Perseverance. That’s what is running through Graham Muir’s mind as he and good friend, Kellie Nelson, line up at the start of Jay P’s Backyard Fat Pursuit. Perseverance will carry them 200 miles on fat bikes through steep climbs, freezing temperatures, poor visibility, soft snow, heavy fatigue, and when self-doubt rears its ugly head.
At noon on Friday, January 5th, Graham and Kellie begin their monumental journey, reminding themselves to tackle small issues before they become race-ending disasters. They have the gear, food, skills and fitness. They know slow and steady will bring them across the coveted finish line—a feeling they yearn for after last year’s epic conditions prevented them from reaching that goal.
Race organizers, Jay and Tracey Petervary (accomplished cyclists in their own right), created a fat bike event to share their Idaho backyard with those passionate about the sport. Racers are looking for a challenge and get to experience a unique, remote, dramatic, beautiful part of the world. Riding along the edge of Yellowstone National Park entices new riders and draws veteran riders back.
While it isn’t as brutally cold, snowy or windy as last year, challenges aren’t lacking. The two years are just apples and oranges.
“I can’t remember anything about the first 80 miles last year, because I was just trying to stay warm,” says Graham between spoonfuls of chicken and rice soup and bites of a grilled cheese sandwich, all prepared by generous volunteers. Fourteen volunteers dedicate their weekend to the race, cooking and caring for riders along the way.
Kellie and Graham have arrived at checkpoint two in West Yellowstone, 27 hours and 120 miles in. “When we got to that very first big hill, I’m like, man, this thing climbs forever,” says Graham. “I didn’t notice it last year, I didn’t know how far the climb was because I was off and on the bike, walking, jumping up and down. The terrain was irrelevant, I was just in survival mode.”