Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Arrowhead Ultra 135

Here's Grant's Arrowhead Ultra experience followed by a few things from me at the end! To read about Grant's training for the race check out the blog entry on SkiPulk.com here. Enjoy :)

Race Week Prep
The week leading up to the race was eventful and somewhat stressful. I had some gear proofing to do. My goal was to have a 35 pound sled and feel good about what was in it. I also needed to finalize what food I wanted to bring. Food would have to be easy to handle and something that would not break my teeth when frozen. I was continuously adding and taking stuff out of my sled. After a night of altering my gear set up and food plans, I started to weigh the sled. I was weighing in around 38 pounds. I adjusted a few more things to get down to a consistent 35-36 pounds. A friend of mine, Epic Bill Bradley, whose motto is “Show up and Suffer,” says that you can “what if” yourself into a 50+ pound sled. At 36 pounds, I was feeling pretty good.

Race Weekend
Ryan, his father and I headed for International Falls on Saturday afternoon with hopes of getting gear checked that evening before 6pm when they closed up shop.


We arrived at 5:45pm. We got all of our gear checked. It was an interesting process to say the least. I think both of us ran back to the car to get required gear that we forgot to bring in at least twice. It was a fun procedure and the race check in folks/volunteers were comedians. By getting checked in of Saturday evening gave us the entire day on Sunday to visit and relax. Of course, we were making last minute changes to our system as well. Ryan baked a really thick bannock bread the night before we left. We cut that into pieces. It was good and full of race necessary nutrients.


Sunday was spent eating, playing with gear, relaxing and looking at other race set-ups. Sunday evening, Ed, my wife Ashley and my parents arrived. It was nice to have a cheering squad.


Monday morning came quickly. The race started at 7am. Ryan and I were a few minutes late.


We had to check in before leaving so we did not hear the starting gun for the runners. We were at the very back of the pack which was not a big deal when considering the amount of hours we were about to spend on trail. We were finally doing the real thing after months of preparation.


The trail crossed a few roads in town where our cheering squad met us. Soon we were about four miles into the turtle race. We crossed over a busier road, again, where our cheering squad was.


I was unsure of our mileage at this point but I knew it was not far. About 1.5 hours into the race, Ryan and I had passed a lot of people and finally reached Epic Bill Bradley. We chatted with him for a bit and continued to make forward progress. We were feeling pretty good and the trail at this point was flat and pretty hard. At 2 hours, we figured we were around 7-8 miles into the race. We were wrong in a good way. We had arrived at the first trail shelter where the Arrowhead trail starts, 9.5 miles in. We were amazed at our progress. It doesn’t sound fast if you are a marathoner or a 10k runner. In the sport of ultra marathons in the winter on a snowy trail, the time we were making was good and something we did not expect. This was a huge morale booster for quite some time and we felt good about it. Another 9 miles and we would be half way to checkpoint 1. We were on the Arrowhead trail and it began to become more remote and wooded. It felt good to be in the woods. Once on the Arrowhead, the conditions of the trail already started to get softer because of warm temps and lack of snow. We continued on for another hour and still felt good. At about mile 15, we were surprised to see our cheering squad way back in the woods. How they got back there, we did not have a clue but it was very nice to hear and see them.


Three more miles and we would be to the Highway 53 road crossing and about half way to checkpoint 1. We were still feeling good at this point which was a relief. I was not sure how my feet would hold up.


We got to the road crossing and replenished our fanny packs with food and refilled our water bottles with the resupply from our sleds. We also had a quick visit with our cheering squad and my wife and my new puppy, Ms Leidy Mountain. Then, back on the trail.


We left Highway 53 and knew we would not see another road or non-racer for 18 miles. The first 5 miles went by fast. We arrived at a shelter that we thought might be shelter 2. We were wrong. Shelter 2 wasn’t for another 5 miles. There are more shelters along the trail than what the race map accounts for. That kind of messed with our brains for a little while. At this point we were starting to feel the miles just a little. We slowed down a bit and settled into a more comfortable pace. Still thinking that we had passed shelter 2 already, we came up on the actual shelter 2, 30 miles in. We had nearly 7 miles to go to checkpoint 1. It was at this point that I began to feel the tendons in both of my feet start to tighten up. The trail had been soft for the last 20 miles and it started to take its toll on my body and mind. Not a good feeling to have this early in the race. We stayed positive and continued on. Another hour went by and it was around 5pm. Ryan and I guessed we were about a mile out from the check point. We came up on snowmobiler and asked them how far we had until checkpoint 1. He said 3 miles and I had a slight mental melt down. My feet were starting to hurt a little more at this point. They were also wet from sweating and developing a hot spot (blister). We pushed on. I was beginning to question whether I would go on from checkpoint one at this point. I really wanted to. Another hour, 6pm, we arrived at Checkpoint 1, Gateway Gas Station.


Our cheering squad was waiting for us. We unhooked and limped into the gas station. I was hungry for junk food. I was sick of trail food already and just wanted some warm garbage. I had pretty much made the call that I was not going to continue on. I got a little pressure from Bill and a few others to get up and get moving which I appreciated. I knew that my feet would allow me about 5 more miles before they were screaming at me. Both Ryan and I made the call to drop out. It was huge bummer because we were making such great time in the race.As I type this two weeks later, my left foot still hurts because I don’t stay off of it. I need to stretch and get back into it again. I will soon as I have a few small race plans for the summer. I have already made the decision that I will make another appearance at Arrowhead 135, 2013. 36.7 miles in 11 hours is good but not good enough for my mental satisfaction. I may never be a successful Arrowhead 135er but I can bring a better game than I did this year. See you in 2013.

From Ashley: We all had a great time chasing around town trying to figure out where and when we'd see the guys next ;) Leidy was a trooper for spending her first weekend with us 5 hours away from home! Of course everyone wanted to pet the puppy and she loved it! The day after the race Grant and I ventured to the other checkpoints just to see what they were all about. Then we hung out at the SkiPulk checkpoint (#3) for the rest of the day before starting on our way home.

Here comes a biker!


The first runner arriving at the final checkpoint!

1 comment:

  1. Great stories, Grant (and Ashley)!

    I can't believe how little Leidy was in these pictures. I didn't think she was that big now, but I guess she really has grown. :o)

    ReplyDelete

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