Arrowhead 135 v2014: Holy Moses… Simply Unbelievable

I’ll be serious to start this soliloquy, before I dive into The Alternate Reality that governs us at The Back of the Pack. (And yes, I am talking to myself, I really am. I think.)

The Overview:

The Arrowhead 135 has the greatest assembly of humans ever, at any one place, in any one event. That’s why the Arrowhead 135 is truly the best race in The Universe. The race organizers, race volunteers, spectators… JUST AWESOME

And the Racers! The most courteous / gracious athletes I’ve encountered. Think about that. Every racer is frozen. Miserable. But friendly & courteous. It’s like every racer is your long lost brother. Seriously. I love it! And then there are the awesome Minnesota inhabitants. Everyone is awesome. Hotel operators. Bar tenders. Waitresses. You name it. Awesome humans. I love everything about northern Minnesota. And not just because I’m a Minnesota native… raised in Colorado, of course. 

And we now have two years that serve as data points… 

Anyway. The Arrowhead v2014 was the biggest physical / mental achievement of all my athletic endeavors. And the 2nd best experience of my life… right behind The Antarctica / South Pole trip. (And sorry, only a trip to The Moon will beat out The South Pole.)

I have yet to come down from the adrenaline, the high generated by the OUT OF THIS WORLD experience. It’s that awesome. It just is.

And, by the way, if you aren’t interested in The History, from The BPR Hustorian, then just check out the pics from the website. Awesome. (Although I still don’t understand that thing called a ‘derailleur’.)

The Alternate Reality… as I Experienced IT:

Ok. Here it goes. Below is an volume or two of information. Some serious. Some not. That’s just how I operate. That’s how I roll.
Hopefully it will give you 
  1. a few laughs 
  2. some insights into my personal experiences, the personal challenges that almost wrecked me
  3. some ideas on YOUR future success at The Arrowhead, if you are into the challenge. 
AND I don’t expect any of you to read it all, take it all in, this is the 2nd decade of the 21st century, you’re busy…. your texting and watching The Voice repeats. I get it. I understand. But humor me, try to take it all in. Send me some comments. Keep them POSITIVE. Because you want me to stay positive. Just say’n. Dude. Dudette.

AND remember. We are ROOKIES when it comes to this ultra cold snowbiking / snowbikepacking thing. So you may say… ‘Damn, such rookie mistakes‘. And I’ll say ‘No kidding dude, but we’re learning. And maybe you’ll learn something from our decisions, good and bad.

Intro to The Ludacracy-> 

Quote of the Trip:
The Morale Chairman’s Youngest Daughter: “Dad. Please don’t die. I still need help with my math homework”. 

The Alternate Reality of SnowBiking and SnowBikePacking: 
… something to think about: 

On a SnowBike, in the snow, time slows down. Forward progress slows down. It’s like space-time is warped. Get your head wrapped around that. Get your head wrapped around the longer times required to cover distances. If you can figure that out then your training, your planning, your adventure will be that much better. I think. I didn’t really pay attention to this warped space-time condition, and the mental trauma that resulted almost took me down. Read on. Dude.

But before I start rambling, the most important information

The Answer: 12psi.
The question: How did that fat dude on a phat Black Sheep Snowroller single speed blow down that trail?

The Answer: 32×21
The Question: I know those Back of the Pack dudes roll out with 32xYM. But I wonder what that means? This time.

The Question(s) for you: Did I podium in the SS division? What about SS fully rigid? Well, it doesn’t really matter. I have a podium in my living room. I can ‘podium’ whenever I want.
and if you aren’t a fan of The Philosofizer’s, aka, The Hustorian’s view on The History…
maybe you would prefer a few pictures and some tunes

Arrowhead 135 v2014 from Judd Rohwer on Vimeo.
turning the single speed cranks at The Arrowhead 135 v2014

The Basics of the 135 Mile Adventure, Pure Ludacracy ->

The WakeUp:
Well, I doubt anyone sleeps before a big race. The Morale Chairman and I tossed and turned all night. The Morale Chairman even went out to the truck at 1:30AM and started that beast up, as we were worried that the battery would be dead & we wouldn’t be able to move the truck to Tee Pee storage… blah blah blah. Just stress all the way around.

And then we checked the Weather. -24F with 12 mph winds. Felt like -47F. Ok. Time to buckle our chinstraps and get ready for one CRAZY ADVENTURE!
The Start:

We were 2 minutes late to the start. Why, because I forgot to pack my pillow in the truck. We cleared out the hotel room at 6 am. And forgot to pack the pillow. It’s not a favorite pillow. I just don’t leave s*^t behind, even if it makes me late for the biggest race of the year. 

