Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fat Bike Birkie!!

Can you believe this awesome spring we are having?!  It feels like we are in Minnesota heaven. I've been spending most of the week letting go of the pressures of training/racing and really just letting the season sink in.  45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie was my last race of the year and I wanted nothing more than end the season on a high note. 

drove up solo on Friday night after work (Tom was already up there working some Salsa demos). It was hard to see so many Facebook selfies of my buddies as they headed out of town at 8am, 12pm, 3pm knowing that I wasn't going to reach Hayward until just before 8pm.  I was feeling flat most of the week, but Coach Matt's pep talk righted the ship and as I rolled into Hayward I felt a sense of calm.  The rolling hills of Cable are punchy bunch that don't always seem to suit me as a "bigger" racer.  I was determined to ignore all that, and to put on my best suffer face on Saturday.  Tom and I  joined Dolan and Hillary for some ravioli and we were all super excited that Birkie was going to be  Hilary's FIRST fat bike race!

Arriving at the race site Saturday morning was the best feeling ever!  45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie is it.  It's exactly what I love about racing.  Big, massive, epic events.  People were all over the place making last minute adjustments to their tire pressure, talking about the course conditions and really just beaming with excitement.  You can't resist the energy at an event like this, it's seriously intoxicating.  I was greeted with smiles by Scott and Kurt from 45NRTH who were both majorly jacked for the day and then I also got to hug Anne Hed and thank her for all she has done for me this season!!  I was feeling amazing.  I've been chasing a win at this race for a long time and I was ready to rock!

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

The announcers went through call-ups and I managed a second row spot right on Jenna's wheel...not a bad place to be. Eventually I ended up right behind Matt Acker and after a 2 mile controlled roll out we finally made a right hand turn onto the Birkie trail and then were let free like a pack of wolves.  I had a solid start and was slightly behind Jenna.  It only took about 200 yards for me to realize I had picked the perfect tires in the Vanhelgas and that I had nailed the tire pressure at 8.5PSI.  The combination of the bigger tread and firmer pressure meant that I was rolling fast and also handling the loose corners better than most around me.  The grooming was incredible and the power sections combined with the drifty corners were making this a great course for me.

In the past Jenna generally drops me on the first few hard climbs and then I spend the rest of the race chasing her like a raging dog.  I have so much respect for Jenna as a racer that when I caught up back up to her 25 minutes in it nearly startled me. I thought, maybe this was it :)  I even held the lead a couple times for a tiny bit, but then eventually her climbing strength was too much for me and she slowly rode away.

At this point I looked back fully expecting to see Amber, Sheryl, Diana, Pam, Anna or Musto right on my wheel.  I knew I had a visible gap and so I focused mostly on my strengths which I think has made a difference for me as a racer this last year.  I focus less on my weaknesses while racing and try to capitalize more on my strengths.  I know hills aren't my jam and so I promise to make myself suffer on them, but then I also ensure that I'm upshifting faster than others at the top and taking advantage of my ability to descend, especially when it's loose. This yo-yo effect sometimes makes it hard for me to find a good wheel(s) in hilly races so I look for the bigger/taller guys to work with.  Sorry guys, it's true

The aid stations were amazing and I couldn't help but smile as I rode through and heard all the the cheers. I worked together with a few guys the second half of the race. 

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

I was passed by Salsa's Tim Ek with a few miles to go and he offered a hello and a few words of encouragement. That was all I needed to find the strength to hammer the last mile of gravel road to the finish!  I saw no women in sight and was elated to again nab a 2nd step at the biggest and bestest fat bike race in the world!!

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

I also got to ride through the finish chute with Hilary and share a congratulatory hug after she completed the short course event....her first fat bike finish ever!  Then Brendan, Tom, Pam, Danielle and all my favorite friends started rolling through the finish with big smiles on their faces.  

The post race festivities were on point and overall Saturday was a pretty special day celebrating an amazing season with Team 45NRTH.  Champagne was had!!  

Photo Credit: Jill Martindale AKA Arrowhead 135 Beist

I was filled with so many emotions.  Buzzing excitement  about the race and fat biking in general.  Overwhelmed with gratitude for all the support I received this season. Sad that the season was over, yet relieved to be able to relax and take a mental break. 

I was also elated to have accomplished my goal of winning the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, but mostly I was so happy to have been able to race with this amazingly talented ladies all year long!  More on this later.

Photo Credit: Jenny Scott
Anna, Danielle, Me, Jill, Chelsea

Today, the stoke level is high due to daylight savings (the best day of the year!) and arms my glutes are destroyed after joining my besty Ericka at at Orange Theory (that workout is hard!!!!) I don't even want to tell coach how tore up my abs are...for fear he'll make me actually do my core workouts. It's apparent I should probably do them. :/

Congratulations everyone on an incredible season, you should all be very proud.  We are all collectively a part of a pretty special revolution.  Just think...some day we'll all be able to say we participated in some of the first fat bike races ever!



  1. Always with a smile - April Morgan. Congrats

  2. Well said April! It was nice to chat with you briefly (beaming as usual) - my third Birkie race as well - though I finished WAY behind you!
    The Birkie is an awesome race and the whole weekend there is a blast - kudos to the Birkie Foundation, Freewheel Bikes, 45NRTH,, the many other sponsors and volunteers - class act!
    My blog post and video are here:

    1. Thanks Tom!! It was great to meet you after the race!!!