Saturday, February 28, 2015

2015 Arrowhead 135 - Part 2 - Race Start

The final few weeks leading up to Arrowhead were mainly about gear decisions.  The sled and payload at Tuscobia 75 weighed on the order of 40 pounds.  Got the produce scale out and started weighing stuff.

Someone said "The first time you do something, you carry all your insecurities with you."  That's fairly close.  At Tuscobia 75, two times I carried far more than ever used, particularly in clothing and food.  The furthest distance between checkpoints at Tuscobia was 35 miles. At Arrowhead, it is roughly 45 miles between mile 70 Mel Georges resort and a nondescript warming tent....somewhere around 110 to 115 miles. You can get warm water at 115 miles.  No resupply between 70 miles and 135 mile finish.  That's a haul.

My feet got a bit warm at Tuscobia.  It started subzero, and got into the twenties.  I wore too much on my feet.  Keeping the feet warm was a bit of obsession from last year.  This time, it worked a bit too well.   Shoes over wool sock, liner socks and neoprene overboots, with microspikes on the outside.  Probably would be ok for a cold Arrowhead.  A little overkill for temperatues above zero.

Went shopping for new shoes, at the end of the winter season.  Everyone buys before the first of the year. And I have big size 13 feet.  This makes winter Goretex trail shoes of a particular type hard to find.  I settled on two pairs.  A Saucony Xodus low rise, conventional height trail shoe, and a Salomon mid height hiker.  Bought some gaiters as well, as many runners seem to prefer a low rise shoe and gaiters for a snowmobile trail, few inches of snow combination.

Not a lot of training to be had between the end of Tuscobia at the first of January and getting ready for Arrowhead at the end of January 2015.   Recovery from one event runs into the prep for the next.  Continued weekend long runs in the snow, with a lot of pulling tire and sled.  The uphill treadmill walk.  Lifting, albeit in moderation, mostly body weight.  Sled dog walking.

Left with Bonnie and her husband to on the Friday before a Monday morning Arrowhead start.  It's about a 11 hour drive to beautiful International Falls, aka Frostbite Falls (remember Rocky and Bullwinkle?).  Stayed three nights over before the race, even visiting Canada for lunch on Saturday.  Border patrol didn't believe the unlikely story about pulling sleds for 135 miles across northern Minnesota.  Got the full vehicle search treatment, but the benches were heated and the Canadians faithfully re-packed the bags and sleds.  Lunch wasn't all that wonderful.

Race check-in was Saturday at a converted high school community center.  These small town ultras always seem to get the old high school for check-in. Gear check was no joke, a serious business.  The laundry list of required items is lengthy.  Minnesota DNR allows the permit for race across public land using snow mobile trails with some caveats.  Racers are supposed to be self sufficient for days on end. "Describe your winter outdoor experience" is an essay question on the application.  Apply to be selected is a good way of weeding out the un-prepared.  Still, a finish rate of about 30% among runners gives a
sense of the difficulty.  It's not the high level of fitness.  These are commonplace among ultra runners.  It's combining fitness with organization skills, and a willingness to be alone and uncomfortable for days.

Runners are the minority of Arrowhead starters, numbering perhaps 150.  Most are cyclists, who will be done in a day or a little longer. Fat bikes are the norm, loaded with as much gear as we pull on the sled.  Bike finish at nearly twice the rate of runners, perhaps 60% on average over a decade.  2015 Arrowhead would be a better than average year with mild weather.

Race Director Ken and Jackie Kruger make the Arrowhead experience, taking names and doing check-in.  Saw Ken on the course near the end, but I get ahead of the story.  Small town races benefit local charities, bring economic activity and have a feel that I wouldn't trade for any big city anonymous crowd marathon.

Temperatures for Arrowhead were forecast in the teens and twenties, which are above normal for Frostbite Falls in late January.  International Falls small claim to fame is as the icebox of the nation, having some of the coldest regular temperatures in the lower 48.  Average temps are around zero, slightly above or below.  All time low is -40 deg F "officially".  Arrowhead 2014 included overnight temps in the -30's.  We weren't unhappy that 2015 was warmer.  Exceptionally warmer.

Pre-race included a Saturday night film "Into the Wild" about a previous year's race, which included many familiar faces in the crowd.  Something odd about starting out a race with a film about how ungodly cold and awful past years had been.

At the pre-race dinner Sunday night, I happened to win one helluva door prize.  I am the proud owner of a Black River Sleds Arrowhead Racing Toboggan.   It was the big giveaway, and was a good omen of things to come.

Continued in Part 3.




Sunday, February 15, 2015

"What do you know about winter camping?" Arrowhead 135 Part 1 - Training

"What do you know about winter camping?"

