Sunday, April 25, 2010

407 Minutes at the Ouachita 50KM

The Ouachita Trail 50KM
( Wikipedia-pronounced: WOSH-i-taw or WAW-shi-taw)

This is one average runner’s experience at the Ouachita 50KM on Saturday, 17 April. The race is an Out-and Back format that started and finished at Maumelle Park, just outside and southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas. I finished the 50K course in 6:47:19, equal to 407 minutes and 19 seconds. I thoroughly enjoyed this event and highly recommend Ouachita for several reasons.

The course is a very challenging route, as most trail ultra events seem to be. This route, though, runs up and over Pinnacle Mountain, and then down the backside of that terrain feature. Runners meet Pinnacle at about the 4.75 mile point of the course and are basically climbing almost hand over hand up the boulder-strewn trail until they reach the top at about 1100 feet. The inherent uniqueness in this part of the overall event, and the 360-degree view from atop Pinnacle makes the Ouachita 50 worth running. That said, I’d also say that the Pinnacle mountain portion of the event will almost ensure that Ouachita does not lend itself as a source for Personal Bests as far as 50K or 50 mile events; Pinnacle is steep and challenging and time intensive in terms of overall distance covered.
                                                                Pinnacle at a distance

     This was the Ouachita Trail 50’s 20th straight year, so this is a proven, time-tested event executed over a demanding and challenging course. 2010 marked the 10th year under the Race Director team of Chrissy and Stan Ferguson and all that experience really resulted in a cohesive, extremely well-run event. There is a well-developed core group of runners and volunteers that seemed to lend an annual, reunion type of camaraderie across the course and to the events at the start-finish line. Every aid station was thoroughly stocked with anything runners could have wanted to drink or eat, and every aid station had signs with exact information; where you were on the course in terms of mileage, distance to the next aid station and exact distance to the finish line on the return portion of the route. The aid station volunteers also voiced these critical statistics while you were in the aid station.
     Race finishers all receive a very unique ceramic finisher’s medal. RD Chrissy Ferguson makes these medals herself; they are white, with the Ouachita Trail 50 emblem from the website emboldened on the front and are very cool. I also picked up a terrific Ouachita Trail 50 wind-shirt that has a shoulder and waist pocket. These were available at the finish line. Black Dog photography was also on-hand providing low cost, printed pictures of each runner reaching the Pinnacle Mountain zenith much earlier in the race.
     The Ouachita Ultra has both a 50 kilometer and 50 mile option. Runners who register for the 50 mile option can re-evaluate and opt for the 50KM route during the course of the event, as late as the moment of truth where the two courses deviate.
Race Results: As of 25 April:
50 Mile:
1 Tom Brennan   M    38   Poteau  OK  7:56:41! (New 50M course record)
2 Stan Ferguson  M  46   Conway AR   8:40:35
3 David Murphy  M  37   Wasola  MO  8:47:07

1 Natalie Sims     F    36    Signal Mountain TN  9:57:52(9th overall)
2 Karen Martin   F    38     Jonesboro         AR  10:37:31(13th overall)
3 Jenny Weatter  F    29     Maumelle          AR 11:24:38(20th overall)

50 KM:
1 Matt Sims          M   38     Signal Mountain TN  4:41:02
2 PoDog Vogler    M  43     Russellville         AR   4:58:51
3 Jake Anderson   M  28     Jonesboro          AR   5:45:00

1 Shirley Hyman  F     42      Fort Smith  AR       6:38:18(16th overall)
2 Carrie Tracy     F     36      Richardson TX       6:38:39(17th overall)
3 Hillary Looney  F     36      Little Rock  AR       6:40:45(22nd overall)

179 total runners started the combined 50M-50KM event
166 total combined finishers for both events
111 finishers in the 50K; 75 Males, 36 Females
55 finishers in the 50M; 43 Males, 12 Females
7:56:41: The new 50 mile course record by Tom Brennan Saturday!
29.6: Exact mileage showing on my Forerunner 305 at end of the 50K
68: Age of oldest 50 mile finisher
23: Age of youngest 50 mile finisher: Rich Easter, Memphis, TN
79: Age of oldest 50K finisher
19: Age of youngest 50K finisher: Caleb Manis, Cabot, AR; 5:56; 5th overall
15 different states with runner representation including California, Colorado, New York and New Mexico
5.1 miles: Runners are only 5.1 miles in the course atop Pinnacle and 5.3 at the bottom.
12 Aid stations on the 50K course counting the Start-Finish Line Pavilion
10 Aid stations on the 50M course counting the Start-Finish Line Pavilion
16.75 miles; runners hit the North-shore aid station turnaround point and start back
Personal 50K Statistics:
407 minutes on the course
26th overall place
21 Males finished ahead of me
5 Females finished ahead of me
14: number of 40 and older finishers ahead of me

     It was still dark when RD Chrissy Ferguson gave a pointedly thorough and interesting pre-race briefing at 0545 before the start of the race. The conditions really could not have been better; it was about 60 degrees, not too humid, and a little overcast. I wore my Nathan Hydration 2.0 system with 1.5 liters of water for a second straight ultra, had my walkman on and my Garmin Forerunner 305. I started with 10 S-caps, some Ibuprofen and 4 vanilla GU gel packs and my small digital camera balanced across the two front shoulder pockets. I decided to assume risk by bringing the Olympus Camera because it’s small, and ultimately, I wanted to record some digital memories of the event.

View from Pinnacle to North-Northwest

      The Ouachita 50 proved to be the 22nd race I’ve completed of either marathon or ultra marathon distance, with a breakdown of 9 marathons and 13 ultras at this point in my cumulative distance portfolio. It’s pretty easy to say that I’ve developed some good lessons learned in every event to date, but Ouachita really felt like a true progression point for me in terms of applying some previous and critical lessons learned against some decent training base. I ran in the Sweet H20 50K on 4 April, so Ouachita was my 2nd major event in 2 weeks, and third ultra in 2010 going back to 1 February. The main point I re-learned, and feel like I finally applied at Ouachita for the first time I think, is that a runner has to be prepared to take what the trail gives them when the trail dictates. Every trail event is obviously different, even in terms of running an out and back on the same trail. Runners, especially non-elite runners, are only going to be able to move fast and capitalize on certain areas of every trail and are going to have to slow down on the trickier, more challenging technical areas no matter where these areas manifest themselves.
      Plainly speaking, the front half of the 50K portion was much more difficult than the back half at Ouachita. At least it seemed that way to me. The race started promptly on the Lake Maumelle access road in front of Pavilion 8 at 0600. I started exactly in the very back of the entire group of runners as I do in every event; for some murky un-defined personal reason, I just like to start every race at the very rear of the formation and then try to work my way forward as the event unfolds. The day started breaking as we covered the first 2.75 miles of access roads into the park, to the point where it was full daylight when I personally hit the Ouachita Trail at the 2.75-mile point of the event. This is one of the main reasons I really enjoy using my Forerunner 305. I understand all the counter-points a lot of runners seems to make about exact GPS accuracy; GPS are not exact. But, for my purposes, my Forerunner is plenty close enough for what I want out of it, and in this example, I knew when I eventually came back off the trail, I would have 2.75 miless of smooth, mostly down-hill asphalt between me and the finish line.

