On Monday we covered Olympia shop founder Lindsay Gauld’s latest competitive endeavour: the Arrowhead 135 winter enduro race. Lindsay will write his own report of the event and we will be sure to post it here but we also have a report fom his travelling companion / support team / long time part time Olympia employee Andy Lockery:
TRAVELING WITH AN ICON…….THE RETURN OF THE MESSIAH.
This week I traveled down to the Arrowhead 135 as Lindsay’s factotum and general dog’s body when this iconic cyclist and sport hall of famer returned to this rigorously challenging FAT-BIKE race through the Voyageur National park snowmobile trails. This was my first visit to this wonderful world of the PUGSLEY and it’s Alaskan derivatives set up for racing, and it was fascinating to see the different equipment both in terms of bike parts and bags for carrying equipment. I will put my photos online shortly and mail everyone the site URL. What totally threw me for a loop , however , was the truly Iconic stature of our diminutive cycling courier at this formidable race, where every year less than half the competitors reach the finish, and those that do finish look like they have aged 20 years in 20 hours. The brief account that follows may give you some insight into the awe inspiring abilities of our favourite courier.
We arrived in International Falls at 3 .40pm on the Saturday prior to the Monday race. Registration was open until 4pm so we headed there immediately to avoid having to stand in line the following day when most to the competitors arrive. This year the number of entrants had almost doubled from last year and as it turned out 105 of the 114 registrants started this years race.
I first realised that Lindsay was someone very special in this race when we entered the gymnasium where registration takes place. All of the officials and the volunteers dropped what they were doing and came over to greet Lindsay, much to the puzzlement of the first time entrants who had no idea what this little old geezer, with more wrinkles than a used garbage bag, was doing there in the first place. They were even more surprised when they discovered that he was a competitor, and not the janitor!
Registering is quite a complicated procedure as the competitor has to convince the race organisers that they have all of the required survival equipment, from 3 headlights and two flashing tail lights to food , a cook stove , water carriers, sleeping bags rated to -40C etc etc. The cluster of people around Lindsay grew as more returning racers came by to greet , backslap and hug him.
Life returned to normal for our hero when we left the registration venue and headed over to our hotel, the Voyageur. Lindsay spent about 20 minutes trying to convince the girl behind the desk that he had booked a room for two nights. Eventually she showed remarkable degree of initiative , as well as demonstrating that she was also a very good judge of character, when she phoned around some of the other hostelries and discovered that Lindsay had indeed booked a room for two nights, but at the Tee Pee motel and not the Voyageur. I also had a premonition that my role as Lindsay’s general dogsbody might be a tad more challenging than I might have anticipated.
Sunday dawned clear and cold in this community that boasts the logo on its town pin of ” Icebox of the Nation”. Our itinerary for the day was to check through the equipment for the race, go out for a cruise on the trail to check the best tire pressures for the race…[ I rode on soft tires with 6 to 8 lbs pressure whilst Lindsay was using closer to 20 lbs. The trail turned out to be firm enough for the higher pressure tires to be the correct choice] Following this astute move our hero headed back to the motel for a nap prior to the pre race meeting and spaghetti supper that began at 3.30 pm that afternoon.
Once again I was quickly made aware of Lindsay’s status at the race when vast numbers of the previous years racers came over to greet him and in many cases brought their wives and or girlfriends to show them that they were on a first name basis with our “Cycling Icon” At this point I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic as the crowd around our hero continued to grow.,luckily I spotted the bar had cleared of customers who were joining this crowd around Lindsay and decided to go grab a beer while Lindsay, as I glanced back , was busy autographing the “T” shirt of the 5 month old son of a highly delighted fellow competitor.
When the meeting got underway and all of the routing , check point information, and safety issues had been addressed , the mayor of International Falls rose to greet everyone ,and it was of no surprise whatsoever when she called out Lindsay’s name and presented him with an official letter of welcome and the key to the city, what did surprise me was that she didn’t include her phone number.Our evening ended early as we hit the beds at 8.30 pm in anticipation of rising at 5.15am on race day morning to prepare for the 7am start.
Race morning dawned early and Lindsay was busy cooking breakfast and filling his water containers with hot water. At this point glitch #2 occurred. Our hero had brought his beautifully and painstakingly insulated camelbak and hose, to reduce his stops for a drink from last years race of 3 minutes a stop to less than a minute per stop. Unfortunately camelbak bladders require a filler cap to seal in the water and our hero’s cap was back in Winnipeg. So, after begging an extra bottle from his factotum and another from a guy from Grand Forks our hero set off on his venture in a “right snit” as they say in my part of the world. Needless to say, after the 7 am start, I had to wait around for an hour until the stores opened at 8am. There were a number of ‘Outfitter Stores” in International Falls that sell 35 different calibers of ammunition and enough weaponry to exterminate a small town,but have never heard of a backpack containing a water bladder.
Much to my surprise I finally walked in to a store and described my needs and the owner dusted off the very item in demand ,he even gave me a small discount no doubt based upon the fact that it was already several years old and had been taking up space where he could display the latest in automatic weaponry.
After spending about 30 minutes transferring the insulation onto the hose and around the bladder I set off for the first check point to ensure that Lindsay’s day would brighten along with the rising sun. I arrived at the 35 mile check point with ample time to spare and sat at a table with a bowl of soup and a bottle of water whilst I awaited the arrival of the first racers. Other helpers, mostly wives and girlfriends of the other racers joined me at the table but continued to chat to one another without including me in the conversation. Feeling somewhat like a coat hook in a nudist colony I pottered out into the -30C morning air to catch the first cyclists to go through the check point. They didn’t bother to dismount , just shouting out their race #s and headed out to the 70 mile halfway check.
About 35 minutes later our hero arrived and headed into the checkpoint cafe to get his bowl of soup that he had paid for the previous day, thus saving the weight of carrying a $5 bill, but also and perhaps more telling , saving him from having to remember where he had put the darned bill. Needless to say ,the news that I had acquired a replacement camelbak delighted our hero who gave me a hug around the knees and returned to his bowl of soup. A short time later he departed with renewed vigour and I returned to my seat at the table of groupies to spent a couple of hours in the warmth before driving to the halfway checkpoint.
What an incredible difference there was at the table when I returned . They young ladies had witnessed the kindness bestowed upon me by our Iconic courier, and suddenly I was no longer as interesting as 3 day old road kill because I clearly was acquainted with THE ICON.!! I was barraged with questions about Lindsay ,ranging from was he really 83 years old,[ my reply was thereabouts] to how long had I known him . Any way, I selected a few of Lindsay’s accomplishments, like representing Canada at the Munich Olympics in 1972 [the eldest of the wives was actually born before those Olympics in 1969] I also mentioned that those Olympics were the one where the Olympic athletes from Israel were attacked by terrorists, and that Lindsay was in the adjacent accommodation in the Olympic village. I told them about him XC skiing in Greenland in a race over 3 days , and about his amazing performance in the 5 day winter adventure race in Quebec , the Ukatak, where his team finished on the podium in a race marked by horrendous winds and windchill temperatures .
Feeling quite proud of being the centre of attention at a table of beautiful young women I watched as each of their partners arrived ,fed , watered and left. It was just before most of them left that I began to understand how Iconic status is achieved in this world of ours. I had moved over to a different table adjacent to the previous one to make room for a racer with frostbitten feet, and was listening with astonishment when the racer’s wife explained to him, and others , how she had met Lindsay and that he had single handedly disarmed a terrorist at the Munich Olympics.
PART TWO OF TRAVELING WITH AN ICON WILL BE POSTED SOON