Thursday, February 3, 2011

Arrowhead 135

Son Chris finished the Arrowhead 135 Race. As it is a totally self-supported race, meaning the racers had to carry everything they needed with them and accepting any help would be grounds for disqulaification, the only thing that can really be done by non-racers is to give some moral support.
Myself and Chris' friend Helen did our best to be at most of the road crossing and checkpoints over the days (and nights) to give Chris (and some of his buds) a little encouragement.

This race starts in America's Icebox, International Falls, MN, and ends 135 miles to the south, near Tower MN. Tower has the record MN cold spot of -60, as well as the coldest recorded temp East of the Mississippi. At one time, we lived in Embarrass MN, which has bragging rights along with Tower as being a couple of the coldest spots in the lower 48.

So, it didn't get THAT cold, but for the 2 consecutive nights that Chris pushed through it did get to -27 degrees F and -34 degrees. (some folks at different locations read -41 F the second night)
Talking strategy at the spaghetti dinner the night before.
Last minute finishing touches to his sled.
One of the requirements of the race is that each participant HAD to bring certain items along with. This included a -20 degree rated sleeping bag, a cook stove, bivy sack, matches/firestarter and a certain amount of food. If a racer had to bivy up during the coarse of the race, they had to have supplies to ensure a safe duration till they were found and/or walked out. This race does not guarantee someone would be there to help you if you run into trouble. That is part of the draw, to be really self supported in all aspects.


Chris waking up.

The race has 3 categories:

Skier...old school guy! Wood skis, Anton Oveson from the Falls
Interesting setup.

This year, no skier finished, 6 entered.
18 of 54 runners finished.
39 of 59 bikers finished.
There are many reasons folks get a DNF. Cut-off times aren't met, equipment failures and medical reasons abound. Pulling or carrying 20-35 pounds of gear depending, even if it is on a sled (or backpack) is a lot of weight to drag for 135 miles over a couple days or so.

The bikers spend one night on the trail, the skiers and runners/walkers get to spend 2 nights. Chris got about 90 minutes of sleep from Monday morning when he got up till Wednesday after 4PM when he finished. This is typical.

Winner of the bike race: 16 hrs.
Runner: 44 1/2 hrs.

Chris finished in 57 hrs. Just finishing is an accomplishment and in his first attempt more so. There were many multiple year racers, some of which have never finished.

28 miles into the race, I found a spot to access the trail at the end of a dead end road and a 1/4 mile walk.

Getting a fire started. Lunch close by.
Chris at mile 28, feeling and looking good.
Jennifer Flynn. Was riding strong.
I think this is the guy from Minot, ND....can't remember.
I think this is Mike Stattelman.
2 guys on the right from the Naval Academy, John Taylor on the left.
Chris and friend Igor Epshteyn.
1st. checkpoint. 35 miles in 7PM. Been on the coarse 12 hours so far.
Tender feet, Chris' "Achilles heel" what seems to affect him the most in these endurance events is sore feet.
Chris and Igor, getting ready to head out. Igor dropped later in the evening. Back trouble.
Not sure who this is.... (a Blog reader informed me that is is Brian Tate). If I remember correctly, Brian is from SC and I took his pic on his camera as he was coming across the lake toward Melgeorge's Resort after the first night. Brian dropped at the very last checkpoint, 110 miles in. I heard he felt he didn't feel he could make the arrival cut-off at of 7PM. Great effort but must have so disappointing to get so close and not be able to finish.
Alicia Hudelson. Alicia had to drop due to physical issues.

Leaving 35 mile check point. Chris and Daryl Saari. Daryl dropped out at 5AM. Hip trouble.

About midnight at the half way point...mile 70. Icebikes, biding their time till the riders appeared from a short slumber.

Ice Bike rider about midnight.
Helen and I met Chris at 2:30 AM at the final road crossing before the 70 mile checkpoint mentioned above, Melgeorge Resort. He had a number of miles to go before he could catch a few zzz's and put on dry clothes.
Morning of the 2nd day. I go out on the lake to meet Chris.
Remember her from above? She didn't leave this checkpoint. Super effort in any case.
So much for skiing at -25 degrees. No slide and no glide. Skier, Mike? got to one more checkpoint than had to drop. Walking in ski boots must have been tough.
Erik Dalgaard and John Taylor, looking good. Both guys made it!
Cooper looking for Chris.
Still looking.
Found him.....looks like it was a tough night. In serious pain. Can't feel his feet. Was concerned they were frostbite but they were fine except for being numb and very sore.
Regroup at Melgeorge checkpoint. Food of choice to restock the sled.
Chris and friend Roberto Marron....leaving the 70 mile checkpoint. 1:30 PM. The smile maybe hiding the pain of Chris' feet.
Roberto and Chris did the Tuscobia 150 mile ultra less than 2 months before. A couple other racers had ran the Brazil 135 a WEEK before the Arrowhead. One was Barb Owen, who was the only women finisher in the Runner division of the Arrowhead.
8 miles after leaving the check point, looking and feeling great. Was glad he got up out of bed and continued on. Feet seemed to be doing as well as can be expected after 78 total miles to this point.
From this point there was one more road crossing then 25 miles of no road access. The racers were then dependent on themselves for the most part. There were snowmobiles keeping tabs on them through the night in case of any issues. A number racers were brought into the final checkpoint during the night or in the morning, 21 miles from the finish, due to injuries or just not being able to make the cut-off times for various reasons.
Chris had to lay down for some sleep during the night as he was so tired he was barely moving. After 35 minutes he was back at it. Takes a lot of disciple and desire to push through.

I had to leave the race the next morning and wasn't there for the final checkpoint before the finish. I jumped ahead to another dead end road and walked in to see him, but he had already passed. Had a beverage but didn't open it....caught a ride on a snowmobile sweeping the coarse to the next road crossing.

Finally caught Chris at a crossing with Helen and Cooper. Chris putting down some grub, 8-9 miles from the end.
A few feet from the finish.
Crossing under the finish line. Arrowhead Results page.
Chowing down!

Downhill technique.


Hugh said...

Great blog. Congrats, Chris!!

The guy that you are "Not sure who this is...." is Brian Tate. He's a great guy and strong as anyone out there!

Thank you for sharing the photos and experience!

mark scotch said...

Thanks, Hugh. I think I met Brian as he was making his was across the lake at Melgeorge Resort. From SC, correct? He dug out his camera and I took a few pics for him.

Ellen said...

Congratulations Chris - Thank you for sharing your blog. We have been blessed to have been a stopping point for 6 years at Gateway Store and have so enjoyed meeting some wonderful people and sharing your great stories! Thank you for sharing with us - Ellen & Phil Hart