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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.

Fully Loaded
January 2, 2012
Finally getting some colder weather. Still not much for snow, however. We got an inch or two on new year's eve, but it fell as heavy, wet slush and then froze into a nasty, lumpy, icy mess. The streets and trails are treacherous.

Last week we took a trip to REI and I blew all of my christmas money on Arrowhead gear that I needed or wanted. I'm pretty close now to having everything I need again. All that is left on my list is some some small bits for the bike (chain, spare tube), and a couple of things from the hardware store that will be used on the camera mounts. The big purchase was different pedals; a couple of things about the flip-flops were bugging me. First, having the clip in on only one side was kind of annoying. I was always looking down to get the right side up. Second, and more important, I didn't like how they felt with my boots on. I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but it felt like the ball of my foot was being pushed on. The problem is that with the softer sole of the boot it would flex around the pedal a bit and push right on that spot. I saw some pedals in a shop that had large plastic cages around the clip mechanism and provide a larger surface for the shoe (boot) to rest on when it is clipped in, Shimano M424.



The other major component I bought for the race was a Battery Back Pack for the GoPro. This is a second battery that clips on to the back of the main camera. This will be critical for being able to get footage. I need to remember this: its better to finish with an a bunch of footage and lose an hour than finish with that extra hour and no footage. 31 hours and a bunch of video is better than 30 hours with nothing. Don't skip the footage. Even on the training rides its easy to just want to keep moving. I need to get video.

So after getting the pedals and the rest of misc junk, I got set up for a pair of loaded training rides. I did the same thing last year, and it seemed like a good idea to repeat it. New years day morning is the sort and test fit, afternoon/evening long ride with the transition to dark, next morning long ride again. Last year, however, I had a tentative plan to stay outside for the overnight; I didn't plan for that this time.

With the addition of a Revelate handlebar harness and pocket, the overall arrangement of my stuff seems better this year. I'm going for "lighter and lower" as well as "neater". I want better and easier access to stuff I'll need during the race, and to get the heavy stuff down lower on the bike to improve handling. This really isn't a final load, but it is *most* of the stuff I'll be carrying and I was kind of testing for position and overall volume. To account for changes and the addition of food, I tossed a 5-pound free weight into the frame bag.

The temperature was around 27F when I was set to go, and going to be falling. While this was generally too warm for my main boots, I decided to wear them anyway for their first real test. I really wanted to know if there would be any pain or other issues with the cleat setup. I'm pleased to report the boot / pedal combination was "nominal". That is a good word that basically means they performed as expected. I had no issues with them at all, they felt fine and my feet were too warm (as expected). After about 10 minutes I forgot about them, which is really the best thing.

The ride itself was difficult because of the ice, mostly on the streets and paths on the way to the river bottoms. And the wind was killer - very strong 20+ mph with 30+ gusts. The off-road trails were better and more sheltered from the wind. No problems keeping warm, and the lights I was using worked well on the trails after it got dark. The biggest drag of the night was that I was against the wind on the final leg home, which always sucks.

The ride the next day was longer and colder (16F) but slightly less windy, and with a couple of small changes to the way I loaded stuff I improved bike handling. I brought along a little stylus I have for my iPhone, that allows me to check in with home and take photos and stuff without removing my gloves. The phone will be my second unit on the race for video, audio (voice memos) and still photos. I need to be able to use it easily without my hands freezing. Again the boots/pedals were fine, as were my clothes. If anything I was slightly too warm (but not problematic) again, even with the wind. I'm switching to all Arrowhead clothes now, and getting away from anything I won't be wearing on the race, unless it gets really warm again (it might - forecast is for near 40 by the end of the week). Two day total was about 75-80 miles.

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