The Arrowhead 135 is simply awesome. The coolest race we ‘ride’ all year. The race organizers, the volunteers, the racers, the riders, the trail. Everything. Just awesome.
And for the Brothers Rohwer, Minnesota is a home away from home. We spent the early 70s growing up on Lake Minnetonka – then Los Padrinos packed up the family and headed west to Colorado. Through the years we rarely made it back to Minnesota, all our travels where based on the mountains of the western states. But then we found The Arrowhead 135. And then we experienced The Arrowhead 135. AND now we use The Arrowhead 135 as an opportunity to return to The Motherland and breath the great northern air. Yep, we use The Arrowhead 135 to escape from the hustle and bustle of the corporate / engineering world. AND we use The Arrowhead 135 to regroup with all our Buddies, The Crew, at the Back of the Pack.
Time for a Rundown of The Action:
Ok. If you’re motivated read the long, very long synopsis of The Arrowhead 135 v2015, as experienced at the back of the pack. I put some effort into organizing the information in a format based on an irrational decay of rational thoughts. Meaning… I start out with the basics and slowly get into the super bizarre events, thoughts, experience. Deal with it, if you can. Or… jump out of this site and go cruise SteveBay for bike parts.
The Battle at the Back of the Pack:
The Results and Scoring… at the back of the pack
We all know that there is The Race that Racers Race then there is THE RACE at the Back of the Pack. You see, we are all winners but us BPR dudes have a way to differentiate between The Winners. It’s called ‘The Scoring Algorithm’. So here is the breakdown.
JB: “Since I’m MR 10 Gears, aka Diez, ’ll roll out with my sweet bike and my sweet derailer and my polished gears… because I can and I will and I will dominate at the front of the back of the pack” 1st to finish @ 27Hr 06Min, but last in points with 73.9
Steve: “I engineered and build my titanium single speed machine BECAUSE I am The Ti-Machine. And I’ll blow away the competition in the unauthorized SS category… just because that’s what I do.”. 29Hr 16Min but 1st in points with 1238.98
The Philosofizer: “My legs are happy, my cranks are angry and my gut is making this outfit look & feel tight. I need a dietician and some fashion help. But I got this – I know how to push my Black Sheep SnowRoller though the Snow.” 36Hr 02Min and 991.98 points
The Morale Chairman: “My beard is Gnarly, my hair is out of control, people are staring at me. But hell, I’m wearing my patches and plaid and I look GOOD, especially at the finish line.” 36Hr 02Min 990.98 points
Da Beard: “I know how to roll at the back of the pack…and I specifically selected my unauthorized 26×22 setup to ensure that I own the back of the back of the pack. Yep, that’s how I roll.” 41Hr 06Min 738.98 points
* JB and Steve are ‘honoray’ dudes in The Crew. They don’t have patches, yet. But they’ve earned patches and I can take care of that issue. I think. So. You, the dudes & dudettes that are in the global BPR community, may not recognize these two dudes. But these two dudes must be recognized.
The BPR Championship Series: Points Earned
The question that MUST be answered: “JB aka ’10 gears’ aka ‘Diez’, was your 2 HR lead over Steve aka ‘The Ti-Machine’ worth all those gears and the 1/10 multiplier?” Yep. Ramifications of decisions, like the one you made, become completely visible, obvious & relevant through analysis of the Race Events via The Scoring Algorithm. And that is why we have the Scoring Algorithm @ the back of the pack -> data defines reality.
Overall, looking at the complete results: I, The Philosofizer, think about what I could do differently to ‘speed it up’. Then it hits me. Why speed it up? Us dudes from the BPR Crew are here to a) ride bikes b) hang with great people, c) challenge ourselves. So… I’ll keep racing… during my daily bike commute work. And I’ll go to races to ride. And I’ll leave at that.
Ok. No I won’t. For 2016 My Goal for The Arrowhead 135 is 24 hours. I want to finish before the sunrise. That’s right. I’m racing… myself. And I have a plan. And I should be successful – unless 10” of snow hits the trail as in v2013. And if that happens I’ll roll across the finish at 60 hours. And that’s predictable.