So we stopped at the truck, deposited the pillow, and road the 1/2 mile to the start. By the time we made to the check in, goggles were fogged, stress was high and it was obvious we’d miss the start. Ok. No big deal. At least my pillow was safe in the truck… and there was no clear DNA evidence left in the Tee Pee hotel room. I think.

The First Miles…. To GateWay:
Our game plan was simple. Turn the race into 4 separate snowbike rides, each ride was from checkpoint to checkpoint. We’d regroup after each ‘ride’ and then move on. Well, our strategies are never executed exactly as planned. Right from the start we were behind ALL the bikers. So I set a pace that was a bit faster then the dudes and dudettes that were roll’n at the back… of the pack. 

Yep, since we cruise on single speed machines we really can’t stay at a pace set by a geared bike, when that geared bike is set on SUPER LOW. So, we were passing people. (Passing in a courteous manner, I hope.) And our body temperatures went through the roof. So we stopped, took off a layer, ditched our frozen / fogged goggles. And then proceeded, not at an extreme pace, but not a comfortable pace either. 

We were clicking off miles and doing ok. Then our first set of bad decisions became evident. Water and food… water in backpacks in large thermos type containers and insulated reservoirs. Food… buried deep in the packs with the goal to keep the calories in a somewhat non frozen state. 

Yep. We were forced to stop every time we needed to eat and drink. It was a decision made based on the extreme weather. A decision that slowed us down, created havoc and lead to early dehydration and low energy. Honestly, I thought about this leading up to the race. But we have extensive experience bikepacking and suffering at 24 hour races. So I was not concerned, at first, but this strategy turned into a STOOPID idea. (and not just Slightly Stoopid.) It’s beyond me why I thought that we would just cruise to GateWay and then regroup, once the nerves settled down, once the stress eased a bit. (I’m serious, we were not concerned about the 1st stage, we were more concerned about making it to the start, staying calm and just get’n the cranks turning.)

So, after 7 hours we finally cruised into GateWay, having learned some monumental lessons and trying to figure out how to proceed.

And what did we learn, right from the start?
  • Eye protection and a Balaclava? Damn. All options turned to ice.
  • The layer approach to regulating body temperature? We didn’t have the right combination. Our body temperatures were fine. BUT our upper bodies were drenched and if / when we stopped to drink / eat. We froze. Our jackets iced over.
    • Ok, drenched means ‘we didn’t have it right’. I know I know. It was CHALLENGING, the conditions were challenging.
  • Water / Food. We weren’t drinking or eating enough. Once we realized that we where behind the curve and had to just ‘survive’.
On a positive side our footgear and lower body gear was AWESOME! Many people were suffering from Frozen Feet. We had zero problems. Look below for our list clothing & gear.

Ok. Ok. Don’t worry. The play-by-play is over. The info below is a set of narratives that explain total chaos that rage’d in our minds and bodies. Hopefully you’re still with me and not bored to death! Read on, Dude!
The Morale Chairman’s Reassignment:
The Morale Chairman (TeddNeck / Tedd) suffered from this comedy of tactical errors, tactical errors that I experienced, partially, but survived. We didn’t eat breakfast, we didn’t drink enough early in the ride. We failed to eat appropriate stuff at appropriators times. Yeah. Nothing new. That’s how we roll. That’s how we Bike Pack. But these conditions presented unreal challenges. So… The Morale Chairman was suffering from major leg cramps by noon. And had to walk at routine intervals. (And I’m sure my desire for a faster pace lead to a insufficient mental state.) It was bad and this led to big body chills near GateWay. The dude started to drink water, but the quick recovery, as experienced in 24 hour races, just didn’t happen. (Must be getting old, ha ha.) 
So… In the spirit is self preservation, The Morale Chairman decided to transition to pseudo race volunteer. (I’m sure he could’ve labored on to MelGeorges, but I didn’t encourage such a decision in the brutal conditions. Live for another day!) Well. Ken, the supreme race director, gave The Morale Chairman a lift back to International Falls. Ken saw Tedd’s truck and asked for some help. Yeah, of course Tedd wanted to help. So Tedd took a tent and propane heater to a sheep ranch road, actually he made a couple of trips. (This tent / shelter was a race provided shelter to give the walkers / runners a place to warm up.) Then the next day Tedd make some water drop off trips to the SkiPulk checkpoint. So.., although Tedd exited the race in depressing circumstances he was still able to contribute to the success of the race, maintain a connection to the event.  And that’s totally cool. It helps to soften the Agony of Defeat. The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat. That’s human nature. 
The Departure from Gateway:
So we were siting at GateWay debating the conditions, the sopping wet clothes, the misery. Then I told The Morale Chairman to hitch a ride to International Falls and I’ll ‘watch‘ the bikes. 

