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.

Autumn Extension Continues
December 27, 2011
Freakishly warm. What tiny bit of snow we had is gone, and we set a record high temperature the day after christmas (52F). I don't really mind all that much, however, as it means lots of more outside riding time. Yes it would be nice to get some cold weather practice in (esp checking my boots), but really I'm not going to worry about the weather - I'll just deal with it as best I can as it comes.

A few guys are fretting about the race, but really, this is better than a lot of possibilities. I mean, what is the worst that the warm weather would bring - no snow on the trail? That's not so bad, really. Some would no doubt risk riding the race on a 29er mountain bike, and depending on the forecast that would prob be the best option. Would I do it on my standard mountain bike? I don't think so. I don't know how actually level the trail surface is. Some parts of it probably get ATV traffic, so there might be segments of double track, but other parts of it might just be cleared trail and the surface would be grassy and lumpy - difficult on a bike like mine with smaller wheels. I think about riding around the farm in the summer - same kind of thing. The front suspension would be nice, however, if there were no snow. And I could put all my crap in the bob trailer… hmm…

The risk is that it starts to snow *during* the race and you find yourself with the wrong bike halfway though the race. 3 or more inches and you'd be really sad to be on something other than a fat tire bike. Plus there is currently around 3" on the trail - there are a lot of places where that won't melt off and hitting one of those patches on a standard bike could be pretty scary.

But really, the chance of there being no snow on the trail for the race is pretty minimal. Now, it might be that there isn't enough snow for the snowmobiles, but that also isn't the worst thing in the world - not having to share the trail with sleds would be kind of nice - but it makes rescue difficult. The trail is closed to snowmobiles as of today, but I don't know what is required to open it. A foot maybe?

I did a couple of small things last week, other than the long rides and a couple of commutes. One was to rig up a new camera mount on my fork. The nice thing about the Mukluk fork is all the braze-on's. I had already planned on dropping off one of the two Everything Cages, so in it's place I mounted an L-bracket with a tripod screw. I have it set up on the drive side of the fork so I can record on the sunlit side of the bike during the Arrowhead and because I always set the bike down with the drive side up.

The point is to provide an alternate point-of-view options. Since a lot (ok, most) of my Arrowhead shots will be from the bike, alternate positions are essential to keep the video from being boring as hell. There is nothing worse than watching 5 min of handlebar cam set to music. My experiments with this set up were better than the previous week, and I kept reminding myself to clean the lens. I'm getting better, too, at stopping quick, setting the camera, taking a shot or two, and getting moving again. So maybe I will end up with some off-the-bike shots.

The other thing I did was figure out how to mount a light on my helmet. I'm going to go with a helmet again, because at bike speeds I'm more comfortable with it and I know my family is also worried enough. Really, though, I'm a fan of helmets in general, and on this trail there is a lot of opportunity to hit a tree or a overhanging branch in the dark. So, with that, it makes it a little easier to mount a light. I'm going with a Princeton Tec Apex. This light has a remote battery box and separate light unit. After removing the head strap, the battery box clips to the goggle strap and the light unit can sit on the front with a little piece of velcro.

This is good because this light is twice as bright (on full setting) as my main headlight. And my main headlight is about twice as bright as the single light I used last year. My old Cateye is about 50 lumens (I don't know exactly because Cateye is stupid and uses candle power to indicate brightness, while everyone else uses lumens, prob so they have higher numbers). Actual values aside, the benefit is light a little further out on the trail, which makes it easier to go faster.

The holidays were good. I received a few pieces of good bike gear, and nearly enough in gift cards to finish off the rest of my "to be purchased" list. So after a couple of on-line orders and a big shopping trip I'm going to do a test fit of all the gear I plan to bring. I was also looking at the rack and wondering if I could lower it down a couple of inches with the hardware I have. That would improve the handling a tiny bit.

The rest is trying to work out every day for the next few weeks. I hate getting up early.

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