      Ouachita Trail reminded me off a couple other ultra events in New York, the Wakely Dam and the Escarpment Trail Run (ETR). Granted, ETR is not an ultra, as it is “only” 30 kilometers, but more to follow on that. Ouachita reminded me of Wakely specifically because Wakely runs almost exclusively on the Norville-Placid Trail (NPT) in the Adirondacks. While the 32-mile Wakely stretch of the NPT does not have any of the giant up and down that Pinnacle Mountain provided, NPT is just really hard to run on because it is so full of rocks, roots, and generally is up and down. Ouachita was like that all the way out to the North-Shore Aid Station turnaround point. As soon as you enter at the Trail access point, the first 10 to 12 miles out towards North-Shore, except for the stretch right along the edge of Lake Maumelle, require you to run up and down small ridge lines made up mostly by rocks that you want to run through, but you have to be more than just a little cautious in.
      Pinnacle Mountain really reminded me of Escarpment Trail. That’s a point to point 30K where you cross 6 peaks in the Catskills above 3000 feet. Runners are forced to start climbing Pinnacle Mountain at around 4.75 miles and in less than a quarter of a mile, you hit the boulder field and are pretty much reduced to pulling yourself hand to foot to the top of Pinnacle. That was very reminiscent of Blackhead and Stoppel Mountains in the ETR. While Pinnacle was not as high, the trail piece was very steep, even coming down the backside. All in all, it probably took me longer to come down than ascend. The view from atop Pinnacle was outstanding in every direction; coupled with a nice cool breeze up there, it was pretty refreshing. It was also a little mentally and physically sobering to have expended what felt like so much effort once I reached the trailhead parking lot again at only 5.5 miles into the race.

Starting the Pinnacle Ascent

Downward view of Pinnacle Boulder-Field

Heading down the bckside of Pinnacle; slow going

      Once off of Pinnacle, we re-entered the Trail for a short section before we came out of the wood-line, crossed Route 113 and ran on that for just about a mile or so before re-acquiring the trail again on the west side of the highway. There was a very flat, run-able, single-track 1.5 to 2 mile stretch of trail right along the near edge of Lake Maumelle, until we edged into the woods away from the lake. The Trail was mostly technical though, from the point where we crossed the highway and re-entered the trail, until at least the aid station at the 15 mile point. Most of the time, runners were either moving uphill or downhill, up one small ridgeline, down the backside and through the bottom of the draw and then back up another gradual or steep ridge. And, on the “out” portion of the run, I swear it felt to me like when we were moving uphill, the trail was nice and smooth, albeit uphill, and on the downside once I would crest a ridge and headed downhill, rocks, rocks and more rocks. I never fell, but really almost rolled both ankles a couple times and started to really work at maintaining a slow steady pace. My reasoning was that since the down-hills all just looked like rocks to me I was more tired than I thought I was coming off of Pinnacle that early in the event.
       I hit the aid station somewhere one mile shy of the separation point of the 50K and 50M courses and the whole event started to take a strangely foreign, albeit good turn for me. I had already decided that I was not running the 50 miler, so I moved through that aid station, read the information sign and knew I was less than 2 miles to North Station and turning around for the Finish line. The trail really flattened and smoothed out leaving that aid station and continued in that manner at the 50K-50M fork and through the winding turns that lead into the North Shore aid station. There were some hills and there were some rocks but all in all a very run-able section of the course. I hit North-Shore, right at 17 miles into the course at a pretty slow point in time, maybe right at 4 hours into the event. That seemed a little discouraging upon first, but after some reflection over a cup of coke, I developed some positive thoughts. I did not have to go back over Pinnacle, and therefore, North-Shore was well over the half-way point. While I was slow getting to that main turnaround, I felt pretty good, especially from the point of clearing the previous aid station forward. I decided that I would push as hard as I possibly could at every point, rocks or no rocks, in an attempt to reach the finish line under 7 hours.
      Things really picked up and went smoothly from North-Shore, and really, the aid station before North Shore for me throughout the back half of the course. That’s the “strange” or “foreign” point of this whole event for me. I always try to get to every finish line as hard or fast as I possibly can, and I did that in this event from the start as well. Usually, I finish every event struggling from point to point over the final 10 miles; I’ll run as far as I can, and be reduced to walking, pick up the running, then walk some more until I can run again. I’ve even “built” in “run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute” game plans and other course of actions to get through the last 25% of most events. I’ve improved in every event, but that’s generally the way things tend to work. That’s exactly how SweetH20 had gone two weeks prior to Ouachita; I ran a much stronger first half than second. Gravity just seemed a lot stronger from Mile 20 forward.
        I literally was able to run the entire second half of the Ouachita course from the point where I cleared the aid station around Mile 15, except for the hills that were just too steep for me to run. It was awesome.
My best description, again, this is a strange and unknown area for me, is that the whole second half just went great. For whatever reason, the Trail’s technical construction was just a lot easier to run moving towards the finish line; the really rocky portions headed back were almost all on the uphill sides of ridgelines, or at least it seemed that way to me. I was really able to get some real downhill running into the course on the way back without tripping and falling all over myself, as it seemed headed out. Every aid station was manned by wonderful people, fully stocked, and exactly where the team in the last station said they were. I did not linger in any station; I’d drink a cup of coke, make sure my Nathan had at least 1 liter of water, thank the team and move out with a peanut butter & jelly triangle.
       I made what felt like a conscious effort to push the trail the whole way as opposed to previous events where the trail pretty much dictated terms. I would push through the tough uphill sections until gravity started working for me and then just consciously pick up the pace again. This worked pretty well and I caught a bunch of racers, or it seemed like I did. I did have a couple of challenging points. I hit a tough point somewhere around Mile 25. I had been moving pretty well along the near trail edge to Lake Maumelle and had crossed back over Route 113 for that 1 mile stretch. I was really sucking wind once I picked the Trail back up into the wood-line and started heading up the steep ridgeline between 113 and Pinnacle Mountain. One young lady, #90-Melanie Baden I believe, went past me going up that hill like I was standing still, like she had only just started running and I had been running for 6 hours. Come to think of it, I might have been standing still….I forced myself to drink a lot of water, consumed my last gel pack and an S-cap or two and pushed forward until I recovered shortly.
      I was moving pretty well again, when I made a boneheaded navigational error, or more specifically a non-error that cost me about 10 minutes worth of time in my estimation. I broke over the ridge and cleared the woods around the side of Pinnacle, and skirted the Pinnacle access parking lot, and one of two last sections of woods prior to the 2.75 miles of asphalt access road. I knew there was about three quarters of a mile of woods, followed by a hardball road the trail would cross, followed by a last steep ridge trail that spilled onto the access road. I worked through the single trail piece, and hit the firebreak trail and literally ran a beautiful stretch of wide smooth 1/2 to 3/4-mile firebreak trail as hard as I could run it downhill all the way to the asphalt road, which was great. Except when I discovered I had missed the right turn in the woods.
While running down the firebreak, I missed the point of the trail where I was supposed to turn off the firebreak, turn up hill, and follow the steep single trail where it crossed the asphalt road and ran up through the woods to Access road. When I mistakenly hit the asphalt road, I didn’t even know if I was uphill or downhill in terms of directions from the trail; I just knew I missed the turn, so I turned around, ran back the way I’d just come, uphill this time, nice, and found the little tiny turn-off I slept through five minutes earlier.
      I hit the access road about 8 minutes after correcting my navigation error, and it was just as I remembered; 2.7 miles of smooth, mostly downhill asphalt. I was able to maintain somewhere around an 8 to 8:30 pace over that last stretch and caught up to some folks that had passed me when I missed the turn and had to re-acquire the trail in the woods. The access road seemed longer, of course, than it had 7 hours earlier but there were several runners on the road ahead of me; trying to catch them made the last couple miles go by faster.
      Ouachita was a great, fun event, filled with local runners that all have a history together around this event. A big group of them all set up camp chairs right at the finish line, opened a beverage or two and greeted every runner as they came into the Pavilion 8 finish line. There was a lot of great food, family members and children, and even a llama (or maybe a large alpaca) in a paddock across the road watching the event. I heartily recommend Ouachita Trail 50 as a “must do” event to anyone that can build this race into their schedule. As mentioned, I re-learned a lot about tactical patience and execution attending this race, and spent some significant travel effort getting there from Augusta, Georgia and it was well worth the effort.
Ouachita Trail 50 Finish Line