Yep, I just couldn’t justify taking the risk of entering the woods with all my wet clothes in the wicked cold weather. And I didn’t feel like having the GateWay Staff ‘take care of me‘ by drying out the clothes, giving me a message, whispering sweet nothings into my ears, etc. So, The Morale chairman says “if I go get the truck you’re going buy that 12 pack of Busch and get an early start on the post ride libations, huh?“. Judd’s Inner Thoughts:  S*^T, they sell beer here? 

Then I immediately snapped back into my Alternate Reality and said “f*^k this, I’m getting back on my bike, my legs are strong, I’m happy, the brutal cold can’t stop me. I can’t depend on Busch Beer to create the stories of Arrowhead v2014, I gotta get my a$$ on the Black Sheep SnowRoller and create the stories… Now.”  So I put on my drenched gear, put on my happy face and got the hell out of GateWay.  I was cranking away towards MelGeorges… soon to experience a new horror, a mental horror, that I never dreamed of.

The Reality of it All… THE DARKNESS:
As I stated above, The Arrowhead 135 v2014 was clearly the hardest event I’ve participated in, EVER. The conditions and mental challenges were unreal. Yep, I almost fell apart on the 2nd leg, GateWay to MelGeorges. As I cranked away from GateWay I threw down a blistering pace. (blistering? at the back of the pack?) Yep, I was hauling a$$. My legs were strong. My high altitude lungs were serving me well, in the low(er) altitude of Minnesota. My body heat was enough to keep my wet clothes from turning to sheets of ice.  Then The Demons struck and almost dragged me to the Inner Circles of Hell.

You see, I thought I remembered the course and geography from v2013. So I was counting off the miles, in my head as GPS / batteries weren’t functioning in the extreme cold, and I was convinced that I was WAY DOWN the trail. Then The Darkness hit hard. Just as I was preparing for a final 2 hr push to MelGeorges I crossed a road, a road that was about 18 miles from MelGeorges. Sheep Ranch Rd. What? I’m 4 hours out? Damn! Ok. I was crushed. I was so convinced that I was averaging 10mph. (Yeah right, check the space-time comment above, dude.) It turns out that I was averaging about 8mph and I hadn’t hit a single hike-a-bike hill, yet. (AND don’t try to do the math: 10 mph vs 8 mph. 18 miles remaining vs 16 miles remaining. 2 hrs vs 4 hrs. None of that fuzzy math makes sense.)

Ok. I regrouped. But my mental state was blown. I was getting tired and thirsty. I consumed almost 1L of water, 1/2 of my supply and get’n worried about dehydration. So. I stopped, pulled out my second thermos to wet my whistle and… the cap was frozen on the bottle. I couldn’t get the damn cap off. I tried and tried. Then my hands went numb. So I got back on the bike to crank away and warm up. I was devastated, I was 3 to 4 hours out, just arrived at the hills, was carrying a liter of water, that wasn’t frozen. But I couldn’t drink it because the cap was frozen. Crap! After an hour I figured out a plan. I decided to stuff the thermos down my wool overalls in an attempt to warm up the cap. Yeah. Duh. But you try to think clearly in those challenging conditions. (And by the way, I tried this in Antarctica… Water froze solid in my overalls, so I wasn’t feeling good about the success.) So, after some time I pulled out the thermos and with all my might I broke the cap loose. I was back in business, so I thought. But the damage to my mental state was severe. I had nothing left upstairs in the processing department. (And I was hurting from border line dehydration effects.) 

Then The Demons hit hard. My head light Fenix LD22 went dark, batteries died. Not a big deal as I had a Fenix PD32 on my bars. But I wanted to change out the batteries. Because if the ’32’ died I’d be in a world of hurt, trying to replace batteries without any light could be hard. So I stopped. Made my contribution to an array of pi$$ holes in the snow (see below) drank some water and started to dig for batteries. Then… The Coldness… The Darkness struck. A cold wave hit me. I was frozen. My hands froze up. 

