Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Riding with my heroes Sorry for the late race report. We've been busy moving and getting settled into the new house. I finally have internet again! Not sure I have too much different to say then all the other reports out there already, but here's my tale. I finally finished the Arrowhead race this year. Third time is a charm I guess. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. By a long shot. The Mangan and I headed up a day early this year on Saturday instead of Sunday. I think that helped calm the nerves, and gave us more time to make last minute changes. There were quite a few early arrivals. We spent a lot of the day checking out everyone's gear and bikes. Rick was like a kid in the candy store, snapping over 500 pictures over the course of the race. Lots of great ideas and gear this year. My favorite was the Epic Designs fat bike bling. I'm definitely getting some of that for next year. Sunday was more of the same. Checking out everyone's bikes and gear, and hanging out with all the interesting characters that make the Arrowhead so much fun. The race started on Monday morning. Charlie and I got to the start right when Dave Pramann and Greg Pattison did. We all started together and had a relatively fast pace line going with Dave P doing the majority of the work. We stayed together for most of the 18 mile out and back. The trail was great on this first section. Once we hit the trail on the other side of the highway, Dave P didn't stop his insane pace until the end of the race. He missed beating his course record by three minutes! Finishing in an impressive 15 hours 48 minutes! I think he should have to do the Arrowhead 270 out and back course next year : ) I was dropped instantly by the others as the trail was pretty soft. It was one of the highlights of my race to ride so fast with those guys. Lots of fun! I decided to slow down and go my own pace. I got to the first checkpoint at the Gateway store and only stayed long enough to have a sandwich and refill my liquids. Not much exciting happened on the trail to the second checkpoint at MelGeorge's Resort. When I got there I was pretty tired. They had a new cabin this year with a bunch of great volunteers offering grilled cheese, spaghetti and burgers. I ate them all and they were spectacular! I tried to relax and sleep a little, but couldn't settle down. Dave Gray was heading out and asked if I wanted to go with. I hesitated, but then decided I would try and get a good chunck of trail out of the way before sun up. It was about 11:00pm when we headed out. We rode together for a good 5 miles. Then Dave stopped to refuel and I kept going. I was surprised that I didn't see his head lights behind me. At about 3:00am I saw a snowmobile coming and stopped to chat. It was a volunteer checking on us. He said there was about 10 miles of hills left, and that there was a rider bivying a couple miles ahead at one of the trailside shelters. I thanked him for the update and headed down the trail. I came up to the shelter and decided to stop and see who was staying there. It was Chemical Ali himself, Charlie Farrow. I asked if he was alright, and he said he was. I thought I would hang out and eat and drink a little before heading back out. I made the mistake of not putting on my down jacket while I ate and chatted. I got cold pretty fast. I had to make a quick decision between getting in my sleeping bag or start riding again to get warm. I chose the sleeping bag. I found a comfy spot right outside the shelter in some snow. I made another mistake of not taking off my wet layers before getting inside. I fell asleep pretty quickly. Dave Gray stopped to check on us. Once he left I couldn't get back to sleep and was pretty cold and wet. I was pretty miserable and kind of worried, but Charlie told me to just do some situps and go to sleep. That worked, and I finally warmed up enough to fall asleep. The sun started to come up, and Charlie said he was going to get going. I layed around a little longer and then got my stuff together and gave chase. Charlie and I rode together until the non stop hills got the best of me and I had to slow down. My neck and shoulder muscles were kiling me. They were sore and falling asleep. Soon the hills ended, and the 20 mile flat section started. I would soon be wishing for the hills. This flat section is never ending and wears on the mind. At least with hills you have to focus on getting up them and then have a fun ride down the other side. My neck and shoulders were really starting to worry me. I've never been in that much pain. A snowmobile came up behind me towards the end. It was Don Clark and Terry Branick I think? I had no idea how much farther I had to go. When they told me 10 miles. I was crushed. I was ready quit right there. I didn't think I could go any further. I wanted to ask for a ride so bad, but Don told me to just get off and walk for a while. Then they took off down the trail with ease. Next year I think I'll buy a snowmobile and volunteer as a support person : ) Just kidding!! I walked for a while. Then I sat down on the side of the trail and sulked. Finally I pulled myself together and started riding again. I was seeing animals and snowmobiles on the trail that weren't there. It was weird. I started talking to myself and kept telling my legs to just ride. I decided to give it all I had and put the hammer down. Pretty soon I saw the sign for Bayview Lodge at the end of the course. Only two miles to go! I climbed one last hill and coasted to the finish cabin. 29 hours and 13 minutes after I started. I was never so happy to be off my bike. I vowed to sell it when I got home. That didn't last very long though. I was greeted by all the other riders that had already finished and the voluteers. I got a photo taken with a Arrowhead trophy, and then had a big plate of spaghetti with Chuck Lindner who finished right after me. Way to finish on your first try Chuck! Very impressive. Hope to see you at Nine Mile and Afton this year! I'm glad to have finally completed this great event, and to have ridden with and met so many wonderful people along the way. Maybe I'll try and walk it next year : ) A big THANK YOU to Pierre and Cheryl Ostor for putting on this great event and making it better and better each year! Another big thanks to all the volunteers! You guys and gals are the best! Thanks to all who helped get me and my bike ready for this race. Especially Terry, Monty, Pat and Brian at the Ski and Bike Shop in Grand Forks, ND. My bontrager connection, Brian in Wisco. All the other Arrowheaders and bloggers out there who inspire me to do crazy races like this. And last but definitely not least, Rick "The Mangan" for our weekly phone calls, training rides and all your great ideas. Good luck to Pierre and Alaska Jill out on the Iditarod Trail. Pierre is going all the way to Nome this year. 1100 miles! GO Pierre GO!