As with all good ideas, and some not so good ideas, it started with a beer. A beer and a really damn good friend. “How about you come to Oregon and ride a gravel race with me and I’ll come to Alaska to ride the White Mountains 100 with you?”, I asked said good friend, Jamie Hollingsworth, as our beer drinking stretched into the evening. Even if Jamie remembered the conversation the next day, I knew there was a chance that I wouldn’t even get into the WM100 since it requires a lottery that caps the participant number at 85 so there was pretty good chance I wouldn’t even have to hold up my end of bargain. Jamie has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for over 30 years and I first met him when I moved to Fairbanks in 2000. Even though he has since completed both the WM100 and the Iditarod Trail Invitational, fat biking, or even biking, wasn’t a thing for either of us at the time.
My wife and I moved to Bend, Oregon in 2013. I hadn’t had much contact with Jamie other than the occasional phone call to catch up… until 2021, and then things changed. Some back story- I’m a 50-year old former competitive runner who’s dealt with a persistent right hip injury sustained during a 50K trail race in 2014. After many years of visits to physical therapists, orthopedists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, voodoo doctors, shamans, getting PRP injections and countless other injections, along with visits to Dr. Hops and Dr. Barley at the Fermentation Clinic, a surgery to remove part of my hip labrum, another surgery by Dr. Philippon at The Steadman Clinic to replace the part of the hip that was previously removed, and just for fun, a knee surgery to clean up a meniscus tear sustained during all the above, my hip is nearly pain free while riding a bike.
Since I’m unable to return to running yet and have been mountain biking to maintain some sanity, I decided to give gravel biking a try to mix it up a little. I talked Jamie into coming to Bend to do the Ashes to Glory 60 mile gravel race. In what turned out to be an unusually warm October Saturday, I suffered through the longest ride of my life, but lived to tell the tale. Like most memories of previous athletic accomplishments, once the pain subsides a few days later you start to think, that wasn’t too bad, I’m sure I could have ridden longer. “So, have you entered the WM100 lottery yet”, Jamie asked me in early December a few days before the deadline. Damn, I guess he did remember the deal we made.
Since I’m writing this blog about training for the WM100, you correctly assumed that I did put my name in for the lottery and did get into the race. But I didn’t have a fat bike. AND with the pandemic, fat bikes were hard to find. So once again, I call up Jamie, “What bike should I buy?” He immediately replied “a Corvus, a Corvus or a Corvus.” Well that settled it, now I need to figure out a way to find a Corvus for sale. I visited 6 local bike shops in Bend and only managed to find 1 fat bike available and of course, it wasn’t a Corvus. On a whim, I decided to email Scott Wolfe, the Corvus Brand Manager to see if any bikes were available. Corvus just happens to have a warehouse in Bend and Scott just happened to have a bike available that fit me. A new shipment of bikes was expected soon, however a single model of each new Corvus bike was air shipped from the factory to Bend in order to take photos for their website. I opted for the Rhino FLT with the SRAM NX components – a great bike for the price, and yes, my bike is the bike in the photos on this website.
Training has been a mixed bag. So far I’ve learned when and where not to ride. After a storm cycle rolled through Oregon in mid to late December, I was able to ride the bike on snow and start my training. Or so I thought. I ended up pushing my bike more than riding it for the first couple of weeks. It was more frustrating than rewarding until the temperatures dropped and the snow started to set up. After one particularly fast and fun training ride, I finally understood that fat biking could be as fun as everyone said. I had 3 months to build from my 20 mile long ride to 100 – no problem. I mapped out a rough training plan and got to it. A 40 miler in late-January left me feeling confident and training was going well… until COVID found me.
As it has happened to many people I know, even when you’re vaccinated, boosted, and carefully plot out your gatherings, shit happens. An innocent car ride with a vaccinated, asymptomatic friend turned into a knock-me-on-my-ass-for-3-weeks-of-not-much-fun experience. While I now feel mostly recovered, I still have headaches and some chest wheezing. As a test ride, I mountain biked 10 miles for my first ride back and felt okay. The next day I went out for an easy 20 mile fat bike ride which turned into 30 due to the hard, fast trails at the beginning that suckered me into going further than planned. While I didn’t bring enough food or water with me, I felt pretty good, despite bonking, so training is back on. I recently returned from a 3 day trip to Winthrop, Washington to visit friends and rode back-to-back-to-back days of 4 hours, 8 hours and 2 hours and survived. My carefully mapped out training plan is in the trash, like most great training plans, however I think there’s enough time left to build up my time in the saddle. Maybe. It just might be time to buy those plane tickets to Fairbanks. But this time, Jamie, I’m only having 1 beer.