That little question was asked of me in March 2013. I was trudging through wet snow with Bonnie B. at the Loud Thunder Forest Preserve first running of Thunderstruck 10 mile. A cold rain, slogging through wet snow. We weren't able to keep a fire going that day, I remember.

 "Not much. What do you know?" my reply. I wasn't thinking much of winter ultras right then. I'd registered for Bighorn for summer and Wasatch for fall of 2013. Mountain races are a passion, and it was going to be a big year, attempting two of the more difficult ones three months apart. Fast forward to September 2013. At the hottest event in three decades, with temperatures soaring into triple digits, I had dropped at mile forty with a combination of too much water, too little water, and just plain exhaustion. Bighorn was a good finish, but going to the well again in just a few months was a bridge too far.

On the long train ride home, delayed for days by record floods in the Rockies, I sent a message to Bonnie. Maybe heat wasn't my thing. "What do you know about winter camping?" I recall looking up a small event in northern Wisconsin, after friend Matt Mathews had mentioned it some years ago. A self supported sled pulling event, with overnight gear requirements including food, stove, sub-zero sleeping bag and outdoor camping equipment.

I went shopping for the basics, including a plastic 48 inch Paris expedition sled, with pulling harness from SkiPulk, a small Minnesota company that does sled kits for north country adventure.
Tuscobia includes 35, 75 and 150 mile events for run, bike and ski, much along the lines of Arrowhead. Tuscobia is run by Chris and Helen Scotch of Bend, Oregon, two of the nicest Race Directors you'd ever care to meet. Tuscobia is held around New Years, about three weeks prior to Arrowhead, and is often used as a training race for Arrowhead. Tuscobia has flatter terrain compared to the hills of Arrowhead, and is held on an converted rail trail, which unfortunately means mile after mile of unchanging straight grades and gradual turns. An endless tunnel of pine trees.   I can do the 75, but just can't wrap my head around 60 hours of that for the 150 mile.


About a week in front of Tuscobia 75 in late December, 2013, I had one of those "oops" happenings. Walking after work just before Christmas, I fell on ice onto my outstreched left arm. I'd find out later that I'd torn my rotator cuff, labrum and bicep tendon. Didn't know that at the time. With Bonnie, Lisa (previous Arrowhead finisher) and Laurie, I finished Tuscobia 75 rather uncomfortably. Surgery was end of February 2014. March was a very painful month.

On reflection, if you factor out the injury, Tuscobia wasn't a bad introduction to winter ultra. I'd made a small investment in gear, and a substantial investment in training. I finished upright. Modest expectations, modest outcome. The weather cooperated, starting near freezing, and descending into low negative single digits by the second day. The remainder of 2014 was a rebuilding year. Surgery cancelled running events until the fall, as I needed to heal, recover and regain strength. I ran an 30 miles to pace a friend Tara at Potowatomi in April, about 6 weeks after surgery.

In May, I found a coach in accomplished ultrarunner Ann Trason, to help put together a plan to return to fitness.  Needed some motivation to train again.  The new target was Grindstone 100 scheduled for October 2014. Friend Mike G. had some unfinished business there. Training for Grindstone went well during the warm weather months, with speed returning. The weekly marathon training track work was a Tuesday night regular, with Cornbelt Running Club.

Ann introduced a variation she called "ultra tempo" that I had a hard time understanding. A tempo run of 14 or more miles? Once I adjusted the pace downward for the idea of "ultra tempo" instead of "marathon tempo", it made some sense. Did heart rate training with aid of an optical wrist mounted HR monitor. Establishing maximum HR on the hills near my house was....unpleasant...but necessary. Biking made it's way back into the mix for spring and early summer, as an alternate for the long run.

Towards the final 12 weeks, every other week included an ultra length training run usually at Wildcat or Loud Thunder.  Summer body weight strength gave way to dumbbells and then barbells. Strength and stamina returned slowly. Extra weight came off from the spring convalescence.  Grindstone was memorable as a non-event event. In the mountains of western Virginia, with about 24,000 feet of gain and a 36 hour cutoff, it's unusual with a 6 pm Friday evening start. Most everyone gets two nights on the trail. Getting lost was a feature, as was a steady rain the first night, and cold both nights. Mike and I finished with the help of Dave as pacer, but my most vivid memory was a few extra miles of back country steeplechase at the boy scout camp start/finish instead of a straight shot to the end. "Where's the ***damn finish line?"  Extending a hundred miles by to a few more as a surprise seemed a bit...cruel.

