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Olympia Cycle & Ski, 1813 Portage Ave

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An Arrowhead 135 report from Lindsay

To learn more about the Arrowhead 135 ultra endurance winter cycling (and skiing and running) event go to the official site here, or scroll further down this page to read some earlier postings that were made as the event progressed.  You can also read the account from one of the support crews by clicking on the OCC blog link near the top of the right hand column on this page.

Read the first hand account from Lindsay Gauld (founder of Olympia) immediately below:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so this one should save a good amount of writing. On the way down to International Falls we stopped at a gas station and grocery store in Baudette and I met up with an old acquaintance of mine named Sam Anella. I didn't realize who he was at the time as he was hiding in either a chicken breast or a pasta salad. He followed me to IF and finally at 4 am that night he announced his presence.

I spent the next 22 hours praying to the porcelain god (throwing up) until 5 hours before the start of a 24 hour race. After that I was able to consume three saltine crackers plus half a Seven Up but that would barely give me the energy to get me out of sight of the starting line so I realized that I would be a cheerleader this year.

The funny thing is that after Andy and I went and had some breakfast I actually felt pretty good. I ended up riding over 110 kms. I rode back from the Melgeorges checkpoint for 17 kms till I met up with Ian Hall and joined him to ride back to the  resort. It was a great way to see the race unfold as I saw the four leaders go by and then the gaps as the riders went by. Hal was in 16th at that point and Ian in 20th.

I had a feed at Melgeorges and then after seeing Hal and Ian head out and then Dallas 35 minutes later, we headed over to the finish at Fortune Bay Casino where we had a room for the next two nights. We had an adventure shortly after we checked in as there was a fire in and elevator as the result of some rocket scientist putting a cigarette in the garbage tray. The alarm sounded and the hallways were quite smokey. They headed us all into the casino (funny how that works) and it was amazing to see that the gamblers never even looked up from their machines as the alarm continued to sound. 

I intended to head out and meet our guys but first we thought we could see the leaders finish. We wandered down to the finish and were disappointed to just miss the finishing sprint between the two Alaskan riders. After 135 miles and 15 hrs and 51 minutes, they ended up about 6 inches apart. I got myself ready and headed out just as the first woman and the 9th rider overall came in at just after 1 am. The track had firmed up and I cruised by some riders as I headed out to see our guys. I passed Bill Shand, a Canadian who now works in South Dakota. I got to know Bill and we've been in touch this winter as he was 8th in last year's Iditabike and has been very helpful in answering my many questions. Bill had always done well at the Arrowhead but he took a very aggressive strategy this year whereby his total stopping time at the 3 checkpoints was 8 minutes at Melgeorges. This would be barely enough to fill his water. It worked as he managed a time of just under 20 hours. The bar just keeps getting raised higher in this race as he improved by 6 hours over last year's time ( it was a faster year ) and only moved up two places from 13th to 11th.

After 18 kms I saw Hal Loewen which at this point in the race meant that he had about 1 1/2 hours to go. He ended up finishing 13th overall in 21 hours and 40 minutes.  I carried on and about 3 kms later came upon Tracey Petervary and  Casey Krueger. Tracey is the female record holder for the 1000 mile and the 1100 mile versions of the Iditrod. Casey was doing the event on cross country skis and he was spectacular as he demolished the ski record by 14 hours in finishing in just over 22 hours. To give you an idea how fast he was going, he gained 55 minutes on Tracey in the last 21 kms.

With 25 kms to go I came upon Ian Hall.  Last year Ian had a very strong last leg and it appeared he'd be finished in another 2 hours. The last stretch is basically flat but it has always proven very difficult to me. Ian struggled on this stretch but still came in 18th with a time of 23 hours and 35 minutes. He was heard to say that this last stretch was one of the toughest things he's done and was vowing to come back as a volunteer next year. We have to have short or at least selective memories to do this to ourselves so I assume he'll change his mind on that.

I wasn't sure how far back Dallas would be but at about the 3o km mark I came across 3 guys who'd been riding with him and they said he'd been reduced to babbling and was romancing a tree and threatening to bivy at the last checkpoint . I saw Dave Simmons from North Dakota a little later and he said much the same thing so I was expecting to find Dallas snug in his sleeping bag when I arrived at the Ski Pulk checkpoint. I was pleasantly surprised to find Dallas coming toward me as he'd just summoned the will and energy to head for the finish. When we met, he had 36 kms to go. I wasn't allowed to pace him but I did keep him talking and if you know Dallas you'll realize that this would be enough to keep him going. We were going 5 kms and then taking a water and food break and gradually the finish line came closer. With about 10 kms to go the sun rose and we rode in with Dallas finishing in 24th place in 25 hrs and 46 minutes.

Our other rider was Al (Mister) Dixon. Al is new to this kind of event and was hoping for a result somewhere in the 40 hour range. He had gone through the first checkpoint about a quarter of the way through the race in 7 hours so it was looking good. The next stretch is tougher but he managed to arrive at the Melgeorges checkpoint at midnight , 17 hours into the race. Those who know Al will understand this next tale. He had come upon a skier who was out of water and stayed with him and shared his water to the checkpoint which meant that he was feeling somewhat dehydrated when he got there. 

It was at this point that the rails came off on Al's race as he found out that his bag with his food for the second half of the race hadn't been left for him. Between Andy and myself, and Hal's brother Tim we had a miscommunication and the bag ended up getting driven to the finish in Tim's van. With a stretch of at least 17 or 18 hours ahead of him and no food, Al had no choice but to drop out. All is too nice a guy and I assured him I would have stolen someone else's bag. In truth, with a bit more experience at these things he might have been okay as many of the riders who had already gone hadn't taken all their food. Since you don't get the leftover's back he might have been able to find what he needed or at least a reasonable substitute if he'd checked with the volunteers. Nonetheless, Al has had a good winter with a strong finish in The Tuscobia Ultra in late December and a result at the halfway point here that indicates that a 40 hour ride or better is well within his reach here.

I missed not racing as I love the rush but i've got a date with the 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational coming up in three weeks in Alaska. They have been having huge snowfalls as well as cold weather so I'm sure i'll get my racing fix and then some as I expect it will take me somewhere between 5 and 6 days. We are not allowed to take a Spot for that race but I will try to communicate with Lynne so she can pass on whatever info she can get. Til then, think good thoughts for me.

This one scares me a little as I hope that my mind and will haven't written a cheque that my body can't cash.