I couldn’t get the batteries in the LD22. Then when I finally got the batteries installed and the ’22’ functional, I couldn’t get the ’22’ on my head. I was hurting. I was frozen. I was done. I was exhausted from the fast pace I laid down. All I wanted was a 10 minute siesta. (All I really wanted was a Pepsi.) Maybe a 20 minute siesta. I wanted to bivy up and get warm. I just wanted to sit. I almost pulled a Jack London. (To Build a Fire… read up.) I just wanted a 10 minute break to shut my eyes and regroup. But I knew that would push me deep into hypothermia, in minutes. At first I didn’t care. I needed a break. I just wanted to sit down. Yep. The Demons had me. They owned me. THEN I BROKE FREE. I just jumped on my bike and raced away… Raced away because my name ain’t The Man that Jack London wrote about. 

And that story is 100% true… 100% fact. And the experience forced many of the lessons learned, see below. 

And yes I did…
While I was cranking away to MelGeorges I saw big a$$ tracks on the trail. Either some monster huskies were roaming the trail, or wicked timber wolves were looking for a flank steak… if you know what I’m say’n. 
And one way to Amplify the Torture… 
I rolled into the MelGeorges checkpoint and it was packed with racers and the AWESOME race volunteers. So I checked in, said hello to Andy & Jane and hauled a$$ to the bar. I can’t handle crowds or social functions. Especially in a race setting. So my attitude improved immediately after I warmed up in the bar. I decide to wait out the night as the forecast was for -30F to -35F with 15 mph winds. Brutal, deadly. We asked about rooms once this decision to wait for the sun to rise was vetted with the wisdom produced by a few IPAs. Well, no rooms. Damn.  And I didn’t want to impose on the hard working volunteers and get in the way of the racers prepping for late night / early morning departures. So we absorbed all of the heat from the bar / fireplace, closed down the bar at 1AM and then sat for 7 hours in The Morale Chairman’s truck with wet clothes. 7 hours because the restaurant opened for breakfast at 8am. Yeah. 7 Hours! It f*^k’d me up. Wet clothes, 7 hours, freezing temperatures. Brilliant. But because Questioners Question….I gotta protect my integrity and ensure The Questioners that I followed the rules to the ‘T’. I didn’t ditch gear. I didn’t add gear. I roll’d out of MelGeorges with every stupid thing I entered the race with. I paid for all my own food / booze. And I even purchased AAA batteries even when I had a stockpile in my non race gear bag. 

Yep. Full disclosure. I had no real options, as it would’ve been suicide to bivy up outside the checkpoint lodge, my plan going into the race, and I wanted to stay clear of race operations, as it was stated in the race mtg to not congregate. Meaning… warm up & move on after a few hours… let all arriving racers utilize all the available resources. So it goes. So it is written. And I agree.

Therefore, if you want to start a petition to have me DQ’d or penalty minutes. Go for it. But before you do, think about what it’s like to sit in a truck for 7 hours in < -25F weather, in wet clothes. I'm sure it accelerated The 3rd Degree Chaffage Disaster noted below. Misery. All the way around. But I survived 

So next year, assuming The Crew gets in the race, we’re gonna rent a big a$$ cabin and chill Back of the Pack Style, maybe get food and booze catered by the MelGeorges restaurant / bar. (But bedtime’s at 1AM, don’t get crazy on us.) Yep, that’s the only way to prep for the grind to SkiPulk and Fortune Bay. And if you’re cool, you can hang with us. 
3rd Degree Chaffage:
It’s a well known secret, at the back of the pack, that we don’t sport the adult diapers, aka The Chamois and we don’t butter up, buttercup, with Nutbutter and we don’t protect DzNuts. That’s not how we roll. Because, If you’re stuck in the middle of the Colorado Trail, are addicted to Nutbutter, and run out of that mental crutch, that slim, you’ll die. So we toughen up in order to survive all situations. 

Anyway. I screwed up. I raised my seat right before the race, thinking that my overboots would require a change in seat height. Well, I forgot to re-compensate for the streamlined 45North flat pedals that lowered my foot position by ~ 1/2 inch. 

Needless to say I had one hell of a case of a$$ / taint Chaffage by mile 9. Severe! So I fixed my seat height and tried to put my mind in that happy place. But The chaffage only got worse after miles and miles of riding and the hike-a-bike. (Only got worse? Terrible Terrible grammar!) 

At mile 110 I finally had to drop the wool, pull out my frozen Vaseline (Vaseline I was packing to cover my exposed skin and protect from frostbite) and attempt to lube the open bleeding sores. Yeah. It’s -10F I’m lubing up body parts with frozen hands and frozen Vaseline. And there wasn’t much pain relief, just limited / slowed down the creation of new wounds.  Then, I pulled the wool back up and started walking and found check point 3 / SkiPulk 1/2 mile from the lube job. 

