We hit another "warm" spot in the weather, between 2 cold blasts (-20 nights) and some 3-4" of snow that fell the evening after the race ended.
I rode a fat-bike this year after xc-skiing the 150 the past 2 years and 3 years ago riding my mtn. bike in the 75 mile event.
We started with -8F temps that seemed have hit -15 on the trail at times during the race and the trail/track was fast. Comfortable riding and knowing that the day would warm up I started out with light clothing.
About 30-45 minutes in it was obvious my headlight wasn't holding up so I tucked in behind a couple of guys that were behind me after kinda jokingly asking/telling them what I wanted to do.
Their lights were very bright and were casting dark shadows on the trail when I was in front and I couldn't pull away from them. I guess my batteries weren't as solid as I thought and with the cold the power was getting sucked out of them.
I think it might have been ok if it would have been only me but the shadows were tough to deal with. It was easy to see the trail when behind them so I just followed along. If we met any snowmobiles I'd be ok.
After awhile we came to dip and then a hill pull and I passed the guy in front of me and pulled up to the guy that had been leading the way. It was Dan, a Canadian that I knew from previous races. We rode side by side for a stretch catching up on things and he agreed that my light was awfully dim. Can't remember if he said it was actually out or not.
I pulled in behind him but again, the shadows from the guy behind me were worse than me just bringing up the rear so back I went. Shortly after it began to lighten up.
I pulled out to take the lead. Dan had be pulling us along by himself so I figured it was my turn. I upped the pace so as to not hold anyone back and giving Dan a wind break for payment pulling me along and the use of his light. Breaking trail wasn't a benefit as it was rock hard and if there was any snow the first 4 guys were plowing through it to make it easier for us anyway.
Up ahead I could see a red blinky so I took off. We caught Jim and he told us that he and Joe (who was still up ahead) had tried to hang with the leaders, Jay and Charly, but had to back off.
Jim fell in behind and I took off.
Down the trail more I saw Joe's blinky and we soon were towing him along as well.
We hit the first checkpoint at 8:45, 29 miles from the start which was at 6AM.
Me, #87, Joe and Jim. Dan had popped in front of me when we hit the checkpoint turn off the trail.
Photo credit Tina Stiller. (Wife of Joe.)
I had decided not to worry too much about water or food in this first section. I had grabbed some readily accessible chocolate from my cockpit bag but decided not to try to get at any water or my pizza. That would mean riding one-handed too long at times and with the colder weather I didn't want to risk water freezing up in the water line and nozzle so just left it all in the bladder by not drinking any. We were moving at a fast pace so wasn't concerned. I had "watered" up at the start and figured I'd take care of water and food in a few hours.
It's not at all unusual for me to not drink or eat in my training rides for the first 2-3 hours anyway. Not that it's a smart move, but I like to see what happens when I don't and to recognise the signs and where the limits are for cases like this. Besides, I could still taste some of the oatmeal the Race Directors made up before the race at times. The pull I took from the lead helped bring up a few chunks now and again.
That said, I went inside to grab some food and and a few cups of warm water. Joe and Dan hung around outside on their bikes for a minute or so and Jim came in with me, Jim got out the door a minute or so before me. I spent 4 minutes at the check point.
I took off down the trail with Jim in sight. It was only a few minutes later and I saw Charly heading back. He suffers from random asthma attacks and this was one time it hit him. We had gotten to know each other in Alaska last winter and before that I had bought my first 9:zero:7 bike from him. He also built up the NEXTIE wheel set you see in the pictures below of my current 9:zero:7.
Charly was in a bad way. He was trying to talk to me but could really only get parts of words out. After a minute or 2 he was kinda getting his breath back and we chatted a bit. After 4-5 minutes I was kinda wanting to get on my way....and Charly knew it so we buttoned up the small talk and I took off. I'm not sure how long we talked, but Jim was long gone.
I settled into a comfortable pace and worked on getting my pizza opened and water flowing.
It became just a comfortable ride with great conditions and a long day ahead to look forward to.
I did notice my energy down some so started eating and drinking pretty much constantly. It wasn't long before I was feeling fine.
My initial goal was to try to be in the top 5 but then I thought that might be a bit aggressive (or maybe delusional??) and then when Jay Petervary signed up, I was relegated to hoping a top 10 was possible.
I really wasn't basing these goals on anything, really. Just what I'd like to happen. I haven't been in enough of these races to know enough of the riders but I just wanted something to shoot for and think about while out there. A goal.
