Arrowhead 135 v2018. Despacito baby. That’s right. Just ask The Preacher.
I don’t know where to start. Arrowhead 135 v2018 was INTENSE. It was the 6th time BPR NM traveled to northern Minnesota. And luckily for this Great Southwest crew we once again met up with BPR MI, IA, MN, ND. A serious set of un-serious racers… at the back of the pack.
Yeah. I don’t know where to start. So I’ll just start rambling. And hopefully you hit play on Despacito… and replay. Despacito was our theme song during the 2+ days of race prep at The Voyager. And when you think about it Despacito turned out to be the theme for a number of us out on the trail.
The Road Trip: New Mexico to International Falls to Silverton to New Mexico.
11 days. 6 States. 10 Border Crossings. 3620 Miles. And… The Morale Chairman drove all but 4 hours. Cuz that’s how we operate. Review the BPR Operating Instructions. https://backofthepackracing.com/bpr-operating-instructions/
Rambling on. As you may or may not know, BPR is a Global Crew of Hooligans. Mostly rooted in the single speed lifestyle. But we’ve diversified and now roll with crazy a$$ MoFos from a wide spectrum of the knobby tire biking community. And, full disclosure. I’m way out there on the Spectrum. Just say’n.
The composite BPR crew at Arrowhead was unreal. The laughs, the intensity focused on Ludacracy, the love. It’s all real. That’s how we roll. That’s why it’s easy to say we are an extended family that spans Planet Earth. Just a huge thanks and digital ‘hug’ to all our crew that showed up.
Yeah Dude. The Arrowhead 135 is the best race on this big a$$ ellipsoid that we inhabit. The race organizers are the best. All racers at the Arrowhead are top notch Humans… and athletes. Yep. The BPR experience @ the Arrowhead is the best. I think all us BPR freaks agree on that.
Ok. Enough tears. Enough digital hugs. Let’s get this Party Started!
The Results… at the Back of the Pack
AfterBurner (aka Jesse from BPR MI)
21hrs 10min (unsupported) Racing for Records. Missing Turns and Promoting Peace Love and Hippiness… all off the couch and on a borrowed single speed fat machine.
The Front Man (aka JB from BPR IA)
22hrs 59min. Crush’n the trial… only to pass up the MelGeorges grilled cheese for TWO CHEESEBURGERS at the MelGeorges bar. (And the confused looks on the grilled cheese eaters, I mean racers, was priceless, so I’m told.)
The Philosofizer (aka Juddernaught, aka The Founder, The Leader, The Hustorian… that’s me.)
34hrs 46min (unsupported). Had a nice 9 hr horizontal meditation session. Because meditation at -30F brings you closer to GOD. Maybe. And then there is the sunrise in the wilderness… which is better then the sunrise in the casino. Either way, you can’t wake up to frozen water if you don’t go to sleep.
Leah (aka Leah, BPR MN)
36hrs 05min. Just cruise’n in the forest. Just a walk in the park. Or walk’n in the frozen swamp.
The Preacher (aka Woody, BPR MI)
43hrs 53min (unsupported) ‘I have nothing but I’m continuing on unsupported…. see you at the Fortune Bay Casino Bar. In like 27 hours.‘
The Ti-Machine (aka Steve, BPR IA)
Dropped at MelGeorges. One Cheeseburger Down, One Cheeseburger back up. And a not-so-peaceful night with Peace Train.
The Morale Chairman (aka TeddNeck, BPR NM)
Dropped at MelGeorges. One Cheeseburger left on the table. One Cheeseburger Stolen. One Cheeseburger devoured. Plus a few icebergs in the pants… which is always a problem.
The Lion (aka Kitten, BPR MI)
There are Kittens and then there are LIONs. And BPR MI has both… in one. And this LION has figured out how to manage The Preacher and keep all the other Hooligans under control. Sorta. And if you believe me. Just search for the video for International Falls #1 pre-race bar. The Viking.
And to steal a few sentences from AfterBurner (BPR MI). “They say behind every strong man is a stronger woman. Aside from the fact that it should be “next to” or “in front of” every strong man, that’s very true. In this case, supporting a bunch of strong dudes was the incredible Kristi. She slept less than all of us, tended to every need we had, always had beers on hand and is always down to party. Best support ever. Thanks a million, Kristi.”
