Arrowhead 135: Revenge of the Snows

Arrowhead III: Revenge of the Snows

By Guest Blogger Christopher Tassava

I love the Arrowhead. The 2014 race—contested in arctic conditions that ranged from minus-20 F degrees to really cold—was my first winter ultramarathon. Completing that race changed the way I think about cycling and competing (not to mention how I think about life), and confirmed for me that racing fatbikes is a worthwhile way to spend some of these few days we get on the planet. Since that “cold race,” I’d undertaken four other winter ultras: Jay Petervary’s Fat Pursuit race in Idaho (DNFing in 2014 but finishing in 2015), the Arrowhead last year in near-perfect conditions, and then this January, the Tuscobia in northwestern Wisconsin—a great tune-up for the 2016 Arrowhead.

International Falls to Gateway General Store

Miles 0 to 37, 7 a.m. to 11:23 a.m. Monday

Rolling my bike up to the start line on the morning of January 25, I was twitchy with the anticipation and eagerness to get going. I said hi to a few people I knew, admired all the race bikes, looked with awe at the runners getting ready for 48- or 52- or 60-hour efforts, and soaked up the nervous energy of scores of racers—bike, ski, foot—and of a surprisingly large number of spectators and fans. My people, all of them, communing in our craziness.

I figured my body was ready, and I knew my mind was right, but I also had confidence in my gear (all the stuff that every racer is required to carry, plus all the stuff each racer wants to carry) and especially in my bike—a Salsa Mukluk Ti, “the Buffalo.” Since my last Arrowhead, I’d moved to a 1x drivetrain and changed from a Jones Loop handlebar to a flat one, but otherwise the bike was the same: comfortable saddle, heavy but oh-so-reliable wheels (Rolling Darryl’s and Dillinger 5s on tubes), a carbon fork, and, of course, all that shiny titanium. The bike was going to do exactly what I needed.

My noble steed, the Buffalo ...

Nearly 100 bikers were at the start, and we went out pretty hot. In the predawn light, I couldn’t see much and rode about that well, going down two or three times in the straight, flat, 10-mile run down the Blue Ox Trail south from International Falls. The snow was soft and messy, requiring everyone to stick to the one or two good lines and punishing everyone who didn’t. Luckily that soft snow made for soft landings.

By the time we made the turn onto the Arrowhead Trail proper, 9.5 miles south of the Falls, the sun had come up, revealing a comfortably familiar gray and white landscape.

Gray-blue dawn ...

My crashes and squirrelly riding told me that I needed to adjust my tires’ air pressure, which was way too high for the mashed-potatoes trail. While I aired down at this turn, I gobbled some food, stuffed my sweaty hat and unneeded gloves in my frame bag, and greeted other riders as they streamed past or stopped to adjust. Everyone seemed to ask everyone else, “You OK? Need anything?” That’s the Arrowhead spirit. The field was already well strung out, which I enjoy because of the greater room to maneuver and the fun of chasing down other riders. Catch and be caught. Pass and be passed. A few racers looked like they were already suffering in the soft snow. Some looked like they were having fun. I hoped I belonged to the second group, because—just as I had by this point in my previous two Arrowheads—I knew that I was doing exactly what I’d been looking forward to doing for months and months. Legs were warm, lungs were full, sweat was trickling down my back, pedals were turning, and snow was flying up off my nearly flat Dillinger 5 tires. I chatted with some racers, nodded at others. Some asked worried questions. “Will the trail be this soft all the way? When do the hills start?”

Gradually, these questions were answered. The trail would be this soft, at least during the day as the temperature rose from about 15 F degrees at the start to nearly 25 degrees in the afternoon. “The snow should firm up overnight,” we told ourselves—not really facing the fact that “overnight” was 12 hours and 75 miles down the trail. Thinking back to the last two races, I could see that the snow was exacting its revenge after back-to-back years of fast, hard tracks.

And the hills would really start later, not here. Between the Falls and the first checkpoint at the Gateway General Store, the trail passes over nothing worse than a few rollers. Hardly anything to note, except that the mushy snow provided less uphill traction than one might have hoped. If the race were a novel, this would have been foreshadowing.

But the Arrowhead has other ways of keeping things interesting, such as a giant bloody mess in the snow where some wolves had had a meal not too long before. The wolves left other traces, too: a few piles of poop and innumerable paw prints. I didn’t see them, but I’d guess they saw me and the rest of us as we rode toward Gateway.

