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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.

The trail goes on
November 15, 2011
Finished up Phase 1 of P90x. I would like to say I'm getting used to early morning workouts, but the sorry truth is I still hate them and getting up sucks. Looking forward to february and not having to do that any more.

Got my bike fixed up from the troubles last week and managed a full week of commuting. It was nice to take saturday off. Ok, so this might sound dorky, but i had some spare time so I drilled out the top plate of my rear rack. I mean that saved what? something less than 70 grams if I'm generous and count 10 grams per hole? Oh well, I was looking for a bike project…

This week's long ride took me back to the river bottoms, and I did some further exploring. I had time, so I went looking for connectors to other trails. From my usual turn around point, I crossed back over the river and while on the bridge spotted a trail that went further south. Not sure if it was a legal trail or not, but obvious that it had been ridden on before, I followed it. After a while I saw a a few indicators that I was on a maintained trail, and then I spotted a trail marker sign, so I knew I wasn't knocking about illegally in the wildlife refuge.

From there I just kept going southwest, thinking I would just ride until I ran out of either time or trail. I will say, however, that for most of this I was pretty excited. First, it's a great feeling to "discover" new trail. I mean I knew the rest of the river bottoms trail network was someplace down there, but it was still new for me and I was just improvising as I went along, not having a map or even looked up the trail description. Second, it is great trail. Not really technical, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for distance plus a level of effort similar to that of the Arrowhead. I just want to string together several hours and not be bored to tears the whole way. And all the sand is a huge bonus - its as close to riding in snow as I've found. While i wouldn't say the majority of the trail is sandy, a respectable amount is - maybe 30% or so. And it comes and goes. After I leave the pavement at the start, the trail offers up everything from packed double-track and gravel roads to nearly invisible single track to soft sand to muddy creek crossings. The variety is fantastic. Lastly, with it getting cold, I only ran into a couple of other people all day. I love having this place to myself. I bet if I went down there on a weekday I could ride for hours without meeting anyone (or their dog).

I noticed something bizarre at one point in an area more heavily wooded. I thought I saw a fence going though the woods - something like a like a chain link fence. Sort of transparent but with a definite top edge. But it was weird. Then I realized I was seeing the top of the waterline on the tree trunks. The trunks had been discolored from the floods and river silt, and the top was over my head. The fact that ALL the trees had the same discoloration at the exact same height gave the woods this strange feeling of having a wall or force field running through it.

All was not perfect, however. I had one video goal, and that was to shoot a low angle shot with good sound. For that I brought the GoPro, a Zoom microphone, and two micro tripods. First I just wanted to record some "on the bike" background sound. Finding a nice, non-technical section, I took out the mic, put on the dead cat (wind block) and recorded about 2 min worth. Later, I found an interesting spot on the trail that looked like it would be good for a low shot, and set up the go pro and the mic side by side. The idea here is to record good, stereo sound with the mic and sync it later with the GoPro footage.

Well, the end result was that all of it was a bust. First, I must have accidentally hit the button on the mic again, stopping the record of the background sound at about 7 seconds. Then I had the GoPro set incorrectly so it was taking single frames instead of shooting video, so even though I got the sound this time I recorded no video to go with it. That was disappointing.

I did, however, manage to capture a couple of good photos with the iPhone. The photo above is at my turn around point. I could have crossed the creek on the fallen tree, but I'll save that trail for another day.

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