Arrowhead 135 v2023: The Freeze Out in The Vortex

Executive Summary, Just Because

The Freeze Out in The Vortex. Yeah. Dudes and Dudettes. 2023 was Cold and Fast. An adventure based in BPR Ludacracy. Enough said!

Well. maybe not. I must comment on The Trail… the Arrowhead Trail in 2023. Holy Smokes. Talk about a concrete super highway. Probably the fastest trail I’ve experienced in my 10 years of cruise’n The Arrowhead. 2014 was a fast year and super cold. 2017 was a fast year, and not so cold. 2019 was sorta fast, for the fast racers, before the Vortex Winds hit on night one. So Yeah. 2023 was the best ever.

Yep. The Arrowhead 135 is NUTS. Life can be NUTS … and Interesting. Life is flat out unreal on The Trail.

I’ll try to tie all these experiences of Arrowhead 135 v2023 together, in a way to explain The Freak Out and The Freeze Out and life @ the back of the pack. But I may fail. Or you may fail to read the entire race report.

And a Tear Jerk’n Paragraph. Arrowhead 135 is Amazing. Why is The Arrowhead 135 amazing? Because we are all in it together. We all are dealing with the same issues. And… if you see us Arrowhead ‘athletes’ on the street, we are just random normal people. You can’t pick out an Arrowhead racer in a crowd. It’s not physical. It’s not noticeable. It’s a mental state, it’s a drive that we have. Right or wrong. It’s something special. It’s the desire to finish. The desire to beat THE DEMONS. The desire to accomplish something completely ludicrous. We are all athletes (athletes?)… in the alternate reality. And once we get hooked, we are hooked for The Long Term. Just because.

Full Disclosure: I’m not sure what algorithm I used to orgainze this race report. The flow is chaotic, like based on Chaos Theory. I’m just jumping around and documenting highlights. Sorry if you get confused, like confused as if you’re watching Pulp Fiction for the 20th time. (Speaking from Experience.)

And a Million Thanks. A million thanks to Ken and Jackie Krueger. The Arrowhead 135 is the Greatest Race on Planet Earth. And a few of the primary reasons… Race Director and Volunteers. A million thanks to all those that make the Arrowhead 135 happen.

And another Million Thanks. A million thanks to Kitten aka Fokin Lion and Iowa Dave. Talk about Endurance! Dealing with The Preacher and The Philosofizer and Wrecking Ball and Chico… that’s a super high stress job that requires unlimited endurance. Thanks a million Kitten & Dave!

Arrowhead 135 v2023… The Story in a few Pics

We all know that you, the Fan / Friend / Follower / Tourist, at the back of the pack, does not have time or patience or endurance to read this entire race report. So… a few pictures. Thanks for caring, thanks for looking, see you next time.

Or maybe you’ll read this entire race report…. maybe

And FYI. when cold.. think about warmer times… like chill’n in Florida

A Few Informational Videos

We race from the Back of the Pack, we race with knowledge, experience, and a sense of Ludacracy based in the single speed reality, The Alternate Reality. So you geared freaks, you tourists, may not understand our Reality. Therefore Wrecking Ball, aka Ti-Machine (BPR Iowa) captured two videos. Check out the info. It’s all Educational.

Freaking Out… The Freak Out… In the Freeze Out… on The Arrowhead

There has been lots of talk and lots of books on Anxiety, Stress, Panic Attacks, etc. Let’s just call it The Freak Out… freaking out before the trail, freaking out on the trail.

And just to be clear. The Freak Out is different for Everyone. The Standard Freak Out ranges from sleepless nights, to endless prayer to The SnowBike gods, to full out Freak Out that ends in quitting. Some super freaks Freak Out by behavior that is described as ‘a total sh*t show’. Some Freak Out by tomahawking gear through hotel hallways. Some Freak Out by excessive sweating. Some Freak Out by dropping F-Bombs. Some Freak out by filling their Garbage Gut. And Some Freak Out just by chill’n, like a Villain, at The Border Bar.

My point of all this… it’s Ok to Freak Out. Just don’t Freak Out in front of Foxy Mamas, if you are into that, or the Suga Daddy, if you are into that. Just Freak Out in Private. It’s ok.

But all this, with respect to Endurance ‘Athletes’ at the back of the pack, is just fancy words to describe attacks by The Inner Demons, the attacks that can culminate into… into… full on freakish Ludacracy. Ludacracy before the race, during the race, on the trail, in a hotel room, or maybe even in the sauna, or in the BPR pinto.

What has this year taught me… control The Freak Out. Life is much better without… Freak’n Out. Pure Athlete-ism is much easier… without Freak’n Out.

So here are all the Freak Outs that happened at the back of the pack, to us Endurance Athletes that roll out on single speeds with an attitude of un-constrained Hooliganism. (WTF am I talking about? I have no idea.)

Freak’n Out Before The Trip. So. I basically blew off the final packing until the night before I flew out of ABQ to Detroit. It was get’n late. My Black Sheep Single Speed SnowRoller was already at BPR Michigan HQ. But my ‘race’ wheels and gear was still at BPR Global HQ in NM. So I jammed my HED wheels into my Pika PackWorks bag. And jammed all my gear in the bag and had a stoopid idea to weigh the bag…. 70+ lbs. HELL. I spend an hour looking at the Delta website, ‘weighing’ options that would reduce the excess baggage changes. I almost had a melt down. Then I decided to ditch gear, ditch my rear wheel, only ship my front wheel with the dyno hub, only ship the necessities. (Refer to the 1st video above, to get an idea of necessities.). I then hit the hay at about 11AM. Melt Down avoided. But I Freak’d Out. Then at 1AM. Another Freak Out. I actually tried to change my flight, ditch the 5:40AM departure, to give me more time to work the issue. But no available flights. I was Freak’n Out. But I took a chill pill, did my Wim Hof breath retention exercises… and convinced myself life would be ok. I threw the bags in the BPR pinto and headed to the airport at 3AM. In the end, the Freak Out was a waste of energy, both The Preacher and The Wrecking Ball had ‘loaner’ wheels. I used Wrecking Balls spare HED rear wheel setup, as it was tubeless… I roll tubeless. Just because.

