Chad Weberg has done the Tuscobia 80-mile race on foot five times. Recently he got more into biking and entered the 160-mile bike event for the first time. In this story and video, Chad discusses his preparation, race day, and what he learned that ultimately lead to his DNF.
Author: Chad Weberg
I’m not a rookie to the Tuscobia Winter Ultra but this year I was a rookie to the bike discipline.
I’ve ran the 80 mile race on foot 5 times. In the past 2 years I have gotten into biking and bikepacking. This coming June I’ll be biking in the Tour Divide event from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. So, to keep the wheels turning this winter I jumped into the fat tire bike world, and what better event to enter than the Tuscobia Winter Ultra.
Some asked: “Why not start with the 80 mile distance?” Well, I don’t like to do anything that I think is easy. So, signing up for the 160 miler was the only choice.
So late summer I started my search for a fat tire bike and like anything right now the supply chain has put a damper on finding something you really want or need. But I was lucky enough to find a very gently used bike in Missouri. Took a day trip from Wisconsin and picked it up.
Even while living in Wisconsin the real life training for this race is very short as we had a fairly dry and not terribly cold November and December. I put in lots of miles but wasn’t able to test all my gear I’d use for the race much.
In past years controlling body temperature was critical. I like the cold, so staying warm wasn’t an issue but that isn’t a good thing if you get too warm in extreme cold temperatures. So now doing this on a bike I knew it would be something I had to really keep under control.
I bought all new bike clothes: base layers, thermal layers, and outer shell. They worked great! Not once during the first half of the race was I ever too warm and I was completely dry………. Except my feet.
Oops….. I didn’t give enough attention to footwear. I mean I ran the 80 miler with up to 36 hours of time out on the trail in just trail running shoes and never had an issue keeping them warm.
I acquired a pair of used Fall/Spring riding shoes.
During training I used a favorite pair of wool socks and some neoprene shoe covers. This worked well but the conditions were not extreme. Temperatures were in the teens to 30’s for the most part. Training rides were also only 6 hours or less.
So, come race day the forecast was -6 at the start and highs on Saturday only reaching zero. By the time I got to mile 78 just shy of half way in the race my feet and specifically my big toes were struggling at temperatures back into the sub-zero readings.
I had stopped at mile 50 to do a complete sock change and warm them up as they were never really warm the entire race. Getting back out there they felt good for the first hour but as the sun went down the temps dropped again.
While biking, blood circulation in your feet is not the same as walking. So, I got off the bike and walked a few hills and even flat sections to try and warm them up to no avail.
As the pain increased my motivation sank to a dark place.
I stopped and took my shoes off to inspect the damage. The big toes were starting to turn grey/black, early stage of frostbite. This was when I threw in the towel versus risking further damage.
My race ended after 78 miles and just over 15 hours.
Every DNF is heartbreaking, but we need to learn from our failures and improve for the next challenge. Of course I’m now shopping for new “winter” cycling boots but also looking at other lessons learned.
I carried too much gear. While it was less gear than I pulled in my sled during previous events, it was too much gear for the bike. Looking back I had no need for half the gear I carried. I could have dropped that weight and still had emergency gear for those situations if they would have arose.
Live and Learn!
Enjoy the video!
A passion I have is to capture the experiences I encounter while doing events like Tuscobia. My hopes are to motivate others to get outside and get them out of their comfort zone doing something new!