Frozen Fat 2016, Part 1: Fire & Rain

This year was my third Frozen Fat, and it was definitely my favorite one ever. More fun, less “race-like,” and at this point, I know most of the people who keep returning year after year, so the event has the feeling of a reunion.

The “frozen” part was missing more most of the weekend, so it was more like Soggy Fat instead. It began to rain Friday night while we were at McMurtries Tavern, and the ride back to base camp was rather wet. Luckily, we had a bigger-than-ever fire to dry us out and warm us up. The rain continued into Saturday, but luckily it stopped just in time for us to begin riding. Trails were muddy, and stream crossings were deep.

ride through fire
That’s one way to keep warm. Photo by SAW. 
tall fire
“Them pallets burn good” Photo by SAW.
ryan splash
Splash! Photo by HK.
Photo by HK.
otter gap
Stuck in the mud. Photo by HK.

At the beginning of the ride on Saturday, our crew (which consisted of 15 or so of us local riders who are a pretty tight-knit group) lingered in the parking lot and waited for everybody else to leave. We rode really casually and stayed together for the first few miles before naturally splitting into smaller groups. I mostly rode with Phil and Shannon, and then Jared, Ryan, and Jake caught us after they had stopped a few times to remove obstructive trees with Jake’s “buddy saw” invention.

roll out
Rolling out. Photo by HK.

At the first checkpoint, we were greeted with a burn barrel, smiling faces, and a stromboli fresh off the fire. Actually, it was more like a wad of pepperoni with a little bit of dough around it. Just what I needed.

I shoved a piece in my mouth and grease dripped down my hand. Sarah laughed. You look like you’re in your element, she said. I was indeed. Sweaty, wet, muddy, high on exercise, with some of my best friends, shoving a wad of greasy pepperoni into my mouth.

burn barrel evan houck
Fire meat stick. Photo by SAW.
phil smiles
Happy, happy. Photo by SAW.
ryan wiener
Delish. Photo by SAW.
checkpoint snacks
Pepperoni wad. Photo by SAW.

checkpoint party

Evan, who couldn’t join in the first part of the ride due to organizer duties, was also at the first checkpoint hanging out. He wore Ellis’s “Pro Flex” jersey. I’m tagging in, he said. Ellis had tagged out, too hungover to continue, and was currently sound asleep in Sarah’s car.

So Evan got to ride with us the rest of the way, which was awesome. He didn’t get to ride last year because there was a lot more to worry about with two different courses.

We left the checkpoint and continued on Beautiful Trail and down Deer Tick, and then began the part of the route that I normally dread a little bit. The climb up Sass-xx and Flat Road Trail usually ends up kicking my ass. It’s gradual overall with some steep sections that just sap my energy, especially this far into the ride. But this time around, I felt pretty good. It may have been the lack of snow, or the fact that I’ve been riding a lot more this year than previously. Either way, it was a whole lot less painful than before.


ev bucksawsteffie tongue

I felt great until the second checkpoint. My legs were warmed up, on their second wind. Then we stopped. Evan and I split a soda, and we stood around the fire for a while. I got cold. Then we started again. My legs didn’t want to go. All the boys took off, and I pedaled up Pigpile ever so slowly. Until now, I had every intention of participating in the hill climb competition scheduled for this evening. Not anymore. I didn’t have it in me.

I caught up with the rest of my group towards the end of the trail. Everybody was pretty tired, and the temperature was dropping. We all donned the layers that we had stripped at the beginning of the ride when we realized how warm it was (near 40 degrees). We headed downhill, down the bone-shaking Sassafras Trail. But it wasn’t all downhill quite yet.

Spencer Trail had fooled me once in the past—it looks all nice and flat on the map, and it is, for a while. Then you hit the wall, a steep climb in the middle of all that nice-and-flat-ness. You get to what you think is the top, and it keeps going for another couple hundred yards.

Jared threw in the towel and started walking. I stayed on the bike in my granny gear, pedaling only about as quickly as Jared was pushing. I made it to the top, and then it was truly all downhill to the finish.

Killer climb. Photo by SAW. 

The fire at the pavilion was more than welcome, as by this point we were all pretty thoroughly soaked, both from sweat and the moist outside surroundings. We discovered that quite a few people had cut off Spencer and just boogied back the road, which had been a tempting thought. It was very rewarding to have finished the entire course though.

I didn’t map it like I usually do because I needed to save my phone battery, but I think it was right around 28 miles of mostly singletrack.

I headed home, threw on some dry clothes, put meatballs in the crockpot, and headed back to Camp Seguin for the evening festivities.

It turned out that no one had any hill-climbing in them, so that never happened. After riding all day, then putting on warm clothes and settling in by the fire, it’s pretty hard to get motivated to go pedal uphill for a few miles. Instead, we just baked ourselves next to the fire and worked on draining the kegs before most of us called it a pretty early night.

around the firebrent ellis jake hang

dinnerfire communityevan thumbs upjalon yastro

john jared laugh

tony smiles


Unless indicated, all photos used in this post (including those with no captions) were taken by my good friend and brilliant photographer Sarah Anne Wharton of SAW Photography. She did an awesome job capturing the essence of Frozen Fat. Thanks, Sarah! She took so many great photos that I had a really hard time choosing what to include with my post. More photos of the event can be found in her gallery here. Use the guest password #frznft to access.

Also, check out my recaps from previous years here.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

2 Replies to “Frozen Fat 2016, Part 1: Fire & Rain”

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