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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.

Triple Double
November 1, 2011
Fall is lingering here, the trees still have a lot of color and it's been comfortably warm (50s for highs has been typical). The leaves blow around sounding like rain and there is that dry, dusty, earthy smell in the air. The sky is always a deeper blue this time of year. But a few days mixed in there have had the heavy, gray, "Winter is coming soon" feel to them. I like November, but I don't wish for it to come any sooner than it will.

Full blast on training now, and I'm tired, all the time. And hungry. I maybe mentioned before that I decided to use P90x as my supplement to riding. I feel like I need a designed program of strength training to do better this year. Last year I did some odd-ball stuff - weights here and there, some yoga moves, but this is up a few levels from that. I started P90x in late September, but never really got it going on a regular basis. A day or two this week, a few days the next week, etc. Finding the time to string together a full week of workouts was nearly impossible, so I did what I didn't want to do, which is move my workouts to the mornings. This program is designed around doing a 60 minute (at least) session 6 days a week. Last week was the first week of getting up early and doing all 6. I also wanted to get it going last week because its designed to be 90 days (where the "90" comes from) and that will have me finishing up with it just ahead of the race.

The only change I'm making to the program is to skip one of the cardio days because I'm doing my weekly long ride. So a training day/week for me looks like this:
- Wake up at 5:15am
- Hour of P90x
- Eat
- Ride to Work on the mukluk (50 min)
- Work
- Ride Home (50 min back)
- Eat
- Bed by 10
- 4+ hour ride on the weekend, other day rest

I have been commuting at least 4 days per week, and had 500+ miles in total for October. Not as much as last year, but I think that I maybe did too much last year too early anyway.

So this past week I felt very lucky to have planned my long bike ride for saturday, the nicer of the two weekend days, rather than my typical sunday, because of other plans. I'd planned a ride that included a lot of forest, and was rewarded with a glorious ride in the woods with very few other people around. The colors were fantastic, the air was a pleasant 45, sun shining, almost no wind.

The trail I was using was one I've been on once before but had forgotten about until our adventure ride a couple of weeks ago. I'd never done it alone, either. I knew it wasn't especially long, only about 10 miles from one end to the other, but its a better trail than the Luce Line that I'd been doing last year. I'd rather ride this trail back and forth several times than do an out and back on the Luce. The Luce is a gravel trail, but only in the most basic sense. True, its not paved, but it's very nearly as hard as a paved trail - you can easily ride it on a road bike. In addition, its popular. On a day like saturday, it would be mobbed with rec cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and hikers - at least until you got way out west. I prefer the solitude. Finally, its dead flat. Its old rail grade, so there isn't even a hint of hill anywhere.

The trail I rode by comparison is technically all within a State Park. Right off that eliminates a lot of people since you have to have a parking permit (unless you arrive on bike) - you can use the park for free, but you have to pay to park your car. The next great thing about this trail is that while its open to bicycles, only something like a Pugsley or other fatbike like my Mukluk can actually ride on it. Its a flood plain, and the whole area is typically under water until at least June, and this year it was later than that. The surface is dried river mud - its extremely fine sand, softer than many beaches. If its even slightly wet, it turns to a black gooey mud that will stick to everything and dry like concrete. So while this area is pretty flat, its not "graded" flat. There are a lot of tiny rollers and twists that make it challenging to settle on a specific cadence/speed for long periods. Though most of it is the soft sand, some areas a packed, and some are a little rocky or more muddy, so there is a lot of variation in the surface and effort required. Variety is good.

Because this trail is kind of short, I created a plan I called the 'double-double-double' - or triple double. The first challenge was the hill in Ft. Snelling. On the way to the trail, there is a super steep, somewhat short hill that is a killer on any bike. This is a granny-gear, slower than waking speed kind of climb. Do this twice (first double). From there, to the trail. Do an out and back on this trail twice (second double). On the return, do the Ft. Snelling hill again twice (those last two really HURT). This would add up to about 50 miles and I estimated to be a little more than 4 hours. Because I was running out of time (due to shooting some video and photos) I didn't do a full out and back on the trail for a second time and so ended up with about 40 miles total. Next time I'll complete it.

It was worth it, though, to stop and look around once in a while. It was just amazing.

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