Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spare thoughts on Arrowhead 135

The Arrowhead 135 ultramarathon kicks off at 7 a.m. Monday in International Falls, and as anyone who read my story in Sunday's paper will tell you, it's not exactly a race for the faint of heart. Matter of fact, it's not a race for just about anyone besides cardio extremists and winter camping fanatics.

For those unfamiliar with Arrowhead 135, it's a 135-mile race from International Falls to the town of Tower that takes place almost entirely on the Arrowhead State Snowmobile Trail. Competitors have 60 hours to complete the race and may chose to either run, bike or ski the course. This is all while dealing with temperatures in the 20-below range and having to haul their gear (usually around 30 pounds or so) the entire way.

I stumbled across the Arrowhead 135 during a prior post about strange and unique races beyond your run-of-the-mill 5K's and triathlons. I remember my first reaction being: "Well, I'm never doing that race." Come to think of it, that's still pretty much how I feel about it. I enjoy winter camping and I enjoy long-distance running, but I don't see myself ever wanting to combine the two in that extreme.

Still, being the advocate of health and fitness culture that I am, I found it to be a fascinating race to write about. It doesn't get much more extreme than that for road races and the people I interviewed for it proved to be just as interesting.

With that in mind, here's a few other notes about the Arrowhead 135:

  • Jennifer Flynn, the cyclist I interviewed for the story, will actually be doing her first bike race ever at Arrowhead. She was previously an ultramarathon runner, but took up cycling after fracturing her foot. Maybe it's just me, but if I was signing up for a first race of a particular cardiovascular discipline, it wouldn't be Arrowhead. Incredible.
  • According to the results on Arrowhead's website, race director Dave Pramann still has the course record for fastest time, finishing on a bike in 15 hours, 45 minutes in 2006. Quick math equates Pramann to averaging 9 mph if he was pedaling the entire time. By comparison, St. Peter native Bruce Maertens biked across the entire state of South Dakota (415 miles) last summer in a record time of 20 hours, 48 minutes, which averages out to about 20 mph (Jim Rueda column about it here). Just a further testament to how tough the Arrowhead 135 course really is.
  • According to Pramann, competitors from more than 20 states and 6-7 foreign countries have raced in Arrowhead. I find that surprising. Anyone who's ever taken a vacation in the wintertime can attest to how much of a climate shock it is to step off a plane in Minneapolis after being in Florida for a week. Imagine what it's like for a 130-pound ultramarathon runner from Brazil trying to adjust to 20-below weather while running in the snow for two days.
  • Great story that I simply couldn't fit into my article: John Storkamp, a multiple-time Arrowhead participant, has had his fair share of rough times on the course, but few worse than his first year. At about two in the morning the second day, due to extreme exhaustion and disillusion, he started running hard because he thought he was only 5 miles from the finish. He was in fact 35 miles away. He began sweating heavily -- a recipe for disaster in 20-below weather -- and wound up falling asleep while going to the bathroom. Realizing how cold he was getting, Storkamp woke up, stripped out of his sweaty clothes and crawled into his sleeping bag to warm up. Can't really think of too many races where a life-or-death situation came about for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment