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Karoline's story: Smoke 'n' Fire 400

BaseCamper Karoline Droege shared her experience at the 2023 Smoke 'n' Fire 400 in Idaho, where she earned second place female.

Here's a little background and a "brief" race report from SNF400. For those of you who don't want to read too much, the data summary looks like this:

  • 430 miles

  • 41,500 feet elevation

  • 70 hours of riding and hiking (averaging 18 hours/day for 4 days)

  • 11 hours of "sleep"

  • 2200(ish) TSS - wasn't counting when I was hiking

  • 58lb bike without water (see below as to why so heavy)

  • My primary goal: to make it to the finish

  • Ultimate goal: to make it to the finish smiling, and yes, I was grinning from ear to ear

In February 2022 I decided I would finally do this bike-packing race in my own backyard called Smoke 'N' Fire. I finished up winter Basecamp training and started working with Kate Johnson on getting ready for the September event. I put in a lot of hours on the bike, learned all I could about setting up my bike/gear and tried to figure out how to carry my food with me. In these races, you can eat at convenience stores and restaurants, but you can't drop food on the course. I have celiac disease and eating in restaurants is out for me, so I have the added challenge of bringing my food with me. So in 2022, I felt like I was well prepared, but I got covid 5 days before the start, and I had to set my goal aside. In retrospect, the universe was smiling down on me...knowing what I know now, I wasn't really ready. Fast forward to September 2023, and I'm here again, but now with a better bike setup, more bike-packing trips under my belt, and another year of fitness in the bank. The course changes a little from year to year, and the organizers keep adding more elements of single track and backcountry trails; this year was the tenth anniversary of the race, and they wanted to make it "really special."

And it was. This race was special and amazing and insane and by far the biggest thing I've ever imagined doing on two wheels. We experienced everything from smooth gravel to washboard, sunny skies to hail storms, 35-degree nights to 90-degree days, and smooth single track to insane hike-a-bike "trails" that were long-ago abandoned by the forest service. Because who would want to gain 1000 feet of elevation in .7 miles, even without a loaded bike?

We got to experience Idaho in a way that very few ever will. We were everywhere from a big metropolis (Boise) for the start and finish to incredibly remote mountain tops deep in central Idaho for days on end. I posted photos, as they speak more than words can. Not sure what's next for me, but I'm a bikepacker for life!


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