As I sit here feeling horrible with constant trips to the porcelain bowl to relieve my stomach of it's contents I got an expected e-mail. You have heard his name mentioned here, seen him in the paper, and may remember when he took top honors at the 1991 Rochester Centurion. Please give a warm welcome to Jason "J-No" Novak...
Arrowhead Ultra 135 Race Report
I had a good time up in International Falls, although I missed my family. Andrew (my oldest) turned 8 on Monday and it was hard missing his birthday. He was counting on me to bring him a finisher’s trophy. Charly and I just kind of hung out and prepared our gear for Mon morning. Pre race check in went without a hitch and we were able to talk with old friends and make new ones in the day leading up to the race. One of the nice things about this race was how laid back and friendly everyone was. There was no sense of nervousness or competitiveness.
On Monday morning we packed up and I drove to the start. The temp was -18deg F, but I felt ready for the cold. I had trained in similar conditions and felt I had a good handle on the layers/gear necessary. The snow conditions were great. The pace was fast off the gun, but I was so far back it didn’t matter. I was in cruise control the first part of the race, just riding along and if my legs felt any burning I backed off. I had the opportunity to ride with Lindsay Gould for a while. Lindsay is 61 years old and was on the 1972 Canadian Cycling team. A true gentleman, he is pretty hardcore on the bike. We started chatting and he dropped back due to some frozen hydration issues. The first checkpoint was at the Gateway Store about 30something miles in. Just before the store I came upon Charlie Farrow. Farrow is a legend in these parts. He is the self appointed leader of a gang in Duluth known as the “DBD”. His exploits are something out of a Krakauer novel. Farrow was having some problem with frozen toes. He passed me back for good at the store. I saw Chary Tri at the store as well; he was heading out as I arrived. I grabbed a bowl of soup and some juice for a few minutes and headed out. While I was there another DBD’er, Jason Buffington, came and went (on a non fat 29er!). He would continue on to a top placing.
The second leg to Melgeorge’s is about 37 miles and is where the hills start. We are talking monster climbs, 50 yards long and as steep as a ski hill, one after another. My goal was to make the elephant lake crossing and to Melgeorge’s before dark. Temps started to drop to around zero (from a high of about 5 degF). About 15 miles from the halfway point I came across a walking Charly Tri. He was having some breathing difficulties. He withdrew soon after. Once I hit Melgeorge’s I had a soup and sandwich, chatted with the awesome volunteers, and dried out my clothes. There was a cute baby there and that made me a little homesick. No cell service. At this point I was tired, but having a really good time.
I headed out for the long stretch (about 40 miles) to the last checkpoint. The distances do not seem like a lot to a cyclist, but when you factor in an average speed of 4-7 mph, the hours add up. More hills. Initially I left with Dave Gray, Don Gabrielson, and Chris Plesko. Dennis Grelk had left a few minutes before us. Don and Dave had a faster pace so Chris and I rode together for the next few hours. I was getting pretty cold and sleepy at about 11pm. My clothes were soaked. I would overheat on the way up the hill and then flash freeze on the way down. Chris and I were entertaining the idea of breaking out the bivy’s for a couple of hours and catching a nap. A few miles later we caught up with Don and he mentioned stopping and starting a fire. He joked that we had all this expensive gear, why not use it? We stopped at about mile 100. The temperature was about -10degF. After we had some difficulty getting a fire started, I jumped in my bag and ate about 1000 calories and a bottle of water. I started shivering uncontrollably for about 10 minutes although I was not cold. I have read about this and I knew it would pass. It did and I fell asleep for 2 hours. Lindsay, Andy, Bill, and Jeremy (another crazy DBD’er on a single speed 29’er) passed us at some point while I was napping. Janice from AK rolled up at some point and crashed for a while as well. Once we got up and rolling the hills continued for the next 3 hours to the tipi, the final checkpoint. It was just Don and I at this point. Chris (on a single speed snow bike) was not far behind.
The final 18 miles are pancake flat, just a path through the trees. The sun was up, and I was getting tired, but being so close to the finish kept me going. Once I rolled in to Fortune Bay I found where I was supposed to go, congratulated the earlier finishers, and took a pull of whisky from Dave Pramann’s flask.
The race was very well organized. The scenery was spectacular. I had a disposable digital camera, but it froze and would not work. Everyone was friendly and supportive and the volunteer’s were top notch. It was the hardest event I have done. Thanks to the Ostor’s for putting on this event. The timing looks better next year and I spent the last stretch making mental notes on some changes I’ll make for next time. I look forward to seeing my new friends again soon.