One week after completing Arrowhead I still haven't gathered all my thoughts. Getting my thoughts, much less my head, back together has proven to be the most difficult part of the recovery. Though I may have a physical ding here or there it isn't much different than any other post race recovery for me. An ache here and a pain there comes with the territory and I am pretty close to 50 years old so I guess some of that is to be expected.
The morning of the event I got up after a good night's sleep and did my normal morning routine. My friend Rachel, who was volunteering at one of the checkpoints, swung by to pick me up 30 minutes before the start. Dropping me off the night before I said to her, "see you at 7:30" and she said, "you mean 6:30". "Does it start at 7 or 8?" I said and she reassured me that it was 7. I'm glad I have good people in my life to help watch over me. It would have been most embarrassing walking up to the start and being the only one there.
It was around 15 below at the start which is about what was expected. I was dressed appropriately and ready to start putting some miles behind me. I was able to figure out a way to keep my Garmin Forerunner 305 charged for more than 9 hours so I was able to rely on that to pace me through those important first miles. Sweating being a big deal in an event like this and with all of the excitement, its hard not to work way too hard those first few miles. The Garmin kept me at a pace that would hopefully get me to the first checkpoint at right around 5 pm.
The terrain is not very hilly in these first 35-40 miles so a good combination of running and walking is used. Run easy until I could feel some sweat building and then walk until the clothes felt dry again. I don't know what the high temp was for the day but it couldn't have been much over zero. It was cloudy as well. Of course, as it got late in the day the clouds moved out and you could just feel it in the air that the night was going to be very cold and very dark with a new moon.
Getting to the Gateway General Store, which is used as the first checkpoint, I felt really good. I wasn't very tired, I had been eating and hydrating well and I actually wasn't even very hungry. Last year I remember I was starving when I got there. This year I went in and had 2 hot dogs and a coke, dried my outer layer a bit, chatted with some of the other competitors and I was back out the door. I ended up spending a fair amount of time outside in the parking lot changing the batteries for my lights on the sled. We are required to have red LED's front and back that must be on at all times. Last year, I started out with new batteries and they lasted until I quit which was about 40 hours. I don't even think at that point they were dim. This year, I started out with a new set of "Copper Top" batteries, which I always use, and they didn't even last 10 hours. Of course I brought spares but at this rate, I'd need 10 sets of spares to get me to the finish. And then I started wondering about my headlight that had batteries from the same new pack of "Copper Top" batteries I'd bought for the sled LED"S. How long would I have light? I got everything changed and blinking brightly and we were on our way before 6:30.
It was -10 when I left the checkpoint with a predicted low of -25. Before I left I took a quick glance around the inside of the store at some of the other competitors. Some of which hadn't moved since I got there. I knew they wouldn't be joining me out on the trail and their Arrowhead journey was over. For some it was their first try and for some it was their 2nd or 3rd. I felt a little bad for them as I dashed out the door like a teenager on date night. I really felt great even knowing that I still had nearly 100 miles to go.
After leaving Gateway and settling down into a steady pace, putting 10 or so miles behind me I had a chance to make a phone call. Cell coverage is kind of spotty and I knew Kristy would be headed to bed soon so I called and told her all was well and said good night. That was tough. It was getting colder, darker and hillier. And lonelier. It was going to take me until morning to reach the next checkpoint and with little or no cell coverage there as well, I knew it would be a long time until I'd hear a familiar, friendly voice offering me encouragement. Until then it would be just me, the Arrowhead Trail, and a couple of naked ladies.
To be continued.......................................................................