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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.

Sloppy
January 17, 2012
I'm sore, bruised, and my bike is scary dirty. I guess that's a sign of a good ride. :-) On the other hand, I didn't sleep well and I need to keep the crashing to a minimum from now to the race so I don't make things worse.

I hit the river bottoms again for my weekend long ride with a goal of 5-6 hours. I added some weight and a pannier, some new food ideas I wanted to try, and headed out from home. An inch or so of snow had fallen the day before, and it had been warm at the beginning of the week then cold at the end - perfect conditions for snow-covered ice. Most of the trail was still dirt, but I still ended up crashing 4 times. Two were sort of self-induced, two were more random. The fist time I just hit a patch of ice on a corner and went down. That was shortly before lunch, and it was kind of nice to hit my turn around point with only that as my issue.

It was too warm for my race boots - between 25 and 35F - so I was riding in light clothes. This is all I was wearing:

- Sock liner and a light wool sock
- standard shoes / covers
- Padded shorts
- Headwind pants
- light base layer on top
- mountain hardware wind jacket
- gaitor as a headband
- helmet
- glove liners
- mitten shells

It was bright and sunny, so that helped, too. Overall I was pretty comfortable bordering on too warm.

I was also testing a new camera mount, a ball & socket that will let me rotate the camera easily. However, it's pretty tall, and I'm not sure I like the resulting video. I think the extra height increases the vibrations from the handle bars and it shows up more obviously in the video.

Just as I was getting back on the trail from lunch, I ran into Death Rider heading my way. We rode the rest of the afternoon together. That was good because we're both getting ready for the Arrowhead and I know that I'll ride a little faster and harder with someone else. I tend to be pokey when I ride alone. I had my second crash when I tried to follow him across a log bridge that I normally walk. I was going too slow, and was in the wrong gear and when I bogged on a log I fell over. I sort of consider this my fault because I prob should have just walked it like I always do.

Quick singletrack and discussion of possible Arrowhead weather and trail conditions was the order of the day. We met up with another guy a short bit later and continued on. Because everything is an adventure with Death Rider, we decided to ride the frozen swamps instead of the trail. The fact that there was open water here and there from all the warm weather only made it somewhat more interesting. I was shooting video of us crossing a windswept section of the swamp when I waited too long to decide which side of a stump to pass on. When I finally decided and tried to turn, I lost traction on the ice and when down hard again. Got a great piece of video, though... :-)

Riding with them did, however, reinforce that my climbing ability simply sucks. We had a good pace going and I was keeping up fine, until we hit what was a "typical" Arrowhead hill. At the top I was 20 yards back. Its a good thing there are not too many hills like that on the Arrowhead, only maybe 100 or so...

After splitting off from those guys and heading home, I dumped again going down a steep hill when, while braking near the top, my wheels hit ice and locked up. Grrr. That was #4. By this time my pannier was kind of messed up and I was holding it on with a bungy cord.

The resulting video from the day, as I mentioned, was ok, but not great. (Except for the wipeout on the ice - that's pretty funny.) Handlebar cams just suck in general. There is no way, really, to smooth out the footage. The frozen lake was as smooth as a surface as you could wish for, and I could still see bumps and vibrations from ice cracks or snow drifts. It gives me a headache to watch too much of it. What that really means is making more of an effort to get off-bike footage will be needed if I'm going to have enough for a decent length movie and still have it be watchable. I'm thinking tree branches are going to be useful. There probably won't be too much of that around, though, as the DNR moves a lot of it to make the trail safe for snowmobiles. I don't know, we're just going to have to see what I can get. I might change the ball and socket for something like a wing nut and rubber bushing. Not to dampen the vibration, but to make it so I can rotate the camera without it coming loose. I don't want it always to require two hands to reposition the camera and keep it tight in the mount. I'll be more likely to shoot if i can just point the camera and turn it on. With a bushing the tripod mount will maintain tightness as the camera rotates.

I went to REI for a few "last minute" things, and dropped over $100. How does that happen? I bought a new headlight and a bunch of lithium batteries and some "test food". All of my gear is starting to migrate to the dining room now where I'm putting it in a big pile on the table. This is all the stuff that's a maybe for the trip. It will get sorted down as it gets closer to the race.

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