PolarRoll Ultra – My First Winter Ultra
Two years ago my husband Al and I watched the documentary Safety to Nome. If you’ve not seen it, it’s about the 350/1000-mile human-powered (by bike, foot, or ski) race through the Alaskan wilderness in the dead of winter. By the way, it’s going on right now. As we’re watching, Al turns to me and asks, “Do you think it’s fucked up that I secretly want to do this?” I have to carefully temper my response. What I want to say is “Fuck yeah it is.” I know what’s going on here. He’s laying the groundwork for something.
Faces Behind the Dots: Queen’s Ransom
Created by the bikepacking mastermind John Schilling, the Queen’s Ransom is a 225-loop showcasing some of the best trails in the desert west of Phoenix. This non-competitive ride is a favorite winter getaway for desert bikepackers and is considered one of the best loops around. With three nights of camping as a group, it’s as much about the friendships and community created as it is about the riding. There have been known to be surprise margarita stops along the route and ample resupplies to make it a fun romp around the desert. A great group of women are showing up to this year’s event, and we wanted to showcase their stories in this series.
Memories From the Cardboard Box in My Closet: Tales and Photos from Alexandera’s First Winter Bike Tour
In the early years of my bike adventuring, I didn’t have a smartphone and chose to bring a 24-shot disposable camera with me on my adventures to document my trips. I’ve shared a selection of photos from that tour. I was supposed to ride the Tour Divide in the summer of 2014. I’d learned about the Tour Divide in 2012; that was the year I set out on my first cross-country bike tour. I’d wrapped up that bike tour anticlimactically, searching out a ride back to Wisconsin on Craigslist. I’d run out of money and convinced a stranger driving from Boulder, Colorado to Madison, Wisconsin to let me ride with him. In fact, I told him that I would help drive and that my boyfriend would give him gas money upon my arrival home. I’d accomplished something that I hadn’t even comprehended I could do – I had ridden my bike across the country. Granted, most of that trip was a disaster. I’d set out with the few things I’d already had – a messenger bag, a Blackburn rear rack, 23cc tires pumped up to 110 psi, and little more than that. Oh, but I learned so much…
Good Things Come in Threes: Jill Martindale Reflects on Her Unsupported Arrowhead 135 Win
I ripped dead branches off a pine tree just off the side of the Arrowhead Trail. I was trying to get a fire going inside a three-sided shelter so I could warm up a little bit. I wasn’t having great luck burning anything thicker than a pencil because the moisture in the branches was just so frozen. I had used all of the Fatwood I packed to get the fire started. I managed to soak up a little heat from my fire as I melted snow with my alcohol stove to fill one of my bottles. The plan had been to make it all the way to the third checkpoint before having to melt snow for more water, but in the deep cold, I found myself guzzling faster than I’d anticipated. I had started with 105 ounces of water in GSI MicroLite insulated thermoses, which were doing a fantastic job of keeping all of my water hot! Drinking calories was a lot more palatable than trying to eat frozen bricks of food.
Living the Dream: Positive People, Negative Temperatures
I went on my first expedition in 2002; I was a student on an Outward Bound course. Those 16 days opened my eyes to the world of the outdoors and expeditions. Over the past 20 years, I have been beyond lucky and privileged to take part in many expeditions into the mountains and deserts. In 2016 I accidentally got into fat biking, and my soul was again moved. Around that time, I started bikepacking. Both fat biking and bikepacking are the pinnacle of biking for me. Winter fat bikepacking takes riding bikes to another level. Most winter ultra-events might require one night or just a few hours of sleep. Whereas with a longer trip, you need to be able to sleep out for multiple nights, keeping your puffy and sleeping bag dry. You also need to carry food for multiple days as well. To be able to thrive, it takes a lot of different skills, endurance riding, winter skills, and grit.
Faces Behind the Dots: Arrowhead 135
Every year, a group of winter die-hards line up for the Arrowhead 135. It’s a 135–mile winter ultra-marathon where people compete on foot, ski, or bicycle. Each winter, the race begins in International Falls, Minnesota, and finishes at the Fortune Bay (Bois Forte Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) Casino in Tower, Minnesota. It’s hard, very hard. Winter ultra-racing is different than other forms of bikepack racing, where factors other than fitness often reign supreme. The ability to regulate one’s temperature, manage moisture, be prepared, master clear-headedness, and exercise patience often yields favorable results.
Winter Adventure and the Warmth of Community
I first met Jay Petervary, ultra-endurance cyclist, ambassador of sport, and the founder of Fat Pursuit back in 2017, at a winter workshop hosted by Pedal of Littleton in Colorado. Captivated by his passion, knowledge and experience with fat biking in events like Arrowhead 135 and Iditarod Trail Invitational I was inspired to dream bigger with my own brand new obsession of fat bikes and human-powered travel in winter. I was curious and he was, and always will be, eager to teach.
Jennifer Hanson’s Fat Pursuit
Jennifer Hanson lives in Florence, one of the hottest parts of the arid state of Arizona. While many people around the country are fleeing the cold winter temperatures of the north, often ending up in southern Arizona, Jen and her husband Jason headed up to Idaho for the 200km Fat Pursuit. Even as a desert dweller, Jen is an accomplished winter ultra racer with finishes in both the 2022 Fat Pursuit and the Iditarod Trail Invitational. She’s shared some beautiful images from this year’s Fat Pursuit and a quick recap of how her race went down.
Faces Behind the Dots – Fat Pursuit 2023
Based out of Island Park, Idaho, Jay Petervary’s Fat Pursuit is one of the most highly regarded winter ultras on the calendar. Covering 200 kilometers of “groomed” trails in the Yellowstone area, the event is notorious for lots of snow, difficult conditions, and extremely cold temperatures. One of the more unique aspects of this winter ultra is the organization’s desire to help people develop winter backcountry experience. They run a camp beforehand teaching winter skills and make sure that the racers in the event have more winter know-how than just the ability to ride a bike fast. Somewhere along the course, all racers have to stop and bring eight ounces of water to a boil using only the gear that they’re carrying on their bike. The Fat Pursuit is more than just a race, it’s a chance for people to test their winter skills in a remote environment with the safety net of checkpoints and a race organization.
Q & A with Annie Evans: Making of The Longest Night
This past winter, Annie Evans became the first person to complete the Highlands Trail 550 in the winter, documenting the effort in her new film The Longest Night. We at the Townie wanted to know more about the making of the film, and Annie was kind enough to answer some of our questions. Check out the film and more about Annie in this article.