Freak’n Out in The ABQ Airport. I arrived at the airport at 3:45AM. I quickly found out that the ABQ airport is deserted at 3:45 AM. And the Delta counter doesn’t open until 4:00AM. So I battled some insane bladder pressure waiting for the check-in / baggage check to open. I was starting to Freak Out. After I raced through TSA PreCk, I went straight to the ‘Men’s Room’. (I want to call it ‘The Pi$$er’, but The Madre may be reading this, so I can’t.) Anyway. I raced into the Men’s Room, which was recently remodeled, and I was shocked! There were none of those stand-up porcelain things (commonly referred to as Urinals.) I couldn’t believe it. I asked myself, “Is this something new? What is going on in This World?” So I walked around the ‘Men’s Room’, in total shock. Freak’n Out due to bladder pressure. And it clicked… I wasn’t in the ‘Men’s Room’. I was in the ‘Wo-Men’s Room’. And then I totally Freak’d Out. No Joke. Luckily no old ladies yelled at me, the Wo-Men’s Room was empty. But I’m guessing ABQ Airport Security has my pic posted with title ‘Early AM Creeper’

Freak’n Out cuz of Sh*T Forgotten. Once I arrived at BPR Michigan HQ, I started to Freak Out. I forgot my digital camera. (bad move, iPhone batteries don’t work well in subzero, unless well insulated.). And I forgot my favorite wool sweater. (bad move, wool sweater would absolutely be required for the 2023 Arrowhead.). In the big picture, the Freak Outs were not worth the energy. I never found a digital camera. Stopped everywhere. Only options were $500 to $700, guess digital cameras are on the way out, due to fancy cell phone cameras. But no prob, I made due with my iPhone, plugged into a aux battery pack for the entire race. And the sweater, no big deal. Found an awesome wool sweater in Marquette, 50% off even.

Freak’n Out during The Bike Maintenance. So Freak Outs happen to other super freaks at the back of the pack. Ti-Machine, aka Wrecking Ball, broke his wicked cool titanium spindle pedals. No big deal. The Preacher brought a spare. But… Wrecking Ball couldn’t get the busted spindle out of the crank. Freak Out. So, with the help of BPR IA Team Manager Dave, Wrecking Ball used parts of the trailer hitch to pound out the busted spindle. Freak Out! And guess what. The required tool, was under the passenger seat. No Joke.

Freak’n Out the Night before the Race. Talk about super stress and non-standard methods to deal with the pre-race stress. We all Freak’d Out and went to.. The Border Bar. But what is crazy… I ordered a tall Coors Light. No stomach for the calorie loaded fuel called IPA. And then even crazier, we all totally freaked out and turned the lights off and started counting Titanium Sheep at 8:30PM, no joke.

Freak’n Out on the Trail, Mile 5. We are cruise’n the trail, in formation. The Preacher breaking The Wind, The Philosofizer (me) in the middle, Wrecking Ball in the back. Well. I had an issue. The Unit, The Fruit Basket, The … won’t say it. Was frozen! Why. Yeah it was -20F or colder at the start. The temp was converging below -30F. But I’ve done this before. Why was The Unit Frozen! I was FREAK’N OUT! I pulled over. Broke out the toe warmers (toe warmers have adhesive) and I did what I had to do to bring The Heat to The Unit. Kinda Worked. Kinda didn’t. Total Freak out… because we’ve all seen the pics of frozen…. fingers and toes.

Freak’n Out on the Trail, Mile 9. As always, we stopped at the left hand turn. To drain bladders and eat. (Frozen Unit = No Bladder Drainage for me.). So I pulled out the thermometer. It was pegged at -30F. (But started to stabilize at -27F in the sun.) So I took off my gloves, found my iPhone… dead iPhone. Freak’n Out! I asked Wrecking Ball to take a pic. So I picked up the thermometer with my bare hand… and YIKES. Bad idea. Talk about skin damage, damage that stuck with me for the rest of the race. F*^K’N FREAK’N OUT is a bad idea in -30F. Oh yeah. My water tube was frozen. But I’m no rookie, so I didn’t freak out about that.

Freak’n Out on the Trail, Mile 10. Back on the Trail. The Preacher and Wrecking Ball started walking, to warm up the toes. I was a few minutes behind due to frozen hand and the frozen unit. I started to walk. The activated toe warmer (refer to Mile 5 Freak Out) slipped down to my boot. I started to Freak Out. So I found more toe warmers with my few fingers that weren’t frozen, had to pull down the outer ‘racer gear’ and strategically placed one warmer for maximum heat transfer. I was starting to panic. I was totally freak’n out. And the warmers didn’t activate initially. So I walked down the trail, dragging my bike, doing what I could with the operable phalanges to ensure there would be no amputation of The Unit. About 20 minutes of this… feeling returned to ‘those parts’. I was back in business. (back in business?) But The Preacher and Wrecking Ball were long gone. That’s ok. I put the hammer down and caught them by mile 12.

