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You Guys Doing The Short One?: 2023 Snacking Bear Race Recap

Hannah Burch of New Moon Ski & Bike recently rode the 60 mile Snacking Bear race as part of the Hungry Bear gravel event in Cable, Wisconsin. Here she shares her event recap of the race that felt anything but "short" as well as celebrating with finish line pie at Tilly's.

Story by Hannah Burch. Edited by Judy Young

It was May 12, 2023, and I was looking forward to my first Hungry Bear gravel event the next day, the Snacking Bear 60. I was usually stressed on prerace days - worried about forgetting something important, not drinking enough water, and making good time - anticipating the moment the gun would go off and I would leave it all out there on the table.

Not that day.

I was strangely calm and able to focus. Was it because the 60 was more of a tour and less of a race or because I knew I couldn’t compete with the big guys at such a distance?

Living in the Northwoods, I've dabbled in just about every outdoor sport the area had to offer. Last summer I started bike racing, mostly MTB, but a little gravel too. I always told myself I was just in it for the fun, for the camaraderie. But the adrenaline high from finishing, from feeling fast, and being proud of the accomplishments…it was absolutely glorious.

But was it worth the anxiety leading up to that moment?

Clockwise from left: Myself, Daryl, Mikayla, Justine, Jamie & Linda. Photo courtesy of Justine Ertl

With three distances to choose from, there is something for everyone on Hungry Bear weekend. These events are all inclusive. Cost is minimal with discounts for minority groups including women. In 2022, women only made up 30 percent of the startline. NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) youth receive free entries. Even ebikes are allowed. Proceeds from the event go to the Cable volunteer fire department, CAMBA, and for a community bikepacking gear library in our lil neck of the woods. Who doesn’t benefit from getting outside with like-minded gravel junkies?

Up early before the sun the next day, I grabbed my gear and headed to the start to meet up with the rest of my team from New Moon Ski & Bike shop. None of the pre-race jitters that usually plagued me the morning of an event were present.

The air was crisp and a little cool, but the sun was out and the wind wasn’t strong. Soon it warmed up to a very comfortable temperature. It was forecasted to rain, but I was optimistic. The pace was just about right for the first 25-35ish miles. We had six in our ride group including myself, and used a playlist to stay on pace and motivated.

A guy from Madison doing the Hungry Bear 100 also starting early, hopped on a draft with us for a bit and hung out for a while. He was telling me they’d been having their group rides for near six weeks by then, and we’d only had ourselves about two.

Our snow hung on for a long time here in Hayward. Reckon we were still too busy skiing!

Team New Moon bucklin’ in for the grind

As the day wore on I struggled to keep up, but our group took hydration breaks where we all came back together and checked in.

The route was alluring and drew us ever onward. We hardly saw any cars but were passed by the occasional UTV. Mostly it was just us and the glorious crunch of rubber on gravel. Something about that sound boasts of adventure and holds motivation, spurring on tired legs and weary lungs. Birds sang joyfully as if to cheer us on.

Around mile 35, we were caught by some folks doing the 100.

“You guys doing the short one?” a man from the group called out in passing.

Justine and I exchanged looks and laughed.

The short one!?

We’d already been in the saddle for a few hours and still had a little less than halfway to go. To us, there was nothing short about it!

We began to be passed by small clusters of bikers in kits that looked like they’d never been worn, followed by the droves.

Just after we were passed by the droves. (You can still see a few riders around the corner there.)

Their heads were down and they were moving in sync. A feeling of awe washed over me, experiencing them flow around me. It was beautiful.

Dusty, my co-worker from New Moon, was in one of these groups and dropped back to encourage us. At this point our group was a lot more spread out. Seeing another friendly face spurred me onward.

He brought news of our progress. The lunch point was in sight! Thoughts of that tantalizing sandwich in my backpack brought me to life again as I tried to keep my butt off the saddle as much as possible.

My whole body hurt but it was worth the pain. I don’t think you can really ride forever on gravel without feeling like it might break you. We weren’t near close to forever, but it sure was startin’ to feel like it.

The last 15 miles were pure agony. I dragged myself up each hill and gratefully took each downhill at top speed.

Unexpectedly, A man with a boombox, cold water and… Coca Cola sitting on his tailgate was there cheering me on.

“Have a Coke!” he called out cheerily.

My eyes were drawn instantly to the red perspiring beverages - I didn’t even like Coke, but dang!

I shook my head. I knew if I stopped now I’d never finish.

Finish Line

It took me just under 5 hours to finish, and I was the last of our tired group to roll across the line... almost right into a group of riders in green & black Fulton kits having a beer.

They sent up a hearty cheer when they saw me stumble to a stop - a cheer only someone who’s been out there in the trenches themselves sends up.

I was tired, I hurt everywhere, and felt like I hadn’t eaten in years, but it was the best feeling, a feeling of connection to total strangers who shared my accomplishment. Our accomplishment.

Pie from Tilly’s and stone-fired pizza from The Rivers Eatery awaited our return. Photos courtesy of Linda Shydlowski.




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