A less wild but more serious source of interest was my speed. Taped to my pogies, I had two sheets of information—one listing my riding and resting times for the 2014 and 2015 races, one listing the distances between various landmarks on the trail. By the time I was halfway to Gateway, I could see that the slow, soft snow had put me well off my pace of the previous year. I would not be able to beat last year’s time of 19:30—a nighttime finish. Re-assess. Did I have the fitness for a 24-hour ride? Yes, I’d taken that long to finish Tuscobia two weeks before. Did I have the food I needed for a 24-hour ride? Yes, I had at least enough calories on the Buffalo for a daylong effort—or even longer if I conserved my own food but ate like a glutton at the checkpoints. But what about fluids? Did I have enough liquid to make it from checkpoint to checkpoint, given that I was sweating quite a bit? Yes, if I was careful to ration the water in my bottles, to save my two cans of Red Bull for when I really needed them, and to get more to drink at each checkpoint.

All this thinking consumed miles of the trail to Gateway and distracted me from increasing pain in my knees, which did not like the effort of riding in the mashed potatoes. Re-assess. Dangerous, or just uncomfortable? Treat them with ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, or nothing? I decided to deal with the pain later, after some Advil and a Coke at Gateway.

The mere thought of that checkpoint, drawing nearer one pedal stroke at a time, motivated me to keep moving. I passed a couple riders I knew (including a guy who hadn’t been able to race last year because he’d almost died) and a couple I didn’t, and was passed in turn by some I knew and some I didn’t. At one point, a—a skier!—passed me, moving easily and quickly up the trail. Just after he went out of sight ahead of me, he came back into view, holding one broken ski pole. I was aghast at his misfortune, but he literally just shrugged and said he’d try to fix it at Gateway. Then he skied away from me again, on one damn pole.

Gateway to Melgeorges Resort

Miles 37 to 72, 11:35 a.m. to 5:57 p.m. Monday

Gateway finally came up the trail to me. I made the stop short and literally sweet. Buy that Coke (and some Fritos for later). Top off my bottles at the sink next to the minnow tank. Buy replacements for the clear glasses I’d lost in one of my crashes earlier. Wash down three Advil with half the Coke. Get back onto the trail. Start the hills.

The noontime sky was only slightly less gray than the dawn sky, but the temperature was a good 5 or 7 degrees higher, and the trail was getting worse. For a while, I linked up with a rider who’d passed me earlier. We traded complaints about the snow. So soft. So damn soft. Can’t hold a line. Can’t hold a damn line. Don’t go off the track! Crap, I went off the track and now my bike is hub deep in the powder. Snow revenge.

When we drifted apart, I monitored my bike and my body. The knee pain had gone away, never to return. A few muscles in my back twinged, but manageably. I’d stand up on the bike for a while, push my butt back and then side-to-side, hunch and relax the shoulders. The Buffalo was almost perfectly silent—it’s natural and best state. I ate when I could. The Fritos were great, but not as great as the sliced hard salami that I’d brought and ate in tidy little four-folded pieces. I drank carefully, finishing the Coke and sipping my water. I calculated how much I could drink and how often in order to finish the last water as I neared MelGeorges, 30-some miles away.

And I looked around. The snowy forest was, as always, beyond beautiful. Endless snow in every direction.

Green-black trees towering over the trail ...

Low, sleeping marshes ...

Only a few icy and rutted logging roads, and the constant tracks of the riders ahead of me, interrupted this hibernal setting. Sometimes they were straight like rails, other times swerving like skid marks on a highway, sometimes disappearing altogether where a nasty hill interrupted the trail and we traded our pedaling for pushing. So many footprints, smashed into the snow alongside a single heavy line of tread. Why does everyone push from the left side of the bike? Right-handedness? Keeping clear of the drivetrain? I could not answer that question no matter how long I pondered it, and I also could not push from the right side without smashing my leg off the pedal. So maybe I did answer it.

Pushing through mashed-potato hills ...

Gradually, by pedal and by foot, the second checkpoint approached. The skier passed me again, just as easily as he had earlier in the day, but now using the pole he’d repaired with PVC pipe and strapping tape. I came up on my friend Wisconsin Mark who was having an uncharacteristically hard race. I split one of my Red Bulls with him, then stuck the crushed can into the empty Fritos bag and jammed everything under one of the straps holding my sleeping bag to my handlebars. There, the can creaked with every pedal stroke for hours. Just as the weak daylight started to fade, requiring me to dig out my headlamp again, I passed Jill Martindale, a strong young rider from Michigan who was hunting for the women’s win.