Freak’n Out on the Trail, Mile 20. Why the hell would I freak out at Mile 20… because my water tube was still frozen. Damn. Wrecking Ball offered me some warm bath tub water. But no thanks. Not that big of a freak out.

Freak’n Out on the Trail, Mile 25. Two Freak Outs around Mile 25. Woody’s water tube was still frozen. And I believe he drank some of Wrecking Ball’s warm bath tub water. Yeah. The Preacher was starting to freak out. My water hose thawed. So I was happy with hydration. But I totally started to FREAK OUT. My a$$ was FROZEN. And It was insanely painful. What the Hell! My only strategy was to alternate between riding ‘in the saddle’, riding ‘out of the saddle’, walking. No joke. I was worried. How did my a$$ freeze. I have theories. Bizarre.

Freak’n Out at Gateway. Gateway is always bizarre. Talk about a Freak Out of racers. There were so many racers freak’n out, I was shocked. But I was A-OK. Why? Because Gateway had these huge adhesive body warmers for sale. I bought 10 packs and strategically placed 2 on my cheeks, the butt cheeks. I was in heaven. No Joke! Judd’s A$$ Freak Out… dealt with, properly. (Yep bought 10 newly classified Butt Cheek warmers, can never have enough Butt Cheek warmers.)

Freak’n Out at MelGeorges. MelGeorges is Awesome. I didn’t really freak out. But I did cave and order up a plate of poutine and 3 Furious IPAs and then ate 2 cheeseburgers and a mountain of french fries. Yeah. All that ‘non-racer calories’ weren’t in the game plan. But I had to, I had to avoid the NO IPA induced panic attack. Yep. Stopping at the restaurant / bar is the SOP for BPR ‘athletes’.

No Real Freak Out on Day 2 leaving MelGeorges. Day 2 was cold but beautiful, but not without some bike ‘drama’. My rear brake failed. And MelGeorges to Embark / Ski Pulk has some major hills. So a functional rear brake is desirable. No Problem. Wrecking Ball is a super freak with bikes and tools (refer to bike maintenance above and the trailer hitch.). But guess what. No solution. I had to survive the descents with only a front brake. No Problem. No reason to freak out.

Freak’n Out on the Trail, Mile 88. So us 3 BPR Hooligans were roll’n down the trail, about 16 miles past MelGeorges. All of a sudden my left toes started tingling. I started to Freak Out. Freak Out because the temps were warming up, like to -5F. Why are toes tingling? Were my toes frozen and numb due to the pretty cold AM? The temps were below -20F. (-20F. What’s the big deal?) All I could think about was After Burner’s feet after his Arrowhead induced Frost Bite. So I stopped, almost pulled off my boots to use some toe warmers. But decided to wait for the hills, maybe the hike-a-bike would bring blood and life back to my toes. And guess what. Toes were fine after a few miles. But I was (and still am) wondering if a lack of hydration and lack of calories caused the toe issues. I didn’t really eat or drink in the 1st 16 miles after MelGeorges. But then I decided to ‘hit the H2O’ and chow down on some Ice Cream bars. Who knows. But what I do know… no reason to Freak Out!

Freak’n Out on the Hills before Embark / Ski Pulk. I love the trail between MelGeorges and Check Pnt 3 / Embark / Ski Pulk. The trail is amazing. The Solitude is Unreal. And in daylight… it’s almost heaven. Until… until The Preacher loses his BPR hat, his alien green BPR hat. Wow. Freak Out! And a few foot racers saw the hat on the trail, but no one snatched up the hat. Yikes. Preacher Freak Out is Intense! And then Wrecking Ball lost his fancy Julbo Racer Goggles. That was kinda a Freak Out. Well, once on The Trail, Wrecking Ball really doesn’t freak out. After a few laughs, The Preacher started calling the hills to Embark ‘the BPR Scavenger Hunt’. Funny.

Freak’n Out on The Cruise to The Finish. Well. Us 3 BPR dudes were roll’n, roll’n kinda fast to the finish. But I was HURTING. My a$$ re-froze. My right thumb, the thumb damaged by holding the thermometer at mile 9 was frozen. I was Freak’n Out. Plus, to make matters worse, my knees were killing me, my back was killing me. Don’t know why… maybe a lack of training? Ha Ha. So it was a struggle to the finish. Luckily no dead skin on the a$$, no dead skin on the thumb, and no lasting pain in the knees. So… no real reason to Freak Out.

So why all these stories of Freak’n Out. Well. It’s just fun. A dude (or dudette) can look back at the race experience, the adventure, and realize that THE ATTITUDE is the ONE VARIABLE of the adventure that can be and should be controlled. No real reason to freak out! Just say’n.

And what’s funny, proof that we ROLL in THE ALTERNATE REALITY… As I executed my early AM mediation and Stoic-ism on Feb 8th, this passage from Seneca is totally relevant. And the modern day interpretation includes.. FREAKOUT! Wild, isn’t it.

And just an FYI, if you beat The Freak Out, FAME and FORTUNE await. I’m speaking from experience. No Joke.

The Results… at the back of the pack

Leah 33 hrs 23 min (unsupported)

Chico 34 hrs 57 min

Wrecking Ball, The Preacher, The Philosofizer. 38 hrs 07 min

That’s right. 5 racers at the Back of the Pack. 5 finished. That’s how we do it. 

Let’s Look at the Finishes.

The Total Finishes, over The History

The Preacher. 9 out of 11 = 0.818

Leah. 10 out of 12 = 0.833. One or more victories, need to review the results for the official count.

