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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.

Pre-Race: Arrowhead135 2012
February 7, 2012
[Note: This is Part 1; jump to First Half or Second Half]

I felt different this year - a lot different - from the way I felt in 2011. Basically, I just felt more in control of things and just a little more relaxed. Part of it was from experience, obviously, but part of it was also from not having to put as many pieces together to be ready on race day. Bike and gear were set and ready to go. This year I was going to ride up to IFalls with Eszter Horanyi who was flying in from Colorado for the race. Doing that would allow Elisabeth to come up for the finish and not have us end up with two cars there.

Eszter came in friday afternoon, and was going to stay with us for the night before heading up. So friday evening was kind of a bustle as both of us sorted bikes and gear and food in our living room (with much kitten help). The weather was a hot topic of discussion, as the forecast was drifting into worst-case sceaneario territory: upper 20s and freezing rain. Earlier in the day I consulted my expert on outdoor clothing (Eric) and asked what he'd do in freezing rain. He replied (only somewhat joking) "if it rains you're fucked." Great. Thanks pal :-) We discussed hard-shell coats, but there was a concern about sweating more than the rain would get you wet, and in the end we could only determine that clothing might be a very tricky balance and the only way to decide anything was going to be to wait until race day.

Food was somewhat easier, and while it didn't seem like enough, in the end I had plenty. I tried to simplify somewhat, but really, it was kind of the same combination of sliced clif bars in one pogie, some sweeter items in the other, and a nalgene full of gorp. Caffeine, however, was going to be a larger component of my race method. I was woefully under caffeinated last year.

Otherwise, my stuff was pretty much set to go. My one disappointment was that I somehow damaged one lens of my favorite pair of Optic Nerve sunglasses. The coating was all scratched/rubbed right were I look though, essentially fogging the lens. I scrounged an alternate pair, but I was bummed.

I woke Saturday morning with an ominous tickle in my throat. That worried me as a work friend had been pretty sick earlier in the week, and we'd worked together a lot on a project. We left mid-morning, it was gray and warm and the race forecast was flipping between the possibility of rain and snow, but it was looking like we were in line for some kind of precipitation. I just brought a huge duffle bag full of all kinds of clothes deciding that I would not decide until race day. By the time we were half way to international falls I knew I had a cold. My sinuses were swelling, nose running, and my head was beginning to hurt. This was not good. We stopped at one point and I bought a bunch of cold tablets.

Mid afternoon we arrived at my hotel. I unloaded my stuff, and waited a bit for my room to get ready. I decided to go though gear check sooner rather than later because by now I was feeling really crappy and was thinking about sleep. I sorted out my stuff, went to get all checked in, and by 4 I was back in my room trying to sleep. This didn't work too well as I was still pretty keyed up from the drive and thinking about the race. I dosed for a couple of hours, then got up and took a hot shower in hopes of loosening up my head. I needed food, so I mustered up some energy, went to the bar for a beer and a sandwich, then back to my room for a movie and to go to bed.

I admit, at this point I was frustrated and angry at having a cold, and hitting a nice pre-race low. I mean wtf? I managed to dodge getting a cold for almost 6 months only to get one the frakkin' race weekend. It was good that i was in a room alone so i could shout curses around and have a nice time feeling sorry for myself. I wasn't angry at my coworker, she'd been a positive supporter of my training and i knew she was wishing me success. But rather I was just frustrated at the universe and the weather and everything else I couldn't control.

I slept poorly, waking often, though sunday morning it seemed that I'd not gotten any worse. I vowed to take it as easy as I could and still get my shit ready. I spent most of the day in my room, puttering with my gear, checking the weather and making an early pass at a clothing set.

The only thing I really did on Sunday that required any energy was go for a 10 minute ride around the parking lot after assembling my bike. I had re-greased the rear hub and replaced the chain earlier in the week, but I never had a chance to go for a test ride. I wanted to make sure everything was set correctly before race day while I still had time to make any fixes. Things were fine and it was just one other box ticked.

Pre-race dinner was good, but I didn't go looking for people I knew from last year. I apologize for not saying "hey" (if you care) - I was being anti-social only because I was sick and I was feeling like I didn't want to possibly infect anyone else, especially the runners. I know that if I was healthy and you were sick, I'd appreciate you keeping your distance the night before the race. So I ate a couple of plates of spaghetti and headed back to the hotel (again not winning anything in the swag drawing).

I did some last-minute organizing for race morning, and then went to bed early. My cold was abating and I wanted to give my body all the help I could before the race started. A last check of the weather showed not much change, so I felt pretty good in my clothing choices. I was asleep by 8:30.

My alarm went off at 5, and I took stock of my illness. My head was still stuffed a little bit, and a cough was taking hold, but all-in-all i was better than the day before. I had laid out breakfast in my room (so as to not have to deal with the Continental breakfast): oatmeal with dried fruit, two bananas, a Red Bull, a cold tablet and 2 advil.

A last check of the weather showed no real change, so it was decision time. I dressed and packed light and hoped for the best. I was as ready I was going to get.

Freezing rain coated the windows of the van, but it wasn't coming down that hard. Still, I debated over putting the hard shell on, but decided it was just too warm and not wet enough for that. The temperature was about 13F.

There was none of the start line chaos of last year. I got my bike set up, and set about shooting some video both inside and outside. With about 10 minutes to go, I took an E-Boost energy shot (more caffeine), said my good lucks to fellow racers and headed out to the start line.

CLOTHING NOTES

Bottom
- Novarra padded boxers
- Terramar light base layer
- Novarra Headwind pants

Top
- Terramar light base layer
- North Face light zip pullover
- Wintergreen soft shell jacket

Feet
- plastic bag vapor-barriers
- light wool blend sock
- Saloman -40F boots

Hands
- Terramar glove liners

Head
- Terramar light Thermasilk balaclava
- SD neck gator
- helmet

Packed
- SD long sleeve shirt/baselayer
- SD Rain/Wind shell jacket
- spare gloves & socks

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