I linked up again with my fellow snow-complainer, who was looking very strong, but professing to be ready for the break at Melgeorges Resort. I felt the same way, but also eager for the ride across Elephant Lake, a wonderful section of flat, fast riding. My headlamp’s batteries were holdovers from Tuscobia, and they were dying, so I followed his wheel as he led us across the lake, navigating from one reflective sign to the next. The lights of the resort cabins grew more and more distinct—a dim smudge, then yellowish dots, then yellow-orange squares and strings of Christmas lights, then buildings! Cars! People! People who cheered for us by name! We rolled up onto the shoreline, made a surprisingly hard right-hand turn away from the enticements of the resort’s restaurant, and picked our way down a tight walking trail to the checkpoint cabin.

Melgeorges to Skipulk

Miles 72 to 111, 6:45 p.m. Monday to 4 a.m. Tuesday

As in years past, loaded fatbikes were standing, leaning, and lying down all over the cabin’s driveway. Racers were coming and going, arriving and departing. Civilians were hustling around (volunteers doing race stuff) or standing still (supporters waiting for their riders to show up). I laid the Buffalo down carefully and started down my mental list of checkpoint tasks. Dig out my drybag of fresh clothes from the bike’s seatbag. Grab my three water bottles and some food I’d need inside. Retrieve my spare batteries for the headlamp.

Inside the cabin, I checked in with the volunteers, accepted a bowl of soup, and sat down. I threw my jacket in the basket of clothes going out to the dryer; along with the grilled cheese sandwiches, this is one of the best-known amenities at the Melgeorges checkpoint. Other racers lined the living room, exhibiting the usual range of demeanors—tired, destroyed, happy, resolute. I was surprised to see one guy, a perpetual threat to win the race, sitting heavily at the main table. A volunteer told me he’d injured himself in a crash. Tracey Petervary, the strongest woman in the race, came past, said hi, and checked out. I swapped out batteries, asked for a Coke and more soup, and sorted out the clothes I wanted to put on. Jill Martindale came in and sat on the floor to change her socks. Letting the soup settle, I changed into dry base layers and had a bit more Coke. Wisconsin Mark came in, looking a lot better, and said he was planning to rest a while. I cinched myself back into my boots and went into the kitchen to fill up my bottles—two with water, one with coffee. By the time I came back to my chair, my jacket had returned from the dryer, and Jill had left. Time to go. It was pretty dark outside.

I love leaving Melgeorges, but I am also always scared of leaving Melgeorges. The love and the fear flow from the same simple source: the leg from Melgeorges to Skipulk is the hardest one in the race. The hills are endless, the body and mind are already exhausted, and, at least for a racer of my speed, this section has to be done mostly or wholly in the dark. Everyone knows that hills are steeper in the dark, both up and down. Steeper and more dangerous. A crash could mean a sprained wrist or a broken collarbone or something serious, like a cracked fork or shattered handlebars. Something insurance won’t cover. There’s no copay at the bike shop. Cash only.

But the only way to do it is to do it. The first sharp hill after the resort was a weird relief. Yep, still steep. Yep, still unrideable. Yep, still just the first of many. I didn’t even bother to try riding it, hopping off the Buffalo as soon as my momentum slowed and starting the hike. At the top, I had a bite of food—a grilled cheese from the cabin—and a sip of water. Get back on the bike and pedal to the next hill. Repeat for 39 miles. All night.

I won’t lie: The hills were awful. For the first few hours after Melgeorges, I could ride up the bottom sections, then continuously walk the rest, pausing at the top to eat and get back on the bike. By 10 or 11 p.m., I had stopped riding even the shallow bits, and had to break up the hike-a-bike into sections. Twenty steps, pause, twenty steps. Getting back on the bike got more difficult. Someone seemed to be raising my saddle as I walked, making it harder and harder to swing my leg up and over. My glutes and hamstrings would revolt at doing anything but pedaling or walking. OK, fine. Sometime after midnight, my hike-a-bike pauses became genuflections. Standing up was just too hard to do if I wasn’t moving.

Amid that effort of my own, I was heartened to see that racers ahead of me—faster, stronger riders—were walking, too, even carving out temporary staircases for me to climb.

“Why is it that everyone pushes on the left side of their bike?”