Chico. 8 out of 10 = 0.800. 2 bike, 6 walking, one win foot supported, 1st unsupported foot in Polar Vortex 2019.

The Philosofizer. 7 out of 10 = 0.700. The BPR unofficial single speed record in 2017, but who keeps single speed records?

Wrecking Ball. 4 out of 8 = 0.5 All finishes on titanium single speeds that The Dude designed and fabricated at his bike building shop @ University of Iowa. And via a late night dialog, Wrecking Ball determined his Arrowhead ‘quits’ kinda linked up with his Tuscobia Finishes. Is there a lesson embedded in this data?

Snore’n Like an Old Bar Whore ???

If you watch the previous video, The Preacher accused me of snoring like an Old Bar Whore. Well. I will argue that allegation. Although, if I did snore, I’ll blame it on The Thirsty Pagan. Because Nothing Positive happens at The Thirsty Pagan. And I admit. I had a snore score of 107 the day after we finished the Arrowhead. But, if the data is real, I blame it on a serious Arrowhead chest cold, serious Arrowhead scarred lungs. And, of course, serious empty calories from The Thirsty Pagan.

And if you don’t believe me, review the Arrowhead 135 v2013 race report, where we first ‘suffered’ from the Thirsty Pagan Vortex:

You In or You Out !!! ???

It’s super interesting to digest all the stories from The Arrowhead Trail. The Thrill of ‘Victory’ and the Agony of ‘Defeat’. But as we’ve traveled to the Arrowhead for over a decade, cruise’d down the trial for over a decade, we catalog the stories of triumph and the stories of failure… call it a failure to beat The Demons. Sometimes The Demons win. And trust me. I’ve finished 7 out of 10 times. so I’m a 3 time quitter. But my excuses are good. Or not.

But this year we had a conversation with a friend at Gateway, the friend quit.

Situation: @ Gateway, a Long-Time Friend chill’n with us near the beer cooler. The conversation, to paraphrase:

The Preacher Dude, you in or you out?

The FriendI’m out. `

The Preacher W-H-Y?

The Friend I have a 100 reasons…. but no good ones

Yep. The head trauma.. The Demons. Temporary or Enduring. Everyone at The Arrowhead is qualified. Everyone must battle The Demons. The Demons are Real. Get ready for battle. Or… arrange your ride back to International Falls.

And as The Preacher says. as soon as you make the decision to Quit. You’re done. No changing the mind of your inner-athlete. And if you decide 15 miles from a checkpoint, that 15 miles will S-U-C-K!

2019… The Philosofizer and The Wrecking Ball… In Formation

Speaking from Experience. In 2019 I quit due to a very very juvenile mistake on gear choice. New jacket, very expensive Jacket, promoted by a skinny super-freak athlete. I never did a training ride with the jacket. So. Phat Racer = SWEAT dripping down the … Yeah. And I didn’t need a new jacket, I had like 6 jackets, packed! Anyway. I didn’t want to die in the 2019 Polar Vortex before my trip to the Iditarod. So when I decided to quit about 5 miles from MelGeorges… I started to cry, I almost died. And that is not fiction. I think.

Moral of My Story… The Advice for you…. BEAT those demons out of your head.

By the way. In 2024 Back of the Pack Racing is going to organize numerous shuttles staged at Gateway, Sheep Ranch Rd, MelGeorges. The vans will be prep’d with booze and blankets and teddy bears (Not Teddy The Bear)…. just so YOU have many options next year. And so we, BPR freaks, can make a few bucks for the End-of-Race Party.

2+ Stones Over


So I planned a Christmas / New Year trip to BPR Michigan HQ, downstate HQ (Pinckney)and midstate HQ (Interlochen). Plan was simple: find my inner athlete and Ride and workout and eat healthy. Just basic discipline stuff. But it all went sideways. Big snow early in the trip, 3+ feet at BPR midstate HQ! Then rain! So The Preacher and I only put in 2 rides. Long story. Just the way it is. So my plan to return back to BPR Global HQ down 0.75 Stone turned out to be up 1 Stone. WTF! I’m supposed to be an athlete.

And then work chaos resulted in more work and less play. So… I returned to Michigan for the trip to the Arrowhead with that extra stone. No Joke. And then guess what happened. Full on Hooliganism, thanks to The Preacher.

A casual observer may ask “Why did this training plan go so wrong?” Well. I’ll give you one of many examples.

Day 1 on the Michigan to Minnesota Arrowhead adventure: The Preacher cooked up some wicked awesome huge Ribeyes. Amazing. Then after the dinner The Preacher said “want some ice cream”. I said “Hell Yeah”. Then after the ice cream The Preacher said “Want some Mac & Cheese?” I said “Hell Yeah, carbo loading”. Then the Preacher said “Sorry, we are out of Mac & Cheese. Want some Potatoes?” I said “No way”. Then a light bulb went off in my head. I said “How about a Mac & Cheese pizza? But this time let’s go 1/2 Mac & Cheese and 1/2 sausage and pepperoni.” The Preacher said “Yeah. And then we fold over the pizza and make it a pizza sandwich” Or something like that. So the Pizza arrived. The Preacher said “Want a Piece”. I said “Hell Yeah!” Then The Preacher brought over two sandwich like pieces, which is 4 pieces. I said “Dude, you trying to kill me”. The Preacher just laughed. And what’s really funny, or not, The Preacher doesn’t eat any of this high calorie carb stuff. The dude just likes to watch me get sick, The Preacher likes to watch buttons fly off my flannels. No Joke.