Awesome timing. Not. But I lubed it all up again in the check point tent, just for fun. For the next 15 miles I stood up, turning the cranks old school, sat twisted in the saddle, did everything I could to limit the pain. During the final 10 miles of the race I had to stop, stand still in a unique yoga type pose for 5 or so minutes, and let the blood & ooze freeze over so I could pedal for a mile or two. Then I would stop and repeat over and over… for about the final 2 hours. But this led to a serious problem of frozen feet and limbs. One mile from the finish I became extremely concerned about my left foot. 

I lost most of the feeling in my toes, from the constant stops with no motion. But my bleeding A$$ hurt so bad that I just had to stop to relieve the saddle pressure on the open wounds. And I couldn’t walk either because of the cumulative size of the wounds. I barely survived that excruciating pain. In the end, based on a personal survey, I had about 20 square inches that we’re bleeding and oozing. Unreal pain. And I’m dead serious about this. No joking this time, jokester

So, you ask or say… ‘dumbass Judd you’re going to go with the Chamois and Nutbutter from now on. Right?‘ And I say…. HELL NO. Sooner or later the taint will callus over and I’ll be good, in all situations and conditions. (but really… I’m an open minded dude. just say’n.)
Lessons Learned:
and remember… lessons aren’t lessons unless they are LEARNED!
  1. 2L of H20 ain’t enough. Especially for a dude of my size. That’s my opinion. 
  2. Ice cream bars are awesome. But may not be compatible with a stomach of a nonprofessional ice cream eater. By the way, I’m The Professional.
  3. Roll out with a HydroHeater. Seriously. I will next time. 
  4. Food and spare water / thermos on bike NOT in the backpack. 
  5. We ABSOLUTELY must eat breakfast before the start.
  6. If you must go into survival mode, make sure you can go into survival mode. Get it? Example. My gear was packed and secured so tight that there would be zero chance of unpacking with frozen hands etc. real smart judd. Real smart.  
  7. Limit the gear to what’s required for riding and survival. Ex. Do not carry 3 pairs of sunglasses (different lenses) two pairs of googles (one for night, one for day) three pairs of gloves, one pair of mittons, etc. figure out what you will USE and keep it to that. 
  8. The Formula R1 rear brake was ok. No front brake. But we will most likely go with a mechanical break next year. Yep, risk reduction is what we are all about. We also heard of hubs freezing up, EVEN at the start. So we need to research that potential issue and ensure we prevent it. 
  9. Must lighten the load, the endless challenge of bike packing strategy. Yep. Just a repeat of #7 above. But it’s worth repeating this never ending lesson
  10. Frame pack. I hate the bulk of frame packs. I hate how it affects my ability to pick up my bike, maneuver it etc. (I always grab the top tube and bars, and I can’t with a frame pack.) but I now know it’s best to get all my gear out of my backpack. It’s just too difficult to deal a backpack full of gear in the brutal cold. 
  11. Bad idea.  Mountain Hardware Exposure II hardshell. We decided to go with this top layer due to the predicted high winds. We are always looking for a jacket that ‘breathes’ yet is wind resistant. Well, this mountain hardware jacket doesn’t breath. The internal lining was full of ice. The entire jacket was drenched during the riding phase and then would turn to ice, inside and out, when forward velocity stopped. Maybe all jackets are the same in -20F. Maybe not. But we will try something else in 2015.
Recipe for success, for SnowBikers, for competitors… not racers:
If finishing is the goal. If you are adventure seeker like us… not a world class super freak professional racer, then…
  • Approach the race as a 4 stage snowbike race. seriously. before the start, understand that you will NEED to stop and regroup at each checkpoint. so plan to stop and regroup. or don’t. 
  • Plan to stay at MelGeorges. You have 60 hours. By the time you get to MelGeorges the WINNERS have won, the race is over… or about over. So put away your dreams of Fame & Fortune and think about RECOVERY and REST that is required for the next 60+ miles.
    • Yes, unless you are an experienced Arrowhead finisher, plan to rest the night at MelGeorges. Your body will pay you back. You’ll be ready to rumble on day 2. 
  • Plan for food and water that supports a long duration effort to the next checkpoint
    • Long means… twice as long as you think. Seriously. SnowBiking ain’t easy stuff. It’s the space-time thing discussed above…as stated before.
Serious things to think about:
Late night mechanical issue? A fix may not be possible… if you value your phalanges. Have a plan if disaster strikes. How would YOU fix a broken chain or change a flat tire/tube in -20F or -30F. What would YOU do if you were forced to bypass / rig a broken derailleur in these conditions? (Start off with a single speed machine? Ha Ha.) 

