Arrowhead 135 recap / report:
– Thank you family, Nikki for day in and day out working with me to make these dreams a reality, your patience, acceptance and warmth. My mom for tirelessly sewing up pogies, harnesses, feed sacks and baking the must have potatochip cookies. Marley, for doing everything possible to help lighten the load with a smile and positive attitude. Alizah Langlois for the morning prior pep talk text. Ruthie is no longer with us in the same form but she was out there with me in mind and spirit, so many days and hours on the porch she would ask me to describe and tell her about this event and Iditarod, we both lived the trail through those conversations before I ever set foot out there.
Sponsors, Brynje US, Johnny D bags, Hollow Wool Socks, thank you so much for the support! You all provided me some of the best gear and equipment made and it worked incredibly out there for me.
Friends, with your belief and support I was motivated, comforted, and held up throughout each phase of this process. ScottStratton , Chris Maltby of TerrysCycle, Matt McDonald, Terry Thelen , Thank you for the private messages and encouragement.
Also, my utmost gratitude to Ed Tyanich , Kenneth Galbraith , Evan Hill , Paul Schlagel, Brian Corgard, Jeff Goldstein , Jason Stickboy Bratton , Jerry L. Palmer , Mark Norfleet Heather Krauel For sharing so much of your time, wisdom, gear, experience before the event. It is not unappreciated.
Ken Krueger and every single volunteer out there making such an incredible experience possible for us. This is more than a race, it a space to discover, connect, and grow. I am incredibly grateful to you all for all the hardwork you put in to making this event available to us.
If I forgot anyone, I apologize. 🙏❤️
– Arrowhead135 is an incredible event that even on a freak warm year lives up to its reputation as being one of the 50 hardest endurance races on the planet.
– The landscape and wildlife, remoteness, isolation of this course is more of a reward than any finisher trophy or time record to me.
– I was unable to make the cut off time at Melgorges 71.3 miles in because of mistakes I made earlier in the race.
These mistakes were:
*Not getting enough time in training with my sled and bag prior to the event. If I would’ve had more time with my sled, I would’ve been aware of a design flaw that led to my sled being damaged and filling with 14lbs of snow/Ice. Despite breaking it up with my pole tips and clearing it by hand, it would refill every .25 of a mile. Also the “gills” of the sled were digging into the ground acting like a plow which created a great deal of drag. Myself and four others using the same sled experienced similar issues and worse failures.
*Not making a pre-start checklist which resulted in my forgetting to grab ski poles, sunglasses, and two bottles 44oz of water.
*Losing sight of weight while focusing too much on “what if.” Over packing food and water. Conflating sentimentality and function, bringing some gear because I was sentimental about its place with me out there regardless of what role it would realistically serve.
My total sled weight, weighed once home was 79lbs.
Adding the extra 14lbs of ice made it 93lbs total. Far over what I was planning for.
*Not giving more attention to navigation in advance and during. I had only briefly studied the maps prior to the event and brought a paper map and offline map downloaded to my ph. but was unable to connect them with turn by turn nav. on my watch and other devices, due to waiting until the night before we were not able to get it figured out in time before the start. During the event I became to reliant on tracking rather than consulting my maps, this in addition to getting into a rhythm, using my dimmest torch setting to preserve battery power contributed to my nav. error. It was seeing an X with sticks placed over the trail, which I neglected to verified with map that ultimately caused me to miss the turn into Gateway checkpoint.
It was these mistakes that contributed to my missing the cut off time.
-A few things I am proud of about my performance out there.
* I never placed myself or others in a position of danger due to poor decision making.
* I was never not prepared for the conditions or demands. I had appropriate clothing and understanding of how to dress as well as how to manage moisture and shelter if needed. I stayed adequately hydrated and fed, not experiencing any form of bonk or associated issues. I cared for my feet far better than any other event I have previously participated within, mostly due to Amy Adams who gave an expert course the day prior on wrapping my feet. She graciously took the time with 5 people stuffed into her small hot hotel to teach her methods for foot bandaging. This played a huge part in my feet staying as unharmed as they did.
I was very proud that my being pulled was not related to my inability to endure the conditions and or care for myself but was totally related to time.
* After the frantic search for the starting line and running out to the start as they were “Releasing the hounds!” Immediately realizing I had forgot to grab my poles. With the consistency of the snow being like that of mashed potatoes, I was gutted. I knew there was little chance I could finish without poles. So this Immediately started a domino effect of negativity, of self doubt, it gave the weak brain an edge to pick at and exploit…reasons I couldn’t finish, reasons to quit. I Immediately became aware of this, took account of what my issues were and made a decision to ‘adapt and overcome.’ So I started problem solving, even just within the first mile there was an abundance of thumb diameter saplings, so with my leatherman tool I cut two of the straightest I could find to make my new ski poles, which Greg Pressler named Sid and Ollie after his own that he had made years previous within his own experience out on AH where he too didn’t have poles. I used Sid and Ollie all the way until Gateway checkpoint 37 some miles deep where a fellow runner Christian was ending his event and generously allowed me to use his poles as I went on forward. Although AH has little in the way of support, and runners are directed to be self-sufficient, all runners are encouraged and allowed to help one another out on the course.
* After missing my turn at Gateway and adding a number of miles to my trip I was staring down a tight deadline to make it back to Gateway. Again, I made the decision to go for it. I stripped off all of my clothing except my Brynje fishnets and ran as hard as I could. I knew by the time I got there I would be wetted out, so after checking in and out, I got to changing all clothing including shoes and socks and getting myself prepared for the all night push I was going to have to make if I were to make Melgorges in time.