Anyway. That’s how an ATHLETE rolls up to the Arrowhead starting line 2+ Stones over Race Weight! Crazy!

We’ll Train You, Arrowhead Style… at the back of the pack

There is a ton of info on the InterWeb with respect to Training for the Arrowhead 135. Well. The Preacher and I plan to develop a training course. And we’ll send you the details and some on-line instruction, for a small fee.

A Summary of the Training Plan:

Jump on your bike (or put your running shoes on). Start riding (or running).

After about 2 hrs you’ll say “coach, I’m thirsty”. We respond “keep moving. Your water is frozen, your food is frozen. Get back to me in 3 hours.” Yep. Maybe your water will be thawed out in 3 hours. Maybe not.

After about 10 hours you’ll say “coach, I need to take a break. My a$$ is raw”. We respond “keep moving. enjoy the pain. You’re not even 1/2 way to the finish, the pain will only get worse, so forget about it. And remember. If you cry, you die.”

After another 8 hours you’ll say “coach. I need to stop. I need to go to work. My spouse misses me. I miss my dog. I need to eat”. We respond “Don’t cry, keep moving. you either finish, or you quit, you decide”

Or you just roll off the couch and tell the Inner Demons that you have no use for Demon-ology. You start, you enjoy the pain, you finish. TeddNeck Style. Just Say’n

No Joke. Jokester. That’s how you train your mind for The Arrowhead. I think.

Solitude… What is Your Solitude

Ok. if you made it this far, you may have an idea that all BPR race reports are ‘grounded’ in The Alternate Reality. So, let’s jump into a hyperspace tele-por-tation device and go back to The Real Reality… a few thoughts on Solitude, as Solitude is the classic 3 syllable word used to describe the time out on the trail.

Solitude… a comment from a volunteer at Gateway: As we packed up our gear, The Timekeeper said “Enjoy the solitude.” I started to laugh. Ha. Solitude... at the back of the pack? Sh*t Dude. Solitude With These Hooligans? Our time on the trail is nothing but storytelling and laughs. It’s a ruckus family reunion out on the trail. No Joke. And that’s how we like it. (I have Solitude at my house, BPR Global HQ, cuz it’s just me and the ghosts and the random visits from Aliens. No Joke.)

Solitude… the absence of external noise sources. Once a racer passes the few roads near the start, the few logging operations, there is absolute Solitude on the trail. No external noise sources. No planes, no trains, no automobiles. It’s crazy. Complete and total silence, except for Wrecking Ball and The Preacher laughing at the standard BPR Ludacracy.

Solitude… my solitude is riding or pushing the bike down the trail, lost in thought, dreaming of dreamy things, not thinking about anything, not thinking about pain or cold or… anything. And then I’m jerked right out of my own private solitude when a yellow snow hole grabs my attention. Then I start thinking about the person that deposited the liquid waste. Was it a dude? Was it a dudette? Was it a man-eating wolf? Was is a super freak racing for fame and glory? Was it a rookie struggling to finish? How dehydrated was the racer? Is the racer ok? Then I start thinking about why the person was so focused on depositing the liquid waste in the track, in the groove, right where I’m riding / pushing. And then I think… why? Why is it so hard to move to the edge of the trail and deposit the liquid, kick some snow over it and…. be a good custodian of The Solitude that comes with beautiful white snow. Just something to think about for all those that like to make the rust yellow liquid deposit right in the groove, right where I’m riding. Just Say’n…. And kinda Joking. I’ve been thinking about the yellow snow holes since 2013. What would I do without that type of distraction on The Trail.

The Gear. It Works

The gear. Yep. I packed some fears. But I had zero issues with sweat. Although I had a frozen fruit basket and butt cheeks. But there is always a solution for that. As noted above. 

And let me tell you, finding the gear that works… it’s an individual adventure too. My gear selection evolved over 7 Arrowhead starts plus 1 ITI 350. So 7 years, 8 starts before I figured it out. Then 3 Arrowheads and 1 more Iditarod with the new gear set.. which equals PROOF via trail testing. No joke. But hey. I have it figured out, for me. Not a single serious issue in Arrowhead v2023. My strategy, start the ride as cold as possible, the body will heat up, everything will be A-Ok. That is what I did, and that is what happened. (Except for the Fruit Basket and Butt Cheeks) And you may ask why start cold? Why ride cold? Well for years I would race in wool gear: light wool pants, heavy wool pants, wool bibs, wool everything. And for 7 years I suffered from SERIOUS taint damage. like brutal wounds from the sweat down under. For 7 years, I was on the verge of crying due to the pain… and remember, If you CRY, you DIE… so I started roll’n out with minimal gear waist down, zero issues with taint damage since. No Joke.

Here is a pic of everything I wore, one time or the other. Obviously I switched out gloves and balaclavas. But all the other gear was on for the entire race. Heating and cooling via zippers and hats and the hood, that’s about it.

I won’t go into detail on the brands / models / etc. That’s for me to know and you to find out.

And here is a pic of my OH SH*T gear. I carried this gear on the bike. Never used any of these pieces. But … OH SH*T events require OH SH*T gear! Maybe in future years I’ll dial back the OH SH*T gear. Maybe not. Better to be SAFE than SORRY. I think.

Hand Warmers and More Hand Warmers. Yep there are the hand warmers, toe warmers, butt cheek warmers. I’ve only used one pair of hand warmers in all these years, and that was on the Iditarod, not on the Arrowhead. But this year I used 6 pairs of hand warmers, mostly for my frozen / damaged right thumb. 1 pair of toe warmers, for the frozen unit, one heater at mile 5, one heater at mile 9+. And then 2 pairs of butt cheek warmers, no joke.

