Some of you may know that I attempted the Arrowhead Ultra last year. My attempt at the 135 mile adventure type race from International Falls to Tower, Minnesota fell short, but I certainly learned a lot in the process.
How much did I learn? Well, I’ll find out in about three weeks when I give the Arrowhead a second shot.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to blog about the event this year because I consider it a bit more personal this year. But in the end, I thought I’d write a little bit down about what I’ve learned, the training I’ve been doing, and my hopes.
Last year I learned a lesson in humility. Not that I went into the event cocky. In fact I’d say that I was one of the folks who was willing to admit their aprehension before the start. It was really cold throughout the event and while I’d camped for extended times in such weather, I’d never tried to complete such a physically demanding event in that type of weather.
Among the myriad of mistakes I made, my worst was probably letting myself become dehydrated which led to the onset of hypothermia. There were plenty of other mistakes as well, but hypothermia affects your decision making process in a very insidious manner. That makes it very hard to combat once it has taken hold.
Physically I’m almost 15 pounds lighter than I was last year, despite having more muscle mass. I’ve done much more cross training this year instead of just spending all my time riding a bike or trainer. I’ve been snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, walking, lifting weights, and doing sit ups and pushups. Really, just trying to do anything that will make my body stronger. Of course, I’ve spent some long hours on the bike too, riding on snow.
There are a lot of hills in the Arrowhead and that word can be deceiving. There are many that can’t be ridden and even if you could ride them, you often shouldn’t because it takes too much effort.
Mentally I’ve probably thought way too much about the event. Sometimes it makes it tough to sleep at night because I start thinking about it all: the course, my gear, and my methodology. And I’ve read some books which I hope will help. Currently I’m reading a book called Deep Survival which explores the characteristics that set survivors apart from those that don’t. There is a lot going on in your brain in certain situations with different areas duking it out for control.
That is why I say methodology as opposed to plan. Last year I had a plan. My plan was to make it to the midpoint cabin without a break, to rest and rehydrate there, and then proceed on. I allowed myself to become so engrossed in the plan that I was ignoring the reality of the situation. The reality was I needed to stop, fire up the stove, and rehydrate.
This year’s plan is to take the correct steps for overall success. The Deep Survival book calls it Do The Next Right Thing.
The methodology I refer to revolves around the smaller obstacles that occur along the way. If you need to stop to melt snow or make a repair, what is the precise order you will do things in?
What the Arrowhead dishes out this year remains to be seen of course. Last years snow conditions were terrible and doubled the time it took for the racer winners. This year, the snow conditions appear to be better at this point. That would be fine with me.
What will the weather be like? Will it hit 30 below again? This morning the radio said it was 4 below while I was driving Jordan to school. That’s warmer than it was during the whole event last year. I’m just planning on it being cold…probably really cold.
That’s my Arrowhead update. Think good thoughts for me in three weeks.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.