Arrowhead 135 no. IV

The temperature was only 9° F when my friend Bill and I rolled into International Falls around noon today, but I had a warm feeling. The plume of smoke over the paper mill and the banner over 3rd Street means that I’m back at the Arrowhead 135, which kicks off at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. The race tracker is online at

Two thumbs up for Arrowhead no. 4

I’m very excited to race the Arrowhead again, going for my fourth finish in four starts. Exactly three weeks have passed since I ended my adventure at the Fat Pursuit, and while I feel good in both body and mind, I can’t be sure I’ve recovered enough to tackle the Arrowhead. I would not be surprised, once I’m out on the trail tomorrow, to feel either terrible and then struggle over the course or to feel fantastic and then ride well, maybe even to a personal best time.* 
So I’m eager, in the spirit of experimenting on myself, to see what effects the Fat Pursuit has had in me: did it wear me down, or did it give me a big fitness boost?

Judging by how I felt on today’s short excursion down the trail, I think a finish in 24 hours is feasible – a good but not great time for me. Finishing in the dark, in 18 or 20 hours, would be phenomenal.

Besides the Fat Pursuit, though, several other wild cards hide in this year’s Arrowhead deck:

  • the trail: the Arrowhead Trail is in exceptionally good shape, with good snow cover and firm, fast tracks. The trail though could be affected by
  • the weather: the forecasts call for light snow all day Monday and relatively warm temperatures of around 20° F, which could mean, respectively, tracks that slow throughout the race and lots of sweating. Hydration is an issue because this year I’m racing in 
  • the new “unsupported” category: along with forty others, I have been allowed to race entirely on my own. I cannot accept any help from the race organization or establishments on the course: no food or drink at the checkpoints, no drop bags full of goodies at the second checkpoint, and above all no use of any of the three checkpoints to dry out or to warm up – no going inside! I didn’t use drop bags last year, so that aspect of the unsupported category doesn’t seem too daunting, but I’ll miss my cold Coke at the Gateway General Store and my hot grilled cheeses at Melgeorges. On the other hand, three weeks ago I went almost wholly unsupported over the first 126 miles and 36 hours of the Fat Pursuit, so I have some ground to feel
  • a sense of confidence: I’m not the fastest racer, but I think I’ve figured out many of the key issues with winter bike races. My fitness could be good, my gear is certainly dialed in, and of course the bike is ready – all key elements of
  • my race plan: I am carrrying enough food and drink to last 30 hours (about 6,000 calories of energy and about three liters of fluid [plus the ability to melt snow!]), I understand the Arrowhead course, and I have my eye on some fellow racers who usually go a little faster than me but who this year might be good rabbits to follow. 

Given all that, I’m eager to get on the Buffalo tomorrow and see what I find on the trail!

* My best time was 19:30, in 2015 – good for 26th overall (25th man). My best placing was 7th (6th man) in 2014, the cold year. 

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