The Race Stuff: – How it went Down:
The strategy and the execution: We had a simple strategy for v2015: No stops on the trail. A short dinner at MelGeorges with an hour or so to dry things off. Yep, just a basic strategy of keeping the forward motion… in motion. AND we successfully executed this strategy EXCEPT it took longer than planned to dry our gear at the restaurant and our forward motion was slower than ever expected, for many reasons. But hey. Having a strategy and keeping strategy is a big step forward for us dudes rolling out in Phat Style.
To put it in perspective … Phat Style: Ok. what really happened is simple to explain. 39 miles in 12 hours. Thats an insane time for the MelGeorges to Ski Pulk Segment. Last year, 2014, I completed the same segment in 8 hours. (v2014 Results) Talk about a soft snow penalty or should I say The Husky Penalty for us dudes roll out in Phat Style.
The best few miles of the trail: For me, cruising the lake to MelGeorges was the best mile of the race. It was hard packed, fast, the lights on the other side where visible and I had visions of burgers / pizza / beer dancing in my head. If I could relive that 1 mile over and over…
No rest for the wicked: For the last few years a few of us, ok just me – The Philosofizer, had a hard time (impossible time?) riding through the night. Yep, for a few years I just didn’t have the motivation to keep the gears cranking through the night. BUT I’m over that now. The Morale Chairman and I left MelGeorge’s at around 12:30, without hesitation. And we kept the forward motion going forward. It was a good feeling to beat down the demons of The Darkness. We shall see if this new inner strength holds – 24 hours in the Old Pueblo is a few weeks away.
The Ratio: Every Single Speeder thinks about ratios. Because that is what we do. The Morale Chairman and I roll’d out with 32×21.This was perfect for hard pack, like in 2014. But in soft pack? I’d definitely use 32×22. But would consider 32×23 if a storm makes it soft(er). like soft(er) = total powder and extreme softness.
The Klank Klank: Talk about a borderline meltdown. As soon as we started the big hills after Gateway (checkpoint #1) I felt this ‘klank’. Then I heard a Klank – Klank. Damn, Is a crank filling off? I asked myself. Did I bust my bottom bracket and is my crank scraping the chain stay? Wow. I stopped, checked the crank bolts and moved on. Yep the Klank – Klank was worse! I was going crazy. I stopped and convinced myself that the bottom bracket was busted and the spindle was wobbling. Will the crank Klank -Klank destroy my titanium chainstay? This Klank was really bad and lasted the entire way to MelGeorges. Then, at MelGeorges, I checked the spindle again, no wobble. But the cranks were still hit’n the chainstay. I was totally going insane. I was convinced that if I moved on past Melgeorges I would be stranded out there at night. But I wasn’t going to quit. I figured I gotta roll the dice after coming all this way. So I basically rode my bike until the cranks Klank’d on the chainstay and then I walked. I got off my bike at the start of every slight incline that required a force (mass x distance) that flexed my frame and caused the crank arm to Klank the frame. Then, believe it or not, the Klank, the crank hit’n the chainstay, stopped. Yep, right after Ski Pulk, as I was dealing with the a$$ damage, the klank just disappeared. I pounded on those crank as as we punished those SS crank arms with high rpms. Nothing. Just amazing. It’s things like this that drive me insane. But hey, I survived. As usual.
Tactical Errors: We stopped at the MelGeorges restaurant to dry out and eat. And I made two tactical errors. 1) I didn’t change socks and 2) didn’t change the underlayer. #1 caused my feet to get wicked cold in the dark hours (AND the feet were NEVER cold in the brutal 2014 race). #2 may have lead to the serious a$$ damage. Maybe.
What we WILL and WON’T do in 2016:
Let’s GO BIG & FAT in The Future: I rolled out with 45N 4.0 Escalator Tires / Tyres. Some dudes, like The Ti-Machine and Da Beard roll’d out with 5.0 rubber. With conditions like Arrowhead v2015 I can see the benefit of 5.0s inflated to the appropriate psi. Yeah. Let’s go big. So I think I need to order up a new Black Sheep with enough clearance to roll 5.0s. I wonder if Black Sheep James has room in his queue for a Judd Resistant sheep… again. Yep, time to start dreaming of more titanium.