And why The Unit and Butt Cheek warmers? Who knows! Refer back to The Freak Out Section.

The Tools

Some redundancy, some not required. But hey, if you are not prepared… you are not prepared.

The Calories. It’s a Personal Choice

My suggestion on Cold Years… Ice Cream Bars and More Ice Cream Bars. But just an FYI, you must know the freezing / melting temp or your ice cream bar of choice. No Joke.

Thinking Out Loud. Why did I carry all of Wrecking Balls ice cream?

What did I eat?

Snickers Ice Cream Bars 7 x 180

Stinger Gels 4 x 160

Clif Bar 260 + 230

Kind Bar 200

Nature Valley 160

Justin’s PB cups 230

Beef stick 80

Beef Jerky (140 + 140) / 2

Total = 3200 calories



What I didn’t eat

Stinger 4 x 160

Chocolate 360

Tahoe 230

Kind 200

Pepperoni Turkey stick 60

Total = 1490

** And full disclosure, I left a fair amount of food at MelGeorges. Only snatched a few items from my drop bag.

The Water Consumption. Not that you care, but I care, this race report serves as a reference. Kinda. So. I drank 1.5 liters from the start to Gateway, all in the last 18 miles of the segment. I drank about 1.25 liters from Gateway to MelGeorges. I believe I drank 1.5 liters from MelGeorges to Embark. And maybe 1/2 liter from Embark to the Finish. I also consumed 1 gatorade at Gateway. Lots of water at MelGeorges. The real Question I need to answer: why do I leave the start and every checkpoint with 3 Liters! Well. Easy answer, the fear of running out of water. Ha Ha Ha. Gotta be afraid of something that has never happened to me on The Arrowhead.

Look Back at History: 2014 vs 2017 vs 2019 vs 2023

There were 3 wicked cold years in the past 12 years. What was the difference, as best I can remember, from the point of view of a single speed maniac… at the back of the pack, 2014, 2019, 2023. So why did I add 2017? Because 2017 is my personal best time, 21 hrs. (And that’s a single speed record, at the back of the pack.)

2014: Insanely cold. Some wind. But my one memory of 2014 is that the temps did not really increase during the day. It was just COLD. And 2014 was my 2nd year. So I knew… NOTHING in terms of gear and race strategy. The trail, as I remember, was hard & fast. But not as hard & fast as 2023.

the link:

2019: The start was nominal, in terms of Arrowhead conditions. But the big freeze arrived about midnight of Day 1. The winds were insane. The wind chill dropped below -50F. Pure insanity. But good trail. Still a challenge with the ‘groove’ on a single speed. But nothing to complain about.

the link:

2023: Great Trail. Best Trail of the last 12 years. Cold Start, colder in the swamps and forest. But NO wind, for the most part. The only ‘bad’ trail was about Mile 104 to 108, before Embark / Chk Pnt 3. A large group of snow-mobile-ers aka snow-machine-ers aka sled-ers, destroyed the concrete like track. On well. We survived.

2017: The crazy fast year. It wasn’t cold. But why was 2017 faster than 2014 and 2023? Simple. It was The Groove and The Fitness. I remember the 2017 conditions as ‘nominal’. Not warm, not cold. But there was no new snow and The Groove was insanely fast.

the link:

And we always remember Kevin, a few miles for Remembrance

Back in 2016 Da Beard / BPR ND traveled with a super cool dude, Kevin. Kevin quickly embraced The Back of the Pack Lifestyle, quickly became a Brother from Another Mother. We have lots of great memories with our short time with Kevin. And these memories flow back when I’m in the flats on the trail after MelGeorges, Kevin and I spent some time cruise’n together in the Peace & Quiet of the trail. Kevin was killed later in 2016, in a car accident, along with his father. We won’t forget Kevin. Solid Dude… at the back of the pack.

New Sponsor… New Contract… Bringing Fame & Fortune to International Falls

At the back of the pack we are ALWAYS looking for a sponsor, specifically a beer sponsor or a bar sponsor. We’ve secured a few sponsors, like EddyLine Brewing in Buena Vista Colorado. But what did we get… a hat. No Joke. So this year the BPR MI Team Manager, and Arrowhead Event Manager / Psychologist / Tour Coordinator / Gear Handler / Beer Babe, Kitten aka the Fokin Lion, started a conversation at The Border Bar. Lucky for us, the owner was working the bar. We quickly made a deal, signed the contract. The BPR Team would all buy Border Bar hoodies. The BPR athletes would promote The Border Bar in International Falls and at The Finish. In return, The Border Bar would donate a few Bloody Mary’s in 2023 and 2024. Yep. Tough Negotiations. But that’s a solid BPR / Border Bar contract. A win-win.

And the history at the Border Bar goes all the way back to 2013. The night of the 2013 race we, The Lt Col (ret), the Morale Chairman, The Philosofizer, cruised from the pre race meeting to The Border Bar, just so The Lt Col (ret) could get his groove on, on the dance floor with the locals. No Joke. We stayed out WAY TOO LATE the night of the 2013 race. But what could go wrong? Nothing went wrong, as we are Single Speed Maniacs, at the back of the pack.

Needless-to-say, we’ve returned to the Border Bar every year. (And The Viking). Just for historical purposes, just to add to The History.

And why do Single Speeders Rage… against the machine ??