Tim Hardy
25 April 2010

Neighboring Spectators

Made Pinnacle!
View West from MT Pinnacle

Monday, April 5, 2010

440 Minutes at the SweetH20 50KM Trail Race

440 Minutes at the SweetH20 50KM Trail Race
Saturday April 4, 2010
This is one average runner’s experience at the SweetH20 50KM trail race on Saturday, 3 April, in Sweetwater Creek State Park, west of Atlanta, Georgia. Simply put, Race Director John Buice and his team put on a great event that I highly recommend to any looking for a real challenge at the 50 Kilometer distance.

“EPIC.” That was my thought as I crossed the finished line at the 7:20:21 mark, 440 minutes after the 0730 start. This was only my seventh 50KM and eleventh or twelfth ultra-marathon event; I’ll readily admit that in terms of ultra-marathons, the 50KM distance might not be readily or best described in terms of “EPIC.” Let’s face it, we’re talking about a sport with event distances of 50K, 50-100 miles and longer. But, that said, if a 50K race can be “epic” event, SweetH20 fits that handle.
Don’t be fooled by the “Sweet” part of the title, it’s the H20 and all the water on the 2-lap format course that makes this event extra challenging. You run through the spillway at the end of the lake twice; you rope down in, run through the water for 60+ feet, and then climb a rope back out; you cross two or three smaller creeks two times on the course, and then you have the actual rope bridge crossing of Sweetwater Creek itself at mile 17.25 on the course. You grab a rope bridge and pull yourself across at least 150 feet of fast moving river, run a 2.5 mile loop on the far side, and comeback across the rope bridge a second time. I’m an average 5’9” dude and the water hit waist high for me in at least 3 places. You also run on almost every type of surface; some asphalt road, two-lane trail, firebreak roads and some really technical, single track trail all over the course that included everything from beach sand, rock surface, roots, everything you could want to run off-road on. Lastly, The Top of the World, (TOTW) and the route into and off of TOTW pushes this 50K, in my humble estimation to the extremely challenging 50K category.

VITAL STATISTICS. These are just based on my review of the website, information received at the course, and intuitive, dynamic insight:
Temperature: I heard it hit 88 degrees on the course; I believe that.
Distance: 32Miles+/-. I wore my Garmin Forerunner 305 the entire way. I had almost exactly 32 miles when I crossed the finish line. I compared notes with almost everyone that I saw after the Race wearing some type of GPS and everyone had 32+ miles to 33 on their GPS; most were closer to 33KM. Bottom line is that every runner got their full 50K’s worth of distance in this event. Mr. Buice was pleased to hear that.
200 Runners signed up; I believe that was the statistic I heard.
Top Finishers: Males
1. JENN RINDERLE ATLANTA, GA F 36 5:51:33 7th Overall
3. SALLY BROOKING MARIETTA, GA F 53 6:07:13 16th Overall

