Epic fat bike adventure takes Steamboat Springs racers into the wilderness | AspenTimes.com

Epic fat bike adventure takes Steamboat Springs racers into the wilderness

John F. Russell
Steamboat Today

Steamboat Springs' Graham Muir sets up camp while training for this year's Fat Pursuit fat bike race.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Graham Muir and Kellie Nelson will race into the new year with an epic adventure near Island Park, Idaho.

"It's the challenge," said Muir, who owns Manic Training in Steamboat Springs. "For me, (it's about) trying to inspire the people who come in here, my friends who are out there doing stuff and just trying to keep moving forward as I get older."

On Jan. 5, Muir will step to the starting line of his third Fat Pursuit race where he will attempt to pedal his fat tire bike 200 miles through the Idaho wilderness near Yellowstone National Park. For the second year in a row, he will be joined by his good friend Nelson, who competed in the shorter 120-mile race last year. This year, she plans to compete in the 200-mile event with Muir.

"I'm doing it again," Nelson said. "I'm raising the bar a little bit."

Last year, the two athletes met halfway through the course after Muir had completed the first half, and Nelson had just started her adventure.

However, freezing cold temperatures and heavy snow cut their rides short roughly 25 miles from the finish line.

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Temperatures on the first night of that race, when Muir was on the course, were minus-40 degrees. The temperatures remained cold on the second day, as several feet of snow fell on the race course, making it nearly impossible to ride the bikes. The pair struggled and pushed their bikes for miles at a time in an effort to make it to the finish line, but eventually, they ran out of time and were stopped by race organizers.

"We could taste it, but we just were not quite there," Nelson said. "I think there is a feeling of some unfinished business."

Muir and Nelson will be hoping for warmer temperatures this year, but the challenge is what attracted them to the race in the first place.

"It doesn't really matter," Muir said of the weather. "Even when I'm standing at the starting line, it doesn't matter. I'm not worried. Whatever comes, comes."

The race, JP's Fat Pursuit, was created to test a rider's endurance against the elements.

"Doing it again isn't the question," Nelson said. "Two hundred miles is significantly more than 120. It sits a little bit heavy with me, and I'm not going in thinking this is a peice of cake. It's humbling for sure."

It will be the first time that Nelson has ever attempted to ride 200 miles in a single race, but despite some last-minute nerves, she said she's prepared for the race.

"I signed up more than a month ago," she said. "Yes, we have the miles, yes, we have been training, and I'm very committed to this race. But I've never done 200 miles of anything before."

After the Fat Pursuit race, Muir and Nelson plan to stay in the area for a four-day winter camp that will be run by Jay Petervary, who started the Fat Pursuit bike race back in 2014. The camp is designed to prepare participants for the 2019 Iditarod Trail Invitational and includes an invitation to the event.

Athletes must complete the 350-mile race before they get an opportunity to race in the 1,000-mile event.

"They are teaching us how to survive in the extreme winter conditions," Muir said. "I always put something out in front of me all the time. Having something out in front of me keeps me motivated — especially the big ones."

jrussell@steamboattoday.com