Often described as one of the toughest bike races in the lower 48 states, the Arrowhead 135 challenges even the most prepared riders. This is a journal by a non-athlete's participation in an event where starting is often just as much a challenge as finishing.

Weekend long ride
July 13, 2010
Did a long ride yesterday, almost 5 hours. This time, I picked a better route than the previous week, one where I wouldn't run out of trail. The goal for this week was pretty basic: ride for 5 hours, keep my heart rate in the 130s, ride on gravel, pull the trailer.

The day before, I went out and did a max heart rate test on some nearby hills. I was able to get my rate up to 174, which is my new baseline for "zone training". Because I'm not really a fitness guy, and I can't just easily "feel" what my body is doing or how hard I'm pushing, I like to have these kinds of measurable parameters to tell me where I am.

The night before I got my junk ready, and included a 10 lb. free weight to get the total trailer weight up to 25 lbs. Forecast was for rain, so I clipped on some mudboards to the stumpjumper, which Eric then gave me crap for later. But screw that, I got so dirty the week before riding the gravel roads and trails in the rain. Some small protection is ok, even if it does add a pound.

I decided to drive out west of the cities where I knew the trail would be a little rougher but still had enough for a long ride and start there. The goal here was not so much strength - hills, etc. - but just to go for 5 hours with my heart rate in the zone. So for this I wasn't worried so much about the trail being mostly flat. Actually, that probably helped me keep a nice steady pace going.

natural trail

I got started early, by 8 am, and found it hard to pace myself early. But after 30 minutes or so I was finding a groove. I began to think systematically, so I would be sure to eat/drink enough and often. Every 20 minutes it was drink. Eat at 1:20, 2:30, turn around, reset clock, return. I also switched bottles at the 1:20 marks, alternating water with sport drink.

First stop at 1:20 was less than 5 min - just enough to pee, switch bottles and get some snacks out of the trailer. I ate while riding. At 2:30 I turned around, but was in the middle of a town, so I rode back out of town before stopping for lunch. I stopped for just over 10 min, stretched, took acouple of pics then carried on. Another small thing I "discovered" (Eric will laugh at me for this, too) was to open the packages of my sealed snacks (clif bars and shot bloks) before putting them in my pocket so I could eat easier while keeping moving.

gravel trail

After turning around, the sun was mostly out and I had the wind at my back, which was both a blessing and a curse. The wind wasn't that strong, but strong enough to be of help. However, it made conditions such that the deer flies could keep up with me and attack. I fought the little bastards the whole way back. For some reason, they seemed to like the back of my gloves - not sure if it was the blue color or something else, but that seemed like the place they mostly tried to land (glad it wasn't on my back - I had a black shirt on). At least I could see them when the landed and take evasive action. The flies likely kept me running at a slightly faster pace than I otherwise would have, as it always seemed like going slightly fast made them unable to catch up. The final time I stopped to get a snack out of the trailer and switch bottles was like 15 seconds.

In the end, I made it back to the starting point in 15 minutes less than the time I took to go out. Things that hurt: my left foot where my cleat is; my wrists; my ass was pretty tender, neck. Neck and wrists might be helped by some adjustments to the bike itself - like adding a spacer or two under the stem. New saddle maybe for my butt? And maybe some kind of insoles for my bike shoes to help with the cleat pressure point, though I've always had problems with that shoe. Maybe new shoes.

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