It’s all about timing @ the back of the pack: As we were cranking away I started to think about timing strategies. Timing based on pace to ensure that maximum benefit was achieved with the work output. (What am I talking about? I really don’t know.) Anyway, there are two simple timing strategies that we need to follow next year. 1) Make it to MelGeorges before the rescue SnowMo’s get out. It’s total chaos when the grooved track is churned up. And it just adds to The Scatter Principle. 2) Get to Ski Pulk before the tourists on the SnowMos get out. Yep, the timing strategy is all about riding the fast track, not the slow track.
What I don’t have and what I need: I’m thinking Caffeine pills. Or something. Something to keep me alert in the dark hours. Something that is legal. Cuz some lady at The Local Prison Camp will ask us to p*^s in a cup – as soon as we return to work. Yeah, legal. I need to keep my job. I think.
The Troublemakers: The Brothers are TroubleMakers and The Brothers are in Trouble. Yep. At MelGeorges we didn’t check in FIRST prior to doing anything else. We honestly didn’t think it was an issue. We just wanted to eat, dry gear and get out on the trail. AND we wanted to do it without impacting the operations at official Arrowhead 135 midpoint lodge. We just don’t like being in the way or relying on help. So we did our own thing and then checked in / checked out. Busted! Man we were scolded by the nice lady running the show. I though she was pissed because she didn’t have statistics on our length of break. (Yeah, I was confused at the conversation. The conversation, in my mind, made no sense.) But, after some thought, I guess the rule is the rule so people who have cabins don’t sleep the night away prior to checking in. It’s a safety thing. And that’s cool. Still not sure how dinner at the restaurant should be put on hold to check in, just to check out, but we can do the check in / check out stuff first. Sorry. Seriously. I guess next year the Pre Race Mtg will have a side session on Rules & Regulations with special interpretation for The Crew at the Back of the Pack. Damn. We hate being ‘that guy’. Oh well…
Need to Roll with Hope: But when we got to the MelGeorges Restaurant I was a bit bummed out. Yep, we dashed in there to dry our gear next to the fire, eat pizza and drink beer and make a dash for the trail. (Yeah, the strategy that got us ‘busted’.) Well the fire was stacked but not fired up. Oh well. We didn’t feel like being Fire Starters. Next year we’ll roll in with More Hope. Maybe More Hope will Help.
Comments on The Gear:
What Worked: We ‘kinda’ have our gear dialed in and didn’t have any real issues. We roll’d out with wool pants, gators, water proof winter hiking boots, wool shirts, GoreTex shells and an assortment of gloves and hats. Our setup was almost flawless. Almost. We’ll tweak a few things for 2016. But only to completely avoid slight discomforts that are avoidable. Yep, avoid the avoidable.
What didn’t have a chance to work: Due to the moderate temperatures we roll’d out with the wool pants and no long underwear. Yep, no need. And that choice turned out to be a good choice. (Want some cool wool pants: woolrich.com)
What didn’t work ->The pile of shit stuff: I rolled out with a thin smart wool hat. What a piece of s*^t. It’s good for sleeping in YOUR winter wonderland cabin. Not good for keeping your head warm at 2AM on The Arrowhead. Then throw in the pile of s*^t Norrøna Jacket and you have problems. The jacket zipper wouldn’t zip up past the collar. Thus I couldn’t use the hood and trap the warm air. Thus my head was cold and then, as a result, my feet froze. Yep. Frozen wet head = frozen wet feet. Figure that out. So what did I have to do? I put my sad face on, shed a few tears and asked The Morale Chairman to please help me with my zipper. Damn smart wool hat. Damn Norrøna jacket.
Peace of Mind: I hate running out of water. I hate running out of water so much that I carry too much water. AND I even carry a spare water bottle. Because water promotes peace of mind. And that’s how I roll.
The Amazing Chemistry: 2 AA Lithium Ultimate batteries lasted 31 hrs in the gps. Wow. The battery sets in the Fenix LD22 and Fenix PD32 both lasted 15 hrs. Wow. I carried 0.75 lbs of batteries and didn’t need a single one. Brilliant. I need to do some crazy battery capacity studies… I need to be mentored from The Pit Boss.
