Thursday, February 02, 2023

Arrowhead 135 2023

This past Monday, 1/30/23, I toed the line for my 11th time at the Arrowhead 135.  It would become my 10th finish and first win.  I've come in 5th, 4th, 3rd, and 2nd over the years but it took my last go around to grab the win.  Yep, I'm stepping back from the race for awhile.  I'm sure I'll be back but I want to explore other races and since it's hard to get into the Arrowhead I want to allow others to get in on the action as well.

The race start was cold.  I've heard reports ranging form -30 to -40.  I saw -28 with a windchill of -42.  About 15 miles into the race it usually gets colder, which it did.  Just know, it was cold!

I was 5th in the lead group.  About a mile in I got up front and made a pull.  When I pulled off I saw it was just Daniel Perry and I.  I assumed others would latch on but that never happened.

I went to take my first drink about 5 miles in.  My hydration bag hose was already frozen.  I wasn't thirsty nor did it concern me much so I kept rolling with Daniel.  Daniel's hub gave him issues later on so I rode away.  He later caught and passed me while I stopped to put my hydration hose around my torso under my bibs.  The bibs I used were 45Nrth Naughtvind bib knickers.  They come up high on your torso, which worked perfectly to thaw my hydration hose.

Nearing the first checkpoint, around 35 miles in, I caught back up to Daniel.  He too was dealing with frozen fluids.

Daniel and I rolling into CP1, Gateway.

At CP1.  Here I tested my fluids for the first time.  The wrapping the hose around my torso worked!  I didn't have to go in but Daniel did.  It was the last time I'd ride with anyone.

After CP1 the hills start to show up.  Years past this section was my nemesis.  I usually would blow up and lose the riders I was with.  A bunch of it was mental but the physical was part of the equation too.  Reluctantly I've started doing interval training prior to the race.  I must admit I feel it works.  Thanks Noah!
With the cold, the snow was hard and mostly firm.  But it was also grippy.  Which is good and bad.  It was good as I was able to climb all the hills (first time) on my way to CP2.  It's bad as the snow is constantly gripping your tires, slowing you down.

Rolling into CP2.

Checkpoint 2 is the only time I go inside.  I made the decision to change my base layer, hat, neck gaiter, nose covering, and mittens as it was going to get colder (it was below zero for the entire race) from there on out.  I was able to get in, change, eat a grilled cheese sandwich, a handful of nuts, slam a class of Coke, and get back on the bike in 7 minutes.  I wasn't sure where the other riders were so I wanted to keep my stay short.  The longer you stay in a checkpoint the harder it is to leave.

Now the real hills start, not for several miles, but once they start they don't stop till shortly after CP3.  Again, because of the cold and snow, I was able to climb more of the hills than years past.  I did walk hills as well.  This was my first time being in the lead at this point.  Years past I would use the riders in front of me as a guide.  If they walked, I walked.  Being in the lead threw me for a loop, ha!

CP3 is around 110 miles in.  I play games with myself.  I said I couldn't look at my distance till the sun went down.  When I looked I was sure the CP was around the corner.  I was bummed to see I had 5 miles left.  Getting to CP3 always takes longer than I think it will.  About 2 miles to the CP a fox came flying by me on the trail!  It startled me good, better than a shot of caffeine.  

I made it to CP3.  I had yet to fill up my hydration pack.  I also had a 20oz Hydroflask with.  I filled that with Embarks concoction they had.  Man was that good!  Like CP1, I was there for only 1 minute.  
Leaving CP3, two of my daughters ran along side with sparklers!

The next section is mostly flat.  Some will say they don't like this section.  I don't mind it.  I've only ridden it in the dark.  Maybe in the daylight it's different.  It is a bit more open in areas so the wind was burning a bit.  I kept looking over my shoulder to see if I could see the lights of others coming up on me.  I kept thinking there is no way I can win.  But the remaining 25 miles ticked off with no one coming into view.

