A Journal about Racing the Tuscobia Ultramarathon by Fatbike.
by Ben Welnak
If you’re a long-time reader of Ride Fatbikes, you may remember a story I did last year about the Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon
. I titled it “The winter ultramarathon you never knew existed” because, until recently, it was an unknown race tucked away in a popular winter snowmobile area.
The Tuscobia Trail is 74 miles of abandoned railroad grade in Northwestern Wisconsin spanning Barron, Washburn, Sawyer, and Price Counties. After 70 years, the railroad, known as the “Omaha Line,” started to be dismantled in 1967 and it became an all-purpose recreational trail in 1968. it has become a very popular trail used by many atv’ers and snowmobilers.
The Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon is a 35, 75, and 150-mile bike race held on the Tuscobia State Trail near Park Falls, Wisconsin the last weekend in December that also includes simultaneous run and ski races in the same distances. The 150-mile racers will race an out-and-back format from the trailhead in Park Falls to the southern terminus in Rice Lake. The 35 and 75-milers will be shuttled out and ride back to the finish in Park Falls.
Many factors over the last few years have contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of winter cyclists across the country, including the widespread availability of fatbikes, fatbike components and tires, and winter-specific clothing. For many parts of the country, such as the Upper Midwest, it just makes sense and is long overdue for a lot of us who have just gotten by with subpar equipment during the winter months. The Tuscobia Ultra has seen the same sort of growth, especially in the biking category. In 2009, there was a total of 27 competitors among all of the runners, skiers, and bikers, including only 9 bike competitors in one category – the 75 miler. Last year’s race saw record numbers: 15 35-mile cyclists, 17 75-mile cyclists, and 21 150-milers. I suspect (total guess) that this year’s race will be more like 50, 35, and 30 respectively.
Now that you have a little background on the race, here’s what this is all about. I’m racing the 150-mile bike race. Is it a big undertaking? Yeah, most definitely. Is it a little crazy? Yeah, for sure. Are there some real gear considerations that need some trial and error and testing out between now and then. Yep. Even with plenty of experience, there is plenty to question, test, and question again. That’s not to even mention the training needed to race something like 150 miles on snow, in the cold. While I’m off a decent ride at the Vapor Trail 125 in early September, the fitness and steady power output necessary is completely different. It’s a lot and I will be sharing that journey with you over the next two months. I’ll be checking in here with regular updates that will include thoughts on training, gear, weather, and pretty much anything that goes through my head.
I’ll leave you with the following picture. Have a good ride.
Late October training near Wakefield, MI
Deep in the cube life of a tax accountant, Ben eventually found his way to mountain biking and hasn’t looked back. After moving to Colorado in 2009, he jumped in head first. In May 2012 he created Mountain Bike Radio
and this fall he created Riding Gravel
, which hosts the only gravel/”other” surface riding forum.