Sorry, no pics at the moment. I will try not to be too wordy, I feel like I could write a small book on everything I saw, did, and went through.
So this was my 4th year toeing the line up at the Arrowhead 135; 135 mile race on snowmobile trails from International Falls, MN to Tower. Competitors choose to either bike, run, or ski. I love bikes, hate running, and don't ski. Temps range any given year from 35F to -50F.
My time there has been with mixed results; 2012, 2011, 2010. Two DNF's due to asthma, and then a 7th place finish.
This year I had the knowledge of what it takes to finish. This year I wanted to thrive, not just survive. It ended up being the other way around. However, I did survive and that is something.
The start was uneventful until Buffington got to the front and drove a nice good tempo in the roughly 20F temps. We all loosely followed, and before we got ten miles in there was Todd Mcfadden(Local Pro Mtn Biker), Jason Buffington (last year's run winner, this year's Tuscobia winner), Kevin Breitenbach (last year's winner), Jeff Oatley (2011, and 2010 winner), and myself (weird man-boy). I was quite comfortable with the pace and was surprised not to see a few faces including Dan Dittmer and Ben Doom. We would continue over Hwy 53 about 20 miles in like this, no one in sight.
After another 10 miles I asked the group their favorite breakfast as to break up the silence. Oatley would respond with "pizza first, Chipotle second" and then got to the front to push the pace. At this point I brought down my Cold Avenger mask thinking we were near the 32F point that I use to determine it's use. After a bit my power would drop, and I would drop off the pace. I soon realized my mistake, put the mask on, and continued through checkpoint #1.
Soon after I would pass Buff who said his legs were not in a race mood. I felt good, was in a solid 4th place, and took the mask down again as we hit hills because I am an idiot. Soon, my power was dropping again as Doom and Buff would catch up. I would follow with Doom for a bit before the asthma started being a real pain. Buff would pass. Soon I would yo-yo with Dittmer a bit. With my asthma problems I forgot to eat. As I bit off a hunk of my carbo bomb there was no water left in my camelback. Crap. Dittmer would catch back up with me and let me know we still had 12 miles left to the halfway point, my stop for water. I have only guesses as to what happened, but I found it very puzzling I was out of water. With no water, I couldn't eat as well.
So I limped forward for the next 90 minutes or so, hungry and dehydrated. I ate a little and washed it down with snow, but that only works so much. Exhausted, hungry, and thirsty I would cross Elephant Lake to the Melgeorge's cabin. I sat. Never did I plan on sitting until the finish. Two grilled cheeses, a bowl and a half of soup, a bunch of water, a bit of pop, and I left with a bloated gut full of food. The next bit of trail after was fast I I felt decent again. The steep hills that normally required pushing were now covered with snow that allowed us to ride much more than normal.
About halfway to the 3rd checkpoint my overall dehydration really was taking a toll on my muscles. I rolled into Ski Pulk in a lot of pain. The snow was now pouring down. Every muscle in my body wanted me to throw in the towel, but there was never ever a thought of dropping. If I had to push it the last 25 miles I would finish. If I had to bivy and rest, I would finish.
I left Ski Pulk after some hot chocolate and time in a chair. For the next 15 miles or so I would ride less and push more. The snow was getting deeper and deeper. I had been in 8th place, but John Gorilla and Eric Peterson zoomed by while I suffered in pain. Not wanting to push the last ten miles, I shifted the bike into my 32X12 and stood; using only my body weight to bring forward momentum to the bike. The last ten miles I stood, one slow pedal stroke after another. Slowly, I would finally finish. My time was 18ish hours. Roughly 1 hour longer than last year. The course was overall faster (except for the snow I rode through the last 25 miles).
My thoughts on my race are mixed. I was gunning for a top five or better finish. The way the race started I thought that was going to happen. Between my mask removal and running out of water that hope was dashed. I still am not sure how I ran out of water. My pace from last year was the same (effort was less). I used the same bladder. I MAY have not had it full at the start. That is one guess. I MAY have drank more especially when I took my mask off. That is another guess. Anyways, it happened. I have been dehydrated since. Not hungry, just trying to rehydrate the body.
Congrats to Todd McFadden! Bringing the win back to MN is great! Those guys from AK are hard not to like, but you have to route for the home team. My eventual goal of Iditarod will have to wait until I can win an entry or win the lottery.
Proto (my prototype 9:zero:7 186mm bike) was flawless. A fantastic bike indeed. I wish I could have done it more proud.
Now I plan for the next Arrowhead. My favorite race of the year.