Better Late than Never
Earlier in April 2021 I got the call up from Uncle Gomez about a ride/race called the Fat Fish Forty, billed as a Fat Tire multi-terrain course I read some of the features of this ride and it sounded challenging as well as scenic, so immediately signed up as I was looking for some new terrain and friends to ride with. Typically when you’re racing you focus on the race and the task at hand, I was focused on scenery and hanging with friends for the weekend, so I did just that. The course was Amazing! Northern Wisconsin scenery at its finest, along with tough terrain that challenged you in different ways at every turn, after finishing I told myself I will definitely go back next year and do it again.
Well I didn’t have to wait a whole year, I saw a post on social media for a ride called the “Fenton 106” and sure enough, it was put on by the same awesome folks that run the Fat Fish 40, and looking at the course description it was a longer extended version of the Fat Fish Forty. I jumped on it and clicked the “interested” button, no sooner did I click it and a longtime friend of 30+ years chimed in with his interest as well, so it was looking like another awesome ride with my friend Kris Ruckle who I hadn’t seen in quite some time was going to happen.
I knew the terrain was going to be challenging and over double the distance from the Fat Fish Forty but I didn’t think about that as much as the chance to spend the day cycling with friends and seeing amazing scenery. I was woefully ill-prepared physically the weeks prior to the ride but figured I’ve been doing this long enough to just tell myself, Hey just rely on muscle memory and my known past cycle endeavors to get me through it. I went with my usual game plan, hang with a group that seems to keep a pace that’s slightly faster than I’m comfortable with to keep me pushing myself, and secondly hang with any group, as I was relying on my POS cell phone for navigation and there’s safety in numbers.
So 5:00 am race start time, that may not seem too bad for a lot of people, but when you wake up in a tent at 4:30 am and the temps are in the mid 20’s F outside it’s a challenge just to get dressed and warmed up to get to the starting line. Luckily the race organizers had the local coffee shop set as the meet-up and race start point, with free coffee and donuts for all (Mmmmm, Donuts,… ~Homer Simpson voice) So I got there, got my coffee and donuts, and tried to warm myself up.
Met up with Kris and toed the line, bang! The race starts, 60+ riders blast off into the dark to start their day cycling this amazing area. Did I mention my POS cell phone for navigation, well that died before the race started due to the cold, I had printed maps as backup, and just before they started the race they said they had gone out the night before and marked the entire course! That’s a huge undertaking if you understood the area and terrain. And I’m glad they did, as I ended up riding quite a bit by myself.
So having done the Fat Fish Forty on my Ti Mukluk set up with Husker Du fat tires, I came away from that with the opinion that yes the course was ideal for Fat Tires, but for the Fenton 106 I decided I run the MukLuk as a 29+ thinking over the long haul it would be a faster setup overall.
Fast may not be the proper word as the terrain, chilly temps and my lack of preparedness was showing, and as the day progressed I was spent, there was every imaginable type of terrain from roads, to sugary sand logging roads, soft loamy fresh single track and grass two-lane ATV trails with some hills that were just un-rideable (at least to me). But thru it all, the scenery and personal drive to finish kept me going, even after getting lost twice, and finally meeting back up with Kris to ride the last 20 miles or so, before he pulled away from my tired ass.
There were three checkpoints (stoke points) on the course that were fully stocked with everything a rider could need (In my case it could have been an Uber) and plenty of motivation from the crews manning the stations. Again the crew that put this race on really had really gone the extra mile (no pun intended) to make it a quality race, I’m mean really at one point in the middle of freaking nowhere forested new single track they had jack-o-lanterns lit at 6:00 am.
Thanks to William Johnson, Greg Gentle, and Kris Ruckle for the photos to accompany my story. After seeing more of this area, I would guess that anyone within any reasonable proximity to northern Wisconsin will want to go and see this fat bike paradise for themselves. As for me, I plan on going back, but next time I’ll be better prepared, and finish with a better time than 12 hours! But I guess it’s better late than never.