Peace Train (aka Peace-Train, BPR IA)
aka the Party Train. Shut down the bar at MelGeorges. Opened the bar at Fortune Bay. That’s how athletes at the back of the pack operate… when not racing.
Da Beard (aka The Beard, BPR ND)
Wasn’t racing in 2018… but wasn’t afraid to pack the BPR ND vehicle with beer, booze, sausage, brats. Just because he can. Just because Da Beard wanted to spread the ND love (and northern MN love) with all of us from the ‘southern’ states.
Honorable Mention: Jere (husband of Leah, BPR MN)
22hrs 53min * Jere is one bad MoFo. But honorable mention… no patches, yet. (Leah is missing a patch or 2 also, but the XX chromosome means that she can do whatever she wants… at the back of the pack)
Additional ‘Race’ Analysis
Judd’s Race Experience
As always, additional info on my race… at the back of the pack. Just because The Madre expects additional info. And I can’t let down The Madre.
But wait. I’m not going to bore you with Juddernaught’s Ramblings. Just the data here. Go down to the end of the post for a long a$$ ‘remembering’ of my Arrowhead adventure.
The Data… Check it out. Interesting… to me.
AND 100% Accurate… In the Alternate Reality
The Forward Velocity Vectors… processed. And Elevation Profile. Pretty Cool
And if you need more data… the breakdown for each segment
Woody’s Unbelievable Effort
So. Think back about your 43 hours of comfort while pounding coffee, sip’n some booze and asking your honey for a back rub. And then think about Woody’s 43 hours on the Arrowhead.
This semi-quote, provided the BPR MI ‘Kitten’ aka ‘Lion’ sums up Woody’s drive to finish… ‘I have nothing but I’m continuing on unsupported.’ And Woody made this statement at Mile 71.8, 17hrs and 12min after the start. Yep. Dudes and Dudettes. Woody cruised to Urgent Care right before his drive to the Arrowhead 135. The dude was toast… but the dude is an athlete.
So. Let me break this down
Checkpoint #1 Gateway. Mile 36.6. 1:47 PM. Total Race Time = 6hrs 47min
Checkpoint #2 MelGeorges Mile 71.8. 12:12 AM. Total Race Time = 17hrs 12min
Checkpoint #3 Surly Ski Pulk. Mile 110.4 4:23pm. Total Race Time = 33hrs 23min
Left Surly Ski Pulk 5:40PM
Finish Fortune Bay Casino. Mile 135. 2:55AM Total Race Time = 43hrs 55min
… can you believe that! What a monster! I can’t even believe the suffer factor. ~ 44 moving hours. At the finish Woody didn’t say much about his frozen water. Cuz his primary comment was “I couldn’t breath dude. I was gasping for air. The whole way.” Yeah. Life ain’t easy at the back of the pack… Unreal effort. The Preacher continues to teach us all lessons on survival, commitment and… Preach’n.
Enough of the Details… Let’s Talk about The Ludacracy… at the Back of the Pack
I Ain’t Your Mother
Yeah. I ain’t your mother. But let me tell you a thing or two about racing Unsupported Single Speed. It’s f’n hard. And if you are a SS freak AND if I was your mother, I would recommend that either you a) tour the Arrowhead unsupported or b) race the Arrowhead supported or c) man up like After Burner and just crush it with a light rig, a fast pace and wicked a$$ determination. Then again. Conditions always determine the Arrowhead Experience. So don’t listen to me… watch the weather, think & be prepared.
But if I was your mother I would tell you that stopping to make adequate, high calorie food and refilling water is your best bet for a solid adventure. And do this 2 or 3 times. You want a solid race…. stop at the checkpoints, refuel, fill water, down the cokes and give your fellow racer a massage… and get on with it. (What? A massage. Hell. Peace Train must be on my brain.)
The Ludacracy of It All
In 2015 The Moral Chairman and I were pushing up The Hills early on Day 2. It was a hard night due new snow and slow trail conditions. But there was a track, a grove made by the racers in front of us. So about 10AM, about 15 miles from Ski Pulk, a damn trail groomer aka a snowcat, came through and DESTROYED the race groove. We were crushed. Our forward progress took a major hit. We ended up walking forever due to the soft, groomed conditions.
