The inaugural 906 Polar Roll Presented by Upper Hand Brewery raced on February 14th, 2015. Looking back on it now I can’t help but laugh. Here we were launching a race on Valentine’s Day, a day intended to celebrate love, and we were about to unleash a wave of suffering and frozen tears upon unsuspecting, smily and happy fat-bikers from across the midwest.
WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR?
I’m writing this for those who have survived past Rolls and those who hope to survive the 2018 edition. For some it may recall past memories of pain… and for the newbs it will prompt you to ask “What the hell did I sign up for?”.
In 2015 we had three main goals for the Polar Roll: Feature the event on its own weekend, Move from ski trails to trails groomed specifically for fat bikes, promote community by featuring trail resources created by trail organizations on both ends of the county (NTN Singletrack, RAMBA).
All of our events are operated on a non-profit basis. The intent is to promote a particular lifestyle (outdoor, silent sport), create memorable adventures, challenge you to your core, and to give back to those who give so much by distributing the race proceeds equally between two groups (NTN, RAMBA).
Is it hard? YES. I suggest you read this reminder: comfort is not your friend. Weather and snow conditions can and will vary wildly. You truly need to come physically and mentally prepared. Check your equipment and make sure it’s ready. The last thing you want to do is mechanical in the middle of nowhere in god knows what weather because you failed the basic steps of preparation. Have a plan to keep your water from freezing. Make sure to bring appropriate nutrition – odds are you’re gonna be out there a while. Don’t over dress but at the same time make sure you are properly prepared in the event you are stranded. Have a cell phone and keep it warm to avoid killing the battery. Your tire pressure will be critical to the overall enjoyment of your ride and those coming behind you. Improper tire pressure will destroy the tread. If you’re digging into the surface get off and air out. When you are walking and pushing your bike (YES this will happen) WALK ON THE LEFT, PUSH YOUR BIKE ON THE RIGHT.
WILD CARD WEATHER
Racers from 2016 will recall 40 Degree temps and RAIN. Participants reported pushing their bikes for MILES. In the days following the race I would receive random pictures from racers revealing legs bruised and battered. Who thought riding in the snow would be so brutal? I can still recall with vivid detail riders launching OTB multiple times riding down Benson as I stood in the rain on the side of 553 chuckling… Does anyone from 2016 remember the road of ice in Marquette? What a year that was! Kelly Bouwman was on the 15-Mile course for 6 hours 23 minutes… but she FINISHED!
YOU WON’T QUIT? NEITHER WILL WE.
With all of our events we have taken the position “Every racer’s finish matters”. I believe those who win and those who stay out there for hours on end with nothing to win deserve our equal admiration and respect. They also deserve a finish line with someone waiting for them. Assuming there is no safety issue we will allow a racer to continue until he or she either quits or finishes. If I have to miss part of or the entire After Party I am prepared to do so – if the racer wants to ride on. We subscribe to a philosophy of “finish what you started”. So get yourself mentally ready and eliminate quitting as one of the options. Pictured below: Liz who completed our first 35-Mile Polar Roll in 2015 in 8 hours and 8 minutes. It was her first time EVER on a fat bike and in a race. Proof you can do whatever you set your mind to.
It is likely at some point during the event your mind will take you to some very dark places. Keep going. Bacon and Hugs will be waiting. It is amazing what a little bacon and fireball can do for your spirit!
MAKE YOUR MARK
Many people have come to the Polar Roll convinced they would leave their mark on Marquette County… and they have. Though we believe initially they had something much different in mind. Sundays are an opportunity to ride and let the trail retell the story of Saturday…
Make events such as the Polar Roll possible. Executing a large event in the dead of winter has its challenges… but none more significant than the challenges faced by volunteers as they stand outside for hours to ensure this event can happen each year. I have been amazed the past several years by the lengths to which our volunteers have gone to take care of complete strangers. I want to assure you you are in good hands out there on race day. Do your part and come prepared. When you bump into a volunteer make sure to say thanks. We cannot do this without every single one of them!
ROAD RULES. BE SMART. BE SAFE.
I highly suggest you check out the full rundown of rules here. Both courseS cross active roads and snowmobile trails. You must obey traffic laws and rules. Keep your head up and on a swivel. Be alert. Look out for yourself and fellow racers. If you are a long racer please be advised you will ride the snowmobile trail for approximately 8-miles. During this time the trail is ACTIVE. Keep to the right and out of the way of oncoming sleds. The race team will thoroughly sign the race course cautioning both fat-bikes and sleds to the presence of one another. Get along. Report any issues you might have to the race director. Rest assured proper communication with local snowmobile clubs has been executed. We have the permission to use the trail and we pay fees to support their grooming efforts for the race. If by chance you do have a problem please remember it’s just one person – not an indictment against the group any more than a fat-biker acting like an idiot would be an indictment against all of us.
SHORT: Racers begin and finish at the High School in Ishpeming. Race officials won’t take drop bags for short racers because you should have everything you need right there when you get back. 100% of the SHORT-course is maintained by RAMBA. I would characterize this race route as fun and challenging. No death march. Granted weather conditions can vary greatly… SO maybe it will be a Death March. If it is we won’t charge you extra. There’s still time between now and then to get up to the west-end and jump in one of their Wednesday-Night rides. They meet regularly, every week, and this time of year often preview parts of the course. Visit their Facebook page for info or contact this guy. I should mention on course you will see at least one aid station with approximately 8-miles to go. Don’t be surprised if there are other “unofficial” aid stations out there.
LONG: The Main Event, Race #7 of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. This one is gonna be tough – even in perfect conditions. We will collect drop bags at the start and move them to the finish for you in Ishpeming. You’ll rollout from downtown Marquette and brag about how flat and easy it is for roughly two or three miles. Until the Jeep Trail delivers a dose of reality. I HIGHLY suggest getting seeded toward the front if you do not want to end up walking in a line of people pushing their bike. Things will mellow for a short time as you reach the top of the Jeep Trail but it won’t last long. As soon as you dip under the 553-bridge expect some hike-a-bike followed by the Benson Grade. From this point forward you’ll be delirious and won’t remember a thing I wrote… so I’ll share just one more things. PACE YOURSELF. The long event is clocking in right around 40-miles. This bad boy is the real-deal. Once you pop out of the NTN groomed singletrack in Marquette and onto the snowmobile trail you have an 8-mile ride (approximately) before you get back into RAMBA groomed trail. There will be an aid station on the snowmo around mile 23-ish. It will be located where M-35 and 492 converge. The next aid station after that will be set up 8-miles out from the finish line. HEED my warning and save some in the tank for the second half of the day. You’ll finish at the same location as the short race – Ishpeming.
A couple years ago Polar Roller partied so hard at the Masonic Building they temporarily knocked out power across the city of Marquette… for some racers that was the their second blackout experience of the day…
Assuming you make it back in time… the party starts at 7:00PM at Marquette Mountain. Awards will begin at 7:15PM SHARP. Border Grill will be serving food no later than 8:00PM and likely much earlier… Frank an Da Beanz kick up some tunes at 8. We’ve added some fun to the party this year… with a special event on Rocket to be held at 8:30PM. The Jan Roubal Classic, a high mark challenge, will be sure to crush whatever life remains in your legs… but the winner could win $100. Keep an eye on Facebook for details… final details will be shard at the After Party just before the event. After Party goes till 11:00PM… then you’re on your own!
BUT WHAT IF THE WEATHER IS BAD?
No rest for the wicked, friends. Rally up tired legs and hit the Enudro course in the NTN South Trails. Find the schedule here. This is a FUN event. Have fun.
I’m out. See ya in 25-days!