* I spent 15hrs give or take completely alone in the dark 60 miles or so deep into the wilderness. Much of the race was sparsly littered with interactions and shared trail time, some of my time earlier in the day was spent with Amy adams and Dawn Marie but we separated shortly before Gateway and I didn’t see them for the remainder of my time out there. Pushing through the night included a solo water crossing at 2am. an overflow section caused by beavers. I called it Beaver Shit Creek because of the intense and putrid smell of this water. It was likely due to it being peat bog water which is stagnant decaying biomass but Beaver Shit Creek had a better ring to it. As I crossed with waders I couldnt help but think as pulling my wet waders off with my gloved hands…So only a small percentage of people get giardia from consuming water tainted with beaver feces but there’s no way I am reaching these same gloves back into my feed sack for a nuttybuddy. 😅
Crossing paths with recent timber wolf tracks was a delight, I was so stoked about that. I wish I wouldve made the time to get better photos of them that could put it into perspective how large these prints are.
Passing through all of this at night alone was an incredible experience. I never felt fear, I felt in many ways like an astronaut, inside my suit, within that bubble of light cast from my torch, just passing through the space.
*The steep grades combined with my sled weight and dragging issues made for brutal climbs…One step at a time max effort pulls followed by one min breathes. It was very slow, demoralizing, just hard. I never quit though and kept doing my best to make forward progress until just before 1pm the following day when I was pulled.
Earlier in the morning at a different water crossing I was able to make it acrossed a small ice bridge, but as my sled came acrossed behind me I heard that unmistakable sound of my sled cracking through the ice and splashing jnto the water. The water was only knee deep at most but wet gear is wet gear and at 30*f and below it is dangerous. Instinctively I fell forward grabbing and yanking the leash as hard as I could, pulling the sled up and out of the water before it sank. In doing so I slammed the center of my upper back onto a frozen clump of reeds. I laid there for a moment recovering before getting up and continuing on.
Within either of these instances, as my sled felt cemented to the side of these slopes, (I could release tension from the harness and the sled would not move, it wouldn’t slide back down. 😔)
Or slamming my back on the ground, I could’ve used it as a reason to throw in the towel but I am proud that I persevered through it.
* At somepoint during the night I came acrossed another racers emg. bag. I knew from what I could feel that it had his fuel and other items necessary for them to continue held within. At this time I was deep within the struggle of my sleds weight, filling with ice and dragging into the ground so adding another 4lbs 14oz was a tough pill but knowing that they were likely to be able to continue made the decision easy. I am proud that I strapped it on and delivered it to Bryce Carlson at Melgorges despite the additional load which when added to my already bloated 93lbs sled brought me almost up to 100lbs. 😬
When I came in he and other racers were trying to scavenge enough items to put within his kit so he could meet the gear requirements and continue. He was so excited and thankful that I brought the bag in, he strapped it onto his sled and was able to finish the event!
*The final thing I am really proud of is being able to have grasped a huge lesson and piece of personal development that will serve me within future endeavors. As I cleared my boots and stepped into Melgorges, only a few were suiting up to go out again and push forward, others like myself had missed the cut off or were choosing to end their race there.
I was feeling horrible, like a failure. There was no walls, or defense and at that point of being sleep deprived, exhausted, and within a position where no arguments or appeals exist you just have to accept it that YOU FAILED.
As the incredible volunteers at Melgorges hustled around making me soup and grilled cheeses I was still in auto pilot, I just began filling my face with food and water as though I would still be able to go back out there…But the weight of knowing I wouldn’t be allowed was beating the hell out of me. I noticed a very fimilar face acrossed from me. It was a multi time veteran of ITI Petr Ineman, who I’ve watched YouTube videos of. Despite both of our events having come to an end there at Melgorges, there couldn’t have been a more distinct difference in our demeanor, I was melancholy and he was upbeat, in good spirits and just seemed content with himself and his performance. I shared some smoked bacon and we all talked, through out the conversation at somepoint it occurred to me where this came from. He has faced situations where being the best is not enough, places where despite all the gear training, talent, experience, if you’re caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the path of an avalanche, a bad storm, a crevasse, et cetera…Your gone, and the earth is indifferent. Or all the planning and prep is sidelined by unexpected conditions.
So it takes a measured approach and temperance, you have to be willing to accept that despite your best efforts, today was not the day and if you rely to heavily on your ego, your will to persevere, you can get yourself and or others hurt or worse killed. So you learn patience and acceptance, you wait for a window in the storms before pushing on, or you take a longer less risky route to avoid avalanche, crevasses, water crossings, and other avoidable dangers. You dont rush into situations you dont fully understand, where others are left to zip up your jacket before you freeze to death. That stoicism comes from taking what the day gives you with GRATITUDE and good decision making.
I realized in that moment, I am out there because of a desire to be futher out into the backcountry, to explore and challenge myself within that space. I am not a racer, I am not a trophy hunter or someone wanting to immortalize my name with FKT records. I don’t care at all about that stuff. So to be sad my time in that wilderness was closing was understandable but was not to out weigh my gratitude for all I had experienced.
It also became clear that regardless of my willpower to continue, I was better off not continuing. With the state of my sled I was at higher risk for injury.
Through training and tempering we build our egos and willpower to such an extent that it becomes stronger than flesh. We will run ourselves to ruin, destroy our bodies in the pursuit of a goal because our willpower to endure and continue is stronger than our flesh. So keeping this within consideration is paramount and I am better for these understandings. These are lessons from trail that I needed before pushing into spaces of greater exposure and risk.
-Failure to meet an objective is not a failure of self.
-Willpower can be so strong that it destroys the flesh.
-Gratitude is found within the experience.
-Dont conflate sentimentality and function with regards to tools. Sentimentality should have little to no bearing over your tool selection.