Post Grindstone was time to put Arrowhead training into the forefront. Sport specific training uber alles. From mid-October onward, tire pulling and then sled pulling with the coming of winter were highest priority. By late November, pulling miles out numbered weekly run miles. Mike, Bonnie and I met weekly on Sunday and Monday to pull and strategize over Tuscobia and Arrowhead. Tire pulls were more for time than distance, and never went more than 5 hours or 15 miles at a relentless 3 mph. During the summer, we had gone longer in both time and distance, with an ultra distance training run every two weeks. We felt like we needed the strength more than time on feet. A lot of the pulling happened on a half mile field road just south of my house, back and forth within easy sight of the living room window and easy re-supply.  A new to us dog, a spaniel pug aka Spug mix named Willow joined the regular fast walks.

Weather for Tuscobia January 1-3, 2015 was favorable and mild in Park Falls, Wisconsin. Mike, Bonnie and I drove up the day before the 75 mile, attended the pre-race briefing, getting our final words from RD's Chris and Helen Scotch. Tuscobia gear requirements are nearly the same as Arrowhead, in someways more stringent, requiring red flashing lights 12 inches above the ground on the sled. But no whistle on a string like Arrowhead. My primary sleeping gear is a heavy, warm -40 degree fiber filled bag and a US military surplus goretex bivvy sack. Truth be told, this stuff is very heavy, on the order of ten pounds or better. Twice as heavy as some of the high tech camping gear I find many participants have. A few changes in gear over last year. We find that rigid poles connecting pulling belt to sled are cumbersome to use. You need to disconnect to get into the sled for gear, something that isn't such a problem for a simple rope solution. A spare rope (and a spare shoe lace or two while you are at it) is not a bad idea.

The gear lesson from Tuscobia was that you can get too warm on your feet. With temps mostly in the 0 to 20 degree range, I wore a pair of overboots from 40 Below with a Katoola Microspikes. Inside the overboots, I had a pair of ordinary Saucony Kinvara running shoes, with an Injini thin liner sock and a medium weight wool synthetic sock. Guess what? After all the fear of too cold feet, I ended up with a solution that was too warm. Last year at Tuscobia, the temperatures dropped from 30's at the start to -5 deg F at the finish. With a constant, and warmer temperature this year, I didn't bother to change socks or check my feet during the event. My reward was a nasty half dollar size blister on left heal and a competely soaked pair of shoes and socks. White, wet skin was my reward after 26 hours on my feet. I didn't think I could go another 60 miles with that combination of foot gear.
Three weeks in front of Arrowhead, I had to go shopping for shoes.  I settled on a pair of low cut Saucony Xodus and some light weight Salomon ankle height hikers.  The break in and choice of footwear would play a part in Arrowhead.  Stay tuned for Part 2...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wildcat 2014 Photos - Mark Stegmaier Photography

Mark took 1300 photos.
I got it down to 428.
Everyone should be in there more than once.

Enjoy.
-Larry


Created with flickr slideshow.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wildcat Trail Runs - Updated Results

Updated results posted with all finishers of any distance. Added two 50k finishers not previously recorded.

-Larry


Wildcat 2014 Photos




Much thanks to everyone for your support in 2014.

-Larry


Created with flickr slideshow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wildcat Trail Runs 2014 Draft Results

Link to all finishers of the 26.2 mile ultra distances. Thanks to all.  Photos another night. I am tired. Google docs link here.

Regards-
Larry

PlaceLoopsDist (miles)TimeFirst - Last Name
4.2226.24:34:00Frederic Whiteside
1531.05:05:00Brent Fiegel
2531.05:25:20Ross Kilgore
3531.05:37:30Mario Garcia
4531.05:42:14Keri Mounce
5531.05:43:55Wendy Foote
6531.05:44:31Jeremy Case
7531.05:44:45Carmen Peterson
8531.05:47:50Luke Anderson
9531.05:48:00Jeff Mocur
10531.05:54:00Julie Haronik
11531.06:04:30Robbie Schwenker
12531.06:06:57Kelly Teeselink
13531.06:10:00Kyle Lowe
14531.06:17:13Charlie Johnson
15531.06:24:00Andrew Brown
16531.06:27:00Bill Allen
17531.06:28:00Kevin Bradshaw
18531.06:31:30Eve Reynolds
19531.06:34:47Stephen Traman
20531.06:42:15Michael Crane
21531.06:51:00Tony Carl
22531.06:53:00Nick Atting
23531.06:53:15Tom Waterman
24531.06:59:13Paul Wiederholt
25531.07:02:00Andrew Thompson
26531.07:02:40Jill Riedemann
27531.07:07:00Andrew Evans
28531.07:23:00Steve Buffenbarger
29531.07:27:00Jeff Sebille
30531.07:29:10Paul Schmidt
31531.07:32:08Joe McKenna
32531.07:40:00Josiah Campbell
33531.07:41:00Brian Schnedler
34531.07:42:18Mike McElmeel
35531.08:03:00Connie Mann
36531.08:03:00Jo Schuman
37531.08:12:18Brittany Jungck
38531.08:30:36Jeremiah Johnson
39531.08:35:00Steve Burgess
40531.09:00:00Bonnie Busch
1637.28:54:15Steve Geerin
2637.210:15:00Steve Hammann
6.540.39:27:00Scott Searle
1849.67:59:40Ross Salinas
2849.68:09:00Ben Fish
3849.68:24:20David Timmsen
4849.68:47:58Matthew Neukirch
5849.68:54:04Trista Miller
6849.69:41:06Dan Salay
7849.69:48:18Ty Kleiner
8849.69:50:20Christine Murphy
9849.611:00:00Jeremy Dopler
10849.611:03:57Timothy Bergan
11849.611:24:40Joshua Sun
12849.611:24:40Jason Willits
13849.611:29:00Adena Schutzberg
14849.613:18:00Vernell Shaw

Friday, November 7, 2014

Wildcat Online Signups as of 9:30 pm on 11/7/14


23 50 mile entries and 30 50k names. That's pretty good. Almost as many as we had finishers last year. Far more 50 milers. Over 120 total interested. Had a number of Paypal donations. Thank you. Don't forget your headlamps, and yes we will have a canopy for drop bags at the start/finish line. For what it's worth, Sunday is the best day in the weather forecast near term. Share this link with your friends.



Ross Salinas
50 mile
Mitch Elliott
50 mile
Michael McElmeel
50 mile
Joshua Sun
50 mile
Michael Crane
50 mile
Michael Crane
50 mile
Adena Schutzberg
50 mile
Nicholas Bitting
50 mile
Nate Montover
50 mile
Justin Lueth
50 mile
Timmsen
50 mile
Trista miller
50 mile
Jason Willits
50 mile
Josiah Campbell
50 mile
Brent Fiegel
50 mile
Kyle Dietz
50 mile
Dan Salay
50 mile
Jeremy Dopler
50 mile
Vernell Shaw
50 mile
Christine Murphy
50 mile
Ty Kleiner
50 mile
Matthew Neukirch
50 mile
Ben Fish
50 mile
Larry Sandhaas
50k
Frank Flack
50k
Wendy Foote
50k
Scott Hibbard
50k
Julie Haronik
50k
Denise Whiting
50k
Paul Wiederholt
50k
Jim Legare
50k
Brian Schnedler
50k
Nathan Tackett
50k
Jeremiah Johnson
50k
Rachael Pracht
50k
Bill Allen
50k
steve Buffenbarger
50k
Robbie Schwenker
50k
Andrew Brown
50k
Brittany Jungck
50k
Jill Riedemann
50k
Kelly Teeselink
50k
Jerry Cuppy
50k
Vernell Shaw
50k
Stephen Traman
50k
Joe McKenna
50k
Adam Galluzzo
50k
Jeremy Case
50k
Joe McKenna
50k
Mark Thompson
50k
Tony Carl
50k
Jean Pfeiffer
50k
Jay Gates
50k
Valerie Olson
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Laura Lenius Walton
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Jessica Gregory
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Anthony Louck
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Mike Locander
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Tyler
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Rebecca Courtright
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Erin Mahr
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Andrew Pulliam
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Tim Smith
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Ben Treakle
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Hallam
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dave jessen
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Patches
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Nancy Shell
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Bonnie Busch
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Pia Fritsch
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Jenna Billups
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Laurie Eash
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anxhela kyssa
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Elizabeth Riley
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Jackie Means
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Connie Mann
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Eliana de Santiago
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Kyle Lowe
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Andrew Campbell
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Amanda Lawson
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Julia Moffitt
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Tara Challenger
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Alma Brunson
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Brandon Cochran
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Cassandra Druhl
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Joe Timmsen
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Jared Brandau
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Terry
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Frederic Whiteside
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Cathie Whiteside
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Phil Pancrazio
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Jim Bernas
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Chris Carpenter
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Julie Evans
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Mark Evans
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Sue Johnson
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Charlie Johnson
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Amanda Bonde
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mejia
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Lisa Schnedler
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Allison VanWert
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Danielle Wangsness
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Julia Fairchild
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Jennifer Fairchild
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Chad Fairchild
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Laura Snook
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Ryan Ahlers
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Naoko Murga
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Cindy Sparks
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Dan Kivlin
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Jess Fiegel
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Jamie Rich
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Audrey Rasmussen
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Tina Beert
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Jo Schuman
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Michelle Mangelsdorf
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Giese
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paula wikle
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Brian Tharp
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