Yesterday was the 29th running of the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 Mountain Bike Race which is part of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. http://www.cheqfattire.com/ The “Shwammy” as it is known by the locals is a 40 mile mountain bike race run in the hilly northwoods of Northwestern Wisconsin. Specifically, the race rolls out of downtown Hayward, WI and finishes 40 miles later at the base area of the old Telemark Ski Resort.
Much of the race course shares track with the American Birkebeiner ski trail which is the largest cross country ski marathon in the country. The participants of the "Shwammy" are chosen by lottery and there are 1,800 riders in the race. The race starts at 10:00 am and the paddock starts to fill as early as 4:30 am as riders jockey for start positions.
My group of riders numbered 9 (skiers all) and we rolled into Hayward Friday night and got our gear in order. We knew it was going to be cool but we were surprised to wake up to a morning temperature of 34 degrees. It was going to be a frosty start. After a big breakfast we headed to our position in the paddock for the start.
Paddock loaded and at 10:00 am the gun sounds. I was about halfway back in the paddock so despite the gun going off, we didn't move for close to two minutes.
The first mile of the race rolls down Main Street in downtown Hayward and heads north on Hwy 53 for another mile before turning east on the last of the blacktop. For at least the first mile you are surrounded by riders many times within inches or feet from you. Huge potential for mass calamity. Given that this was my first time as a participant I was worried about getting through this phase.
The race left the pavement at what's called Rosie's Field as the course takes off north on the Birkebeiner trail. The first half of the race was a continuous imtermittent climb to the second highest elevation on the course. The next 9 miles we wound through singletrack and rutted logging roads giving back all the elevation we'd earned in the first 20 and took a right turn to look up at the Seeley Fire Tower Climb which is a four tiered climb up a rutted gravel and rock drainage. The Seeley climb is a small version of the Powerline climb in the Leadville 100. Needless to say, all but the elite riders end up walking this climb. The Seeley ocurrs at mile 29 of the race. I was foolish enough to think that this was the "sledgehammer" on the course but the final 8 or 9 miles of the race proved to some of the most continuously uphill mileage of the race.
I finished the first half in just under two hours and foolishly thought that I might break four hours at the finish which isn't bad for a 52 year old first timer. I ended up finishing at 4 hours 20 minutes as the second half is much more difficult than the first. Most of the riders in my group finished in the three to four hour time frame and my group includes some regular participants.
The top four finishers of the race included two road pros from Radio Shack and Garmin/Cervelo and the winning time was just a few seconds over two hours flat. Almost unbelievable to me, these elite riders averaged 20 miles per hours over this course.
I saw numerous mechanicals and more than a few physiological shutdowns. I thought I was out just after the firetower climb as my right leg locked up, the cramping was severe. After about five minutes seated rubbing the thigh muscle I was able to continue. After I rolled across the finish line, the craft brews were some of the tastiest of the weekend.
It was an outstanding event and I want to thank my rider buddies, the volunteers and all those that make this event what it is. Next and following years are something of a question mark as Lifetime Fitness has bought the event and many involved are concerned that the event may lose some of it's local color.
I'm sorry to not have more pictures but I don't know if a helmet cam would have survived the beating and carrying a regular camera would be impossible.
Finndog, I'm calling you out for next year. Put that Ibis in your carrier and get out here and share the punishment (accomplishment) of being able to cross the finish line at the "Shwammy."
Edited by gregmerz - 9/18/11 at 6:40pm