155. Total Finishers; 124 Males; 31 Females
17. Age- Youngest Finisher: Mr. Alex Thomas Ryan. I spoke to young Mr.
Ryan and his father after the Event and basically told them how
impressed I was that he finished that event, his 1st ultra, at the
age of seventeen. I spent some time on the trail with him and he
showed a lot of heart out there.
67. Age of oldest finisher.
12. Number of different states represented at the finish line, with
the further being South Dakota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and
New York
37-40? Average age for all finishers looks to be in the high 30s to early
40s; I’m not going to do that math though….
7! Number of major hill climbs to the best of my recollection in
route to and off of the Top of the World per lap. Nice.
26.2. By my Garmin, I was right around 26.2 miles into the event when I
finally reached the TOTW for the second time on lap 2.
17.25. Mileage at the 1st Sweetwater creek rope bridge crossing.
20. Mileage coming back across the rope bridge at Sweetwater Creek
8. Outstanding aid stations on the course. I still am constantly
amazed at the volunteers in every ultra I’ve participated in and
SweetH20 was no exception. Not only were the aid stations full of
great people volunteering their time, these were well stocked with
everything from Gatorade to Water to soda in some; snacks of all
sorts and even S-Caps in multiple stations.
64. I finished 64th overall. 51 males and 12 females finished ahead
of me; 10 people my age or older finished ahead of me.
440. Total number of minutes I was on this very tough course. That’s
the longest I’ve taken to finish any 50K except the Wakely Damn
50K which is a point to point, unsupported in the Adirondack
3. Total number of times I filled and finished my 1.5 liter Nathan
2.0 water blivet I had on my back.
9. Total number of S-Caps consumed during the race
1. Total number of falls I had on the course. Ironically, I was 20
feet from finishing my second crossing on the rope bridge across
the creek. Slipped and went in up to my neck in the same spot I
watched the guy crossing in front of me fall; nice and refreshing.

EXECUTION NOTES: The race started promptly at 0730 on the main road in the Sweet Creek State Park with the firing of a Civil War-era cannon by some Civil War Re-Enactment specialists, which I thought was a nice, unique touch.

The 2-lap course follows an almost figure-8 format that flows out around the northern perimeter of the park along the entry road for almost 2 miles and then ties into the park’s single-track trail system. Once you cross the spillway around mile 3.5 or so, you run along some terrific single track on the edge of Sweet Creek to the south end of the park.

Sweet Water Creek, really, is an impressively scenic river with a lot of rock formation and shore line availability that makes it worth a trip just to visit for any reason. There were a lot of non-racers out there but it was not packed.

Once you reach the bottom edge of the trail system, you run a long some wider, built and lined trails for a couple miles until you leave the park’s edge. You tie into a firebreak road system that eventually takes you to the Top of the World after traveling a combination of firebreaks and trail for two to two-and-a-half miles along a power line. This is a series of pretty significant up and down, very steep hill terrain. You’re right around 8 miles into the first lap of the race when you hit this, and finally hit the TOTW plateau for the first time around mile 10-10.5. You can clearly see Atlanta behind you to the east-northeast as you move across the plateau on to the firebreak Aid Station 4/7. You travel about 1 mile of an out and back from TOTW, to AS 4/7 as a check point, and then turn around and head back into the park.

Leaving TOTW, you route back out through a shorter section of the same ridgelines, down, up, down, up, down, until you re-intersect the trail along the Creek. You re-trace your steps to a water station, where you end up forking to the left back towards the heart of the park, 5 miles hence. I ran the entire first lap, which showed right at 15 miles on my Foreunner, in 2:50. So, by the completion of the first lap, I knew I was slow and that the entire course was going to be around 33miles, because lap 2 holds the water crossing with another 2.5 mile lap on the far side of the creek. I mentally prepared myself for running that extra distance, and that’s a point having the Garmin really helped me as far as having an overall predicted knowledge for the course without having to think too hard about it.

The second and final lap was very challenging. I was not over-trained for this event by any stretch, and TOTW on lap 1 took a lot out of me just to start with. Crossing the river at mile 17 and again at mile 20 provided a little refreshment and some lessons learned. The water was moving pretty strongly, and you really couldn’t see any footing; this caused a lot of tripping for almost everyone involved, yours truly included even though I was very focused on the guy ahead of me. I fell where he fell. My Forerunner survived the dunking and I was happy with that after I went in completely on my right side; fortunately, my Walkman was on my left upper arm and only my upper left side remained out of the water. My legs felt slow and heavy leaving the water on both sides of the creek.

It was significant emotional moment when I reached the TOTW plateau for a second time at about 6 hours into the event after 26+ miles of travel; I finally worked my way down to Aid Station 7 which proved to be my longest stop for the entire Ultra as I was at 7 a solid five minutes.
One of my lessons re-learned was that I still have stick points I have to work through no matter what the event is, around Miles, 18-19, again at 23-24, 27-28, etc. In other words, out past 3 hours, I move through good points and tough points and try to make do as best I can during the tougher parts. I’m still learning what the best course of action is for me personally to re-fuel during the race. I used a lot of S-Caps, several Gel packs and a lot of water during this race with some improved effects from my last two events. More to develop on this.

I broke the cardinal ultramarathon rule of never doing anything for a 1st time at SweetH20. I picked up a Nathan Hydration 2.0 hydration system and some Injinji socks a Big Peach Running store on the way out to Lithina Springs on Friday night. Although I've trained a lot using Camelbaks. I'd never worn the Nathan or Injinji socks before the start of the Race Saturday. I was quite pleased with both.

Great post race dinner. These are always good, but this one seemed to exceed the standard. The race finishes uphill, yes uphill, and each runner comes through the finish line to where those already finished are all directly assembled, and hanging together as a group. There was a lot of camaraderie assembled there, especially among those who have finished this race a couple times now. It was nice to be a part of that even if it took 440 minutes to get there….

Racers all receive a micro-fiber t-shirt as part of their packet. Race finishers received a cool high-tech SweetH20 50K which I really thought was terrific. I’m now a ball-cap guy.

Again, thanks to Mr. Buice (hope I’m spelling that correctly) and his team for putting on a challenging, extremely well-planned and executed event. I highly recommend this 50K to anyone thinking about running a spring 50K anywhere in the southeastern United States.

