Wednesday, January 23, 2013

what the hell was I thinking?

I know that I was never going to be a contender for even the top ten (or probably even top 20) in Arrowhead this year (and probably never).  It's gotten incredibly competitive.  In '09 I managed to get 12th place.  There were 15 finishers (and 25 starters) - almost all of whom had some kind of fatbike (I didn't - and I plan to whine about it).  In '09 my time was just shy of 40 hours.  In '11 I finished in 33:30 for a 24th place finish out of 39 to finish.  55 started).  I didn't race in '12 but if you take my time from '11 and see what place that would have got me, it would have netted me 35th place.  And this year there are 6 past winners so it'll probably be even faster (assuming good trail conditions).  So what does this mean for me?  Almost nothing since my goal this year is to accompany John to the finish and take some good pictures and possibly video during the race.  He's never done anything like this before and I'll be doing what I can to help him along - our only goal is to finish.  It's still 135 miles.  Just finishing it will be a big deal - if we can manage it.

Along about Christmas I ran into a bout of motivational withdrawl: I didn't feel compelled to ride much.  It was fine for a while - I had been training hard before that and needed some recovery time - but it kept stretching out.  "Oh, I'll go for a nice long ride tomorrow" and then of course I wouldn't and then would say "Oh, I'll go for a nice long ride tomorrow".  This continued for a few weeks.  I actually did get a few rides in but they were only a few hours long.

Arrowhead isn't like the final exam in college that you can stay up late the night before cramming.  You try and pull that for Arrowhead and your chances of finishing are pretty low.  It's a wonder that I can motivate myself to train for Arrowhead because I'm a terrible procrastinator.  I'm real quick, I think I just figured it out: riding my bike = fun, studying for Organic Chemistry = pulling teeth.

Anyway, I got out for a ride a couple of days back.  Then I went for a short one last night and then a medium one (just over four hours) tonight.  And that's a wrap.  I'm as good as I'm going to be for Arrowhead (not very).  It's actually cold here now.  First ride this year that was below zero - with wind chills at about -30.  It feels good to get out in some semi-cold temps.  Relaxing.  Now I know that if it gets cold at Arrowhead I can handle it - the main thing to remember is that I shouldn't lick my pump.

A picture of me taken by a nice, passing snowmobiler who stopped for a chat.

I hope and pray that conditions aren't like this for Arrowhead - or at least very much of it.  In reality we'll have to play the hand we're dealt at Arrowhead but hopefully the hand we're dealt isn't soft snow (packed by maybe half a dozen snowmobiles) with 4" of untracked stuff on top.  Very slow.  Although I took my computer off my bike (too much other stuff on the handlebar) I would guess that I was going somewhere between 3 and 4 mph.  (Or close to 40 hours to complete the whole thing)

This spot is where the Moquah Spur intersects with the Iron River trail.  In the fall when the trail is hard-packed and fast I can make it here in about 45 mins.  On this ride it took about 2:30.

I thought I had the Blair Witch chasing me.  So I stopped to take a picture.  Makes sense, right?     

I made it to the end of the Moquah Spur roughly 6 miles away in about an 2.5 hours.  The Arrowhead record (15:45) is not in danger by yours truly.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Whoops, forgot to post this one.  I wrote it sometime in December.  

The night before yesterday I spent getting my 29er ready for ice riding.  I have a pair of studded tires (that I made myself using an old pair of tires and a bunch of sheet metal screws).  So I switched the tires over, and the frame bag with pump enclosed, and threw a spare tube in too.  I was ready to ride.

 OK so when I was 3 hours into the ride at the farthest point from our place I stopped to eat a snack of summer sausage and fry-bread.  When I rolled out to start heading back home I immediately noticed that I had a flat front tire.

Flats almost always suck but this was no big deal as I had a spare tube, and pump along.  I went to grab my tire irons out of my seatbag and was horrified to see that I didn't have one with me.  I had forgotten to switch it over to this bike.  A string of rather dark thoughts went through my head as I thought of all the miles I'd be pushing my bike home just because I had forgotten the measly tire iron.  I threw on my spare windbreaker that standard to bring along on every bike ride - but of course a tool kit is also a standard thing to bring along so I guess that "standard" is about meaningless - and started walking.

Probably 15 year ago I remember reading an article (I believe it was in Dirt Rag - as if that matters much) that had a little tidbit that's stuck with me all those years.  I have no idea why it did, I've never used that tidbit before, I have no idea what the article was about, it's just one of those things that sticks with you.  Usually I've got a memory like a steel sieve but this clung to my brain.  The tidbit is: if you find yourself out in the middle of nowhere without a tire iron try using your skewer.  I did this and it worked great.
I've got to think that the chances of a person remembering a pump and spare tube while forgetting a simple tire iron would be rather slim but hell, that's exactly what I did yesterday. 

I pumped it up and was off.  And boy was I relieved - it would have probably been a 20 mile hike home.  I shudder to think about it. 

It was probably another 2 1/2 hours home.