I’ve never felt motivated to race. Biking for me has always been about getting out into places. If planning a trip to go riding I usually aim for either solitude or the company of friends, not a crowd of competing strangers.
Like many adventures, this one started in the pub. One night, my friend Brant, a bike designer for On-One, announced “I’m going to race in the Arctic Circle on a fat bike.” I replied, “That sounds brilliant.” After a quick exchange of competing dares, and a few more pints, I decided to also enter the Rovaniemi 150.
The Rovaniemi 150 is a 150 km ultra-endurance race in the Finnish Lapland around the city of Rovaniemi, located within the Arctic Circle. The course consists of snowmobile trails, frozen roads and snowshoeing paths. Competitors race on fat bikes, on foot and on skis through the frozen rivers, lakes and forests of the area. The 2013 event would be only the second year for the race.
For my job, I run mountain bike skills courses in the UK and lead riding holidays in France and Spain. From early spring to late autumn, I’m pretty busy and don’t get to participate in many mountain bike events. The winter months are much quieter, so I tend to go riding more, just for me, at that time. This schedule would allow me ample time to train for the Rovaniemi 150.
How does someone who doesn’t race go about training? I asked my friend Shaggy, who placed second in last year’s inaugural Rovaniemi 150, for training advice. Shaggy said I should ride as much as possible, that I should practice pushing my bike, and that I should do some running. The riding bit sounded like fun rather than training, so I focused on that. As for bike pushing, I live on the Pennines, a ridge of hills known as “the backbone of England,” where I like to go on “pass storming” rides to access the more exciting trails. Doing so requires a lot of bike carrying and pushing, so that aspect of my training would also be covered. I struggled with running. I have the shoes, but found that I developed knee pain after 15 minutes and never really managed to progress beyond that time. Oh well, never mind.
My goal for the event was simply to complete the course without stopping to sleep. I hoped I wouldn’t finish last, but didn’t have any further aspirations. I was happy for the opportunity to ride my bike in the snowy Lapland forests. If I also saw the Northern Lights, that would be a bonus.