Monday, April 5, 2010

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

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Tim. I very much like your style of race reporting where you give details regarding preparation, travel, gear, the course, etc etc... and including lessons learned. This, of course, makes the report an excellent resource for other runners!
    What an interesting race. After the thread on the Ultra-list I began thinking about picking a year for this race and beginning preparation... based on your report I wonder if I'll have to shoot for 2012! I'll look into it more... it may just be a matter of deciding to tackle it and beginning to prepare now. Anyway, I'm going on a bit...
    Again, thanks for the details and especially lessons learned.