Monday, January 27, 2014

Noque Fat Bike Worlds that was an amazing weekend! In the walk of life there are certainly moments that stand out above the rest and I can assure you this is a weekend that I will remember for a very long time. Everything was epic...from start to finish. 

I am pretty sure it snowed the entire time we were away from Minneapolis, and finally decided to stop the moment we arrived back in town.  Tom and I both worked Friday morning and then took off to Marquette. The drive was snowy, slow and tense.  We were however sure to roll down the window and scream "on your left!" as we passed Brendan and Mike en route....

We finally arrived at the expo around 9:30 and quickly picked up our packets before heading to town for dinner. It was fun to see our friend Evan and his buddies from the Sports Rack.  We made a quick stop at Ore Dock for a beer and then Mike, Brendan Tom and I all headed back to Evan's place to get settled.  Evan's lovely girlfriend, Grace, made us sleepy time tea and we stayed up til 2 am! chatting and catching up.  I so love those two yoopers!

Thank God for late mountain bike race starts. This meant we had time to sleep in and sit down for a normal breakfast. I ordered French toast and while we waited for our food I hung out in the bathroom filling my bottles and hydration pack up with scalding hot water.  The forecast for the race was COLD, COLD, COLD! I think they said the temp would be +1 degree and that it would "feels like -20 degrees!"  in reality they should have just said "feels like horrible."  I assumed most of my water would eventually freeze but the same was for everyone so I wasn't dwelling on it. 

When we arrived at the school for the race start, I did what every endurance athlete should never do.  I tried a bunch of stuff for the first time ever!  I put toe warmers on top of my socks, I rubbed Vaseline all over my face, and then I rubbed embro all over my face, legs, butt, feet, hands and stomach.  I was instantly ON FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!  It was so hot and burning everywhere that all I could think was that "I really need to get outside!"  I left the building 10 minutes before start, ripped out a few hard efforts on the trail and then headed to get a front spot at the line. Soon enough we were off!

I had a pretty good start and was happy to be rounding the first corner with some of the fast men and then all the sudden the guy in front of me slid on some soft snow and wham, I was on my butt!  Crap!  I was quick to get up and looked ahead for Danielle and was happy to see I was still in the front.  Danielle has been racing fat bikes for a few years and had beat me pretty handedly last year.  I knew she would bring the heat and that winning Fat Bike Worlds would be far from an easy task. 

It didn't take long and soon enough she was passing me up one of the first climbs.  She was definitely seeming to have the edge on the hills and especially those climbs where we had to dismount and hike a bike. I seemed to have the edge on the descents and power sections.  So we played a bit of leap frog for the first 30 minutes or so until we both went off course.  Thankfully Danielle was leading at the time and noticed the trail did not seem right and so we both turned around quickly and didn't make it too far off course.  Once we got back on course  I decided to pick up the pace a bit and created a small gap.   I was off the front and riding all alone. This freaked me out a bit as I knew she might have someone to work with to catch back up. 

I began focusing on my race and thinking about my nutrition and how FREAKING COLD MY LEGS AND STOMACH WERE!!  I remember thinking that I shouldn't have used that embro crap and I figured that it was still on fire and making me feel like my body was freezing.   My plan was to drink the bottle on my bike first and then move on to my hydration pack.  Last year my hydration nozzle had frozen almost instantly in this race so this year I wrapped a toe warmer around the nozzle and left the hose dangling by my stomach under my jacket. I was happy to see I was able to get more than half of the fluid out of my bike bottle and I kept on pedaling...however something was totally winter race pants appeared to have a major frothy ice situation going on right in the crotch region.  I remember thinking "that's weird" and since it was snowing I began debating if it could actually be sleeting.  It started to get worse to the point that when I would dismount my bike to hike up a hill it was as if my pants were frozen together and almost weighing down like they were going to fall off! I tried to ignore the situation for the most part as I was just flat out confused. 

Finally about 45 minutes in I went to test my hydration pack and was pleased to have gotten a tiny bit of fluid out the hose and then suddenly the flow stopped....  "Ah crap it's frozen" I immediately assumed.  I reached back to hit the pack and see if  the water was frozen and then it hit me....THERE IS NOTHING IN MY PACK!!! 

Yep, the entire 50 ounces of EFS was all over my crotch/thighs/bike/and stomach. I had left the nozzle open....already winning the DA award of the day.  I felt my cycling jacket and front of it was a massive ice block.  I knew this was not good.  And of course I began to have an insanely idiotic debate with myself about whether or not I was being crazy for wanting to continue the race.  I knew darn well how cold it was outside.  I also knew that I was covered in water.  But then of course like any rational person would do I convinced myself that "no one loses their thigh or stomach to frostbite, right?"  so I carried on and blocked it out. Ironman had taught me that rarely do races go as planned.  I  was concerned about having a lack of calories and fluid because I wasn't sure how much nutrition was on the course. But I have also learned over the years that X+Y does not always equal Z.  Just because I was short on nutrition and fluid didn't mean that I couldn't win the race!!   I remembered that last year they had aid stations but it wasn't sure if it was 2 or if it was 6.  Thankfully there were plenty of aid stations so many that I never even had to reach for my emergency stash of gels. Thank you so much to the volunteers who all embraced the cold to help us all have an incredible race. 

Eventually the movement and my body heat melted the ice from my pants for the most part and I was flying and feeling happy as I went through the half way point to see Tom snap this photo!!

Check out my frozen EFS crotch? Actually..... quit looking at my crotch!!

The second half of the course was fast and net downhill.  I had a blast using the power sections to my advantage.  The temperature however seemed to be getting colder and colder and my feet and hands were eventually numb!  I question how dangerous these conditions really were.  I'm not sure how much more I could have done to keep my feet and hands warm and honestly the last 45 minutes were really toeing the line of miserable for me....I pedaled as hard as I could knowing that a Fat Bike Worlds Cowbell and a warm place to lay down were on the horizon.  Finally the dome was in sight and I had done it.  I had finished the race in 3:02, I was the first female and the 2014 Fat Bike World Champ.

I was elated and traumatized all at the same time.  I bee lined it to the dome and immediately began stripping off all of my wet clothes.  By the time Tom caught up to me inside I looked like this:

Wow, I was speechless.

And really stoked to share a podium with these amazing ladies!

Arianne, April Midrift, Danielle
I also enjoyed sharing stories with Evan, Mike, Brendan and all the rest of our cycling friends who endured some very tough conditions to finish this race. 

Brendan, Happy to be done!
Then.... it was time to celebrate!!

Two things I love the most about Marquette are it's people and it's breweries. We spent most of the night at my favorite one, Blackrocks.  We of course had waaaayyy too much fun!  4th place female, Jill even showed a hot dog!!

Huge thanks to Evan and Grace for hosting us, you both are amazing, we love hanging with you and having a warm cozy place with awesome coffee was incredible.  

And a huge thanks to all of you that encourage, support and believe in me.  You know who you are...... I share this massive cowbell with all of you!!!!!!


  1. Congrats on your well deserved "W"!! Great write up! Not all races go as we plan but how we deal with the unforeseen makes the difference between an excuse and a victory. :)
    Sue Stephens

  2. Thanks Kate and Sue!!! Ride on!

  3. Amazing and so well deserved! Way to power through! Congrats, April!!