Arrowhead Ultra 135 Race Report

Jason Novak


I had a good time up in International Falls, although I missed my family.  Andrew (my oldest) turned 8 on Mon= day and it was hard missing his birthday.  He was counting on me to bring him a finisher’s trophy.  Charly and I just kind of hung out= and prepared our gear for Mon morning.  Pre race check in went without a hitch and we were able to talk with= old friends and make new ones in the day leading up to the race.  One of the nice things about this = race was how laid back and friendly everyone was.  There was no sense of nervousness = or competitiveness.


On Monday morning we packed up and I drove to the start.  The temp was -18deg F, but I felt = ready for the cold.  I had trained in similar conditions and felt I had a good handle on the layers/gear necessar= y.  The snow conditions were great.  The pace was fast off the gun, but= I was so far back it didn’t matter.  I was in cruise control the first part of the race, just riding along and if my legs felt any burning I backed off.   I had the opportunity to rid= e with Lindsay Gould for a while.  Li= ndsay is 61 years old and was on the 1972 Canadian Cycling team.  A true gentleman, he is pretty har= dcore on the bike.  We started chatt= ing and he dropped back due to some frozen hydration issues.  The first checkpoint was at the Ga= teway Store about 30something miles in.  Just before the store I came upon Charlie Farrow.  Farrow is a legend in these parts.=   He is the self appointed leader of= a gang in Duluth known as the “DBD”.  His exploits are something out of a Krakauer novel.  Farrow was ha= ving some problem with frozen toes.   He passed me back for good at the store.  I saw Chary Tri at the store as we= ll; he was heading out as I arrived.  I grabbed a bowl of soup and some juice for a few minutes and headed out.  While I was there another DBD̵= 7;er, Jason Buffington, came and went (on a non fat 29er!). He would continue on = to a top placing.


The second leg to Melgeorge’s is about 37 miles and is where the hills start.  We are talking monster climbs, 50 yards long and as steep as a ski hill, one after another.  My goal was to make the elephant l= ake crossing and to Melgeorge’s before dark.  Temps started to drop to around ze= ro (from a high of about 5 degF).  About 15 miles from the halfway point I came across a walking Charly Tri.  He was having some breathing difficulties.  He withdrew soon after.  Once I hit Melgeorge&#= 8217;s I had a soup and sandwich, chatted with the awesome volunteers, and dried o= ut my clothes.  There was a cute = baby there and that made me a little homesick.&= nbsp; No cell service.  At th= is point I was tired, but having a really good time.


I headed out for the long stretch (about 40 miles) to the last checkpoint.  The distances do not seem like a l= ot to a cyclist, but when you factor in an average speed of 4-7 mph, the hours add up.  More hills.  Initially I left with Dave Gray, D= on Gabrielson, and Chris Plesko.  Dennis Grelk had left a few minutes before us.&nb= sp; Don and Dave had a faster pace so Chris and I rode together for the = next few hours.  I was getting pret= ty cold and sleepy at about 11pm. My clothes were soaked.  I would overheat on the way up the= hill and then flash freeze on the way down.   Chris and I were entertainin= g the idea of breaking out the bivy’s for a couple of hours and catching a nap.  A few miles later we cau= ght up with Don and he mentioned stopping and starting a fire.  He joked that we had all this expe= nsive gear, why not use it?  We stop= ped at about mile 100.  The temperatu= re was about -10degF.  After we had s= ome difficulty getting a fire started, I jumped in my bag and ate about 1000 calories and a bottle of water.  I started shivering uncontrollably for about 10 minutes although I was not cold.  I have read about this = and I knew it would pass.  It did an= d I fell asleep for 2 hours.  Lind= say, Andy, Bill, and Jeremy (another crazy DBD’er on a single speed 29’er) passed us at some point while I was napping.  Janice from AK rolled up at some p= oint and crashed for a while as well.  Once we got up and rolling the hills continued for the next 3 hours = to the tipi, the final checkpoint.  It was just Don and I at this point.  Chris (on a single speed snow bike) was not far behind.


The final 18 miles are pancake flat, just a path through the trees.  The sun was up, and I was getting = tired, but being so close to the finish kept me going.  Once I rolled in to Fortune Bay I = found where I was supposed to go, congratulated the earlier finishers, and took a pull of whisky from Dave Pramann’s flask.


The race was very well organized.  The scenery was spectacular.  I ha= d a disposable digital camera, but it froze and would not work.  Everyone was friendly and supporti= ve and the volunteer’s were top notch.  It was the hardest event I have done.  Thanks to the Ostor’s for pu= tting on this event.  The timing loo= ks better next year and I spent the last stretch making mental notes on some changes I’ll make for next time.&nbs= p; I look forward to seeing my new friends again soon.