All that said, with Charly dropping I was currently in 5th place.
Eventually I was able to reel in Jim and we got to the 2nd checkpoint at the same time. My intentions were to change socks at every checkpoint so as not to have another Arrowhead situation occur where I got frostbite toes and had to pull out.
But the temps were way warmer today so I had skipped the sock change at the first checkpoint but wasn't going to do that at the 2nd. I also needed to have batteries changed for my headlamp.
Son Chris was at the checkpoint (he, along with his wife are Race Directors) helping out the racers as they came in so he helped get me out in decent time.
Jim was long gone so it was another game of chase the hare.
At the 75 mile maker the racers turn and head back so we meet on the trail. I tried to remember the mile markers to know what the leads were and I think I remember that Jay had 12 miles on me, Dan 6, Joe 4 and Jim around a mile.
Photo credit Sveta Vold, fellow 150 biker. Meeting on the trail.
I made the turn and took off. Along the way there were 150 mile foot division people as well. I stopped to talked to friend Roberto for 1-2 minutes. He was doing the math.....24 hrs. at a 3 mph pace and he could make the cut-off....but he hadn't slept yet. It seemed grim but I told him good luck and took off after Jim again.
I caught Jim a mile or so before the checkpoint we had left 24 miles before.
I again spent more time than him there but I was starting to notice I was getting a bit chilled at times so I removed my light biking type jersey that was under my jacket and put on a mid merino wool Icebreaker. (that's not me and I didn't pay that much for mine!!)
I tossed on my headlamp as it was going to be dark soon and checked my blinkies and sure enough one was missing off the rear. Lisa, the checkpoint person, had one for me and after we got it on I took off.
Before I had left Lisa had asked me to watch for a 75 mile foot person that was exhibiting signs of hypothermia. I wasn't sure what I could do to help him if he was in trouble short of ending my race, but I had my down jacket I could give him so with that I felt better. He had about an hr. head start on me so when I started passing foot people after an hr. I slowed down when passing to see if he was the guy. Eventually I came up on 3 guys walking and they confirmed that the guy in question was directly in front of us and that they'd take care of him if anything happened. With that I pulled up on him and just confirmed what they had told me and I took off again feeling better than ever with darkness coming.
I really enjoy riding at night and in the winter it's even better.
Soon I came to the train crossing. The sign says they're moving at 60mph and I can vouch for that. At times skiing the race I've gotten to see them whiz by and they are moving in a cloud of snow.
Train crossing. Photo credit Sveta Vold.
I caught Jim right about where Sveta's bike is laying but heading the other way.
We talked for a quick minute and I took off still feeling very strong.
I had been eating and drinking all day very consistently since the 1st checkpoint. Only used a minimum of food from the checkpoints, chips, coke and warm water....oh!and hunks of homemake bread that my wife and donated to the race from her leftover Christmas baking! The carbs were great.
Right before the last checkpoint Chris was there with the snowmobile. It had gotten more difficult riding the past 5-10 miles due to the churned up snow from all the snowmobile traffic. He said I was 10 minutes behind Joe and Joe knew I was still there and charging.
I pulled into the last check point and was just leaving as Jim was pulling in.
Right after the checkpoint, with 29 miles to go, it suddenly dawned on me to let out some air to get better floatation and control. I had started with 8-9 psi per tire.
With 10 miles to go I was about shot. I was also passing some 75 mile bikers that were struggling as well so I asked about air pressure and some let out some air, some didn't. I let out more.....
I came up on a 75 mile biker I know and we walked some and chatted. I didn't see any lights behind us.
The fullish moon had a huge ring around it.....I was enjoying taking my time.
Finally at mile 140 or so I looked back and felt I recognized that light behind me that wasn't there before. I figured it was probably Jim.
I took off as best I could and got to mile marker 70 (145, 5 miles left). He was still back there. A ways back but still there.
5 miles left.....I took off not looking back anymore and finished a few minutes ahead of Jim. 4th place.
It was truly a race. Joe was working hard and finished 30 minutes in front of me, Jim made a great effort at the end to catch me and I was able to hang on after blowing up trying to catch Joe.
I checked my tire pressure the next day and had settled in at 4 in the rear and a very surprising 2 in the front.
2 days after the race I was giving the blow by blow account to my son and DIL at breakfast, again the Race Directors, and they decided to DQ me for riding with a an unsatisfactory headlamp part of the first morning as it is part of the mandatory gear.
Race Directors have a tough job to do!!!
Some random pics of the race.
Photo credit Tom Woods: