The Arrowhead Approaches

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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Mike Riemer

Mike Riemer

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.


 Andrew |

You can do it Mike! Your experience last will help carry you through this year. Just this year I was able to summit a mountain here in Maine on snow shoes. It took me two other tries in previous winters before I could finally summit this year. It wasn’t physical conditions that kept me back, just lack of knowledge and getting the routine right. Now this year it sounds like you are more physically fit and have last years experience to go off of. You will do great!<BR>I can’t wait to hear about it. Again best of luck and go get em! <BR>-Andrew Freye

 Guitar Ted |

As has been said, “Much respect”, and I hope you achieve your goals. Most of all, I hope you come back safe and have a bunch of fun!

 MG |

Hey Mike, <BR><BR>Good luck brother.  Keep your head on straight and your eyes focused on the prize.  You’ll do what you need to do to survive.  The conditions will be what they will be.  You’ll rip it.<BR><BR>I can’t wait to hear how it goes.  <BR><BR>Best of luck!<BR><BR>Cheers,<BR>MG

 Jason |

Best of luck Mike! The ultra races are hard enough without doing them in -5 degree weather! Much respect. Stay warm and have fun.<BR><BR>j

 Kid Riemer |

Smitty,<BR><BR>I am running a Surly Pugsley regardless of snow conditions. Some folks bring up two bikes so they can choose snow bike or mountain bike. Honestly I don’t want to deal with it. It is hard enough figuring out where to put all your gear on one bike, let alone worrying about how to do it for two bikes.<BR><BR>The bike is a Pugsley with a non-offset fork from John Evingson. He also built the front and rear racks for the bike.<BR><BR>SRAM drivetrain with GripShift. It worked great in the cold last year.<BR><BR>Large Marge rims, EndoMorph tires, not sure if I’m going to cheat on tubes with 29’er tubes or not. That may depend on temperature. I’d sure like to avoid changing a flat.<BR><BR>I may pull off the front disc brake for the event this year. There are some fast downhills so if I do I need to do some speedchecking at the start of the descents.<BR><BR>Position is very upright and comfortable. Salsa 17-degree handlebar with Ergon grips.<BR><BR>Rear rack holds sleeping bag and bivy sack. Frame bag holds tubes, tools, food, spare gloves, spare headwear, and wind jackets.<BR><BR>Front rack holds Nalgene bottles in insulated bottle holders, puffy jacket and pants, extra fleece layer, headlamp, stove, and fuel. Handlebar will hold sleeping pad.<BR><BR>I’m still doing plenty of staring at the bike, configuring and reconfiguring. <BR><BR>This week I’ll decide whether to add one pannier to the front or possibly two with my waterbottles being part of what goes inside them.

 Smitty |

Tell us about the bike you plan to use for this event…I suppose conditions will dictate your bike choice and setup?

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 Chuck |

Miker,<BR><BR>I know you will prevail! Good luck, Brother. I wish I was there this year to watch you prepare. Last year I could see the excitement in you every time you came to work and looked at that Pugs sitting next to your cube. <BR><BR>Keep the updates coming.

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