So, you better think, think, think… yeah, Aretha tells it like it is… just say’n

And then our UK Buddies… Andy and Jane:

In 2013 we met some new friends, Andy and Jane, at the second shelter. We all suffered together in the slush and sleet and rain and snow. So, just like like 2013, we suffered again in 2014. This time around Jane finished with an excellent pace. But Jane had to leave Andy behind at MelGeorges due to Frostbike. (Agonizing decision, as we can all understand.) Yep, just when you think that ‘Judd is exaggerating about anything and everything‘, check out Andy’s foot. And as of this writing, Andy is in the UK hospital for treatment. Get well soon buddy! We are sending all of our positive energy EAST! We are all thinking of you!

And just to Honor The Lt Col… who we missed in 2014 but will roll out with in 2015:
A blast from the past, just for fun

The Gear… Bottom to Top… that I used:

And for the record… The Morale Chairman gets the CREDIT:
Endless research, by The Morale Chairman, on cold weather gear and smart decisions saved us. It allowed me to achieve this goal without suffering real issues.

Bike: Black Sheep SnowRoller, Single Speed. Enough Said.
Pogies: DogWood Designs, high loft / standard fill / thickness.

Boots. Vasque Snowburban Boots, rated to -40F
Overboots: Neos
Socks. standard medium wool ski type socks

1st lower layer: Thin smart wool long johns
2nd lower layer: Thick first ascent longer johns. 
outer lower layer: Ll bean wool overalls

1st upper layer: Thin Under Armour long sleeve shirt
2nd upper layer: Thick 1st Ascent long sleeve shirt
3rd upper layer: Thin smart wool zip wool sweater
outer upper layer: Mountain Hardware Exposure II hardshell. 

Cold Avenger, full face mask
Seirus Combo Clava, full face mask

Wool gloves
Winter riding gloves

Survival Gear:  well, that’s a trade secret. actually, if you want to know all the survival / bikepacking gear that we roll’d with. ask and I will tell. maybe. 

Eye Protection… are there any options? Seriously:
I scorched my eyeballs when I was a kid ski racer at Purgatory… near Durango Colorado. My eyes swelled shut. It was painful… for days. I felt like crying. But I didn’t. (I wanted The Padre to be proud of my TOUGH-NESS.) Yep, it was a dumb kid move. 

Anyway, during The Arrowhead I was concerned about my unprotected eyes, the sun, the snow. But I couldn’t make anything work, iced over glasses / googles within seconds of sporting the gear. So I kept turning the cracks with no sunglasses / googles. Yes. Protecting the majority of my face / head from frostbite was the #1 priority.  As many people did. And this resulted in some vision problems, maybe… At the MelGeorges bar I couldn’t focus on the beer display, I couldn’t figure what the selection was. The nice young bar dude read them all off to me. I felt bad. And that’s true… true story. Dude (But full disclosure, The Morale Chairman couldn’t read the labels either, so he tells me days later. Funny.)

Speaking of Eyes. Check out THE EYES:

if you want to know what COLD eyes look like. 


The Random Stuff ->

Dumb ideas… Or not so Dumb:
  • A custom vest to hold sandwiches / wraps close to the body. Adequate food supply is something I always fail at. 
  • If conditions require excessive hike-a-bike IN MODERATE temperatures, like Arrowhead v2013, take a JetBoil for water. I’ll never understand (and you’ll never understand) how the winter snowbiking environment accelerates the dehydration issues / effects / whatever. Yeah, it’s so much worse than bikepacking the Colorado Trail and Arizona Trail. Seriously. An emergency water capability would ease my stress, a bit. But this goes against Lesson #7 and #9 above. Well, it’s about compromises and risk reduction. 
    • Yes, need to be clear here. Moderate temperatures like Arrowhead 2013, sleet / snow / slush / etc. Moderate conditions where massive hike-a-bikes could be required. The JetBoils won’t work well in wicked cold temperatures. 
    • We carry Esbit or WhisperLite Stoves for survival in cold weather. Yes, for survival. I’ll maintain that the best option in -20F weather is to carry enough water, i.e., don’t plan to stop to melt water. It’ll take to long, it’s best to keep moving.
Dumb and Random Comments:
  • The beard saves… skin. Chicks in Northern Minnesota dig beards. But this bearded dude is now shaved. Because, there is a facial hair competition at The Local Prison Camp in February. And I don’t want to compete. Because the only competitions I compete in are the ones in my head. Seriously.
  • Drive to Oklahoma. You’ll never believe the number of tricked out old Peterbuilts on the road. Guess that saying is true… ‘A truck driver never dies, he just gets a new ‘pimped out’ Peter built.‘ (Ok, I added the pimped out to that comment.)
  • Damn. The women in Texas are HOT. Just say’n. 
  • After 63 hours, you realize what a joy it is to brush your teeth. Yep, The Joy of Teeth Brushing. 
Iowa crew:
To make a long story not so long. We met up with The Iowa Crew. James / Black Sheep connected me to ‘Iowa City Steve’ a few months ago, via cyber communications. So, we ran into Steve & JB and David (?) at GateWay. Talked shop, talked Black Sheep, etc. then we met up again at MelGeorges… in the bar, of course. Awesome dudes. I just shake my head when I think about  all the wicked dudes & dudettes that we meet… wherever we go, in any state, in any country. Earth really isn’t as bad a place as our alien inhabitants think. 

