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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.

Arrowhead 135
May 4, 2010
Somehow in talking with Eric we came up with the idea of doing the Arrowhead 135 endurance bike race (the tagline reads "Only the toughest dare apply!" - gulp).

The Arrowhead is a race, and a somewhat nasty one at that. Start with one of the coldest parts of the US - the area between International Falls and Tower, MN, often referred to as the Ice Box of America. Its a bowl, geographically, where cold air tends to pool. Tower has the coldest recorded temperature in MN history: -60F in February 1996. The race is on 135 miles of snowmobile trail, and held, you guessed it, in the first week of February.

Its nothing to ride 150+ miles in two days in the summer on pavement. One of the biggest charity rides in Minnesota, the MS150, has this format. People routinely do this as the only time of the year they ride their bike. Last year I did each day in less than 6 hours, including stops. But when you add the cold, and about 70lbs of bike, and run it on snow - well the situation changes a lot.

I've never been hugely into competitions. I get nervous, I never win, and I don't like separating winners & losers. However, they do focus your attention, and set some limits. First limit is 60 hours. That is for all racers, though, and there are classes for bikes, skiis and foot. For bikes, its really closer to 36 based on how the checkpoints are spread out. Its like this, the "halfway" point at 70 miles is a resort. For many of the bikes, that means a long (few hours) rest. First day, 70 miles, rest, finish on the second day. Thats one option. This might look, for me, something like 12 hours, rest for 6, then 16 to finish (second half is harder) for a total of 34 hrs. Of course that would mean riding all night as well, since the race starts at 7 am (first day to 7pm, start again at 1am, finish at around 5 pm). Even that might be optimistic.

Those looking to place will keep going all night pretty much without stopping and finish in something less than 20 hours. I'm pretty sure than even in the best case I would have to stop for at least several hours or I'd fail (and fail can equal death in these temps).

After reading all the ride reports, I have to say the concept of doing this makes me nervous, to which Eric responded "Good, you ought to be nervous!" Yep. Welcome to the real world of adventure biking.

I think training for this will involve a lot of dirt road riding in the summer, then hopefully getting the Pug back (its going to live in Grand Marias for the summer) and doing a lot more riding on that once winter arrives. I better start planning some long, dirty rides...

[Image courtesy of Jim Bodoh]
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