Tim Hardy
5 April 2-10

Lost Arrowhead

Lost Arrowhead
On Wednesday, 3 February, at approximately 0100, I withdrew from the Arrowhead 135 Ultra. I was just shy of mile 102 on the course, 31 to 33 miles from the finish line, and 11 miles from the third and final Checkpoint, Wakemup Tipi, at mile 112. I’d been on the course for the previous 42 hours to include time spent at Checkpoints 1 and 2. Here’s my race report and some analysis from just one average runner’s perspective on the 2010 Arrowhead 135.
The Arrowhead 135 Winter Ultra is a point-to-point event originating for the first time this year inside International Falls city limits at the Blue Ox Trailhead outside the Kerry Arena. The course is contained almost exclusively on Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) state snowmobile trails. After running south out of International Falls for approximately 9.5 miles on the Blue Ox Trail, racers acquire and maintain the Arrowhead Trail route east-southeast and then south through the Voyage National Forest all the way to Fortune Bay Casino in Tower, Minnesota. The entire race covers 133 miles. Pierre and Cheryl Ostor, husband and wife Race Director Team, put together and extremely well organized and maintained event especially considering the distance and extreme-weather aspects of the race and environment. From the pre-race equipment weigh-in, pre-race brief and dinner and throughout the length of the event, it seemed to this participant that there was good command and control throughout, from availability of snowmobile teams running the route and the volunteers at the 3 checkpoints out on the course. Arrowhead 135 has 3 distinct racer categories; Bike, Cross- Country skiing and Foot. All racers have 60 hours to reach Fortune Bay casino and complete the course. The only existing cut off that I’m aware of was that all Foot division runners have to leave MelGeorges Resort at Mile 72 no later than 1500/ 3PM on Day 2, or there simply is not enough time remaining to complete the remaining 60 miles of the course prior to 1900/7PM, Hour 60.
Travel. It took me three days of significant driving in order to travel the 1500 or so miles from Carthage, NY to International Falls, MN by vehicle. 3 days to return as well.
Pre-Race Equipment Check. All racers are required to carry a minimum of 15 lbs of survival equipment with them at all times on the course, and herein lies the true challenge in this event, sustaining oneself against the elements for 130+ miles without overheating, while having the necessary extra gear with you to react to the changes in the weather and environment. I spent a lot of time at the Pre-race check in gleaning all the course information I could, checking out other racers’ gear, just trying to become smarter about the event. Anton Oveson, Pierre and some veteran winter racers at the gear check were great sources of information about the overall event and area and seemed willing to spend as much time talking to an event newbie like me for as long as I wanted to talk to them. I also met Ed Bouffard at the Pre-race check as he was on hand with some Ed’s Wilderness Systems company equipment set up. It was good to met him in person after ordering my sled from him online and this is where I found out 17 different racers were starting Arrowhead with Ed’s Wilderness System sleds.
Here is the mandatory equipment (as stated directly on the Arrowhead website) : Minus-20F degrees sleeping bag or colder rating; Insulated sleeping pad; Bivy sack or tent (space blankets do not count); Firestarter (matches or lighter); Stove to heat water; 8 fl. oz. fuel at ALL times (either white gas, alcohol or 2 canisters of propane/butane 100 g. each or 12 Esbit tablets); Pot (min. volume is 1 pint); 2-qt (64 fl. oz.) or just under 2 liters, insulated water container (the weight of water is not counted in the minimum weight); Headlamp or flashlight; 3 Flashing red LED lights, both on front and back of sled or bike (or on backpack if skier). Also, the DNR requires that everyone have at least 10 square inches of reflective material on front and back of the person for this race. Whistle on string around neck to call for help. 1-day of food at ALL times (3000 calories) (tip: a pound of butter or jar of peanut bar is about 3200 calories); 15 lbs of gear at ALL times. Additionally, I started the race with pliers, a multi-screwdriver, extra matches, and second headlamp; 12-15 feet of 550 cord, duct tape, hygiene equipment, 4 pairs of extra socks; stowed extra cold-weather gear including heavy snowmobile gloves, a heavy hooded sweatshirt; long john pants and shirt; my Forerunner 305 charger; my camera; 5 lbs of trail mix; 1 jar of peanut butter; 1 MRE and of course, my Camelbak with a 64 ounce blivet. My mandatory gear weighed 23 lbs at the weight in. Altogether, my sled weighed, conservatively in my estimation, at least 36 lbs, up to 40. Too much, but I just didn’t know what I was going to need over the duration of two nights on the trail.
Uniform. My intent was to wear as a little as possible to avoid sweating and overheating. I’ve spent the last 3 years in northern New York on FT Drum and there’s always a tendency to wear too much clothes because you’re just plain cold prior to running. Then, you almost immediately start sweating too much and realize you’ve got too much on. I wanted to avoid that without freezing at the same time. I wore heavy, lined nylon running pants, with thick shorts underneath; just 1 long pair of wool socks, my Asolo Reactor trail shoes, a long-sleeve light-weight Polar-Tec shirt, long sleeve t-shirt and a lightweight but lined nylon hooded windbreaker, some great thinsulate gloves that I picked up at ACE Hardware and was quite pleased with throughout; a poly-pro watch-cap along with a polypro head-neck balaclava. I also carried a thin pair of gloves and a neck-up to don against increasing cold; my Walkman, the first time I’ve used a Walkman of any sort in 20 ultra or marathon events; I had my new Yaktrax on directly over my Asolos. I didn’t train with the Yaktrax too much as I only had them for a couple weeks but after making some adjustments during the race, I really like the Yaktrax. My ski-snowshoe poles pretty much rounded out my ensemble.
II. EXECUTION. My individual intent was the same as in every event I’ve entered: get to the finish line in the shortest possible time. Overall, given the terrain and distance, I planned to maintain 20 minute-miles, or better for the entire distance of the event. Coupling that with 4-6 hours of total rest, I felt I could complete the entire event within 54-56 hours if I could maintain 3-3.5 miles per hour while taking in enough sustenance and re-hydration to keep moving forward. Ultimately, I just failed to Re-Set myself enough during the race.
International Falls to Check Point 1 at Gateway Store, Mile 36. Ultimately, over the history of the 6 years that Arrowhead Ultra, the 2010 iteration enjoyed probably the best weather in comparison to the previous 5 years of the event. I asked Pierre if he thought that was true on Wednesday morning and he felt that was the case. That said, the ambient air temperature hovered close to -20 degrees around 0615 on 1 FEB for the start of the event at 0700, and remained below zero until later in the morning once the sun was finally up. All racers checked in, inside, at Kerry Arena, got their final gear preparations completed and tried to stay warm until we all started as a group at 0700. It was too dark and too cold for any group pictures; someone quietly said go and we all just trailed out in a long line that extended from the start line into the Kerry Arena parking lot, and headed south on the Blue Ox Trail. The defacto order of march started mostly in a bikes, skier, foot break-down of groups. A total of 102 racers started; 52 on mountain bikes, 45 on foot, and 5 of skis.