My plan is to recruit these dudes and start a BPR Iowa chapter. Just because. We can never have enough awesome dudes at the back of the pack… driving forward The Revolution, whatever The Revolution is…. We’ll figure it out someday. Or not. (And sorry dude #3, I swear your name is David. But now at I’m back in New Mexico my mind is playing tricks on me. Please forgive my stoopid-itry.)

The RandomNess of it all:

Dan from MN inquired one day if we were planning to stop in Duluth & Superior. I didn’t know our travel logistics so it was hard to say. Anyway. We did. So when we on the road, headed to International Falls, an empty logging truck flew by us / passed us near Virginia MN. Just after that we get a message from Dan “how did you like that semi”. We almost died laughing. Was Dan driving the semi? Was Dan behind us? Was Dan an NSA operative? What the hell? Turns out we passed Dan right before the semi passed us all. Totally random vehicle interaction after 1800 miles on the road. Totally funny. At least funny to us.

What’s next… Predicting the Future:
  • 24 hours of fun. There are a number of 24 hour races on the 2014 BPR schedule. I’m not sure if my ‘racing’ attitude is gone for good. Not sure if I have the motivation to bust through the 200 mile barrier. I may, I may not. So I may just show up, put in a cool 100 miles or 150 and hang with The Crew, hang when I want to, ride when I want to. Just because.
  • Arrowhead 135 v2015. Yeah. We want to go back. If you know the race organizers, put in a good word for The Crew at the Back of the Pack. The 3 founding fathers are already planning for the challenge. We hope to get more dudes and dudettes to ‘race’ with us.
  • Tour of New Zealand… Back of the Pack Style. Yes, we will be back in New Zealand, sooner rather than later. And take a personal tour of the great country with Dan and Jasper. Because. It’s New Zealand. 
Final Comments:
You know… life is glorious. Challenges are awesome. But risk reduction, for survival, is a must. I spent 36 hours in survival school down in Antarctica. The weather conditions were far worse than Minnesota. Like -35F with 50mph winds… complete whiteout. SO… I thought I understood the cold weather snowbiking thing. I thought I understood the effects of the cold. Well, it’s entirely different animal when you are riding bikes in the conditions versus building ice walls / wind breaks and setting up tents, as I was doing in Antarctica. Yeah. Totally different.

So you gotta be smart and avoid the death grip of The Demons. And remember. The demons attack me in unique ways, they’ll attack you in equally unique ways. Seriously. Smart people do dumb things when strategies collapse. When things go wrong. So if you attempt extreme challenges like The Arrowhead, be prepared. As the race organizers say ‘have a plan for self rescue‘.

And I hope you don’t think I’m preaching. I don’t pretend to be anything other than a rookie snowbike adventure dude. I continue to make big time ‘rookie’ mistakes. But I learn from them. I hope you can learn from my mistakes too. Because that’s how I am. 

just for fun, to relive history… a pic from survival school in Antarctica
a break in the storm reveals Mount Erebus in the background
Just Data. The Trail Info ->

Stage times. Comments. Maps:

Distances: JUST Estimates.
Start -> GateWay. 36.9 miles
GateWay -> MelGeorges. 34.4 miles
MelGeorges -> SkiPulk. 37.1 miles
SkiPulk -> Finish. 22.7 miles