That which WAS NOT USED but packed for The UnPredictable Chaos:
The Excess Gear: Man, Woman. I packed so much gear that super freaks are actually interested in all the excess crap I carry. But hey, I carry stuff to ensure that I have the means to deal with the unpredictable, for the most part. Yeah I go over board like with wrenches, tubes, chapstick, gloves, water bottles, etc.
The Ludicris Inventory: I started with 58 Aleve. I consumed 8. I started with 24 electrolyte pills. I consumed 8. I started with 6 disposable tooth brushes. I finished with 6 disposable toothbrushes. Brilliant.
- 3 packs of mole skin
- Bluetooth Speaker
- Extra tie-down straps in case the tie-down straps broke
- 1.45 lbs of food that I didn’t touch – not including my mandatory 3000 calories
- Note pad and paper. In case I wanted to write poetry.
- Extra Extra water bottle in case my extra water bottle wasn’t enough
- Extra Fenix LD22. To symmetric-ize the headlamp ‘Head Strap’
- Extra Extra tube. In case my extra tube had issues
Random Thoughts about The Alternate Reality:
The Scatter Principle: If you are roll’n in a pack, in a snowbike race, you’ll see The Scatter Principle. The Scatter Principle occurs when a group is roll’n in a nice tight & fast track that’s grooved in the snow, then all of a sudden someone loses concentration and falls out of the grooved track, then all riders start to scatter and the grooved track turns into a chaotic assembly of single tracks. (Yeah, you single track snobs may dig that.) It takes 100s of yards for the group to reassemble in the groove track. What am I talking about. Hell. You’ll never know until you experience it. But The Scatter Principle makes me laugh as I try to visualize all the chaos that goes down.
The Vortex: The Vortex is also referred to as The Morale Chairman Vortex. It’s pretty simple. If The Morale Chairman is setting the pace the rider behind gets SCREWED by The Vortex. My experience is that a snowbiker needs a few yards between the dude in front, just to see the grooved track and have a chance to react to The Scatter Principle. But when roll’n behind The Morale Chairman The Vortex pulls you in tight, like inches between tires. And then there is no possible way to see the track and react. Yep. I was screwed because I sucked in by the vortex, could never react to The Scatter Principle and thus was always recovering from unplanned detours into the deep snow.
I’m an Idiot: We roll’d out WITHOUT poogies. It was like tropical weather, dude. So I was sport’n the wool gloves in the PM of day 1. Well, at one time I looked down and my bottom bracket & chain ring was caked with snow. So, because I’m an Idiot, I cleaned out the snow with my fingers, which were in wool gloves. Yep. It was warm out, my wool gloves were now wet. The sun set and my fingers frooze. Totally idiot move. Dude.
I’m Paranoid: We rolled with extreme psi, like 15. Because trail recon the day before revealed a super hard track. Well. The high psi was perfect for the 1st 20 miles. Then we hit the deep(er) snow. Then a lower psi was desired. BUT I’M PARANOID. I let a few psi out. But freaked out about a super low psi and pop’n a tube. Remember – when I change stuff during a race I break stuff. So… I gave up on that low(er) psi dream and just suffered. I’m good at suffering.
The Dirty Finger: Geez. I never thought about the dirty finger until I almost experienced the dirty finger. Explanation. I had SERIOUS a$$ damage – which started around 10 AM on day 2. So. I had to stop and lube up. But I took the opportunity to wolf down a ‘nutritional bar’. (Yeah, I’m all about nutrition. Or am I?) So I was eating and lube’n. Then as I packed up I felt a s*^t ton of food stuck in my teeth. For some unknown reason I used my clean finger, not my dirty finger, to clean out that food crap. Damn. how lucky was I with that unconscious decision. I almost had a mouth full of Okole Stuff residue… and other stuff.
Liar Liar Liar: Well. I’m sure my buddies at the back of the pack think I’m the biggest jacka$$ there is. Prior to the race I was preaching about how the segment from MelGeorges to Ski Pulk was relatively easy – like easier than Gateway to MelGeorges. Well, that was my memory. Yeah, figures. It was tough this year, due to the soft snow. I think I lost all credibility with my buddies. Wait, did I have any credibility to lose? Probably not.
