TRAVELLING WITH AN ICON
The Arrowhead 135 really becomes challenging after the riders leave the halfway check point, both psychologically and physically. It is here that a spectator, such as myself, also begins to realise that becoming an ICON in a sport does not depend solely upon physical talent. Anyone can see from Lindsay’s resume as an athlete that he is very special. I think you all know that he was an Olympian in 1972, a Canadian champion in speed skating and in cycling, both on the road and on the mountain bike, and has a most impressive record as a XC skier and adventure racer. In the latter two sports, which he took up late in life, his results in the International Ski Loppet series are remarkable, his 3 day ski race across portions of the Greenland ice cap was incredible, and his leadership of his team in the 5 day Quebec Ukutak adventure race resulted in a podium position behind the world class team from Finland, in weather conditions that were truly horrendous [-77C windchill, -36C actual]
Other qualities are just as important, especially if you look at the psychological side of successful sporting ICON”S achievements. If you analyse Lindsay’s first attempt at the Arrowhead 135 in 2009 you begin to see a pattern emerging. The 2009 event was particularly tough as there was a combination of very cold temperatures and about 5 inches of fresh snow. This made the race roughly 4 to 6 hours slower than this years. Lindsay is well aware that the colder and tougher the race, the better he does! However, equipment is very important… Last year Lindsay’s Pugsley and the safety equipment, food, and water he was carrying, totalled 70 lbs. This year he had spent considerable time and money to reduce the weight of both the bike and the equipment. He also realised, by experimentation, that an insulated camelbak, both hose and pack, would allow him to stop for water and only lose about 30 seconds a stop, or about 30 minutes for the whole race. Last year he had to carry insulated water bottles in his packs and each stop of about 50 stops in total cost him about 3 minutes, or about 2.5 hours over the duration of the race. At this point one begins to see why, when he discovered that his carefully insulated camelbak bladder lid was still in Winnipeg, he left the start of the race in a “right snit”. His mood was again decidedly sour when the replacement water pack encased his reproductive organs in an evergrowing ice pack, instead of providing hydration.
It is only when you add to this ignominy the fact that he spent nearly $2000 on a titanium frame from Alaskan company Fastback, purchased very light wheels and hubs, a light bottom bracket and crankset, extra light inner tubes, and ordered special frame fit carrying bags from Epic, all for a grand total of $4000, only to find when these parts arrived that the titanium bottom bracket threads were faulty on the new frame. Lindsay had already paid for special overnight shipping of the parts and despite doing the same when the frame was returned to the manufacturer it didn’t return to Winnipeg in time for the race. In summary he had spent $4000 and could only use the $10 light weight inner tubes, and still had to stop and drink out of water bottles. He was able to use the light frame bags and so had a bike plus equipment about 10lbs lighter than the previous year.
The sole purpose of including the above information is to demonstrate very clearly, to anyone reading this, that an Iconic athlete has to have the mental ability to perform at their best no matter what setbacks occur prior to an event or in the event itself.
Returning to the race the next I heard of Lindsay, after he had departed the halfway checkpoint, was that he rode right past the 3rd checkpoint as his helmet light had failed and he missed the turn off the trail [reminder to self…tell him to buy only lithium batteries for cold weather events]. Luckily for our diminutive hero the snowmobile patrol had seen him just before the check point and called in to give the officials a heads-up. When Lindsay didn’t show the snowmobiler went on up the trail and found him almost 3 kilometers past the check. Our hero had no choice but to turn around and head back to the checkpoint, thus adding another 5or 6 kms to his ride. Its bad enough when this happens to you when you are in daylight, but when it happens after 2am in the early hours of the morning after you have ridden over 115 miles of a 135 mile race and are starting to look like road kill, feel like road kill, and smell like road kill , even ICONS can be a tad tetchy!
The last 20 miles of the race from the final check point to the finishing line are relatively flat and Lindsay completed the race without further incident, having ridden most of the race entirely on his own. For more “in race” detail you will have to wait for the Icon himself to relate his version of the race.
This story doesn’t quite end with the completion of the race, as our Iconic hero, the ever happy hobbit, or Sea Level as his friend Murray Crundwell used to call him, had been telling anyone who would listen that he intended to have a brief rest at the finish and then get back on his bike and ride back to International Falls, entirely unsupported. He later decided to ride back to the halfway check point, then turn around and ride back to the finish for a second time. This latter idea made better sense as the runners would still be on the course, together with the snowmobile and first aid patrol. Privately I believed this was unlikely to happen as I knew Lindsay well enough that I was sure he would at some point let his race instincts take over and hammer as hard as he could. From the halfway point on his time checks suggest that indeed he did.
Much to my surprise after 3.5 hours of resting on the bed he “rose from the dead”, girded up his loins, and headed purposefully for the two other loves of his life (after wife Lynne and racing), the toilet and food. Two sudoku’s later he emerged from the toilet and made a bee-line for the restaurant (Note to self…Book a room with 2 toilets when sharing with Lindsay). This restaurant would now be out of business if it had had an “all you can eat” menu.
So, one hour later, suitably empty at one end and suitably full at the other, he headed back out onto the trail for a further 10 hours of riding!
Happenings on this solo endeavour also add to the reasons why some top athletes are merely top athletes, whilst others move onwards and upward to ICONIC stature. On his way back he passed many other cyclists and the top runners, encouraging them with a few well chosen words, whilst quietly and modestly, as is his way, letting them know that he was just putting in a few extra miles to make up for the travelling days to the race and back, as well as getting a better feel of what it will be like when he tackles the Iditabike in 2012 (350 miles rather than the arrowhead’s 135 miles).
Obviously this quiet encouragement had worked as I overheard a rider, Phil I think his name was, telling his wife what a wonderful person Lindsay was, and what an honour it had been to ride with Lindsay for a short while.
I have to admit, all be it somewhat reluctantly, that Phil was right, Lindsay treated his factotum, dogsbody, batman, or whatever, with just the same quiet respect and made that misfit feel pretty good too. In fact I think that it is this characteristic that is required to reach Iconic stature. Lindsay is by no means the only Icon in the race, Dave Pramann, the course record holder, and Charlie Farrow, absolutely the most handsome guy in the race according to a poll conducted by the checkpoint volounteers (please forgive the spelling of the names) are two other cyclists who are clearly Icons in both this event and amongst the ultra cycling fraternity.
Well so ends this brief description of a 24 hour period in the life of one Lindsay Gauld ! A guy who shows up at a very tough ultra distance cycling event held in the “Icebox of the Nation” at the tender age of 61 going on 83, old enough to be the father of 70% of the racers, grandfather of 10% , and demonstrably capable of beating 90% of the field.