After all the training, planning, traveling, and race-related anxieties, it was a relief to finally be underway, just as it seems to be every time I participate in an ultra or marathon of any sort. I had spent as much time as I could training with my sled from the point where I re-deployed in mid-December until the race, but even coupled with all the physical training and training while deployed, it was just a relief to finally be moving. The Blue Ox trail ran for just about exactly 9.5 miles south until it intersected the Arrowhead Trail’s easterly inception and I spent those 3 hours or so really getting comfortable moving with the sled at 15-16 minute per mile road-march pace. The sled didn’t provide as much drag as I initially thought it was going to, or as much as it seemed to when I was training with it on cross-country skis in December and January; but it was still too heavy to run comfortably with for any distance at better than a 14 minute per mile pace unless I was going strictly downhill or down-grade. That didn’t overly concern me at the time. 60 hours is a long time and the 15-16-17 minute mile pace was more than comfortable enough throughout the morning and into the afternoon as we all moved toward Gateway Store at Mile 36. Basically, most of the entire 1st leg was mostly flat with long straight stretches of trail until at least somewhere around mile 28 or so where you start to encounter some more hilly terrain.
Arrowhead is truly an epic event. As part of the Badwater World Cup, Arrowhead is also the biggest, longest event I’ve entered, both in terms of distance and time required spent in pursuit of the finish line, and each leg between checkpoints truly represents the overall length of the course. It’s 36 miles to Checkpoint 1, Gateway Store; from there, it’s another 35-36 mile leg to Checkpoint 2 at MelGeorges Resort on Elephant Lake which places you at just about mile 72 in the race. Leg 3 to Checkpoint 3 at the Wakemup Tipi is 41 miles, placed at Mile 112 in overall duration. From Wakemup Tipi, racers have approximately 21 miles or so to the finish line at Fortune Bay Casino.
Given the overall length between checkpoints and duration of the event, I purposely forced myself not to focus too much on times on hard goals to Checkpoint 1, checkpoint 2, etc. Moving over 50 kilometers between checkpoints or aid stations is a long way to travel, and I have an individual tendency during ultras to “over-think” times and distances and end up spending a huge portion of any event worrying about overall finish time and things of that nature. It’s kind of like the old UNICEF television commercials, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” shortened to “A mind is a terrible thing” when your mind is spending most of its time crunching time and distance numbers during time out on the course. I really wanted to avoid that throughout Arrowhead and I spent the first leg just shutting those types of thoughts off with the focus that my mind was too little to be out wandering around on its own during an event as big as Arrowhead. That seemed to work pretty well for me, coupled with the fact I had my Forerunner 305 as well. So that’s how the first leg went to Gateway store. I settled into a pretty comfortable pace, around 15 to 16 miles per hour and just kept moving. I had started with my poles but stowed them in my sled around mile 15 or so. Everyone had their own pace and plan, and coupled with the fairly flat terrain we seemed to pass each other as one racer or another would stop for adjustments, food, etc , I would then catch up and then they would pass me as I stopped for a couple minutes for whatever reason. Anton showed up at several points of the course on Leg one on his snowmobile at the Blue Ox-Arrowhead intersection, just prior to crossing RTE 53 around mile 17 and again at the shelter at mile 24 at the junction where Arrowhead turns abruptly south. The trail was enormous, well-marked, and easy to follow and I never had issues or questions or any doubts about the direction of the course, but it was good through Day 1 to see Anton out there.
My biggest challenge that manifested itself during the first leg was re-hydration. As stated, we had outstanding conditions, but even with the constant sunshine and little wind, I don’t think the temperature ever exceeded 8-10 degrees on Day 1, and it took a long time for me to get my Camelback operational just due to the fact that it kept freezing up. Apparently, everyone with a Camelbak experienced this no matter what techniques or tactics they used to keep their Camelbak line from freezing. There was one guy on foot that had an extremely thick piece of foam-looking insulation around his line, and apparently that froze up too. (I forget the gentlemen’s name.) I finally resolved my situation be tucking my line in all the way inside my jacket between the Camelback and against my last t-shirt layer, but that wasn’t enough either. The line itself quit freezing but I had to actually thaw out the line juncture at the base of the Camelbak as that had frozen completely even with the Camelback under my jacket for the duration. I resolved that by extracting the 64-ounce blivet, and spinning that around so the cover, line junction and line were facing into my back and that technique finally enabled me to have a clear, un-frozen Camelbak for the rest of the event. I had enough layers on so the juncture didn’t cause too much discomfort, but this went on for most of the daylight hours on Day 1.The Camelbak was frozen and I basically moved until Mile 24 without any water until I resolved the whole situation. It wasn’t that big a deal though as I wasn’t sweating, and once unfrozen, I drank both liters of water before arriving at Gateway which was my plan anyway.
I also had 50 ounces or so of Gatorade in my sled as I like it and train with it, and because I had hoped the higher salt content would keep those from freezing as well. Not so much; both froze solid for the duration of the event and really only maintained any use as something solid to throw in the event of a wolf encounter. In a “be careful what you wish for” scenario, I actually hoped to see a wolf as I’ve never seen one in the wild before. Apparently several of the supporting snowmobilers did, but I did not. I heard wolves, I assume, yipping in the woods on both nights on the course at a couple points when I stopped moving. Your sled accompanies you with a constant, consisting shushing noise that kind of drowns out most other peripheral sounds, but stopping a couple times on night 1 and night 2 enabled me to hear what I was sure were younger wolves yipping in the wood-line at a distance. I know dogs and these weren’t dogs and we weren’t even remotely close to any roads or vestiges of civilization in either instance. I didn’t hope to see any wolves at night either. I had a running joke with my wife though, that if I did see any wolves I was going to bring a male and female pup back with me and re-introduce them into the wild in northern New York. Stray dogs tend to find me; that’s why we have six. No wolves though. Probably a good thing…
