Well it only took 7 attempts to finish Arrowhead in one shot. I started the Arrowhead saga back in 2005. The first year I was very excited, there were only twelve of us and we all met Piere and Cheryl Oster at the Chocolate Moose for a pre-race meeting and dinner. I even submitted my entry at that time. My first year I was way out of shape. My first son was only a year and a half and I didn't get alot of training in like I was used too. But the Arrowhead gave me something to really work for. The first year I looked at the race as a winter ride with camping thrown in. Piece of cake I thought, I have three days to finish, I'll just ride slow and camp out. I had lots of experience winter camping so I wasn't worried. I should have been worried, the bike weighed about 70 pounds and I was pushing 200+. I only made it about 45 miles the first day(same spot as the guy giving out hot chocolate from the Tee-Pee this year). I was exhausted and set camp near the shelter,Ron Cadera was also there but he was on skis and left some time in the night. By Arrowhead standards it was not a cold night,about -16, but I shivered uncontrolably all night. I thought I would freeze to death and vowed to quit as soon as it was light and I could get out of there. I made it to the check point at Myrtle Lake and dropped. I wish I had finished that year, Myrte Lake was about 83 miles, I was well over half way and feeling better. When I got there in the late afternoon they were waiting to shut it down and I would not have been able to stay the night. So that was it, I would have to come back next year.
Fast forward to 2011. Since I was famous for making the Arrowhead into a two day race,this year I vowed to do it in one shot. Mr Pramann informed me I was not to stop at check points for any length of time and volunteers were given instructions to kick me out. After 7 years of this race I wanted to put it behind me and conquer it once and for all. My excitement for the race has waned much over the years. In the back of my mind, even in the summer the race is always there, taunting me.
I didn't sleep for squat the night before the race and had feelings of not even starting. I knew I could not quit before I even started, shurely I would never become one of the DBD crew. Besides I would no longer be able to ride in the presence of "The Legend " Mr Pramann.
The race started slow,very slow . I think we all just wanted to feel out the course and the other riders.I knew Oatley would win but thought Buffington might be able to pull it off. I think everyone expected Oatley to win as no one was breaking trail and slowed down so much that Oatley was forced to lead. This lasted a while and then others took turns pulling, we all relaxed and chatted the whole way to the first check point. I had not taken a drink the first 4 hours of the ride, the hose on my water system was untested and froze solid. I thought this would be a great reason to quit. I made my back up plan on the last few miles to the Gateway Store, I picked up the pace and was first to arrive so I wouldn't have to wait to check in. Pramann was there, I couldn't quit now,I cut the hose off my hydration pack and fastened on a cap from the 20oz bottle of Dew I just slammed. In 9 minutes a little after 11am I was off again
Back on the trail I was hauling ass to see if I could catch back up with Andre, Buffington, Oatley and Farrow. Only about a mile in I saw Mr Tri, he didn't look too happy and made none of his distastefull jokes I have come to expect over the years. I told him to hang in there and I pedaled on. Mr Tri is a strong rider but I knew of his cold weather asthma problems and figured he would not be a challenge to beat today anyway. For the next 2 hours or so Dittmer, Farrow and myself would yo-yo back and forth. Eventually I would ride away from Farrow and Dittmer from me. During this stretch I passed the time listening to music and daydreaming. After 7 times out here it gets a little boring, seeing the sign that reads 2 miles to Mel George got me excited. I picked up the pace and cruised into checkpoint 2.
Once in the cabin I look for my drop bag. It's not there, sweet I still want to quit this race and here is my perfect excuse. Mary Pramann comes over and searches for a minute and bingo, here is my bag. F*#$! I grab the bag sit down and eat. I'm not in the chair 30 seconds when Mary tells me I have to leave. " ya I know I'm leaving soon ". From the bag I reveal my secret weapon, it's a 32 oz Monster BFC . I eat two grilled cheese and a bowl of soup and as much of the monster I can handle. Dittmer leaves a little before me and I leave a little before Farrow and Doom.
I leave the cabin right at 4pm, I feel good but I'm really not looking forward to riding in the dark. On the plus side I'm having a good race, curently I'm 5th. Dittmer is just in front of me and I'm pretty confident I can beat Farrow. The only question is Doom, I don't know him and he was right behind me at Mel George.
The night proves to be one of the greatest tests I have ever faced. I still feel pretty good but my mind is playing tricks with me. Alot of the time I think I won't make it another mile, I see things on the side of the trail that look like people hiding in the trees. I'm using my bike computer to help break down the mileage into short segments that I can handle. When I stop to drink I get cold instantly. It's also hard to keep the food down, I feel like I'm going to hurl but force myself to eat. The hills keep coming and I walk most of them, I really don't care if anyone passes me now but I know they are going through the same thing, so I don't dwell on it. Now I am just tring to make it to the Crescent. I feel relief when I get to Wake-m-up, I'm almost there. The stars are bright but I'm in no mood to take in their beauty right now. I haul ass down the other side and roll into the Crescent.
I walk in and see another Pramann, It's Tyler, the first thing he says to me is "you have to leave now" . I laugh to myself and say hello or something like that. Now at the far end of the bar I see a figure slumped over a couple chairs near the fireplace. It's Lance Andre, I first ask to make sure he's ok, he is, but pushed too hard and is recovering for now. Hell yeah 4th place is mine! I head over and order a sandwich and 2 Red Bulls. As I'm waiting I go check on Lance, he's coming around now and is talking about the events that led to this point. I eat and rest for about 40 minutes and drink a root beer with Farrow (thanks for buying Charlie) . Mr Doom is now present as well, as I am getting my stuff on he is too. Oh F%$#! I'm not losing a spot this far in the game. Last year I made the final stretch in two hours flat, I can do this. He looks good and I'm a bit worried. I did notice he brought in a frozen water bottle, I could only assume he is stopping to drink as well. My plan is to wait him out, I will ride longer before I stop and drink. I also have my rear flasher off (battery dead anyway) so he will not see me and be able to reel me in. I'm carefull to cover my headlight when I look back to see if he is there. Each time I look back, nothing, but I can't risk it, I don't stop for about an hour and a half. Finally I stop to drink and eat and then punch it again. I make one more stop at the big sign for Lake Vermilion to eat and drink. I'm close now but the last few miles go on forever. I make the turn to finish, only about a mile to go, I plan to ride up the last hill right to the the back door. I was so relived to see the finish line banner and greatfull for Mr Grelk opening the door. I was so tired I nearly fell over. After putting the bike in dry dock I went up to check in and was greeted by Buffington and Oatley and the other volunteers. I finally conquered this damn race.
Although I have a love -hate relationship with this race I really enjoy all the friends I have made up there. This race is the only time I see some of them and I look forward to it each year. I will most likely take next year off from Arrowhead as a racer but will be back as a vonunteer. Once you do the Arrowhead you just can't get it out of your system. Thanks: To the Pramann family for the kick in the ass I needed.