Sunday, January 29, 2012

Arrowhead, the real Countdown.....T-minus 1 day and counting

Today, Sunday was quite uneventful. Heard about a pancake breakfast down at the local Catholic Church, so went and checked that out. Ran into a couple folks I know from the papermill in town, a guy that is doing the bike race tomorrow, some folks from WI and a few locals...all very friendly and encouraging.
Went out for 30 minute ski on part of the was pretty rough, but indications from the trail crews that marked the trail are that conditions should be pretty good overall's that word "considering" that has me a little concerned.
Temps were in the single digits today with a forecast for the start of the race at 7 AM at 12 degrees coming up from a low of 6....I'm anal about this as I need to predict snow temps to try to wax my skis accordingly. Going with the Swix LFG4 for temps between 14F/-26. Low Fluorocarbon for good endurance and glide a very hard wax for cold conditions and the graphite works well for old or dirty snow. Seems to fit the description of what I'll be starting with.

I should hit the first checkpoint 35 miles out within 6 hours so at that time I can reassess temps and re-wax.
Had a good racers meeting, won some handle bar mitts for winter riding, for a road bike, so I gave them away to a friend as I don't own a road bike. The sponsors of the race were very generous, frames, forks, locally made winter mitts and tons more...check it out!
So far it's been a real smooth affair. Race is very well organized and everyone even remotely involved is very friendly.
Last post till after the end of the race....sometime.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Arrowhead, the real Countdown.....T-minus 2 days and counting

Spent the night in Cook, MN last night....brought back a lot of memories. My wife and I stayed here back in Dec. of 1982.
We came back to WI/MN from OR for Christmas and a job interview just south of Cook after sending out 100 or more resumes in WI and MN looking for work that would bring us back to the midwest. We were 5-6 years into our family and had 2 sons and wanted to move back closer to family. This was the only positive reply I got back from all of the resumes we had sent out.
The interview went terrible. As I was not from the area, it was setup that I would meet with a number of Managers on this one day for a job at a new plant that was going to be producing OSB (Oriented Stand Board)...a somewhat new building material that would compete with plywood. The plant had been ready for over a year, but with the bad economy and poor housing starts, it was being idled until it was decided that housing was turning the corner. Now was the time. I learned later that over 10,000 people had applied for just over 100 positions. The MN Iron Range was only 30-40 miles south of the plant and by and large, the iron ore mining industry was shut-down, so there were thousands out of work. The Plant didn't want to hire these unemployed miners because when the mines fired back up, they'd most probably go back to the mines. Unemployment was around 20% or higher in this area in the early 1980's.
When I showed up for the interview, only 1-2 people could meet with me. I was disgusted with this. We went to the motel after the short day at the plant, spent the night and I woke up madder than hell after stewing all night. So, of course, being that we had to drive right by the plant on our way south to MPLS, I decided to pull in and tell them what I thought....27 is great age for some, you have no, from working as a logger in OR for the past 9 years, diplomacy, tact and sensitivity were not my strong points (some may say they still aren't!).
In any case, I found the HR Manager and told him what I thought. He apologized that things didn't go off the way he or I had hoped they would have and told me they'd get back to me. I said fine, but if I didn't hear back from them in a week don't bother contacting me at all and that I was going to look at another opportunity I was considering. (which was a lie....back in the early '80's nothing was happening for work anywhere)
In reality, I was just pissed and didn't want to be bothered with them after a week of wondering yes or no. I still had a job in OR, so it wasn't critical to me that I land this job. Lynn, on the other hand, was not impressed with my approach.
She was the one that had sent out all the resumes, she had the real desire to head back east. The winter before she didn't see the sun for over 30-40 days for all the rain, if I recall. All I had to do was to show up, do the best I could and not do anything stupid, and it appeared I couldn't even do that properly. We had flown into MPLS and borrowed her sister and BIL's car. It was a tense drive back to their house, a longer plane ride back to OR and even a longer week.
The HR guy called me back within the week and offered me the position. I accepted and we moved to MN. Sometimes one just has to go with one's gut.

I met an friend that worked with me back then last night and we caught up on old times.

Anyway, on to International Falls for the Arrowhead.
Stopped at the first check point from the start of the race, Gatewaty Store, for a short ski.
The snow was soft and not enough of it to make a nice flat ski surface, but it's going to be the same for everyone. Still plenty of dirt/small stones in the snow in many places, so the rock ski decision hasn't changed.
Got checked in and looking to get some decent sleep.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Arrowhead, the real Countdown.....T-minus 3 days and counting

Friday late afternoon got to check point 3 just north of Cook, MN and took a reconnaissance night ski up Wakemup Hill, a fairly steep, long slog. Wakemup Hill is the last obstacle before the last 27.5 mile flat run-out to the finish. Hill wasn't too bad, but I'll hold my final opinion until after getting there with 110 miles under my belt.
Snow depth on the trail was decent, 3" of new snow today in the Cook area for 7-8" total....maybe. Northern lights visible for 15 minutes right after sun set.