Total Time: 40 hrs. Riding Time: 25 Hrs 54 Min. Chill’n Time: 14 Hrs 06 Min
Stage 1: 7 Hrs 2 Min riding…   1 hr 41 min hanging at GateWay
Stage 2: 6 Hrs 20 Min riding… 11 hrs 15 min hanging at MelGeorges
Stage 3: 8 Hrs 2 Min riding…   1 hr 10 min hanging at SkiPulk
Stage 4: 4 Hrs 26 Min riding

The Arrowhead 135. Trail and Profile:

The Arrowhead 135. Stage 1 Trail Segment and Profile:
Start to GateWay

The Arrowhead 135. Stage 2 Trail Segment and Profile:
GateWay to MelGeorges

The Arrowhead 135. Stage 3 Trail Segment and Profile:
MelGeorges to SkiPulk
The Arrowhead 135. Stage 4 Trail Segment and Profile:
SkiPulk to The Finish

Finally, Totally Stoopid and Inappropriate Info ->

Total Ludacracy… only watch if you HAVE NOTHING ELSE to DO!

The Color of Urine… we call it wiz-zard:

Background:  Little kids say ‘I gotta pee’. Hooligans at the back of the pack say ‘I gotta wiz-zard’ so… Don’t EVER use the term pee around me. 

Ok. Back to the topic. My trail hallucinations and dementia were humorous at times. Every time I saw a pi$$ hole in the snow I thought about the physicians at The Local Prison Camp. (That’s right, I’m employed at The Local Prison Camp – code word for… my employer. Yep, you don’t need to know about…’my employer’.) And I started to laugh. A demented laugh. You see. All the pi$$ holes in the snow were mostly in the center of the trail or on the edge of the trail and all The Holes showed characteristics of severe dehydration. You know, the wiz-zard was not clear, clearly.  So. I laughed. Because Mr and Ms Physician, at the Local Prison Camp, always ask when they are poking and prodding me, prior to government funded expeditions, if the ‘… wiz-zard is clear or not..’ I say… “And Not“. I’m always dehydrated. I’m a single speed maniac. Then The Physicians quickly ask ‘what is your alcohol intake‘ I say. “Don’t know.” They say ‘we need to know before we approve you for the expedition ‘ I say ‘ listen. Beer is food. Dale’s Pale Ale for breakfast. Modus Hoperandi for lunch. Dales for dinner. Modus for dessert. So… I have about a six pack a week.‘  Mr / Mrs Physician says ‘that doesn’t sound right. We need answers‘. Then I say “look physician. How many cigarettes did you smoke today? How many pills did you pop? How many pills did you prescribe for ca$h kickbacks? Why did your lazy a$$ park in the handicap spot. And finally how many BOXES of wine did you pound last night? Ha Ha. I know you!” So the physician gets pissed and says ‘you are in good health, you’re good to go.‘ 

And this conversation went around on my head every time I saw a pi$$ hole in the snow. Funny s^*t, huh. And that’s an Example of The Alternate Reality that I live in.

The Kidneys. The Liver:
Since I introduced you to Mr / Ms Physician at The Local Prison Camp above, I might as well tell you more about internal medicine. I busted up my knee pretty good around mile 16. I sat on my knees as I mined for water and food in my massive backpack. I don’t know what happened, but I think something popped in the left knee, maybe it was due to the extreme cold and the yoga like body position I dropped into. Anyway. I was in agony by mile 18. So I started popping Aleve, the other blue pill, popped Aleve faster than Ron Jeremy pops Viagra. This did the trick. The knee was fine, till it seized up at 3am while I waited for the sun to rise on day 2, but as long as I popped the blue pill, I was A-OK. Anyway, what do you think Ms Physician will ask me during my next physical at The Local Prison Camp … ‘Judd, your liver and kidney functions are off. How much alcohol do you drink, how often.’ The Judd responds, “Ms Physician, I’m a single speed maniac. I get hurt. I pop Aleve. And beer is food…. ” and the story, explained above, repeats itself. Ha Ha. Yep. I’m twisted. 

The Hallucinations:
So, as I was wandering towards MelGeorges I keep seeing these piles of crap in the middle of the trail. And I was getting pissed off. Every time I saw A Pile I would think ‘who the hell drops base, i.e., takes a duke in the middle of the trail… besides The Lt Col.‘ It really bothered me. Then, when I stopped for water near MelGeorges I almost stepped on a big pile! S*^T! Then I took a closer look, just because. And it turns out the big a$$ loads where just random leaves. Ha Ha. Talk about a weird, ongoing hallucination. 

And… just to remind you

One thought on “Arrowhead 135 v2014: Holy Moses… Simply Unbelievable

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