Considering those tracks became a major preoccupation. Which tracks belonged to whom up there in front of me? Which tire treads? Where were the frontrunners right now—at 10:33, at 11:47, at 12:16, at 1:23? Had anyone reached Skipulk? Had anyone finished? Who won? Conversely, where were my friends and acquaintances? Coming up on me? Resting at Melgeorges? Not yet at the cabin?

And then, strangely, other riders would materialize in the blackness. If I caught them, they were first pools of yellow light ahead of me. If they caught me, they were first a faint glow on my shoulders. Not long after Melgeorges, I came on Jill, hiking a hill. We talked for a few minutes as we trudged. I apologized for not introducing myself when we’d ridden together earlier in the race, but she said she recognized me. After a bit, I moved off up the trail. A little while later, I caught the guy who’d led me across the lake. I went ahead of him. I found another rider, trying to figure out how to fix a pedal that had come off the spindle. He seemed to have the problem in hand, so after a chat I rode off. Sometime later—could have been 10 minutes? Or maybe four hours?—my lake-riding companion caught me again on a rare flat section, commiserated about the hills, and rode away from me.

Riding! He was riding! I realized that I could ride more smoothly than earlier in the day. The snow was tempering its revenge as the temperature dropped from the low-20s into the mid-teens. A tiny change, just enough for the snow to set up a little more firmly. Pedaling was easier. Traction was surer. Going downhill, I had more confidence in my lines, even if I didn’t stay exactly in the track. I relished every downhill for the free speed and the opportunity to stand up and the challenge of staying rubber side down. Grip it. Rip it. Try to ride up the other side, and then pop off for another stroll.

Alone, I watched my computer, ticking off the miles to Skipulk. For amusement I would calculate how many minutes I needed to go 1 mile—16 at one point, eight at another. I knew that meant that I’d ridden the second mile twice as fast as the first, but, fogged from exertion, I couldn’t figure out how fast I had been riding to go a mile in eight minutes, or how slow to go a mile in sixteen minutes. (Answers: not very fast and pretty damn slow.)

Alone, I also listened to the music in my head and wondered where it came from. My main musical blessing or plague was Ozzy Osbourne’s immortal “Crazy Train.” Going off the rails, indeed. From somewhere, my brain also dug up an X-rated dance song that I had not heard in years. The chorus was oddly fitting, but also impossible. I thought of my friend Jerry, riding somewhere behind me, singing snippets of the Replacements’ “Waitress in the Sky” as we'd rode to the start from our hotel. I thought of Jerry joking that the race was 80 percent mental and 20 percent mental. Seemed right.

Alone, I ate and drank, carefully conserving my water, but finding that the Melgeorges coffee had cooled to a disgusting slime. Had to drink it. Glug-glug, and then a chocolate gel. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. More salami. Not at the same time. A Luna bar, eaten in four pieces over an hour. Maybe two. Nutrition for women, but cheaper than regular bars.

Alone, I analyzed how I was feeling. My legs were heavy, but functional. I had a matched set of knots in my lower back that sometimes started burning, but that could be doused with some stretches, like a little ballet-esque thing that’s easy to do at home but hard to do hanging onto a bike. My hands and forearms were not sore or numb. They’d caused all kinds of trouble at Tuscobia, and I’d changed both my stem and my handlebar before Arrowhead. Rash? Brilliant! Problem solved!

At midnight I found myself on top of a hill, so I took a slightly longer break to drink my second Red Bull (no sharing!) and take a selfie. Because I could, and because I had at last year’s Fat Pursuit, when I reached the Continental Divide outside West Yellowstone, Montana, at exactly midnight. A silly thing to do, but done anyhow. The photo was not a good one.

The important business of midnight selfies ...

Alone, long after that photo break, the distances between the hills started to increase. I found myself riding for five minutes. For 10 minutes. For a mile or for more than a mile. I tried to convince myself that the worst was over, that the course was flattening out, and that Skipulk was coming.

Skipulk to Fortune Bay

Miles 111 to 135, 4:32 to 8:59 a.m. Tuesday

When my computer showed mile 110, I couldn’t help myself, and got up out of the saddle to sprint to the checkpoint. Full gas at 6.3 mph! I needed to stop. Not for long, but for long enough to feel truly ready for the last leg to the finish. Last year, the team running the Skipulk checkpoint had decorated the woods with all kinds of creepy, funny, mean, wonderful signs and whatnot. I looked for the same stuff, but saw only a weird plastic sculpture of a deer-boy centaur. Crap. I was too far away to be “sprinting.” Then suddenly someone yelled to me from the side of the trail: “Quarter-mile!” He wasn’t a hallucination, or a talking sculpture, but an actual volunteer. I shouted back a thank you and got up again. Ahead, I could see lights! Checkpoint!

