An incredible thanks to Pierre and Cheryl Oster who have grown the Arrowhead Ultra event to over a 100 racers in icebox of the US, and mostly of all organized it so well, they had volunteers helping volunteers. Joel Austin came along with me to take photos this year (Joel Finished 12th last year on a 26 inch “skinny bike” and will return next year on either a 29er skinny or a pugs). More photos of his can be found at: JOELSPHOTOS
My race reports are always a bit verbose (guess it’s difficult to condense 24 hour of racing into a paragraph).
The morning started off with -20d F and a minor 10 mph headwind for the first 8 miles. My first mistake was a classic rookie move of not getting my tire pressure dialed in before the race (at Tuscobia it took nearly 15 minutes to get the pressure just right). So for the first hour I stayed with the lead group of 10 but was working way too hard over 90% HR, so knowing that the trails wouldn’t change for at least another 5 hours and at that HR, I would only survive for another hour or two, I had to drop from the group and add about 3 psi to the front and about 5 psi to the back, made a couple clothing adjustments and back off I went (lost about 4 minutes on the group and the benefit of the pace line).
Although I had to ride a bit quicker to make up the 4 minutes, my HR was 10% lower as having the proper pressure now dialed in. Mistake 1 behind me... From there things were going pretty well, good trail conditions, manageable pace. About every 30 minutes I’d pass riders that had dropped from the lead group or had to stop to make gear adjustments. About 3 hours in I saw Dave Pramann (multiple year AHU winner and course record holder) ahead who was fiddling with some clothing changes. The two of us then worked together to close the gap to the remaining 3 of the lead group (Terry Brannick – 2009 AHU winner, Peter Basinger – Iditarod record holder, and Jeff Oatley – RAAM Racer and Iditarod winner) to about 2 minutes by the Gateway store checkpoint. We then finished the deal about 10 miles beyond the checkpoint on a couple of the long climbs.
Dave in his usual style, doesn't like to follow and then took the lead for the next hour, I would move to the front on a couple of the sections where I would amp up the pace a bit, on one climb about 6 hours in a monster climb hit, I punched back kicking it up to a 195 HR (100%) – not bad for over 40 and about 6 hours in. Between Dave and me we had whittled the lead group to the two of us and Jeff Oatley. Terry was having severe issues with numbness of his entire right arm. The three of us worked together until the Melgeorges CP at the halfway checkpoint. Upon setting my bike down I noticed that my headlight had turned itself on!! What a wonderful feature that some imbecile engineer thought would be a good idea – If you plug the light in, it turns itself on, and on HIGH. Estimated run time about 6 hours, it had most likely been on for about 6 hours based on looking at race photos… I believe the plug must have come loose on a rough section and then made contact again or I had pushed it back in (either way this will affect me as night approaches).
Here comes Rookie mistake number two, I had planned for a quick 10 minute in and out, but for a couple of reasons ended up putzing around and chatting at the Melgeorges CP too long and left the checkpoint 20 minutes after Oatley and Basinger, and 10+ minutes behind Pramann. I knew Pramann would attempt to and would most likely catch the Alaskans although the outcome would be for up for grabs at the finish. I thought I might be able to close the distance by the finish as I had paced myself much better than last year, but knew it would be difficult (making up 20+ minutes on those three would put me into a major pain factory! But, I did have much better bivy gear this year if I wouldn’t make it).
Picture of the three leaders comming across the lake (note my light was on...)
Back out on the trail things were still rolling good, and I was pushing the hill sections hard and fast and bombing the downhill’s at an absolute maximum speed knowing that earlier that’s where I was able to gap the group, also I knew my light (even on low), might not make it through the night, so I figured: run hard while there’s still some daylight left. Once dusk was over and I could no longer safely navigate the trail, I turned on my light on low and kept turning out a moderately fast pace.
My sprits improved as I saw the tail lights of the lead group of three ahead, about 5-10 minutes at the most. But within minutes of seeing them, and about an hour of successful night racing, the light went into SOS mode indicating that about 30 seconds of light remained. There I was 40 miles still to go and the only light was the stars. I fashioned my small LED work lights to my aerobars with some duct tape (never leave home without it) and off I went at about half the speed as before and the downhill’s at about 1/4 the speed. The two LED’s were just sufficient to see the trees about 10 feet ahead and could barely make out the leaders tracks immediately in front of me. One advantage of the slower speed was that the rest of the ride was enjoyable and gave me time to “enjoy the stars”. The only exception to the enjoyable finial run in was that the trail had hundreds of small trees that were hanging over the trail due to a recent ice storm and without a light I had about a half second to close my eyes and duck before hitting them, a couple were big enough the nearly knocked my off the bike. I waited at the crescent / teepee check point for about 30 minutes as the moon was going to rise soon and I knew at the pace I was riding that 1st-3rd was no longer attainable.
Unfortunately the additional moonlight didn’t help at all, ether because it was right in front of the trail (like driving into a sunrise) or was shaded by the plethora of pine trees that line the trail. I did catch a glimpse of #70 Dan Dittmer who at the point when I saw his headlight was only about 5 minutes behind, that was enough to kick me in the A$$ to get me moving at a respectable pace again light or no light.
Finished the race at 16 hours, 57 minutes and 23 seconds (just before midnight) – beating my PR by about 6 hours and obtaining my second highly coveted Arrowhead Trophy. Average speed was a whooping 7.9 mph, max speed was a 30.5 mph (may have trouble getting life insurance after that), and a total of 7150 calories burned. Total climbing of 7,012 feet over a distance of 133.99 miles, and an average HR of 151.