I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love finishing my first-ever fat bike race.
By Anna Schmitz
Sometimes community means getting a lot of help to do something really stupid. For me, this year, that was finishing my first-ever fat bike race. I’ll be keeping a running tally throughout this story every time someone helped me, using numbers in parentheses.
I had fat biked exactly zero times before signing up for a race, which is pretty similar to how I’ve done all my bike racing thus far. When I showed up for my first track class at the velodrome, I had literally never seen it before. With that as my standard, I was actually ahead of the curve for the fat bike race.
My teammate Brenda posted a Facebook status asking for literally anyone to teach her how to fat bike before the race we had both signed up for. Before we knew it, three of our friends had arranged to meet up to fat bike that weekend (1), and one of them was hooking up both me and Brenda with free fat bike demos from CAKE Bikes (2).
This was ridiculous, in that it’s sort of like giving your 15-year-old neighbor the keys to your Jaguar. We spent the afternoon zipping around on the bikes, with the friend who connected us with the bikes also giving us tips for steering and remaining rubber side down (3). Brenda and I spent most of the day shrieking and making monster truck noises while cruising over snow in the sun, and felt at least somewhat prepared for the imminent race.
Because the world is rapidly coming to an end, the bike race we signed up for came in the middle of a January heat wave. There was more grass than snow visible on city boulevards. I biked to the gym in a wool sweater without a jacket. The website for the race informed participants that the race would go on regardless of weather conditions.
A day before the race, the race organizers sent an email telling riders that, despite the fact that every other fat bike race within 100 miles had been cancelled, this race would still happen. I did not find this particularly reassuring. If your entire family wants to throw away the moldy bread in the fridge, it’s not necessarily worth bragging if you decide to make a sandwich with it, you know?
My concerns were confirmed upon arriving at the race, after a carpool spent scream-singing along to Blink-182. (I had called Brenda in a panic when I got to my house to drive to the race and realized my boyfriend had our car keys and was in Saint Paul. Our friend Blake, who she was riding with, picked me up at home at the last minute and threw my rented bike on his rack (4)). We rolled up to the start with a solid 10 minutes before the race began. Chelsea, an employee of The Hub, cheerfully informed us that the snow conditions were the worst she had ever experienced. The race had been shortened from a 13k to a 10k to its final form: a 5K.
Chelsea checked the pressure on our tires, and immediately let air out of them in an attempt to better prepare us for the conditions (5). We arrived at the starting line at the last possible second, joining a small crowd of racers — and we were off. Sort of. I hopped off my bike within the first minute or so, opting instead to run-push it through the sloppy mess of snow-slush.
This was more or less indicative of the entire race. I walked, jogged, pushed, wobbled, crashed, and occasionally rode my bike through the course. I passed Fuerza teammates and we woo-ed each other on, laughing at the total dumbness of everything (6). I commiserated with the middle-aged dude riders near me, and also with the photographer. (Me, sweatily pushing my bike past him: “So glad you’re catching all of this.” Him: “Oh yeah, it’s been great to see all the high-speed action.”) My chain dropped, and a friend asked if I needed help with it as she rolled past (7). I somehow made it to the finish, and two friends who had already crossed the line were cheering me on (8). I finished in 49 minutes. The winning woman finished in 42 minutes. It was a three-mile race.
After everyone had finished, we headed to the food tent to stuff our faces with mini donuts, and another teammate offered me some of her cheese and salami (9). My boyfriend arrived a bit after the race had ended to drive me home (10). He asked how the race had gone, and I told him it was one of those things that’s so dumb that it circles back to fun again. It’s the kind of dumb fun that’s so much easier to have when you’re helped every step (or bike push) along the way.
Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.