A few miles out from Gateway, the trail started to take on a more hilly constitution in a pre-cursor of things to come That added some time and work in closing out the final 4-5 miles getting to Gateway Store; it was still light but getting dark when I arrived around 1800 or so, and the temperature was really starting to drop. You have to follow a connector trail about a quarter mile down from Arrowhead through the woods to check in at Gateway, and as I arrived there were already 12-15 different sleds of multiple varieties, all with the red-flashing lights welcoming me into the checkpoint. It was just nice to see after 36 initial miles on the trail. There was one gentleman volunteer outside that checked racers into Gateway and back onto the course. I never caught his name, but was yet again amazed by the volunteers, as I have been in each of the 10-12 ultras I’ve entered in the past 2-3 years, and Arrowhead is no exception. In fact, just the extreme elements at Arrowhead underline the fact that the volunteers there are really special people committed to providing the race and racers with the necessary mechanics and chemistry needed to make the event work. Arrowhead is just really cold; I’ve lived and worked (when not deployed) at FT Drum, NY, two hours north of Syracuse, NY and in the same conditions, so I’m no stranger to the cold. It was already below zero again when I arrived at Gateway, and here’s this guy checking me into the store, outside, efficiently, asking me how I’m doing, if I need anything, just like Anton had done three times out on the course. I remember that Anton was calmly running in a circle to stay warm at the intersection of Blue Ox and Arrowhead with his sled off to the slide of the trail as he made sure each racer made the left turn onto Arrowhead at Mile 9.5 early on Day 1.
Gateway Store. Gateway Store is now my favorite country convenience store anywhere in the world and I relayed that sentiment to the owner-operators before I left. There were a lot of racers already inside when I arrived. I maintained my SOP for all aid station visits in any ultra and ate everything I could get my hands on. I bought soup, 2 hot dogs, chips, a coke, 2 large coffees and a few other things as well. The owners offered to dry whatever part of your racing gear you wanted and I took advantage of that, drying my jacket and a shirt. I also recharged my Forerunner 305 which probably led me to stay at Gateway longer than I planned after arriving between 530 to 6PM. I really prefer to have an operational GPS as that removes almost all doubt of distances on the course and all inherent psychological guess work. I didn’t make a lot of adjustments, just a couple smaller, important ones. I added my heavy hooded sweatshirt under my jacket but over my Camelbak. That helped keep me warm and too maintain the C-Bak as well. My feet were very sore by the time I hit Gateway, but not due to blisters. My YakTrax, were great as far as providing traction, but were making my feet very sore. Using a technique I found on the Arrowhead website, I pulled an ankle sock over the outside forefoot of each trail shoe and then held them in place with the Yaktrax. This worked great. Not only did the external sock provide some layered cushioning and alleviate the direct pressure points on the bottom of my foot due to the Yaktrax, I now also had another layer of insulation against the weather on my feet. The last thing that happened at Gateway was that a fellow racer, Blair Anderson, and I decided to buddy-team from Gateway to MelGeorges. He and I had been leap-frogging each other all day during Leg 1 as we were basically moving at around the same pace, and Blair’s suggestion just made a lot of sense. It was completely dark as we checked out and started moving around 730PM.
Checkpoint 1 at Gateway Store, (Mile 36) to Checkpoint 2 at MelGeorges Resort (Mile 72). The terrain coupled as an all-night movement made the 36 miles to MelGeorges a pretty challenging leg. I was glad that Blair had made the suggestion to execute together throughout the entire duration. As we chatted and got to know each other a little over the first few miles leaving Gateway, the terrain changed from mostly flat to mostly small hills and ridges, just as Anton had briefed in the Pre-race briefing and at the Equipment check in on Sunday. There were only a couple of ridgelines of ½ to ¾ mile ascents that we climbed up over; it was mostly small, steep hill after small, steep hill after small steep hill. We’d haul our sled uphill for about 3-5 minutes and then outrun the sled down the backside of the hill time after time after time. It turns out that I used my dominate foot, my right foot, for most of my downhill breaking and I surmise that this led to the only blister I developed in the whole event; just a surface blister that pretty much covered a 1.5 to 3 inch wide area on the ball of my foot. I also rolled my right ankle running downhill at one point around 3AM and again around 6AM.
As predicted in weather reports, the temperature really dropped between 0200 and 0300, probably somewhere close to -20. I had called my wife at home much earlier during Leg 2 when I had cell coverage; when we made a quick stop around 0330 just past Shelter 5, it was just a lot colder as I was futzing around in my sled without a glove on than it was a 1030 when I had taken my glove off to call Lisa. That was one of the main reasons Blair and I made very little stops. We passed several racers off the trail at shelter 4 around the fire about 9.5 miles out from Gateway and several more in sleeping bags at Shelter 5 about 10 miles out from MelGeorges, but we just kept moving on. We were making good, consistent time at around a 17 minute pace, and just wanted to get to Checkpoint 2. The trek really started to stretch out after about 0300, and I was indeed fortunate to be moving with Blair, because he kept up a consistent pace the whole length into Elephant Lake. I did my level best just to draft along behind him. We only saw a couple other racers after 0330 until we finally reached the cabin at Checkpoint 2.
It was still dark when we hit the east end of Elephant Lake around 0645 but it was starting to get light out. Psychologically, the two-plus miles of movement across to the west end of Elephant Lake and MelGeorges Resort seemed to be the longest part of the trip and it was broad daylight when we finally pulled in at about 0730. All in all, I had hoped to make MelGeorges in 24 hours by 0700, so I was both pretty pleased and a little surprised to be there at 0730, but I was completely smoked at that point. That was just 71.75 miles into the race according to Garmin.
Checkpoint 2 at MelGeorges Resort. The cabin checkpoint contained about 10-12 other racers when we checked in, with a couple of young lady volunteers offering to make breakfast and offering other food. I was pretty tired of this point. One of the girls asked me if I would like eggs and bacon, or pizza or several other options and my best answer was “yes.” I immediately dozed off in a chair and the arrival of some bacon and eggs awoke me. We took advantage of a pre-race offer from the Navy Academy team, led by two-time finisher Luke Finney, to crash for a couple hours in the team’s cabin next door. I slept for about a total of ninety minutes. All in all, we were back on the trail after some much needed food, short rest and gear adjustments that included another Forerunner 305 re-charge, and back on the connector trail at 1030 AM.
Checkpoint 2 at MelGeorges Resort (Mile 71+) to Individual ENDEX. As we moved out of MelGeorges Resort on the connector trail leading away from the west end of Elephant Lake and back onto the Arrowhead, Day 2 was already shaping up to be a beautiful day. Based against how wiped out I felt pulling into Checkpoint 2 at 0730, I was both pleased and encouraged by how much better I felt and my overall level of recovery after 3 hours or so at MelGeorges once we got back on the trail. I had finished my 64-ounce Camelbak on Leg 1 and again on Leg 2, and had consumed a lot of fluids at both Checkpoints and I didn’t feel dehydrated at all. I’d been steadily consuming the 5 lbs of trail mix and cashews I started the race with and seemingly had plenty to eat at both Checkpoints.
The longest distance I had accomplished in any event prior to Arrowhead had been 73 miles at the Iroquois 100 in September of 2008. Basically, 2 miles beyond MelGeorges was all new territory for me, so to speak. That was motivating and very encouraging setting out from Checkpoint 2.