Skied about an hr. Once the sun went down temps started dropping fast.....but only in the swamps/low areas. I could tell a difference in my glide and actual body temp, I'd guess 10 degree difference in 50-60 feet/6-8 foot elevation differences. Snow condition was good, but dirty. I'm leaning towards my rock skis....if I used a good pair I think I'd end up with 2 sets of rock skis.
Vapor below was just from my breathing, kinda gives it an eerie effect.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Arrowhead, the real Countdown

Well, got all my gear packed in the Heep, waxed 3 pair of skis and have enough food packed to feed a small family for a few days seeking residence working their way across our southern border.
 I'll be driving up to Cook, MN about a 7 hr. drive tomorrow. Hopefully will arrive in time to check over the last hill/obstacle before the final 20 miles or so mad dash on the flats to Fortune Bay in Tower, MN and the finish line, 135 miles from the start in International Falls, MN.
Luckily, the northland got a decent dump of snow earlier this week, so there will be snow. How setup and ski-able it'll be is a crap shoot.
Saturday is check-in and more reconnaissance of the trail at different key locations. Logging operations on the trail need a look see to check out what skiing conditions will be like. A couple stops along the way just to see general trail/snow/grooming conditions.
Then, finally Sunday, which will determine the weapon I pick from the arsenal to strap to my feet to take off in the sub-zero temps that are in the forecast for early Monday morning. Ski options are:
- Short, stiff skis if the trail width is constricted due to deep snow on the edges but packed hard enough to stay buoyant (I weight 205-210 lbs. then add 20-25 lbs of gear).
- Normal length stiff skis if everything is "normal".
- Normal length rock skis, if the trail is tore up due to snowmobiles or just a lack of snow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cactus blossoms, sure sign of spring?

I "rescued" this cactus from MT 6-7 years ago when out there mtn biking. I wanted to bring something back to remember the trip, but the usual trinkets just don't cut it. There was some road work being done and many cacti had been bulldozed out of the ground to widen the road. I scooped up a few plants and brought them home.
I almost killed it when I noticed that there were small fruit fly kinda things nesting in it a year or so after I got it home, so I sprayed it with an bug killer material and it just about killed the plants.
Since then, I only use some plant food now and then and it came back insects, either.
Every spring now it pushes through new growth. I'm waiting for it to blossom like what I've seen in the wild out west. Pretty sure it's a Prickly Pear cactus.

Taken last summer in WY.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Arrowhead 135 training and pre-race thoughts

With less than 2 weeks to go, the Arrowhead Ultra 135 is always lurking close in my mind. I thought I'd toss down some pre-race thoughts. The race started for me well over 2 years ago when I came across a race in northern WI called the Tuscobia 75. I thought my son, Chris, would find it interesting so we emailed back and forth a bit on it. I let it drop out of my mind when we discovered that each racer had to to carry about 25 lbs of winter survival gear with them...that just didn't sound like fun, or necessary, plus I didn't want to spend more money on specialized gear for another activity.
Chris didn't let it die and he decided to look into it and did the race in 2010...only by then it was 75 or 150 miles, he decided to do 150. I was stuck in an airport in Paris when he did the race, so wasn't able to witness his 60 some hr. slog. But, 6 weeks later I went up to International Falls, MN. to observe the ARU that he had signed up for.
Over the past year, after I went up to watch my son in the Arrowhead 135 foot division, I've been scheming, planning and training for it.  Maybe I'm figuring all wrong, but I think it's entirely possible to xc-skate ski it without it being a death march...and freezing to death.
The big, SUPER big variable is the weather. Temps can be severe. Skiing is impossible if one can't wax skis correctly to temperatures. The trail is a snowmobile trial, so it's not groomed for skiing. What if 6" of snow falls, what if it's -20, -30, -40 degrees F, what if there is all of this and a 30-40 mile northwind?

Based on my past 10 years plus of xc-skiing and the way the course is laid out, I think a person can ski to the first check point, 35 miles from the start, and wax his/her skis. This is tricky, as one has to carry ALL the gear needed, so that would mean ski wax and source of heat to work the wax into the skis. I believe I have this figured out...more on that after the race.
Then, saddle up and ski another 35 miles to the 2nd check point. How long will this take? Conditions will dictate that, but I would hope to be there in 12-15 hrs. I'd wax up again and catch some sleep. How much will be determined by the temperatures. If it's too cold to ski somewhat efficiently that would mean till morning sometime. If the temps are agreeable (as well as my body), less time at this check point would be needed.
Day 2 is a repeat of the first day.
Some training shots from a 3 hr. ski. Flambeau Hills. A 3 hour out and back. Around 15 miles. 
 Took the backpack with most of the gear I'd be using in the race.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unbelievable Charity

There has been a lot of talk lately how the rich don't pay their fair share or how they just don't get it. Well, that's not the case all the time:
Thank You Ken and Carolyn.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 2012

Random shots.
 Bees seem to be doing will, mild winter is good for something!

Been getting as much xc skiing in as possible, getting ready for the big dance which is the Arrowhead 135. Ski conditions have been marginal, but still able to get out there. Glad I have some old rock skis, though.

Pugsley snow bike leaning against a snowmibile groomer.....can't we all just get alone?

Snowbike ride. Borrowed bike. Getting some bike time in in case I need to bike the Arrowhead 135 instead of the plan to ski it. Borrowing the snowmobile trails in north central WI.

 Waxed xc skis at a local pub, after a great WI fish fry and a couple beers.
Chillicothe, OH. Mtn bike ride. Seal State Park. Just before sunset. Work trip.