Fat Pursuit 2017

Fat Pursuit ’17
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This is my second year making an attempt at this monster race. This year would throw a new hurdle into the mix, temperatures I’ve never experienced. With a low of -40 and average temps hovering around -30 for the duration of the race, much of my prep was for naught.
I woke up early on Friday, just after 5am, part nerves, part east coast Time Zone. I knew I had to sleep but it just wasn’t happening. My plan was to Bivy on course early on. Whatevs. I packed up and headed down to Island Park for gear check and Pre-race meeting.
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After gear check I took a quick cruise around Island Park just to make sure my bike worked and take a look at trail conditions.
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Been through all this before so afterwards I booked back up to West Yellowstone to finish bike prep and take a quick nap. Nap. Yeah right. You try to sleep before this!!

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Made it back to Island Park about 30 minutes before race start. We had to have our pictures taken by the Salsa guy, that added some time I wasn’t ready for. Went pee and almost missed the start. If you watch the video on the Fat Pursuit FB Page of the 200-Mile start you can watch it. JayP yells at me, it’s pretty funny.
The start of these things is always fast. I have no idea why. Nervous energy maybe? Trail conditions were fast.

Not too far out the leaders made a wrong turn and missed the trail entrance. The correct route was only on the other side of a fence so we all threw our bikes over and fixed our mistake. I knew we missed it when we went by but figured they knew something I didn’t. Whatever, it’s a long race.
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As it got dark I got my next surprise, my main light was DOA. WTF? Second year digging through my saddle bag to make a fix before Harriman. My main light would now be a 300 Lumen Cateye run on low, 70 lumens, not good.
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Night rolled on and it kept getting colder and colder. I stopped en route to Mesa Falls to put on a face mask and extra layer. With the mask pulled all the way up to my eyes I had to put my glasses in my pocket, coupled with a low light, I was basically blind. The downhill to the falls was brutally cold. I shook violently the whole way. Dropped my bike and proceeded to hike to the candy pick-up. Again being blind I just went the same way as last year and missed the nice packed trail Jay made for us. I walked through knee-deep snow to get there, got my candy, and then noticed the packed trail with glow sticks. How the fuck did I miss that!!??
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The climb out of the falls is nice and steep. Sucks, but man it warmed me up quick!! It’s all downhill to Warm River Campground. Damn was it cold. I stopped to put on another layer and ditched my helmet in favor of a North Face wool hat and hood. The 2 pulled together so close there was only a slight opening for my eyes. The trail along the Warm River is my favorite part of the course. You’re high up on a ridge looking across a valley with the river way down below. Even in the dark the moonlight was bright enough to take in the awesome views.
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Warm River Campground is about 40 miles in and the start of the first long climb. It starts right out of the gate with a super steep section that you have to push the bike up. Last year I hated this section, but this year I was happy to push because I was warm. At -40 degrees without windchill, this is the coldest part of the course.
It was after Midnight, still climbing so the pace was terribly slow. I was tired, so damn tired. I needed to bivy or I wouldn’t make the night. I was also freezing so I wanted to push through until it got warmer. Not sure how many hours I battled trying to stay awake but eventually I collapsed on the bike and crashed. Bivying was now my only option. Freezing and tired I unrolled my bag and set-up camp. Crawled in boots and all. It was cold. So god damn cold. I violently shivered in the bag trying to rest. It wasn’t working, if I stayed here any longer I would freeze to death, moving was my only option.
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When I finally got my gear packed Jill Homer and Beat went by me. I walked with them for several hours, a bit surprised that these 2 Ultra-Endurace Legends were having the same issues with the cold as a Rookie like me. At some point they stopped and I continued on, switching between walking and riding. Either was the same speed but switching used different muscles. My knees were giving me issues due to the cold. My legs were warm but another layer would have been nice. All I wanted to do was sleep.
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The winds were fierce when I finally reached the top but I already had 4 layers on. All I could do is pray that I’d make it out intact. At this point I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the full distance. It felt like 1,000 miles of downhill. Shivering all the way with nothing to make it better. Never had I experienced anything so dire. In all this time I only now realized I haven’t eaten or drank anything since I started. My focus was so dialed on the bitter cold that nothing else mattered. At this point everything I brought was frozen solid anyway. Had to keep moving, or die. Not dying is pretty good motivation I learned.
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The sun came up and brought with it a slight relief of warmth. Being so cold for so long that sun felt like 100 degrees. It made the suffering bearable. I ate snow along the way to hydrate. Took in the views of huge pine trees for miles around. Wanted to take pictures on course but my phone was dead, a victim of the cold. I would not be a victim and would get out on my own.
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Not too far away from the first checkpoint now, something like 16 hours in, Derrick comes by me on a snowmobile. Jay sent out volunteers to see if everyone was OK. While I desperately wanted a ride back I told him to go ahead and see how the people behind me were doing, I would survive on my own.
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I made a left at the fork to the first checkpoint instead of a right. Heading back to the lodge, like so many in front of me had already done. The conditions took out so many of us. Hardened folks. Legends folded. I had no issues DNF’ing as a relative newcomer.
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After 19-hours I was back at the Lodge, some 80-miles after the start. Jay and Tracey were there to greet me. My beard was frozen into my face mask. They asked me questions but I was so out of it. I gave Jay the candy he made us get at the falls. I was the first one to turn it in.
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I had to run my face under hot water to melt the ice enough to take off my face mask, it was insane. I was smiling. I was ecstatic to make it as far as I did. I was surprised to see so many people back already.
Every one of these adventures comes with it’s own unique and unpredictable challenges. I’m disappointed as this will really hurt my chances of getting into the ITI, but the running joke of the event was that the ITI should be used as a qualifier for the Fat Pursuit. All of the ITI finishers, even those who have gone to Nome several times, scratched. In fact, many of them dropped long before I did. Getting through this hopefully counts for something, I feel like I learned a lot.
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As always it’s great to see Jay and Tracey. I’m very thankful for everything they’ve taught me, I’m already excited to try again next year!!
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This was also the first race I did without my iPod. Just to see if I could.
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Thanks to all of you that followed along. Hopefully I can inspire some of you to explore your limits a little bit. Go on an adventure!! Life is too short to make excuses.
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One Response to “Fat Pursuit 2017”

  1. Canadian Adam Says:

    Hey Jim,
    Thanks for the write up, I really enjoyed reading about your adventure. Conditions for you guys sounded very tough at an already tough race.
    JP’ s race sounds like a serious challenge.
    Best of luck at your next events.

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