Once away from the lake itself out off the connector trail and back on Arrowhead, the route immediately resumed the up and down characteristics of almost all of Leg 1 for the first ten kilometers until we crossed the MelGeorges Resort access road. One hill in particular at mile 74+ was distinctly worth mentioning. It resembled a ski slope as it very steeply climbed for over 1/3 of a mile and then leveled out as it climbed for a ways more.
Once across the access road, Arrowhead ran pretty much on a mostly level plane for what seemed like 5-6 miles before the trail starting encountering ridge after ridge again. The weather for all intensive purposes on Day 2 was terrific. The sun came out periodically and the temperature probably hit the high teens to maybe even 20 degrees. I even stowed my windbreaker for a couple hours and trekked in long sleeves. We continued to move along in that leap-frogging pattern as racers would surge past and then pass those same racers again a couple miles up the trail as they paused for whatever purpose. I moved at a slower pace all through Day 2, between 18 to 19 minutes per hour as opposed to 16 or 17 on Day 1, at least until I started to really struggle later that night.
It started getting dark again just after 5PM or so and the temperature continued to drop. I again noticed an interesting weather effect once it was completely dark and the temperature had to be below -10. The moisture in the air crystallized into what looked like miniature snowflakes; on Night 1 when this happened I thought it was snowing at first, but the sky was completely clear. It was just the moisture in the air freezing into miniature ice follicles. I’d never actually seen that effect before. This left a light layer of frost over our outer clothes and equipment as we moved along.
Somewhere after the 92 mile point I really started to struggle; it was probably after 2100 and the overall event had worn me out almost completely at that point. I knew I was true when I rolled my right ankle again for about a 3rd time overall running downhill ahead of the sled when I stepped into a rut. It seemed like almost immediately when I then rolled the left ankle in the same venue. The ankle piece wasn’t a medical consideration factor; I just knew I was pretty tired at that point. Around midnight, I kept having to working to negotiate hills without backsliding and was having just about the same troubles moving downhill. I’d steadily been consuming trail mix, water and even peanut butter straight from the jar but felt like I wasn’t gaining anything back. I took breaks around 98 miles and again at 100 miles but it was so cold it was painful to stop as well. I was sure leaving Checkpoint 2 at MelGeorges that if I could stretch myself and my limits to Checkpoint 3, the Wakemup Tipi, I’d be able to recover from there after some rest and Re-Set, warm up a little and finish the last 23 miles or so over the flat terrain to Fortune Bay. That, at least was my planned intent, but by 100, it was pretty obvious I didn’t have enough left to make it to Checkpoint 3 at Mile 112. At 102 miles, I pulled out my sleeping bag in order to get some sleep, and then keep moving, but after 30 minutes of rest, it was too hard to get moving again.
Sled EXFIL. The support teams on snowmobiles were constantly moving back and forth over the course along with their compatriot who was moving amongst the racers on foot as well. When I made the final decision to drop, a big guy named Craig, I believe, gave me a lift out on a huge snowmobile to include a trailer to carry my sled. Fortunately, he had an extra, heavy duty jacket he lent to me or I would have been a frozen block of ice adhered to the passenger seat in the sled; we were traveling that fast headed out to Tipi. That 11 mile sled trip seemed like a combination of an Olympic downhill loge and Space Mountain at Disney world. That said, I wanted to go faster to get done and off the sled. Dropping was a painful decision, but as we passed several racers still in the course in that 11 mile stretch to Tipi, it was also painfully obvious how far back I had dropped behind several racers I had been moving among earlier, and how challenging most of the terrain still was until just a couple miles out from Tipi. I was even more smoked when we got to Checkpoint; Jim Bodah was still there as I believe he had set up there taking pictures of racers coming through the Checkpoint. Jim gave me a ride into Fortune Bay from Tipi in his van.
Post-Race Notes and Lessons Leaned.
- 102 total racers toed the start line, with 61 finishing the event. 19 of 45 foot division participants completed the course, with Zach Gingerich setting a new course record of 37:59 hours. Eric Johnson came in 2nd this year to go along with his win from last year. 4 of 5 skiers completed the event with Jim Reed coming in first in 52:47. 38 of 52 mountain bikers led by Jeff Oatley in 16:17. Janice Tower of Alaska set a new female bike completion record by finishing in 26:46.
- Pierre and Cheryl are working very hard to grow the Arrowhead Ultra with some good support from International Falls and the Minnesota DNR. The Arrowhead Ultra definitely conforms to the description “Epic” even in a day and age where we tend to lend lofty descriptions to more average undertakings. 131 miles through the National forests in NE Minnesota in the dead of winter; I was amazed by the efforts and physical and mental ability and toughness exhibited by everyone out there.
- I did get to spend some significant time with Pierre Ostor. Pierre gave me a lot of free input and excellent advice on a lot of the challenges and finer points that are necessary in putting together Arrowhead; I was very grateful for that as I intend to RD an Ultra in northern New York after I retire from the Army, and just getting any information from the Race Director of such a challenging and successful event was terrific.
- I met a lot of new people participating in and supporting the race. I had traded email through the Ultralist with both Jim Bodah, from Florida, and Rodrigo Cerqueira, a member of the team from Brazil. As mentioned earlier, Jim had traveled all the way from Florida to volunteer in the event, and it was also impressive to meet people from as far away as Brazil, Alaska and even South Africa running in the event. I also met Ms. Shawn Mason, International Falls Mayor, at the Pre-Race dinner in support of the event.
- The Navy contingent. Pierre relayed to me how difficult it is for 1st timers to complete this event. I met a team of cadets from the Navy Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, put together by Cadet Luke Finney, a senior this year at Annapolis. Luke set a record last year as the youngest person, as yet to finish Arrowhead on foot, and he finished again for the second straight time this year. That’s a tremendously impressive feat well worth noting as very few people have accomplished it regardless of age or ultra experience.
- Training. Ultimately, Arrowhead is still on my “To Do” list, although I think I swore I’d never attempt it again while leaving the course. I still have a lot of weaknesses in Re-Setting and re-sustaining myself during an event longer the 50 miles and that did me in here. I have to continue to develop that. As far as physical training for Arrowhead, I think the following training points will definitely improve anyone’s chances on foot on the Arrowhead Trail: Obviously, lots of running, but also significant amounts of long distance rucking or hiking with a 40lb backpack, especially if you live in an environment where pulling a sled isn’t viable for many months of the year. Rucking is a very viable substitute. In fact, I can’t imagine completely Arrowhead without significant rucking-backpacking training. Weight-room and callisthenic work in major compound movements like lunges, squats and lots of upper-body training will help prevent sled induced breakdown and improve chances. Hill work. Racers cannot do enough hill-type training to be ready for Arrowhead either.

Tim Hardy, Carthage, NY
1 March 2010