Sunday morning, fatties headed down to the Lake Michigan shore where the ultimate line was drawn in the sand. “Racers with mustaches line up now” announced the race director as he dragged his foot through the sand marking the start for each fat bike rider to line up. When the 28 racers came forward, some more ambitious than others, you could tell this was going to be a great event. “Be ready to traverse along a nine mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, get to the mid-point, grab an army man & PBR and get back here.” Racers ready…
The sand, wet and firm from rain the day before, and the waves crashing against the shore hard from the winds guaranteed an all out battle with the conditions. Not knowing what to expect, racers took off with small trains forming within the first five hundred feet. The leaders were on a mission and not looking back. Sand was flying and viewers along the start were cheering. Every rider scrambled for the best gear possible to keep the momentum against the heavy sand below. This was going to be a long nine miles. Randy Wegener said “My legs were screaming when I hit the first river crossing. I had quickly realized that this was no leisurely ride down the beach but an honest to god race.”
The headwind was a killer and the multiple creek crossings left riders with wet, cold feet. (A great suggestion for anyone looking to beach race would be to add winter riding shoes, neoprene socks and gators to their arsenal of attire.) Anything to keep the feet and legs dry would be fantastic. Sticks, downed trees, tight shoreline and rocks were aggressively moving riders closer and closer into the danger zone of cold water. The terrain in this stretch of beach provides all the different obstacles to make one hell of a race go from good to great!
Spectators & residents along the beachfront had a stunned look on their face! All of them smiling and cheering the riders along the route yelling “go go go” and questioning “where do I get that bike?” Racers waved and grabbed high 5’s as they passed. The camaraderie from racer to racer and racer to fan was top notch!
The mid-point was marked by a blazing beach fire and fans cheering on participants. Lead racer, Maciej Nowak said “we must be near, I can smell the beer” to his fellow racers. As they pulled it in closer little brown and green army figures were placed in the sand where they must grab one and head out. An optional PBR for hydrating purposes did many racers good as they were parched from pushing their big machines that long a distance.
The return was an all out struggle; read as pain or determination on most competitors faces. Turning the legs over and staying warm was on everyone’s mind. The wind was relentless and again in the face of all those struggling to finish. Unfortunately, one racer ended up with a flat at mile 14 which left him walking back with a shiver in his step. In the end, all racers finished… some in better shape than others. The post race visit was all that a fatbike race should be; laughing, swigging and reminiscing the pain of the event. Congrats and pats on the back were bountiful while the cans were crushed and tossed back into the cooler. Race winner and fat bike rookie owner Maciej Nowak commented post race “No big climbs today but man my legs are cashed.”
Ernesto added this report from Check Point Charlie just north of Harrington Beach:
From a non-racer POV, Charlie Checkpoint or Checkpoint Charlie (can’t remember the order of the phrase) was the middle of the race, as in the turn around. The cusp of “wtf did I get myself into” point.
The first riders to have arrived were fast – not cheetah fast, but fast enough. They were soggy and cold. Sandy butts and legs, and a sense of mid-accomplishment because they were not finished yet. They had to turn around, and ride back to the beginning of the end. On Fat Bikes.
Fat bikes that can muscle over much of the terrain that was strewn in front of them. Sand, creek crossings, logs, rocks… and some dead fish. The riders all seemed to operate these bicycles with the agile audacity of a ninja.
As the riders arrived, Pabst beer was offered and they were also handed their little army men as proof they reached the halfway point.
More riders arrived soaked to the bone and chilled like a wet cat. Overhearing comparisons with others about the gear they had on them made sense. Some anticipated a stroll in the park, while others acted out their Iditabike riding fantasies.
The fire pit we had at the half way point served its purpose – a quick place to warm up before riding back to the spot where they were initially shaking their heads, wondering why they were doing this race. Why? Fun factor plus infinity plus 1!
Weather conditions were perfect and gear was put to the test. As the riders kept turning south, they got smaller, and smaller, and smaller until they were out of sight.
Until the last riders got there, we packed up, went back to celebrate the friendliness in Port Washington. Now every one that was there has a unique memory for a lifetime.
A post race meet up at Tello’s Grille and Cafe in Port Washington provided a post-race venue to chat, eat, drink and be merry reminiscing about the race and a day spent on the beach one cold, December morning.
Besides the Gallery below you can find pix of the event at these links: