The following is a true story, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Coward

That's me, a coward
 The sticker clearly states "Cowards Won't Show". For the 9th running of the Arrowhead Ultra I will be a coward. I've started all eight Arrowhead Ultras and finished six.  This race has been such a big part of my life over the last eight years it's really hard not to be part of it. The fact is I'm burned-out on this race, mentally. Over the last several years I've found myself thinking about it during the warm months of summer and stressing over it. The last two years I vowed to take a year off and still threw my name in the hat when the registration opened. This year I even signed up thinking I could pull off another one, I can not
This was my home-made bike for the very first AH135. This pig weighed about 80 pounds, I was lucky to get it over 5 miles per hour

There were only 12 of us at the first race.  You think it's dangerous now, back then  there was only 1 snowmobile checking on us and he definitely did not stay up all night patrolling 
 What I will miss most about not being there is seeing all my friends I've made over the years.  Some of them I see on a regular basis, but others I only see in International Falls over the extended weekend. They are a different and hardy bunch of people compared to who you meet at shorter, much easier races. I have always enjoyed hearing what kind of crazy stuff they are pulling off.
I thought the race would be fun, kind of like winter camping and bike riding combined. I was wrong and seriously thought I would freeze to death the first night when I bivyed ,completely drenched and exhausted @ 20 below zero.

Everything was going great during the day when it was nice and sunny.  The darkness brought very cold temps and a living nightmare of shivering and deals with God.
 I've already been reaping some of the benefits of not showing up this year, they include... saving money on new lighter gear, not having to ride my bike by myself for 4-6 hours in every winter condition imaginable, not having to pack my bike 100 times to make sure everything is ok, and not obsessing over long term weather reports and snow conditions.
This was the original check point at Turtle Lake, mile 83 approx. I dropped out here in the late afternoon on the second day after I was told I could only stay a short while because they were leaving and the lodge was closed. I could either go back out on the trail or get a ride with them to the finish. 

This is the original finish, I'm standing with Pierre Ostor to my right and Ron Cadera to my left.  The AH 135 was the brainchild of Pierre, not only did he bring the race to fruition but he also competed in it. He is one hell of an athlete and an exceptional guy, Ron is too. Ron was the first skier to finish and held the record for a while
 I will also not be missing.... The hours and hours of slugging through the boreal forests of northern Minnesota on a 45 pound bike by myself. (that's right, I've spent so much money  :( on my bike and lightweight gear it weighs very little, I also don't bring anything for back-up gear, bare minimum) The nausea experienced after about six hours of eating trail mix and candy and holding it down because you need this shit to survive. The fifteen minutes or so it takes to start feeling your toes and fingers after stopping for only a minute and having that repeated over and over every time you stop to piss, eat, or make an adjustment. The stinging that comes just before you start to feel those toes and fingers. Being freaked out by hallucinations of people and or ghosts, standing on the side of the trail during the night and realizing it's only a pine tree as you approach it/them. Going so slow that when you look at your odometer two hours later you've only gone 10 miles. Running continuous math equations in your head to figure out how long you have left, if you have enough calories in you to make the next checkpoint, how close you are to the next guy, how close they are to you, and why the hell you would ever want to ride your bike this slow.
Back in December of 2004 when I was getting ready for the inaugural AH135 there were no fat-bikes readily available. They were not even called fat-bikes then.  The only thing available were the rims, so I built my own by bastardizing my old StumpJumper

I built my own fork from the crown of a Rock Shox  Judy. The lowers were crafted from the down tubes of two other bikes I fished out of a dumpster. I welded on some home made drop out tabs and bosses for a disc brake.
 This sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. All the difficult stuff is what draws a person to the Arrowhead 135 to see if they can conquer it. It's pretty amazing when you do. I failed my first attempt and it made finishing it the next year that much sweeter. Good luck to all who are attempting it this year, I truly hope you have prepared for it, because there is no way to fake this race.      To all my friends up there..... I will miss seeing and talking with you....... maybe next year...... D Rider   Out
This thing was really cobbled together but it got me through 1 3/4 AH135's.  This is not finished here but you get the idea of what it took, this also f-ed up the geometry but I had a race soon and didn't have time for such luxuries as a bike that rode well.  I added in the little spacer and filled the gaps with a tig welder.

I spliced in more parts from the dumpster bikes to get enough clearance for the  3" Nokian Gazzaloddi's.  Those tires absolutely sucked, they had soooo much resistance. I believe this was part of my down fall leading to a DNF the first year, later I cut off all the knobs, something every fat-biker had to do at that time before we had tires you could "just buy". 

This pic shows the disc brake mount and a reinforcement. If you look close you can see the chainstay was cut and a piece was added to make the stays longer. Most of the frame was done when I finally got the wheels and tires a couple weeks before the race. I had no idea of the diameter so when I put the wheel in it rubbed on the frame, no biggie, cut splice and weld.

This is the finished bike, I also had to weld in a new head tube to accommodate the 1 1/8 " steerer  tube. This really sucked too, the tube was something I found at work that sort-of fit,  the only way to keep the headset from wobbling was to tighten it down almost to the point it would not turn freely

This is the same bike the following year. I cut off the head tube and made it a little steeper. It was the same head tube so it still wobbled. I still have the bike and almost threw it out several times but couldn't. This bike really sucked and I'm thankful for factory made fat-bikes and John Evingson for getting the ball rolling. That's right Evingson is the godfather of  Fat-Bikes for the masses. He planted the seed on a cold day in February  at "Kid Riemer's original "Snowball's chance in Hell".   

This is from  08',  just before I left for AH 135 # 4. I finally got a real fat-bike, this one only lasted for a season  when I retooled and upgraded ........ several more times

15 comments:

  1. You will be missed!
    Good for you in doing what you want to!

    See you around.

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    1. I came away after reading and viewing the pic's as if I was at a funeral thks Josh....Where's my uppers LOL

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  3. We will miss you this year, but I totally understand your decision. Hope to see you for the "Man's Weekend."

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  4. Great! Now I'm freaking out again. I'm just going to get grim and get it done.

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  5. Coward? I don't think so. We've seen you out there. Every year. Time to move on and save that money spent on batteries on some other adventure! D and L

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  6. They called Jesse James a Coward. He didn't quit til taken down.

    Sign up for my race. The hounds need a few foxes.

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  7. Boooo. I was looking forward to chasing your ass this year.

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  8. I concur with Anonymous...Coward???? Hardly! You've been there. It's guys like me that just dream about it;)

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  9. Great post! I remember that frame and those sheet metal panniers. So impressive! You will be missed by the ND crew. Have a fun adventure with your family instead.

    Dave Simmons

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  10. This is the first time visiting your blog. I found it very interesting. The Arrowhead write-ups were great!

    Thanks for the great post!!
    RL

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  11. I have no idea who I'm going to sit with at the pre-race dinner now! You'll be missed ol' boy. It's good to take a breather.

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  12. Who is going to give Bill false information about the Arrowhead trail? I hope we can get together this summer. I have a few packraft adventures planned. I will miss our pre-race shit fest around the pool.

    Chuck
    218 242 0315

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  13. Great post josh! Got to experience the glory of the AH135 and all it's grandious solitude late at night. That was a true physical and mental test....I hope to do it again...maybe. So 6 of 8 finishes is most impressive.

    Andy

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  14. I know the sentiment. Two finishes and two years volunteering, I love the people of the race, and I loved the challenge. Unfortunately my free time isn't as plentiful as it used to be. Adventures can only be adventures till they become routine. Super rad seeing your history with it. I do believe you're living it right, man.

    DG

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