I rolled in with a happy exclamation. Volunteers instantly took down my number and told me the time—exactly 4 a.m. I hadn’t looked at the time display on my computer for hours, so knowing the actual time that applied to the rest of the world was a surprise. I looked slightly better at 4 a.m., moments away from Coke and a chair in the checkpoint’s heated teepee, than I had at midnight.

Spirits and beard ice: Both better at 4 a.m. ...

The guy who’d led me across the lake to Melgeorges popped out of the teepee. He said hi and climbed on his bike, then started pedaling the wrong way down the trail. The volunteers stopped him. “Wrong way!” He looked around, bewildered. “That’s the wrong way?” They assured him it was and pointed him the other direction, toward Fortune Bay, a mere 24 miles away.

With my Coke, I headed into the teepee. Tracey Petevary was in there, suiting back up to go. A volunteer was sleeping along the far wall, snoring heavily. T-Race asked if I’d seen Jill Martindale. I’d passed Jill hours before, I said. Nothing to worry about, I said. See you at the finish line, I said. T-Race headed out.

Watching her leave motivated me to cut the stop short and get going as well. I downed the rest of my Coke, shivering even though I was a foot away from a roaring woodstove. I ate a bar or a gel or maybe a stone that I’d stuck in my jacket pocket. It tasted like sand.

Back out of the teepee, I retrieved the Buffalo from its resting spot across the trail. The leg to Fortune Bay is flatter than even the leg to Gateway, so I hoped that I could ride it pretty fast—after climbing the two or three big hills right after Skipulk. I also hoped to get a little extra juice from knowing that Tracey was just a few minutes in front of me—and that the finish was coming.

I rode the first hill, pedaled steadily through a false flat that leads to Wakemup Hill, the last big ascent and descent on the Arrowhead Trail, and then walked Wakemup. At the top of this gorgeous spot is a three-sided shelter, marking the end of the hills. I got back on the bike, heaving my 200-pound right leg over the saddle, and rocketed down Wakemup, hanging the dicey left turn that empties out onto the first of many long straightaways that link up all the way to Fortune Bay.

Now the race was very simple and very hard. My legs were ruined. I imagined they looked like ground beef inside my tights. I was unable to turn the cranks in any but my lowest two gears. No, make that my lowest, because now the Buffalo decided to start skipping rings. Could I spin my granny gear for 24 flat miles? As I decided, Tracey came back into view. I closed on her quickly. We exchanged a few words and I moved ahead. When I looked back, she was well behind me, which was surprising. I shifted up past the slipping ring into a gear that would normally be manageable on an easy climb. Spinning that now was hard on my legs, and some compensatory mechanism sent the pain into my back. I knew the limit, so I shifted back down to my lowest gear to keep cranking. Dismayingly, my computer showed the result: speeds dipping from low 6-point-something miles per hour into the high-5s. Low-5s. High-4s. Spin, dammit! Low-4s.

Tracey appeared over my right shoulder. A few more words and she moved off ahead of me, restoring the race’s rightful balance. I tried to go up to that harder gear to stick with her. No dice. Back down to the granny and an agonizing 4.2 mph. Worse, now I was suddenly unable to hold my track. Wobble, weave, swerve. I could feel the sleep monster creeping up my back and into my brain. Something was pressing on my face, pushing my eyes closed. Squinting at the computer, I saw a time that would, at home, be full daylight. Out loud, I said, “Where is dawn? I need the sun!” I dug out a caffeinated gel and downed it with water. I was already almost out of liquid. Where had it gone? I was hours from the finish at this pace! I needed water, too.

Ding, ding, ding! “Hi, Christopher!” Jill had come up behind me while I was struggling and now she was ringing a freaking bell like she was passing me on a bike path! I moved over to let her have the track. “Oh, that’s OK. You can stay there!” Riding in the soft snow in the center of the trail, she gave me a big smile and motored past. When she was a few bike lengths ahead, she edged smartly over from the mush onto the track and headed off up the trail. I didn’t even try to stick to her, just watched her recede into the distance that I was trying to reach.

