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Arrowhead 135 2013 Summary pt 3

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As has become tradition, below you’ll find the 3rd part of the Arrowhead 135 (2013 edition) summary provided by long time shop part timer Andy Lockery, who accompanied the Winnipeg contingent of participants on their adventure. Read parts 1 here and 2 here. For more info on the event in general you can visit the official event site.

PART 3

STORM EFFECTS ON THE REST OF THE WINNIPEG CONTINGENT

The winter storm hit the racers on Monday evening roughly around 8 pm, depending where they were on the course. It was clear by its timing that it would be hardest on the runners and skiers and the slower cyclists who would all have the greatest distance still to go. It was equally clear that its effect was significant on racers who were close to Skipulk or had left Mel George’s after 7 pm. The evidence for this effect, even at the finish, was abundantly clear when watching the finishers coming in at Fortune bay. Our ICON had finished at 7.21am and by 3pm that afternoon only 12 more riders had finished. 7 more finished between 3pm and 6.30pm, followed by 2 hardy stalwarts who came in the next day, Wednesday, one at 11am and the other at 5pm !

In other words out of 89 starters only 40 finished.

In the slower categories only 7 runners finished whilst 35 dropped out, and in the ski 2 finished and 3 dropped out. With only 36% of the starters crossing the finish line this 9th edition of the Arrowhead was clearly the toughest.

Morgan Porath is one of the Canadians who has been inspired by our ICON to compete in this race and was riding a Moonlander, which is better suited to the soft snow conditions (Editor’s note: The Moonlander accommodates tires that are about an inch wider than the already very wide tires of most other FatBikes). He was doing fine until mile 103 , about 10pm on the Monday night, when his efforts led to his bodily functions shutting down. He crawled into his sleeping bag and luckily for us a particularly impressive vomiting attack caught the attention of Dave Gray who stopped and asked if all was OK.  Morgan, who was roughly 5 miles short of the Skipulk aid station, said he would be fine but asked Dave to let the aid station know that he was #67 and would get there as soon as he could keep some water down. Little did we know that this wouldn’t happen and a very dehydrated and weakened rider finally made it into Skipulk about noon the following day, still vomiting.  Morgan spent 3 hours at Skipulk hoping to continue and finish the race but just couldn’t get his body to retain any liquids. When the checkpoint volunteers changed shifts at 3pm one of them gave Morgan a ride to the finish.

I know that our ICON inspires people to do some crazy things, and I know that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but just because our ICON spends 22 hours trying to evacuate a rancid piece of chicken from his stomach at the 2012 Arrowhead doesn’t mean that everyone else should do the same.

Before Morgan reached Fortune Bay I had had a phone call from Al “Mr Dixon” who told me that he was stranded at Mel Georges and that they were closing the checkpoint at 3pm. Could I drive back to Mel George’s, pick him up and take him back to his car in International Falls. I had to explain to him that I still had no knowledge of the whereabouts of either Morgan or Dallas Sigurdur, the remaining Canadian, and would have to get back to him.  Al had assumed that all of the other 5 Canadians had finished the race and that we were all just relaxing at Fortune bay. I promised to go check on the status of the shuttle services and would get back to him in 15 minutes or so.  In that 15 minutes I discovered that Morgan had arrived at the finish, but that Dallas was still unaccounted for. Al called back after the allotted 15 minutes and with great relief had found a volunteer to drive him from Mel George’s back to International Falls. He also told me that he had been caught in the storm between Gateway and Mel Georges at around 7.30pm on the Monday evening and had to dismount and push as it was too soft for him to ride. He was about 25 miles from Mel George’s at that time and he was still pushing his bike at 3am on Tuesday morning when one of the snowmobile patrols came by at mile 66 and he gladly accepted a ride as his energy levels were totally gone and hypothermia was becoming a concern.  It was a sad ending for Al but there was no doubt that he had made the right decision.

Freed from concerns about both Al and Morgan we were just left with Dallas as our remaining rider out on the course. I went back to the race headquarters and they had just received an update of everyone’s whereabouts. I gave them Dallas ‘s number and they discovered no record of him beyond the fact that he had left Mel George’s at 7pm on the Monday evening. An immediate check was made and calls went out to Skipulk. It was about 3.35pm by this time and upon returning to the race headquarters the volunteer said with a relieved smile that Dallas had arrived at Skipulk and would like it very much if I would go and pick him up. I went back to our room and our ICON, now awake after Morgan’s arrival, immediately said that he wanted to join me in picking up Dallas.

It turned out that Dallas too had been afflicted with a serious case of ICONvomititus and had had to bivy twice between Mel George’s and Skipulk. As only Dallas could express it, he acknowledged that in most ultra events he expected to spend 2 or 3 hours vomiting if he pushed himself too hard but that this case had been ridiculous as he had vomited for 18 hours. Any way, we returned to Fortune Bay in the knowledge that we had accounted for all 6 of our riders. Three of them had given no cause for concern and three of them had suffered from the effect of the storm.

CONCLUSION

Statisticians will tell you that working as an Air Traffic Controller is one of the most stressful jobs on the Planet! Dave Pramann, who spent his career working as an Air traffic controller, will tell you without hesitation that organising the Arrowhead 135 makes the job of an air traffic controller seem like a walk in the park on a sunny spring morning. I am equally sure that the Arrowhead 135 2013 version not only tested all of Dave’s considerable skills and resources, simply because of the logistics of keeping tabs on a very large body of racers spread out over 100 miles of limited access trail during a winter snow storm, but also demonstrated to everyone present at the race; competitors, volunteers,and spectators like myself, that Dave and his team of volunteers could handle whatever circumstances this event threw at them. Dave is a remarkable man and his knowledge of the race from his many years as a competitor coupled with his executive skills will provide Ken and Jackie Kreuger, his successors, with a superb template for continuing to enhance the growing international reputation of the Arrowhead 135 as one of the premier winter ultra marathon races.

This year was also a year that confirmed that the selection committee that vets the applicants, and assesses whether they have the skills to attempt this event, does its job with great thoroughness. In almost every case that I witnessed it was obvious that the competitors were capable of winter survival and self rescue. I spent far more time at the finish in Fortune bay than I had in the previous 4 years and no matter how long they had taken all of the competitors coming into the hospitality suite to collect their trophy were upbeat, smilingly telling everyone about their experiences out on the trail and looking forward to their next race. This happy and talkative state dominated the room whether they had finished in 14 hours and 20 minutes or 36 hours. Everyone had enjoyed the challenge and everyone was anticipating their next challenge.

On the Wednesday morning our group left Fortune Bay and stopped for lunch in International falls. There at the Coffee Landing we met up with Jane and Andy Chadwick who had traveled all the way from Yorkshire in England to do this event and had made it to Mel George’s before deciding to drop out. They too were very excited to have participated, a little sad not to have finished , but already putting money aside in preparation to return next year with a far better understanding of what they need to do to make it to the finish.

Finally , the effect of the winter storm that will stay with me for life is the effect of rain, sleet, and wet snow soaking the cyclists to the skin. Riding in wet clothes, despite the use of huge amounts of vaseline or chamois cream, always causes serious chafing in the nether regions.  As a result the Arrowhead 135 2013 edition will always be remembered by that long used cycling phrase as the year of the “BABOON BUTT”

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