The Weird Stuff:
The Visions and Arrowhead Psychosis: It’s crazy how visions based on late night psychosis stick with you post psychosis. The Morale Chairman kept seeing The Couch on the side of the trail. I wonder if The Couch was the one he trains on. The Morale Chairman repeated saw The Midget in the Harry Potter films, Dobby. (Not like I’ve watched a Harry Potter flick and know who the hell Dobby is.) But I bet that reoccurring vision was terrifying. (Or not.). I wonder if this vision was based on something yet to come at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I, myself, was seeing torpedoes on the side of the trail. Yeah. Torpeados. Those things that blow ships and subs out of the water. What the hell is up with seeing Torpedoes on The Arrowhead?
What’s really weird: FLAT does not look FLAT at night. I don’t know if it’s the lens on the Fenix lights BUT at night the flat sections of the trail actual look like slow uphill grinds. I was going crazy trying to figure out why we were riding up the hill yet almost coasting. Then I started monitoring my gps and sure enough, the trail was absolutely flat. Oh wait, maybe that was an effect of my personal Arrowhead Psychosis.
The SnowBike Gods: SnowBike Gods are tough on use dudes at the back of the pack. Probably because we refuse to conform to The Norm. Anyway, we know when the SnowBike Gods wanna punish us.. When the trail goomer comes out on race day #2 and blows away the grooved track and stirs up 8 feet of the 10 foot trail. Yep, when that happens you know The SnowBike Gods say “Take that dudes, you dudes at the back of the pack, enjoy your walk for the next 4 hours”
The favorite word of all the Northern FatBike Freaks? Tuscobia. Tuscobia. Tuscobia. Say that with your best northern Minnesota accent. Like over and over. If you do, it may become your favorite word too. Tuscobia. Tuscobia. Tuscobia.
Note to the General Public: If The Morale Chairman looks like he doesn’t want to talk. Then he Doesn’t WANT to talk. I won’t go into details but we ran into a few situations where strangers – on the road – would not let us deal with BPR business, which means eating and drinking in BPR solitude. And if you are on some chemicals, like speed or blow, and you actually can’t keep yourself from talking to us. THEN take some f’n valium and let us answer your damn questions. Because, although we don’t like to talk when searching for solitude, we will talk and be friendly. Because that is what The Madre expects us to do.
Can you imagine: I can imagine Cjell Mone rip’n it up at this race, probably in a green cutoff shirt. Can you imagine?
A way to make friends on the trail: If you ever wonder how to make friends out on the tail, just carry chain lube and have it accessible and be willing to share. It’s that easy. Yep. Making friends is fun. Making friends the easy way is fun(er).
More friends at the Back of the Pack: It’s amazing how many cool friends we meet at the back of the pack. The number of new friends is hard to quantify. But if you need to count your friends then you probably need to figure a few things out. Anyway. We had a great time after the finish with the Michigan Crew: Woody, J Ramsey, G-Unit and of course Leah. (We owe you beers Leah!) Great to hang with you guys. Hope to hang again. Like a poaching that specific Alaska Trail… hint hint.
The Quotes / Conversations of The Trip. NOT Politically Correct. Of Course
while cruising over the bridge from Superior Wisconsin:
The Philosofizer:. “I’d like to be a captain of one of this ocean.. great lake… going ships. Wait. There may be way too much bromance on those ships”
The Morale Chairman:. “How much bromance is too much?”
while hang’n at a restaurant, somewhere:
The Morale Chairman:. I’m tired of eating it.
The Philosofizer: “what? Tired of eating it?”
The Morale Chairman: “Eating my mustache. Idiot.”
a new dude… hang’n at the back of the pack… at a bar a few nights before The Race:
new dude: “I’ve never been so relaxed before a race. I might actually finish this time – Cuz I’m so drunk right now.”
Times are tough for many… many all over this world. But the experiences, like the Arrowhead and the great people involved, make you forget about all that real world stuff. I am honest when I say that I feel rejuvenated after my days in northern Minnesota and I have The Arrowhead Crew – Ken and Jackie = the crew leaders – to thank for the opportunity to escape the real reality of it all.
Yep. Thanks to all those that made this happen for all us. Such an awesome experience, year after year. We’ll be back in 2016.
the insanely stoopid slideshow… but stoopid is as stoopid does:
yep – this is set of pictures and some tunes
The Details of The Race @ The Back of the Pack
The Arrowhead Race Track & Profile: