out of 486 racers with a time of 2 hrs and 7 minutes – 18 minutes back from the winner.
Even though I didn’t really enjoy the racing much, I enjoyed the day and overall event. I was able to catch up with a bunch of folks that I either know from the Cyclova team or from just getting out to events. I also ran into Ben Welnak from Mountain Bike Radio… which led into us recording a podcast. There is a link below to it.
All said and done… This was probably one of the best winters I’ve had for winter sports in general. I got out on my fatbike quite a bit, went skiing a few times and even did my first American Birkebeiner. That being said, I’m ready for summer now. It’s been a long, but great winter. Until next time…
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