The body and mind have had some time to recover...with more on the way. I feel pretty good and am actually excited to get back on the bike, however in warmer conditions. Currently it's a bit windy and cold in MN.
7:00 am on this past Monday the bikers of the Arrowhead 135 were off. I quickly fell into 3rd wheel behind Jason Buffington and Todd McFadden. The pace was pretty quick, for me, right off the line. Jason kept pounding out a hard pace...making it look easy. Because of the warm temps, 20's, I was sweating pretty good. Knowing the temps would only climb and not drop too much overnight I wasn't too concerned. But my legs and body weren't ready for this pace. I pushed it out a bit more and decided to let some other rider pull through.
Sitting in the back of a pack of 8 or so we continued on a solid clip in the soft conditions. It felt like it was going to be a long day. I really hate trying to follow riders on fat bikes in soft conditions. Holding a line isn't possible and you have to be on high alert to not run into them or mess up and have someone run into you. Yeah, I'm a solo kind of guy. Eventually I decided I needed to ride my own race and let them go. I chilled my pace a bit, stopped and let some air out of the tires, and let my body find it's groove for a long day in the saddle. This was about mile 8.
Of course I would second guess this decision but what was done was done. Still a lot of riding to do.
The first checkpoint is somewhere around 35 miles. Time went by fast but I was getting nervous I wasn't seeing any other riders in front of me. Eventually I would start to catch some riders that also let the lead group go. I went into the 1st checkpoint with Dan Dittmer, in about 3.5 hours. Here I was informed the lead group was 15 minutes up! Crap.
Coming into Gateway, CP 1.
My reaction to Jen's news at the gap of the lead group.
Eventually Dan and I drifted apart and rode on our own. Everyone talks about the section after MelGeorge's as really hilly, which it is, but I always forget how hard the section after Gateway is. With the soft conditions I sometimes faltered on easy uphills and was forced to get off and walk. I would later run into Buffington who informed me is legs were shot. We rode for a bit and chatted. Well he did. I was breathing so hard while he continued on like we were out for lunch...BEAST! We would bump into Charly Tri who was having some fun with his asthma. After some bouncing back and forth and not really riding together I rode on off by my own. I was now in 4th place and wouldn't see another rider for the rest of the race, except at CP 2 where I ran into Buffington coming as I was going...chipper as ever.
7 hrs 46 minutes and I rolled into CP2...75 miles.
Jacket off...filling up the hydration pack.
My goal was not to dawdle too much and get in and out as fast as I could. I didn't want to run into any other riders. I filled my hydration pack, downed a grilled cheese sandwich, chugged some coke, grabbed some candy for the road and out the door in 6 minutes.
Note the mouth full of food (Mike and Ike's)
Trying to keep it all in.
After MelGeorge's there is one big hill right away but then remains pretty flat for many miles before the hills begin again in earnest.
I was feeling pretty good at this point. Once dusk set in I stopped and put in my music and got my headlamp ready. With music in I was at my best all race long. This was fun! But then the hills came and my excitement shot out of me. I struggled on the hills. Tired legs, slipping tires, soft conditions, mental games...all played a roll in me hating the Arrowhead at that time. But as with endurance events I knew feelings come and go and I just had to push on.
The last 10 miles to CP3 took forever. But I managed to get there right as the snow was really starting to come down. Not wanting to deal with the accumulating snow I was in and out in 4 minutes. Just enough time to add some more water to my hydration pack. I was a thirsty boy.
The last 25 miles are flat, well slightly up hill, but flat. Tends to get boring but I was ok with that. The tracks of the riders in front of me were beginning to fade under the growing snow. I knew I had to keep my pace as high as I could to avoid having to walk with my bike. Later reports would reveal several riders hiked 15+ miles through the snow!
Jen, her mom, and Harper were at a road intersection with 10 miles to go. What a great boost! Those 10 miles went by pretty quick. As the lights of the casino started to show over the horizon I began to push a faster cadence as a smile spread across my face.
I'm not in that much pain...some, but the flash killed me!
15 hrs 46 minutes for 4th place. My best time and place.
I'm super pleased with how I did. The field of riders was full of strong and talented guys. We could run the race again tomorrow and anyone of them could win.
The lead group of Todd McFadden, Jeff Oatley, and Kevin Breitenbach put 1.5 hours on me! Crazy fast...nice work guys. Destroyed the old record of 15 hrs and 45 minutes. Not sure if I'll ever be in their position. But I'm ok with where I am. Of 138 registered participants, 135 started, and 49 finished. A tough time on the Arrowhead was had. The stories of those stuck out in the storm are crazy...some strong souls.
Have to say I will be back for more!
Thanks to Dave, Mary, and the many volunteers that make this race tick. Thanks to Jen, her Mom, and Harper for cheering me on out in the field. Thanks to my parents for watching Brinna and Avery and cheering me on at home. Thanks to everyone else wishing me well and giving your support. Means a lot...truly does.