So, fast forward to 2018. About 7:30 PM on Day 1, about 8 miles out of MelGeorges, I saw a trail groomer aka snowcat. I almost lost it. My brain almost exploded. Cuz I just assumed the track would be churned up and I’d be walking. But I held it together. Waved at the dude in the snowcat and continued on.
Well. It didn’t take me long to realize that the glazed, groomed track may be hard. I gave it a shot. Yep. Like concrete. The Trail Groomer actually improved the speed of the trail. Wow.
Talk about Full on Ludacracy… The Ludacracy of It ALL. Insane in the Brain. A wave of emotions, emotions that are controlled by the demons in my head.
The Psychology of It All
The Arrowhead 135 is a hard race dude. Real hard. Just ask anyone. And the segment between MelGeorges and Surly Ski Pulk is super hard. Why? Because there is no place to bail. No real way to turn around. No real way to contact a pickup. AND the race organizers expect you to self rescue. So you can’t (and shouldn’t) flag down race support for a lift.
And the stress is weird stress. You may be totally fine. But the thought of being completely isolated, no options but forward movement, no options but to make it to Surly Ski Pulk… weird stress of isolation. And if anything goes wrong… you gotta save yourself. And that can be stressful. At least for me. But we all know I have mental issues. (You can’t operate in the alternate reality without mental issues.) Maybe all the other racers enjoy the isolation and thrive on thoughts of death and destruction. Not me. I thrive on thoughts of Daisies. Ice Cream. Cheetos. Long walks with Foxy Mamas. Peace. Love. Hippiness. Or not.
So. 10 or so miles after MelGeorges. It was dark. It was cold. I was questioning my race strategy. I was questioning my hydration strategy. I was questioning my pace… as it slowed. And then I was thinking bad thoughts. Like “If I bivy at one of the two road intersections will Peace Train see that I stopped and come find me? Will Peace Train take me back to the bar?” and then after I crossed the last road I was thinking “If I start going backwards will Peace Train see that I’m ready to bail and ready to go eat a Cheeseburger at the bar and dance the night away?” And I actually turned around and walked 2 steps back. But only 2 steps.
Yeah. Brain Damaged…. The Psychology of It All. Needless-to-say. I kept going. Even though the demons in my head were yelling at me to quit. Yelling at me to go dance the night away at MelGeorges… I didn’t. Because something inside of me knew that there was no option for retreat, no option for pickup, no option but to keep moving forward. And really, when rational thoughts returned, I realized that the experience of biking the Arrowhead, dealing with demonology, dealing with my self-induced chaos is exactly why I go on these adventures.
And, in the end, it’s the brain muscle in our bodies that controls our victories and retreats and failures. The Psychology of It All. And I’m proud to say that my brain muscle is a little tougher this year than the previous years. All due to my crazy a$$ adventure on the Iditarod Trail Invitational in 2017. Among other adventures located around 90deg Latitude. https://backofthepackracing.com/2017/03/25/iditarod-trail-invitational-v2017-the-race-350-miles-of-ludacracy/
VB for a Phat-So. And that’s not Fatso
So I’ll start this crazy story from reverse.
Conversation 2 Days After
The Preacher: “Dude. Is The Morale Chairman OK. What Happened?”
Juddernaught: “Well. He had Ice Bergs in his pants. His vapor barrier drained into the pants. He had to shove every spare piece of clothing down his pants to keep ‘it’ alive.”
The Preacher: “Why did he wear a vapor barrier on the upper? Why didn’t he talk to me? Fat guys can’t roll in vapor barriers. I know this shit?”
Yeah. The Morale Chairman and I had some major issues with the vapor barrier concept. But, on the other hand, BPR IA’s Front Man had zero issues. My buddy Chuck from northern MN had zero issues during the ITI 350.
Juddernaught: “But Preacher. JB and Chuck have no issues with the vapor barrier.”
The Preacher: “Dude. Those guys are skinny. I’ll say this one more time. Vapor Barriers don’t work for fat dudes. Vapor Barriers don’t work for dudes that sweat like pigs.”
The Preacher: “And one more thing. Why does The Morale Chairman have so much room in his pants?”
Anyway. The Race. The Vapor Barrier Disaster… A Phat-so Thing
During the 1st 1/2 of the race my mind & thoughts were focused on leg trauma and effects of dehydration. The vapor barrier was working fine. So I thought. Not a single worry. But…. The Morale Chairman is a rational thinker, not a philosofizer. And The Morale Chairman was in trouble. Like Trouble in River City.
The Morale Chairman was using the same vapor barrier setup as me. But for some reason his sweat production was high, like so high that water was draining into his pants. And then as the temps dropped at sunset… ice bergs formed in his pants. Not good at subzero temps. So… the Morale Chairman shoved everything he had down his pants to a) insulate important body parts b) stop the migration of the swamp. And due to the dropping temps and danger of a long night at -20F and below… the Morale Chairman dropped out of the race. Actually a very smart call. As you read above, maybe, there are no rescues between MelGeorges and Surly Ski Pulk. Taking changes is simply DUMB.
So, I, The Philosofizer, aka Juddernaugt, didn’t notice any issues with my vapor barrier until around mile 90. I was extremely fatigued. I stopped one time, made a weird movement and felt skin rip on my upper body. I shoved a hand under my gear and realized that my base layer was soaked, dripping wet. But I went on. No rational thinking from this philosophizer. I went on and made it to a shelter at mile 99.
All through the night, as I was horizontal, I was in pain. I felt skin rip, then rip again, and again. Around 6AM I did some self-exploration and realized that I had ooze and blood all over my upper body. I sat up, took all my uppers off and saw…. Blood and Thunder. Yep. My upper body was trashed. Skin just rip’d off. Open sores everywhere. I was worried. Like worried about infection.
So I took off the vapor barrier top. My lowest layer. Returned to my bag. Got kinda upper body naked… in -20F conditions and tried to dry out, dry out as I start to freak out about infection.
After about 90 min I decided to get moving. I packed up and rejoined the race. Everything was A-OK for the remaining 35 miles. I kept my mind on forward progress and did what I had to do to block the pain, the ooze, the negative thoughts. And I survived. And I’m now healing. Big sores, big scabs, big skin damage. (I got pics, but you probably won’t be seeing The Pics.) But I’m healing.
Geez. So what is my issue with gear section? What is my issue with skin damage? I’m stup-i-fied. Yeah. I’m beginning to think that my issue is Phat-ness. Cuz phat-sos sweat like pigs. Yeah. I like to joke about this stuff.
Call ME an Idiot… Or Don’t
You know. I’m a idiot. I never once thought about my water freezing in the 40 Below containers. I talked to The Preacher a few times. He said ‘never had a problem’. But recalling the conversations I think he meant ‘no problem getting the top off’. Yeah. I just thought the containers were like magic containers due to crazy triple walled construction or something. So I was actually blown away when I found 2 36oz ice blocks. Blow away at first and then felt like an idiot. Yeah. Man. I’m always focused & paranoid about my 3L bladder, I ensure my 3L bladder supply and hose doesn’t freeze. So I’m not a bladder idiot. Just a bottle idiot. Kinda like Idiocracy. Huh.
And think about this. The 72oz ice blocks were probably ice blocks way before MelGeorges (Mile 71.8). And I finally realized it at Mile 99. Yeah. Talk about a total melt down, like game changing episode, if I realized the issue at MelGeorges. Probably would’ve dropped the unsupported category and used the race cabin for support and it’s water melting facilities.
Forget this Diarrhea of the Mouth… Some Pics
Ok. Back to The Philosofizer’s Arrowhead Experience… Chaos Juddernaught Style
Judd’s Race Experience… The Endless Words of Nonsense
Let’s get back to my personal adventure on The Arrowhead. Read or Don’t. Doesn’t matter to me. But The Madre will read it, then re-read it, then point out all my grammar mistakes. Then lecture me on my language. And…
Anyway. My preparation for Arrowhead 135 v2018 was insane. I had it all dialed. All but my fitness. Too much work and 1 month of the flu resulted in legs that would rather go dancing then fat biking in the snow, single speed style. Anyway. I spent countless hours working on my gear, my setup, my packs. etc. And… It’s all documented, check below.