The Thunder Thighs, Duh

The Trauma… The Bloating… I’m so Vain

When and if you are Vain… don’t take pics on The Trail… you’ll look like you’ve battled The Demons, just say’n.

This year I tried to take pics at random intervals with a combo of my thermometer and a selfie. It’s amazing how your face changes after long exposure to ‘endurance’ activity and extreme cold. Yeah. Wow. I guess I’m vain! My face swelled up! Bloat-a-ta-tion on The Arrowhead. Talk about Embarrasing. How does a dude pic up Foxy Mamas on the trail looking like this?

Or maybe the face trans-formation wasn’t due to the extreme 2 days on the trail. Maybe the bloating was all the IPAs I packed on The Single Speed Machine. Or not. (Yeah. Just joking. I packed 12 ice cream bars, no booze.)

All joking aside. Many people that follow endurance races but don’t participate in endurance racers, probably don’t realize the trauma induced on The Body. It’s truly amazing what the body takes in these races. Truly amazing the damage (temporary, hopefully) to the body, specifically to the lungs and skin and … well, everything. Thankfully these busted up cells know how to repair. Yep, that’s why I’m an alien-tologist. Because these miracles are alien based. Totally

Hamms… a Blast from The Past

Hamms Beer. Talk about a blast from the past. My grandmother, Grandma Rohwer aka Ilah Rohwer, was born in Madelia Minnesota in 1909. She was a tiny lady, repeatedly claimed to be 5 feet and 1/2 inch! (Grandpa Rohwer was 6′ 3″, on a bad day.) Anyway my grandmother moved to Rochester MN to ‘find a doctor’. Guess What. My grandfather, Roland Theodore aka Stevedore aka Steve, was an MD at the Mayo Clinic. The rest is history!

BTW… you Historians ever hear of a Stevedore?

Aside: And just because my grandfather was born in 1902, don’t call him a cradle robber! And just because my dad is 8 years older than my mom, don’t call The Padre a cradle robber. Wait. I see a pattern here. Well. I don’t rob cradles, I just steal Cheetos.

Anyway. My Grandmother was hilarious. She had a severe stroke around 1969, 4 years before The Alien MotherShip dropped me off on Planet Earth. But I remember Grandma Rohwer and our visits to Sioux City IA. I remember the visits like it was yesterday. So. Although my grandmother was handicapped by the stroke, she demanded ONE BEER a DAY up until she moved on to the next set of dimensions in 1985. My grandmother always drank Hamms. Must be a Minnesota thing. So we were at The Good ol’ Days Bar & Grill in Tower MN, day after our finish. And wow, talk about a huge set of Hamms stuff. Super Cool!

It’s amazing what makes a dude, The Judd, think about family. It’s amazing what family I have / had. My genetics are a product of some superiorly crazy awesome humans. And some crazy a$$ aliens. No joke. Yep. The stories that are lost forever and will be lost forever.

Random Insights, Random Memories… just the standard Ludacracy

At our age, sweat pants seem perfectly ok and recommended attire, even on a road trip. And after a 85F sweat out in the Detroit Airport / Delta Terminal, I’m thinking cutoff sweat pants are the ticket for relaxed air travel.

One idea for an entrepreneur: Food truck at Embark / Ski Pulk. Like a burrito truck or a taco truck or a beer truck. Seriously, for the supported racers… huge MONEY, honey.

Don’t forget the poogie liners. If your right thumb is totally frozen and the hand warmers are just temporary relief, maybe put in the super warm poogie liners, in the poogies, before the final 24 miles. Just an Idea.

Room 357. Just for Reference. Our Plan for v2024. We may shift pre race Arrowhead HQ to Room 357 (and 356). Just say’n, just an idea. Just a reminder for the BPR Arrowhead Travel Coordinator(s).

Talk about Trail Ludacracy. My back was killing me on the ride to The Finish. Almost crippling pain the last 10 miles. (Did I blow a kidney? Was my liver screaming?) So I would routinely stop and walk a bit, with the hope of stretching out my back. One time I stopped and took an extra long break. Wrecking Ball roll’d up and asked “What’s Up?” I replied “My back is killing me, just stretching.” Wrecking Ball responded is a very mellow, tired voice “Yeah, my back hurts too, you got any more ice cream bars?”Full on Ludacracy. The lack of pause, the expert delivery, the realization that all Wrecking Ball wanted at that moment in time was an ice cream bar. So Wrecking Ball and I enjoyed another Snickers ice cream bar, on the trail. Absolutely Famous.

The Peace Train. In v2023 BPR IA Team Manager, Dave, brought an excellent attitude and brilliant race psychology to Arrowhead 135. We hope Dave returns. Dave was with Team BPR in 2014, 2015, 2016. But we must throw some Love to Peace Train. Life is just different without Peace Train engaging all BPR activities in his speedo or in stories that involve his speedo. No Joke.

A Comment from a Random Friend. Us BPR Hooligans were at the pre race meeting. A person sitting behind The Preacher recognized us from Alaska 2020. We hung a bit at a pizza joint with this lady and her friends. Anyway. the lady said ‘Every time I see you guys, you are so chilled, no worries at all”. Yep. That’s us, for the most part. We are all on vacation, all leaving stress and jobs in The Real Reality. So… why wouldn’t we be chilled out! It’s vacation, a vacation with Brother’s from Another Mother!

The Lessons Learned

Not many lessons learned or re-learned in 2023. Why? Did I learn (and retain) all the lessons from previous years. Doubt it. Maybe I just roll’d up to the starting line Ready for The Adventure.

