A few years back I read the book Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer. In one chapter of the book he describes what it's like trying to climb Denali. He explained that there were a group of doctors that – for no pay – spend summers at Denali's base camp doing research on climbers with altitude sickness. I'll quote part of the book now as it seems to apply: “I asked one of the doctors, Howard Donner, why they volunteered to spend their summers toiling in such a godforsaken place. 'Well,' he explained as he stood there shivering in a blizzard, reeling from nausea and a blinding headache while attempting to repair a broken radio antennae, 'it's sort of like fun, only different.”
That is probably the best reason I can came up with for participating in such things as a winter bike race. Especially when - of the four winter bike races I have taken part in they have all been a different shade of misery.
I signed up to start my second Arrowhead 135 (You can go look up the site if you're curious but to sum it up grossly it's a 135 mile race [including roughly 7500 feet of elevation change] on snowmobile trails in northern Minnesota held in the winter)(I started – and finished – the 2009 version on a bike) you can either bike, run or ski - I'll be on a bike again. If you think I'm crazy just think of the insanity involved in running – pulling a sled with all your gear – for 135 miles. It starts in about three months – Jan 31st at 7 am. Yesterday was the first ride I have been on that was taken with Arrowhead in mind. It was a bad day weather-wise for a bike ride. Cold, windy and rainy. It actually snowed a bit this morning and although it warmed up some – so the snow turned to rain – I doubt it got much higher than the mid 30's. I hope like hell that it's not raining for any part of Arrowhead – but a race like Arrowhead is almost as much mental as physical. Learning to enjoy (or at least tolerate) riding when you'd really rather not is something that'll keep you going when it comes time to leave the hospitality of a toasty checkpoint. And as happens about 70% of the time when it's hard to motivate yourself to ride the ride ended up being fun. I checked out some snowmobile/ATV trails near here – I got wet some but had dressed well so I was – for the most part – warm and dry. OK so maybe there was some luck involved.
I'm going to try and keep this blog going describing my preparations for the race. Not sure how it's going to go. When I did Arrowhead a couple of years back I followed a rather strict training regimen. “Regime” would probably me more apt and plus it would summarize how I generally feel about a strictly followed regimen. Anyway the regimen provided ample rest while stairstepping my ride length up until I was doing 8 hour rides near the end. Worked well until it snowed 4” the night before the race and suddenly I could barely keep up with any other bikers out there because I was a a regular mountain bike and most of the rest of the competition were on dedicated snow bikes - most on Surly Pugsleys. Most of the riding I did in preparation for Arrowhead '09 was just to appease the God of the Regime...not simply because I wanted to ride. Makes more sense now to ride myself into shape by doing rides that I want to do - not because my regimen says I have to. Life's a journey, not a destination...or something like that. Training for the race is so – uh – plentiful that a big part of the fun should be the training, not just hammering out hours riding a bike to do well in a race, the conditions of which are out of your control.
So anyway, this blog should open you up to the foolish mind of an Arrowhead participant (and almost all the other participants would happily label themselves as some kind of foolish).
PS I'm going to include pictures in much of this blog.