I was good to go, for the most part. I signed up for the Unsupported category. Meaning. I carried my own gear, food, water. And, if needed, I would use my stove to melt snow for water and cook ‘meaningful’ calories. So, to race the race, unsupported, the weight of my bike and gear ballooned to 73lbs. Wow. And believe it or not, there is not much room to reduce that weight, aside from ditch’n a few knifes, battle axes and other gear I rather not admit too.
Due to the gear required for racing Unsupported and the weight of my bike I decided to roll with a 32×22 setup. (I crushed a 32×21 last year. Fast year Dude!) As it turned out 32×22 wasn’t a setup for drag racing on the flats. I knew that Jesse and JB were way up front. And pulling away. And those freaks can both spin and mash. F’n freaks. I couldn’t get my rpms up. Couldn’t get my average MPH up. I knew they were long gone. I knew it would be tough to catch them.
At Mile 30 I sorta settled into a new strategy… chill til the sun sets and then catch Jesse and JB in The Hills. Cuz I’m a masher and I would mash up the hills then put my hike-a-bike in overdrive. And then… a flat. Yep. My tubeless setup with HED 100mm rims and Dilinger 5s didn’t work. S*^T! But I quickly inserted a tube and was back turning the cranks. The flat tire event created an unknown sense of panic. Cuz my front wheel, tubeless setup, was still sealed, holding air. Was it only a matter of time? Was a flat in the dead of night coming my way? Hell.
By Gateway, checkpoint #1 at Mile 36.6, I was smoked. I blew all my stored calories trying to reach a 10 mph pace, a pace to match my v2017 race. I was eating every hour, on the hour. But I was smoked. And dehydration was setting in. Yeah. I was rationing both food and water, cuz I ‘believed’ I could make the finish with the calculated # of calories and ounces. So, my mind was numb, my legs were blown.But I decided to keep going.
The race to MelGeorges was uneventful. The track was hard, hard but not fast. Weird. But I mashed up hills. I kept moving. I was doing ok. Then… the sunset. I arrived in MelGeorges, Checkpoint #2 at Mile 71.8, at 5:40PM. 2+ hours after my 2017 time. And I was hurting. So damn thirsty. Every little voice deep inside my said… “QUIT JUDD QUIT. YOU’RE THIRSTY, YOU’RE HUNGRY. IT’S GET’N COLD“. But… I checked in. I checked out. I fixed some gear on my bike and I pushed on. And luckily or un-luckily, I pushed on without checking my water supply.
MelGeorges to Ski Pulk was INSANE. Pure Insanity. And all I have to thank for that experience is… my brain and the demons in my brain. (Read above, The Psychology of It ALL, for some insight into my mind during this 38.6 mile segment.) I was really struggling with dehydration. But I didn’t want to stop. I knew I had about 110 ounces of water, I consumed 110 ounces in the 1st 72 miles. But I wanted to avoid the desire to pound 1L of water. I wanted to ensure I had enough water when ‘shit hit the fan‘. So… I slowed down my pace and realized that survival was the mode. Catching Jesse and JB was not going to happen. I kinda kept it together. Kinda. Kinda Not. And then I hit the hill section. about at mile 85. (Yes there are hills right after MelGeorges. But the never ending hills start around mile 85.) So. I was dead tired. Thirsty and Hungry and Uncomfortable. Serious skin pain. (Read above, The VB for Phat-Sos, for the info on a bad bad issue I had to deal with.) I was tired. Not sleepy tired. Just no muscle energy to move. So finally around mile 93 I pulled out my secret queue sheet and saw that a shelter was at mile 99. Wow. Could I make it? Or should I go horizontal in a snow pile?
Well. I made it to mile 99. I was ok. Just needed to recover. I knew going horizontal was all I needed to regain my leg strength. So I pulled into the shelter and started to unpack. And then… Mark Seaberg arrived. I didn’t recognize Mark at first, he was all bundled up in gear. But Mark recognized me. Yeah totally funny. Back in 2016 Mark and I ended up in a shelter at around mile 87. And back in 2016 I woke up the entire shelter of dudes when my alarm when off at 4:45AM. I think my alarm was a Red Hot Chili Pepper song. (Don’t Forget Me) And my alarm kept going off. I couldn’t find my iPhone buried in my gear. So embarrassed. After that day I promised myself I would arrive at all races with my alarm set to 2 Live Crew… just in case I had another opportunity to bivy on the course. Damn… 2 Live Crew, although in my iPhone, was not set as the alarm. I think I disappointed Mark. As he got up at 4 something. He probably was expecting a Judd Alarm.