At the finish!

I never quite know how to say I was happy I won.  Because, in reality, I'm happy to just finish, get 2nd or 5th.  But, yes, I was pretty stoked.

Huge thanks goes to Jen, my wife.  Avery and Harper, two of my daughters that made the trek north for the first time.  My mother in-law Mary Jo and her friend Lynn who also made the trip.  I had quite the entourage!  Also to my folks for taking care of the home front and the pets.

My cheer team!

I get asked the most about my gear.  I will break it down quickly.

My bike is a 2018 Salsa Cycles carbon Mukluk. It has Sram Eagle and a Wolftooth 30 tooth elliptical chainring.

Wheels: 26" 80mm Hed carbon rims laced to Onyx hubs.  I heard of several folks having issues with their hubs in the cold.  Onyx hubs don't have those issues.  Bomber and smooth.

Cockpit:  I use a SQLabs carbon handlebar with a bit of a rise and 16 degrees of back sweep.  I really like them.  I have Ergon cork grips that I wrap with handlebar tape to both provide more protection from the cold and more comfort.  This was the best my hands faired.  My hands suck.  I also use the Revelate Design Expedition Pogies.  I wore liner mitten from Outdoor Research.

Clothing: Donkey Label sleeveless undershirt.  Craft Active Extreme long sleeve base layer.  45Nrth (current version) Naughtvind jacket.  I've used many jackets for this race.  My closet is full of them.  This was the best yet!  I worked very well for me.  I may have my mom put in front zipper vents but that's me.  On my bottom I had on 45Nrth Naughtvind bib knickers with Bontrager soft shell bib tights over.  It worked almost perfectly.  However both bibs have zippers.  The zippers got to be a tad tedious when having to take a nature break.  But not bad enough I would change the set up.  
On my feet I had merino wool compression socks, RAB vapor barrier, Smartwool Hunting sock and 45Nrth Wolfgar boot.  I only got cold feet once.  Running a minute took care of that.
I wore a neck gaiter, nose covering, and light weight hat on my head.

Lights: Light and Motion Seca 2500 Enduro.  I've used this light for several Arrowheads.  This was the first year the light died.  About 10 miles from the finish.  I then used my Princeton Tec Apex headlamp.

Food: I ate 6 snickers bars, some handfuls of frozen gummy bears, a grilled cheese sandwich, handful of nuts, and a half sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks.  For my drink I was using Infinite Nutrition Go Far...a high caloric drink.  I had 100oz with me at the start and some leftover at the finish.  When it's cold it's hard to, or more uncomfortable, to eat and drink.  But I never bonked or felt behind.  That being said I should have eaten and drank more.

Having done this event, and other winter ultras, many times, I am still figuring out new ways of doing things, etc.  But I felt I was pretty dialed this go around.  In winter ultras it's not always about the speed but in how we deal with the cold and all the other things that can go wrong.  The interesting thing about these races is the same setup may not work for me the next time.  Always learning and adapting.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Keep going, It'll get better.

 Yesterday I couldn't head out for a ride until I got Harper to gymnastics at 9.  I was out pushing the Cutthroat pedals by 9:30.  The wind was strong out of the NE.  Upon leaving my plan was to make it to the Milaca Wildlife Management Area on the East side of Hwy 169.  

The wind and Benton County gravel had me going at a snails pace.  I wasn't "feeling it" either, mentally and physically I was struggling.  The wind seemed more North than anything so I altered my plans to head further North and checkout Oxcart Road, which is part of the upcoming Freedhem 76 course.  Once or twice I changed my mind back to the original plan but ended up with sticking with the Oxcart option.

My attitude and body took about 1.5 hours but they both came around and I was cruising along...feeling good and happy.  

Oxcart road is a minimum maintenance road used primarily by ATV's, it's a great road.  It was running very well.  The deer/horse flies were insane however!  I'm not sure I've experienced them any worse.

I altered my return route some to coincide with the Trans MN Route.  They were coming up through Little Falls to Camp Ripley.  I would need to refuel soon so I opted to head West a bunch and jump on the route. A buddy doing the race was in Little Falls, I at Camp Ripley.  I figured we'd meet in the middle.  However there is a spot where there are two options and I took the road I always take.  They took the other.  We missed each other!

I was able to slowly bring the average speed up with the now tailwind, albeit lower than when I started.  It's funny how different I felt at the start versus now.  I really felt I could have ridden through the night.  Although I know once the sun sets it's a different game.

The Ride.

Planning on 30-40 miles this morning, maybe the same Saturday, and race Sunday.  I'm also hoping to sleep in a bit, like past 6!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


 Jen is gone a few days for a much deserved vacation with some friends.  With Brinna now working full time I'm left to shuttle the other two girls to and from their activities.  Today is the whopper of a day.  I dropped Avery and a friend off at swimming at 6 this morning.  I pick them up at 8.  Harper has gymnastics from 9-10:30 and Avery 10:45 to 1:00.  Not sure how Avery will get home as I do work too.  I may just have to leave for a bit.  So yeah, no riding this morning.  Maybe this afternoon?  Had I realized this I would have ridden in the cold Monday morning.  

The girls may be going to a cabin this afternoon, but still undecided.  If not, Harper has baseball 5:45 to 6:45.

Yesterday I got a 50 miler in on the T6 Rando.  I did a mini Dirt Bag.  After the little bit of rain we got the gravel, at least to the South, is riding so much better.  But we still need more rain.

Thursday will be a day of riding...I think.  Not sure if I'm on for anything or not yet, ha!

Monday, June 21, 2021

A Taste of Fall?

 After 9+ days in the 90's the temperature fell back into more "average" temps.  Riding last week was solid.  With not having to get Harper up and on the bus for school I am able to get out the door much earlier.  Plus with the sun peeking it's head over the horizon by 5 it's much easier to get motivated to do so.  During the school year I am able to get 30-35 miles in before work.  Now I can get 50 or so.

Because I am getting up earlier and trying to get out the door as early as possible I didn't blog last week.  I'm taking today off from riding so I have more time!

On a couple of my long rides last week I found myself fighting the sleep monster.  A stop for a Coke or just a stop to check my phone for a bit seems to wake me back up.  A change in music seems to help as well.

Yesterday we got some much needed rain, about 1/4".  I snuck a short ride, 35 miles, in on the All City Nature Boy (single speed and fenders).  I missed most of the rain but the last 15 minutes I got pretty wet.  After the rain passed the temperatures dropped.  We were 45 this morning and topping out in the mid 60's. It won't last long however, as the heat returns by the weekend.  A small taste of fall for a couple days.

This Saturday is the Freedhem 76 near Little Falls.  Several friends are doing it so I'm pretty sure I'll jump in.  Somewhat depends on what the family has planned and what needs to happen with Toby.

Enough randomness.  Tomorrow I'll ride.

Friday, June 11, 2021

The Heat is On.

 Our heat wave continues.  I think we are in our 8th or 9th day in a row of 90+ degree days.  Recently the humidity/dew point have started to creep up as well.  It's getting (or is) uncomfortable.  Nonetheless I've been riding, just sweaty!

Monday was an easy MTB ride.  Tuesday and Wednesday were 40-50 miles on the Moots.  Yep, I finally got that bike ready to ride for the season.  I have thought about selling it this Spring but after riding it I know why I like it!  While I do have a lot of "gravel" type bikes they are all different and all get used.

Thursday was predicted to be the nastiest of the days: hot and thick.  Half way down County Road 8 I thought I may need to alter my ride.  I was already pretty hot and wet.  I remained hyper vigilant about drinking my Infinite/Skratch mix (I freeze the Infinite in small cups.  I put 3-6 in my hydration pack mixed with Skrtach) and noting how I was feeling.  Oddly I started to feel good and really never had any of the usual side effects from the heat.

I made my way down to the Luce Line Trail.  I wanted to take it to it's end in Cosmos.  I haven't been there before so why not?!  

The last section of trail seemingly gets little use.  It was fun!
Although this is where I was the warmest.

From Cosmos I started making my way for home.  What wind there was had dropped in speed some but it was still there.  Some hills with the tailwind became heat zones.  Toasty!

I ended up stopping 3 times to refill my 100 oz hydration bladder.  I carried some Infinite/Skratch mix with for one stop but used Gatorade and water the other times.  I consumed about 400 oz of fluids!  For me that's the ticket to not feeling or getting sick in hot weather.  I an cannot drink just water, it has to have electrolytes.

My whole kit looked like this...layered in salt.

Sweat and gravel.

The Ride.

I was pleasantly surprised I never had ill effects from this ride...this time anyway.  I'm heading out soon for a 2-3 hour spin.  It's already thick.  I'm ready for a break from the heat.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Heat Miles.

 Unbound happened this past weekend and I stayed home.  Surprisingly I didn't feel any of the remorse or guilt I thought I would!  I was and still am happy with my decision.  Plus my anxiety is seemingly back in check.  Thanks to all the those the reached out or commented, it means a lot.

While I didn't go to Kansas I did get some solid riding in.  Also got a bunch of heat acclimation riding in as we were warmer than most of the United States!  When I wasn't riding we were outside doing yard work, watering, power washing the house, etc.  I'll be glad when Brinna's Grad Party is done!

Thursday's Ride.

Friday's Ride...#6 to Darwin.

When in Darwin.

After every ride in hot weather this pops up after I save the ride.  What happens when I hit 100%?!

Saturday's Ride.

Full sun all weekend.  90-100 each day.  But dew points ad humidity were in check.

Sunday's Ride.
Ironically this was the best I felt on any of last weeks rides.  
I wanted to keep going.

This popped up in my FB memories from Unbound, then DK, 4 years ago.
Even this didn't give me thoughts of doubt about not going.
But look at that road!  Such good, fun riding.

I tried sleeping in this morning but I woke up around 5:20.  Thinking an easy hour spin on the mountain bike will be a good way to start the week.

Monday, May 31, 2021

When Anxiety Consumes You.

 I've been on medication for anxiety for the better part of 13 years.  I've been amazed how well the medication has worked, as I know it doesn't help everyone.  The past handful of months the medication has seemed to lack some of it's power.  Anxiety has been creeping in a bit more and more into my life.  I know everyone has some form of anxiety but when it consumes you it becomes overwhelming.  Sometimes I feel like I have noise canceling headphones on, oblivious to anything going on around me, consumed in my thoughts.  Then there is the tightening of the chest, shortness of breath, and the nervous stomach.  Fun times.

With the upcoming Unbound XL my anxiety is ridiculous.  I don't think it's any one thing around the event but a combination of things.  Brinna's upcoming Grad Party, being gone a stretch of time, conference track meet, work, family, etc.  The race itself is not the concern.  I'm in shape and ready to ride.  But do I want to?  I feel this is all superficial "life" events that everyone deals with.  I guess I'm just not that good at it.  Anxiety can be the real deal.  Luckily riding helps and I still love it.  Maybe that's partly why I ride so much?!  

All that said I'm seriously still on the fence regarding Unbound.  While I know I'll have a good time, is it worth the angst I put on myself prior to said event?  Will I have more anxiety if I don't go?  What will 350 miles of solo riding be like if I'm strong out with anxiety?  Will I be letting my buddies down I'm going with?  Again, in the grand scheme of things this is all very banal.  But when you can't control your thoughts and anxiety it becomes a bit more cumbersome.

But know I'm fine.  It helps if I share and it may help others if I share as well.

Ride On.