Even as I watched Jill head away, I could feel the caffeine burning away the bonk. I felt warmer, not even having realized I’d been cold. And suddenly the landscape was lit by gray light again. I could see the trees clearly, and bluffs in the distance, and directional signs by their color, not just the reflection from my headlamp.

The trail was just as flat and straight as it had been 60 or 90 minutes before, but suddenly the track let me ride 5.5 mph. 6.0 mph. 6.5 mph! Mile 125 came and went on my computer. The road crossing at about 10 miles to go, minus this pedal stroke and this one and this one. Mile 126—9 miles to go. The distance to the finish was shrinking to daily-commute proportions.

I started to wonder about the finish. Would I cry like I had two years ago when I finished at noon at 20-below zero? Would I simply smile like last year, coming over the line in the middle of a warm, comfortable night? Would people be there, or would it just be the time-checking volunteer? Would I be able to ride up the last little ramp to the finish line? I hoped so.

Mile 8, 7, 6, 5, and I could hear road traffic to the north. Somehow my speed was up again. Four miles. The confusing bit where the trail seems to go the wrong way up a little hill, but then dumps out on a highway. Three miles? Over that highway and past signs for the Fortune Bay Casino. Twenty-four/seven gaming! You have no idea about entertaining yourself all night, gamblers. Two miles, or maybe less at the sign welcoming me to the Bois Forte Reservation. The casino grounds! Rounding a corner, I saw a building—the first structure in hours and hours. A fence. Gotta be under a mile now, right? 8:50 a.m.! I wondered if I could finish by 9. 26 hours would be respectable. The track was soft and chewy from snowmobilers buzzing around the casino, but now I was standing up. I couldn’t sit down; my body was full of lighter-than-air happiness. Relief, too, but happiness and satisfaction and even elation.

Then I entered the area bordered by the orange snow fence—upright here, sagging there—that marks the start of the finishing chute. I remembered from last year and the year before about how the trail winds in a tricky way that affords a glimpse of the finish banner, hides it for a few seconds, and then reveals it again at the top of that final incline. Just a second after remembering this peekaboo, it happened in front of me: Banner! Trees! Banner again! 8:58!

At the top of the rise, a couple of volunteers appeared—and some other people. Spectators? Just-finishing racers? I couldn’t see them clearly. The ramp to the finish line seemed less daunting to my eyes than it had in my memory. I thumbed my shifter to click-click-click up into that gear that punished me a few hours before. I floated up the ramp, tires not even touching the ground, I’m sure. A pink line in the snow ahead of me, exactly under the banner reading—no—commanding “Finish.” OK, I will.

At last: The end of the assault ...

I rolled over the line, coasted to a stop, and tipped over, trapped under the Buffalo. A strangely large number of people appeared—volunteers, a couple of photographers, and the two friends who’d come up with me. I wasn’t sure whether I was speaking out loud, but we seemed to be conversing. Fuzzy haze hovered around them all, then dissipated. I was done. Arrowhead number 3, in 25 hours and 59 minutes. That sprint to the line had worked!

Sooner than I expected, my body told me that I could move. First I sat up for a while. Smiling hurt and cracked the ice in my beard. A good pain. I wanted a Coke. Then I wriggled my legs free of the bike and knelt for a bit. My friend Bill hovered, grinning and taking pictures. A couple of volunteers traded their guesses as to my finishing place and told me who’d won: Jay Petervary in the men’s race and Tracey Petervary in the women’s had each finished three minutes ahead of the second-place racers, Will Ross and Jill Martindale. Now I could stand up, and even bend my knees. Leaning against the Buffalo one more time, I walked back to the finish line for a picture or 10. I felt horrible and wonderful. Only a year until it was time to do it again.

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ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER: CHRISTOPHER TASSAVA

Christopher Tassava grew up on the snowbound Keweenaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He now lives in Northfield, Minnesota, with his wife and two daughters, both of whom want Salsa Beargreases. Christopher caught the gravel-riding bug in 2009 and fell hard for fatbiking in 2012. He rides and races as much as family and work allows. If he’s not on his Mukluk or , you can find him online at his blog, Blowing & Drifting, @tassava (Twitter), and on Facebook.

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COMMENTS (3)

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Tom puzak | February 1st, 2016

Excellent, thanks for sharing.

Heidi Mann | February 2nd, 2016

Another great read, Christopher! But give yourself credit: Not *29* hrs. and 59 min.—*25* hrs. and 59 min.!!!! Congratulations again!

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Ron Alden | February 4th, 2016

Inspiring! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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