Anyway. I tossed and turned until the sunrise. Yeah. Once I’m meditating in my bivy I CAN’T get vertical until the sun is up. Just a psychological problem I have. Once the sun was up, I was up and packing and… Steve Tannon showed up with his positive attitude and desire to cook up some breakfast and melt some water. Thinking about water, I got kinda thirsty. I wasn’t gonna cook anything. Wasn’t in my strategy. And I was feeling racer-like again. But water. Yes. So I searched for my two 40 Below bottles, 72 ounces of H2O, and found 72 ounces of ice. Solid bricks of ice. Yep. Awesome. And… Steve’s stove failed right around the same time. No need to worry. We only had 10 miles to Surly Ski Pulk and The Fire. 10 miles and 20 damn hills. But hey. After 100 miles the 10 mile cruise to Surly Ski Pulk seemed like nothing.
After 2hrs and 10min of riding and hike-a-bike I made to Surly Ski Pulk, Checkpoint #3 at Mile 110.4. And thanks to the Surly dudes the fire, a neutral spot for unsupported racers, was rage’n. I was psyched. I pulled out my bottles of ice bricks and started a slow process to melting the ice… and plastic. Yep, you see. I’m an impatient dude. As soon as I had a few ounces of water I decided to fire up my MSR gas stove and get to work. I didn’t have time for this. And the forecast was for snow and wind. Ouch.
Well. To bore you a bit more. It took some time to melt water. And I decided to get my culinary skills on and create a masterpiece of a freeze dried meal. Pesto Rice and Salmon. Wow. I was in heaven. After 29 hours I finally had something other than energy bars and energy chew things. Once I had my water and a full stomach I was itch’n to go. So, being impatient, I did what I had to do to get the damn ice out of the bottles… like I melted the plastic. I refused to carry ~66 ounces of ice to the finish. And I didn’t want to throw the bottles away. Wasn’t sure about the Unsupported rules and trash. Yep. I packed it all in, packed it all out. Trash and melted plastic and some ice.
Back on the trail. Back in the race. After a 1hr and 50min stop I was moving again. And, as the predicted by the pre-race weather forecast, it was snowing and blowing. The hard track with mild conditions was a distant memory. It was a 4hr 29min slog to the finish. Not a big deal. My legs were strong. My mind was strong. But that finishing segment is brutal. Always is. Seems like it’s all uphill, in bad snow, whatever. The long slog was no surprise to me. So Finish I did. Finished around 6PM. Finished the race Unsupported. Pretty Cool Feeling.
- HED 100mm rims with Dilinger 5s… Gotta use tubes
- Julbo Googles / Aerospace ReactIV work!
- There comes a time when dehydration and lack on calories to burn will overrule the desire to put one foot in front of the other.
- Phat-sos stay away from vapor barriers. Or use only in certain conditions based on expected physical exertion.
- Confidence is overrated. Always have a backup plan… like extra base layers if / when the vapor barrier fails this phat-so.
- There is no such thing as ‘comfort’ when riding a bike on snow in the winter. I learn and re-learn this all the time. Misery… for the most part. My Friend of Misery. Just gotta deal with it. Own it. Love it.
Check this out. I kept all my trash… cuz I didn’t know if on course trash containers were ‘neutral’. So. I figured it would be fun to see my calorie consumption during the race.
The Gear. The Weight. Pure Insanity
Now this is a mind bender. My bike and gear was a crazy 73 lbs. Check out the list. Not much else I could ditch from the essentials. My gear is not limited to race essentials. But includes all essentials for survival. Cuz racer I’m not. But desire to survive… yeah, I have that desire.
More Pics…. Just Because
AND. The Bonus Race. Silverton Whiteout.
Just Pics of Ludacracy
BPR NM and BPR WYO. In Silverton Colorado
The Philosofizer, The Morale Chairman, Deuce, Cindy, DirtHead, Rasta Todd