Christopher Tassava has been winter riding for five years in the fat bike mecca of Minnesota. Over the past few years he has taken on some longer rides, including the Arrowhead Ultra, Fat Pursuit, and Tuscobia. Below is an expanded version of Arrowhead Ultra thoughts that was originally published on his website, Blowing and Drifting. 1. It’s an outrageous, unearned privilege to be able to do a race like the Arrowhead. I can’t think about this fact too much or I’ll start dehydrating through my tear ducts. 2. When Jay Petervary, the winner of the race, says, “It was the hardest conditions I have ridden in with such an intense pace,” it must have been a damn hard race. Mashed potato snow, with high temps as the gravy. 3. Fat bike racing really comes down to three things: managing your body temperature, eating and drinking even when you don’t want to do either, and finding the right tire pressure. Simple! 4. The trail was more interesting this year thanks to innumerable wolf tracks and the bloody spot where a deer had met its demise. 5. Riding over Elephant Lake into the second checkpoint at Melgeorges resort (mile 72) is fabulous, my favorite part of trail every year. 6. I’ll never get tired of seeing the strangely worded “Trucks Hauling Caution” signs on the trail. I never have met a truck hauling caution; only trucks hauling logs. 7. I love the “racer against the trail” feeling I get leaving Melgeorges (checkpoint two, at mile 72) to tackle the hardest section of the course – almost forty miles of unrelenting hills. 8. Pedaling is reflexive and natural for me now, even in the soft stuff this year, but riding down hills in the dark requires me to nerve up every damn time. The headlight only extends so far… IMG_2844 9. I’m almost happier to reach the last checkpoint – Skipulk at mile 111 – than the finish, because if you can get there, you only have 24 miles to go. 10. Still, the loooooong, flat straightways in the last leg of the race are hard to ride. The vanishing point of the trail never gets closer… 11. Riding bikes is a humbling activity in general, but watching Tracey Petervary and Jill Martindale ride away from me in the last leg of the race was humbling, awe-inspiring, and motivating. I couldn’t hold either of their wheels, but my weak attempts to chase first T-Race (who won) and then Jill (who finished second) did speed up those endless straightaways after Skipulk. 12. I think that with more and better training, I could have a real shot at another top-ten finish next year. 13. Some carbon rims would help realize that goal too, cough cough. 14. I also need to cut my time at the checkpoints down to under an hour, total. That’s what fast racers do. This year, I wore a cheap digital watch and started the stopwatch each time I hit a checkpoint. Seeing the tenths of a second speed past was a good reminder to keep my stays short. Tick tock tick tock! Surely you can eat that grilled cheese sandwich more quickly, can’t you? 15. There must be a time and a place for margarita-flavored Shot Bloks, but the Arrowhead is neither. On the other hand, sliced salami is a delicious and nutritious race snack at any time! Fold them, roll them, nibble them. 16. Next year I’m not sharing my Red Bulls with anyone! I need that crap. It’s magical. 17. I’m sure some egghead can explain the fancy science behind ibuprofen, but that crap, too, is magical – a portal from agony to mere discomfort, and from the last checkpoint to the finish line. 18. It’s an open question as to which racer was tougher at the 2016 Arrowhead year: Mike Brumbaugh, who skied twenty miles after breaking a ski pole and then finished the race after using PVC pipe and strapping tape to fix the pole; Jim Wilson, who was the last biker to finish, in 55:28; or Sveta Vold, who was the third-place female biker and who stopped during the race to nurse her new baby and pump milk! IMG_2860

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