For the past 4 winters fat bike riders have traveled to Island Park, Idaho, to challenge themselves in the most difficult winter fat bike ultra in the lower 48; JayP’s Fat Pursuit.
They are faced with riding either 200 kilometers or 200 miles through incredibly spectacular, difficult, and potentially deadly terrain. The weather is unpredictable, but you can bet on snow.
They are here for varied reasons, but all will discover something about themselves in the process.
WHAT IS JAYP’s FAT PURSUIT?
A 200km or 200-mile winter bike ultra in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Riders will naturally feel nervous, as they should, but they should also feel super excited to be a part of this amazing event and be curious what this world-class terrain looks like while traveling through it by bike in the winter. At times during the event, one should almost get a euphoric feeling and understand how special it is to be in that moment, in that single place, with only their bike and equipment, knowing they don’t need anything else.
“I want to push myself in unforgiving conditions. There is something about completing a really difficult event that is very rewarding. I like having a goal in order to motivate my training. Having the Fat Pursuit as a goal in January really pushed me to train in November and December, when I normally wouldn’t be training much. The Fat Pursuit also works great as a training tool for races later in year.”
Honestly, I am pretty dang scared of the Fat Pursuit. I have gobs and gobs of respect for the winter ultras. I am still a newbie when it comes to these and every time I toe the start line of something like this it is humbling. Thinking about the finish and picturing myself finishing is a big part of where my confidence comes from and let’s just say I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that idea.
WHAT I WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE FROM IT
I want people to understand what backcountry winter travel by bike really is like. I want people to use and know how to use their equipment, not just carry it. That’s why we have a mandatory water boil stop part way into the event where you must use your equipment and bring a cup of water to a boil before going on.
I also wanted to create an event in the lower 48 that would help prepare people, more so than other events, if they ever do want to go to Alaska for the ITI.
Lastly, I wanted to create an atmosphere for people to learn in, from others and themselves, that was still challenging but also had a level of safety.
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“We’re all equipped with the appropriate gear to keep us warm and we’re all carrying survival gear in case things go completely sideways. We have some control over that. What we can’t control is what’s under our tires. Unrideable snow means a lot of bike pushing. We don’t love bikes because we like to push them around, we love ‘em because we get to ride ‘em, everywhere, all the time. I don’t know what’d be worse than having to push your bike through an event that’s designed for some pretty awesome riding. It’s hard - really hard. It’s tiring, it’s not that fun and it takes forever.”
THE MAKINGS OF AN ULTRA
‘Ultra’ means something different to everyone and I understand my perspective is very skewed. In general, an ultra to me is something that takes ~24 hours or more to complete while keeping forward progress. It’s also when one needs to start to think about the other disciplines like pacing, food, water, rest, taking care of yourself more diligently, and starting to use other non-standard riding equipment to complete the event. Thinking outside the box and problem-solving should be part of the fun to complete an ultra. An ultra in my book is also when you take the body to its physical limit but then rely on your mental game to finish.
The challenge to do something new and difficult; the rewards these things give lasts forever. The beauty of riding a bike in an environment where our culture doesn’t believe is possible. The winter environment surrounds me so much that I feel I am taking part of it, I will feel this (small) part of the world is mine forever.
SUCCESS IS THE GOAL
Do not take this event lightly, but don’t let it scare you either. I might describe the Fat Pursuit as NOT an Arrowhead, but it is also NOT an Iditarod. It falls somewhere in between although I have heard some say it is as difficult physically as the 350-mile Iditarod. You need to be prepared with a certain level of fitness; you are not going to fake it on our terrain at our elevation. You need to have had some experience with your systems and know your gear to be successful. The nature of the route puts you in some remote country that will force you to use your equipment. There is no bailing or getting out easy. The further you go the further you get from civilization.
“At some point between thinking about signing up and actually signing up for the pursuit, I came to the realization that stumbling upon my breaking point was a likely possibility in the distance of 200k. I would actually have to see what that looked like and felt like, and I would somehow have to piece myself back together if I came undone out there. What if I’m not able to do that for myself? What if in a moment of needing to rely on myself, I’m not able to. What if? That moment, that great big what if, almost had me cutting my losses and not seeing the start this year.”
IN PURSUIT OF __________
This is an individual “Pursuit.” Everybody’s pursuit is different, and I hope that everyone walks away with stories to share, something learned, and proud to have been a part of this unique event.
I try to never be too confident going into these races. So much can happen. I don’t want to have a plan in my head and then be tossed a monkey wrench and freak out! That being said I’d be extremely disappointed if I didn’t finish!
WHY DO IT?
The feeling of finishing an event of this scope not only gives you something to be extremely proud of but helps build confidence in your everyday world knowing you can do anything you put your mind to. Personally, I enjoy looking back and making analogies of these types of journeys to everyday life. That is up to the individual, but they can make you a better person in the end if you so choose.
Even if you don’t finish, you’ll gain a sense of doing/trying something bigger than you that you had questioned from the start, and it could be the biggest and most adventurous challenge of your life.
It’s an amazing experience you are not likely to forget. The location, the difficulty, the people involved… it doesn’t get any better.
LEARN THROUGH EXPERIENCE
Interested in furthering your knowledge of winter bikepacking and survival skills? Consider attending JayP’s Winter Fat Bike Camp. Hit the link for details:
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