Have you been curious about winter fatbike ultras? If you're considering exploring a winter ultra, now is the time to start planning. Today we're launching a new 3-part series introducing you to the sport of winter fatbike ultra racing.
In "Intro to Winter Fatbike Ultras, a 3-Part Series", Jamison Swift will walk through:
Who should consider winter fatbike ultras
What risks you need to be aware of
How to pack your gear
How to stay warm and dry
Food and water planning
Learn more in Part 1 (Races, Risks, & Resources) , Part 2 (Food, Water, Gear, & Staying Warm), or Part 3 (Tips from Experienced Ultra Athletes).
Words by Jamison Swift, Co-Founder of the St. Croix 40.
Winter Ultras Aren’t for Everyone.
Traveling in freezing cold temps, often alone and in the dark, can be lonely and isolating in a way that other endurance events are not. People often talk about how great it must be to get some peace and quiet out on the trail, but in many cases you find yourself battling a low level of fear and anxiety. Fear that you haven’t packed the right things, or that you’ll have a mechanical issue. Worry that you could go off course if you’re not careful, or that you just might not be as tough as you thought you were and have to bail out.
It takes a certain type of person to attempt these, a certain level of crazy. Winter ultras are a niche within a niche.
Born out of the sled dog races in Alaska, these are not simple trail runs at the park, or bike rides through the woods. These are tests of our capabilities as humans to be self-sufficient and survive in harsh conditions.
To Love Winter Ultras, You First Need to Love Winter.
Growing up in Minnesota has taught me that you can do more than just survive in the cold. Before I found running in my mid-30s, I was not athletic at all, and winter was a thing to be endured. However, once I started to see how fulfilling it was to be active in the cold, I started embracing whatever our weather dished out.
You also need to enjoy the challenge of learning to be self-sufficient, and embracing a survivalist ethos. When it’s just you and your equipment in the cold, you need to be prepared and confident that you can tackle whatever might come your way (including knowing when to stop). The simple act of going to the bathroom in -20°F, surrounded by snow, is just another challenge to be embraced on the trail.
Yet despite these hardships and struggles, you’re rewarded with crystal clear, starry skies, and air that is crisp and clean. The simple sound of your tires crunching across the snow becomes music, intermixed with the rustling accompaniment of birds and wildlife as they make their way through the woods, taking on a journey not unlike your own, surviving without house or hearth. Just living.
Deciding if This Challenge is for You
Over the next couple of articles, let’s unpack the who, how, and what of winter ultras, and help you decide if this is a challenge for you.