Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Safe and secure

Rachel is with Rick now and they are heading in Rachel's vehicle to pick up some other racers before they make their way toward home.  If I get anymore phone calls from Rick, I will pass along the information.
Kristy Wagar


Turned off tracking. Will post more when i can. Rachel is safe. I'm sure I will see her soon.


Rachel and two others are resting, contemplating their next move. They are safe in their bags. They don't think they can make the cutoff. This may be the end of road.

Slow Going

Still moving slowly. 8-10 inches of snow over night.  Will be flirting with the 2 pm cut off.

Deep Snow

Rachel is a bit discouraged.  Snow is deep. 4 more inches since midnight. She continue to slug it out.  She's about 15 miles from the second checkpoint.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Takin' care of business

Time spent at the Gateway store was all about business.  Rachel fueled up wih a cheeseburger and some mac and cheese, changed shoes and socks, and dried some of her clothing.  She feels good and there are no major issues.  After brushing her teeth and running a comb through her hair that ended up toothless (A different definition of "trail head!), she packed up and headed out leaving 9 people still at the Gateway store.  Many have already given up the challenge for this year....   Rachel remains focused leaving the Gateway store at 7:20 p.m. to continue her journey in the snowy overnight hours.  Godspeed,, our focused friend!


Gateway Checkpoint

Rachel made the first checkpoint at 6. All is well. Should be back out by 7

Clipping Along

Rachel is making very good progress averaging a little over 5 MPH.  A consistant steady effort so she must be feeling well.

The Start

Rachel made it to the start.  You have no idea how huge that is.  The effort it takes just to get there is tremendous.  Years in the making.  Now the fun begins.  I'm sure she is pinching herself.

As Rachel begins her 135 mile journey, I'll be in the shower getting ready to go to work.  I'll be headed up to I-Falls and hope to meet her at the first checkpoint somewhere between 5-7 tonight.

Ready To Go

Rachel is up, focused and ready to go.  All the prep is done.   Now it's just time to execute. 

You will go to work this morning after she starts, get home from work and be eating your evening meal when she reaches the first checkpoint.  She'll then have just 100 miles left to go.  Kind of a sobering thought.

Winter storm watch for the I-Falls area today and tomorrow.  Not to worry though.  If the weather gets really ugly, Rachel has the mandated saftey equipment with her to keep her warm and safe for quite a while.

Local News

Here is a report on the AH135 on last nights news.  Seems they forgot to mention that you can do it on foot as well.  Is riding a bike cheating?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Is The Arrowhead 135?

              Strength - Endurance - Solitude - Survival

For those interested in following Rachel's Arrowhead 135 adventure and have no idea what she is doing, I'll try and fill you in on what sort of epic adventure she's on.

The Arrowhead 135 is a winter ultramarathon that starts in International Falls, MN (the icebox of the nation) and makes its way 135 miles along the Arrowhead State Trail with the finish near Tower, MN.  The AH135 is considered one of the most difficult human powered events on the planet.  Many have started.  Few will finish and cowards won't show.  Who is tougher than the Arrowhead?  What does it take?

The surface is snow. Your feet sink in. Think sandy beach but colder. Some miles are relatively flat though there is a 60 mile section through the middle that is nothing short of brutal, seemingly never ending hills. Other than that, it's not too bad.

135 miles on foot is difficult no matter the circumstance.  They generously give you 60 hours to get it done.

You are basically alone and on your own.  When you haven't seen another human being for hours, the dark gets darker.  The dead quiet gets a little spooky.  A snowmobile may pass once in a while but they just look at you funny.

The weather.  Minnesota winters are cold and you supply your own heat.  But it's a dry cold.

Mile after mile of tree lined trail with snow crunching under foot is taxing no matter the weather. If you get tired, thirsty or hungry, don't look for an aid station as there aren't any. This is considered a self supported event where you take your food, water, clothing and shelter with you when you leave I-Falls and carry it all the way to the finish.  At 3 points along the way, volunteers will put a check by your name, refill your water, offer you a sandwich then boot you out the door. There is a list of equipment that you must carry at all times which is mandated for safety. You are your own rescue should you get into trouble.

There isn't much that doesn't freeze at -20 so food selection is critical. Being you are moving all the time, you are burning calories all the time which means you need to be eating almost constantly to keep the body fueled/revved up and generating heat.  If you get cold, move faster but don't sweat.  Below zero temps and wet clothes is a big no no.  You need to keep hydrated.  Most carry their hydration on their body under clothing so it hopefully won't freeze.

The vision you have is of strolling along 135 miles of natural winter beauty. 


Although there is much beauty to take in along the trail, the reality of the AH135 is more like this:

Most will not finish on their first attempt and on a good year more will not finish than those that do.  Those who return will usually find success on their 2nd or 3rd try.  Some have 4+ starts and not a finish though they keep coming back.  There have been years when only 1 person finished. 
The big question. Why?

I was going to try and answer the question that is most frequently heard among Arrowhead participants but I can't because it is different for everyone.  Here is the best answer I can come up with as to the why.  Written by Canadian ultra runner David Blaikie.
"It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are."
-- David Blaikie

Friday, January 25, 2013

Arrowhead 2013

Except for last year, every year at the Arrowhead 135 the temperature at some point has dropped to -20 or lower.  With the forecast high on Monday near 30 above, -20 would seem out of reach but it looks as though it may get there Wednesday a.m.  Not sure why but it is usually 5 to 10 degrees colder on the trail. 

Perspectives Before and After

As Rachel prepares for her Arrowhead journey that she will embark on in a few days, here is her perspective from 2 years ago when she volunteered at one of the checkpoints.


It will be interesting to hear from her on the other side.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Arrowhead 2013

With the start of Arrowhead just a week away I thought I should let everyone know that I'm not entered in this years event.  At times I'd like to say, "Been there.  Done that." and never mention the word Arrowhead again but I can't.  This year I'll be headed up there to watch Ultra Friend Rachel see if she's tougher than the Arrowhead. 

In the mean time, I'm excited that Rachel has decided to take on the challenge and I'll try and keep all interested updated on how she's doing. 

There is a link on the right hand side of the blog to click on to see if she's out on a training run and there will be another link for race day on Monday the 28th. 

Rachel's last big event was a difficult 100 mile event on the north shore of Lake Superior.  Check out her blog (Shoot.Run.Tri.Submit) on the right side of the page for her race report.