The Fat Fish 40 Race was held this past weekend. I missed out on this race last year for its inaugural run. I didn’t want to miss out on it again. Apparently, tio Gomez felt the same way, because he sent out an invite for one of the bike black ribbon crew to go up and see what it was all about. G predicted a true ‘grass-roots’ fat-bike experience and this is my ride report.
The Fat Fish 40 Race has every terrain possible. It has Northwood’s gravel, old logging roads, asphalt, sugar sand, fire roads, ATV trails, spectacular views, and even a few hills for fun. It truly is a mixed terrain event. I first experienced this area this past January at the St Croix Winter Ultra in the beautiful St Croix State Park in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the race is all at night so you don’t get to see any of these scenic views. The Fat Fish 40 is just across the St Croix River but on the cheese and beer side, you know, the Wisconsin side. In the daylight, I finally got to see the true beauty of this area. There are some areas in WI and Minnesota that are just made for fat biking. Webster in Burnett County Wisconsin is truly one of them.
One of the interesting things about this race is you can choose to ride Fat, 3.8 or bigger, or non-fat, which constitutes any tire under 3.8 inches. But with so much sand I felt really sorry for some of the racers on their skinny cross bikes. I decided to run the Fatback Knight Composite Carbon rims (80mm wide) with the Terrene 4.6 Cake Eater tires. I think this was a perfect choice especially when things went soft and squirrely.
I had about 3 weeks to train for this event. I did numerous long gravel rides around mad-towne. I usually ride SS but when I top out at 12 or 13 mph I decided that I didn’t want to spend that much time spinning out on the flats. So I trained on a 34 x 18 SS setup and changed to the 1×12 GX eagle kit with the same 34T front sprocket the day before the race. I’m glad I did. Those long flats were gruelling especially the last 5-6 miles with a brutal Western headwind. The stats from the Garmin recorded a time of 3 hours 22 minutes and 15 seconds, an elevation of 1157 feet of climbing over 45.92 miles. There were only two hills that just about killed me. I’m not afraid to admit that I ended up pushing up both of those hills after a gallant attempt. Eagle helped a lot but I felt like I could push my bike up faster.
The people running this event were outstanding. Alan Hane is a Race Director extraordinaire. He has got to be one of the most passionate bike guys I know. He is always moving a mile a minute and super animated. He’s continuously looking for a way to get more cyclists to come ride this area. It really is very underused. Alan named this race after the excellent pan fishing in the Burnett County area. He takes all suggestions to heart and wants to continually improve this race. Alan had a racer last year say she wished there was coleslaw at one of the water stations because she wanted some roughage. So in this past off -season Alan made that happen. He accumulated 91 coleslaw recipes from the interwebs and a Survey Monkey he put out. I’m unsure if he actually made all of them but he told me he “researched” all the coleslaws on the list and determined which two were the best. One was Vinegar based, and one was Mayo based. He made both recipes for this year’s race and had them both at one of the water stations.
The Fat Fish Forty Race pretty much has it all, great mixed terrain, prizes, and Beer and brats at the finish for each racer. This is how fat biking racing should be. This is what I imagine a spring version of Fat Bike Birkie would be like, except less hills and more spandex!
My only complaint about this race is the distance. It should definitely be longer! I can see this race expanding to have a nice 100-miler option. There is $4000 of total purse money. That will buy a lot of PBR and Fireball folks! They give out equal payouts for winners male and female of each group. I really like the fact that Junior Racers get free entries to this event. We really need to get more kids on bikes. I think Alan really has something special going on here.
Just knowing this mecca of gravel trails is only 4 hours from my home in Madison makes it tempting to plan a long weekend trip. It’s only 100 miles from the MNPLS/St Paul Metro area. That makes it a great day-trip or weekend getaway.
I see a bright future for this race, and will definitely do this race again. It is exactly what Fat Biking is all about. Great people, beer, food, and fun. Even though I couldn’t get anyone to Derby. But hey, there is always next year.
The official race results will be updated on the Fat Fish 40 Website soon! Check them out and get ready for next year’s race at:
Stay Fat and Derby on!
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