Boondoggles and marathons
I tried several years to make it to the Fat Tire Frenzy at Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids. I'm not much of a mountain bike racer – I only started riding MTB a few years ago – but Beverly's trails are local favorites so racing there would be almost as familiar as Sugar Bottom. (From Iowa City Beverly Park is only five minutes further away, and its sandy soils often dry out days before Sugar Bottom's.) Having been foiled previously by nagging injuries or conflicting events, this year I was really looking forward to racing at Beverly...when the Fat Tire Frenzy suddenly disappeared.
The schedule for the Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series (IMBCS) appeared in March without a race listed for Beverly Park. Weeks later a new race was added, the Beverly Boondoggle, with the ominous tag "Marathon MTB Only." What? Again, I'm not much on a mountain bike, so working up the nerve to race trails at all can be a challenge, but a marathon? What was going on?
I decided to ask around. It turns out several factors led to the new Beverly Boondoggle, mostly very positive developments, and in hearing about them I learned about the growing trend toward MTB Marathon as well.
Going long: Endurance MTB Events
Marathon MTB may seem more popular recently, but endurance MTB is hardly new. According to Bruce Brown, Co-Director of the Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series, there is a long history of endurance events in mountain biking.
"For years the big trend was 12 and 24 hour events. At some point events started being measured more in miles – 50, 75, or 100 mile measuring sticks for endurance mountain bike races that were point to point or one large loop and became what is known as destination events. Chequamegon 40 in Wisconsin, Dakota Five-0 in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Leadville 100 in Colorado are examples."