  1. Frozen A$$. Yeah. I’m thinking the rivets are the reason. So next time, Brooks Leather Saddle, no rivets, no joke. Or maybe I just use Brooks supplied seat cover, I only have like 10 of them at BPR Global HQ.
  2. Frozen Unit. Maybe the Rivets, maybe not. But I did have a pair of OH SH*T Smart Wool Long Underwear. And I was planning to wear the OH SH*T Long Underwear. But in the early AM of Race Day I told myself. This is NO SH*T Cold Weather, but not OH SH*T cold weather. So I ditched the pair that could’ve saved me from pain and suffering and The Freak Out.
  3. Water… the volume of water. Maybe I should roll out with 1.5 liters from The Start and From Gateway and 1 Liter from Embark / Ski Pulk. This is gonna be a serious debate in v2024
  4. Hire a Chef… The Preacher is too focused on Humor driven by my bad decisions, specifically my choice of late night desert and pizza toppings.
  5. Batteries and Lights. In terms of battery powered lights, I carried 3 headlamps and 1 bar mounted light. And I didn’t use the headlamps, at all. And only used the bar mounted light at random times, usually for light so I could open a package of ‘calories’. Yep. I just rolled with my dyno powered light. So I need to ditch the excess lights and batteries. I think.
  6. The iPhone camera worked. But I really didn’t get any good pictures. So…. Lesson Learned… DON’T FORGET the DIGITAL CAMERA!
  7. And the Ultimate Lesson… if you pay the big bucks for a room at a hotel with a Sauna, just remember, the sauna may not work. That was a brutal lesson to learn.

The Data… Because I Live for Data

If you’ve experienced a Back of the Pack race report you’ve seen The Data. I’m all about data. I love data. I love processing data. I love explaining data, I love manipulating data. No Joke. So here is the data. Super Interesting. And keep scrolling for some plots of… the data.

Yep. The data is super interesting. And what may 1st catch your attention is the Time Stopped at MelGeorges. 11 hrs 20 min. WHAT? What the hell were we doing. Well. It’s simple. For about the last 8 years Wrecking Ball and / or The Preacher reserved a cabin at MelGeorges. Why? Because we can. (Race Rules.). It’s just smart, it’s called insurance for the single speeder due to all the unknowns. And basically the unknowns are trail conditions that can lead to INSANE single speed leg trauma. That’s right, we aren’t getting any younger, although some of us are getting better looking. But yeah. Blown legs are a real issue. And a night of rest could turn a nightmare hike into a beautiful cruise. And that’s what happened this year. We were tired, probably from lack of training, not snow conditions, so we voted and decided to wait for the sunrise. And full disclosure. We ain’t spring chickens, but we are well aged athletes. BPR Single Speed Hooligan @ Arrowhead Avg Age = (64 + 57 + 49) / 3 = 56.66666667. Enough said. We are in it for the adventure. The full adventure.

Ok. What else does this data say? Well. Average speed to Gateway = 5.45 mph. Average speed Gateway to Melgeorges = 5.04 mph. Average speed MelGeorges to Embark / SkiPulk= 4.74 mph. Average speed Embark to Finish = 5.48 mph. That’s some crazy data. Trust me. Crazy. Not what I expected

The Breakdown of The Action

This table is super interesting. I process the data, make simple ‘classifications’ of data, riding or walking. Threshold is 2mph, cuz have you witnessed a single speeder going 2mph while turning the cranks? No, you haven’t, it’s impossible to go that slow in a 32xYM setup. (But it’s not impossible for a gear’d freak to do 2mph while spin’n that 22 x 56 aka tiny ring & diner plate.)

So The BPR crew of 3 Hooligans hammered out 122.7 miles ‘in the saddle’ and 11.7 miles on foot. That’s amazing. A few years on The Arrowhead produced the data revealed 25+ to 30+ miles of walking, due to soft snow / new snow. (Check the Race Reports, MoFo.)

Just some Comments

Segment 1. Start to Gateway. 17 Dismounts. Mostly walking to heat up the toes or work on frozen body parts. But the entire trail to Gateway was ride-able, single speed style.

Segment 2. Gateway to MelGeorges. Lots of dismounts. But I recall that most of the trail was single speed friendly until Sheep Ranch Road, witch is about 12 miles from Gateway and 22 miles from MelGeorges. After Sheep Ranch Rd, Lots of hike-a-bike.

Segment 3. MelGeorges to Embark (formerly SkiPulk / Surly SkiPulk). The best section of the trail! I recall many miles of fun riding, maybe for the 1st 20 miles. Mile 72 to 92 But there are hills, of course. Then 9 miles of ‘enjoyable’ hills and nice riding. Mile 92 to 101. Then 4 crazy miles of steep hills. Mile 101 to 105. Then 3 miles of more ‘enjoyable’ hills and nice riding. Miles 105 to 108. (Although the track was trashed in this section by the snow-machines.). Final 2 miles to the checkpoint, super ok, slight uphill.

Segment 4. Embark to Finish. About 16 dismounts. Why… busted back, busted knees, frozen body parts. I like telling everyone at the final checkpoint that “It’s all uphill to the finish”. They look at me like I’m crazy. But look at the profile, aside from the few descents, before and after WakemUp Hill,… it’s almost all uphill. Ha Ha.

The Weather Watch

just because we all watch the weather during the last few days before the race

The Pics from The Trail

Just random pics from the trail

The Pics from The Trip

just random pics, just because, The History

One thought on “Arrowhead 135 v2023: The Freeze Out in The Vortex

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