It’s been awhile since I’ve done a race report. I’ve had a couple races that I never did get around to writing something up Marji Gesick (50 mile run) and the Tuscobia Winter Ultra (80 mile bike) so I guess this will make up for those.😂

Many of you reading this saw Ann and I headed up to International Falls, MN this past weekend so I could participate in the Arrowhead 135 Winter Ultra. This was my first time to do this race and I think it really needed a report. I know that once I start writing these they get really long winded and I think there’s even a limit on what you can put into a FB post so I’m going to split this in to several posts.

To begin, I turn 50 this year. My original thought of doing something to celebrate 50 trips about the sun was to go to one of those places that you can ride/drive a NASCAR. I’m not kidding. I think ripping around a track at 150mph+ would be exhilarating. However, the more I thought about it what I really wanted to do and mean a lot more was to do a race i hadn’t done. My backup plan would be the NASCAR experience. One year I’ll get to ride/drive a race car on an oval track.

So last summer I started researching doing a big winter ultra. There are three that I could choose from. Tuscobia Winter Ultra 160 (TWU), Polar Roll Ultra (PRU) and Arrowhead 135 (AH135). The one that would be a long shot to get into would be the AH135. This race has a limited number of people they let in every year and when the registration opens those that have done the race before (veterans) get preference then the race director chooses a few new entries (rookies) to enter it. If I didn’t get into the AH I would then try one of the other two ultra’s, also difficult to get in to.

To even be considered into the AH135 I had to submit a resume of past winter ultra’s and any other long distance runs or bike events I’ve done. I think if you had finished the TWU160 in the past that’s a definite qualifier. I had only done the 80 mile distance but I had done several 100+ mile bike races and even a couple 240+ mile races. I submitted my resume at the time of registration. Not really sure I’d get it knowing how difficult / limited the entries are.
Well, one day I got this in my email.

“Congratulations you have been selected to participate in the 2024 Arrowhead 135 – 135M Rookie!

However, we need your confirmation.

Please use the link below to confirm OR decline your entry. You must respond immediately!

Confirm or Decline using this link “

I was surprised and excited. I don’t even remember what I said to Ann but I did one last check with her to make sure she wanted to go to Ifalls during the coldest part of winter. She must not have cared because I hit that button on the link and BOOM! I was registered.

“Oh shit” I remember thinking. “This just got very real”. I let my buds know what I had done and the flurry of texts coming back of how dumb and crazy I was flooded in. I couldn’t blame them. I would have done the exact same thing. It’s what good friends are for.

Here’s a couple of links if you feel like finding out more about the Arrowhead event.

About us

Due to the difficulty of the race terrain, the typical temperatures and the remoteness of the trail we traverse, there are some mandatory gear requirements. Not only did I need additional gear to do this, but I have never ridden in temps that make this race one of the toughest 50 races in the world. I have gear from doing the TWU80 over the years but were not up to par for this event. In the past I was able to get the required equipment packed on my bike with just a front bag and rear large seat bag. After ordering my -20 degree required sleeping bag, stove, and additional clothing my current bike setup was not going to work. I can’t tell you how many trips I make to Spring Street Sports to see Dave Flanagan and Nate Seckora for them to order me yet another rack, a new coat, or a different this or that. I can’t thank these guys enough for accommodating my needs, as usual.

Since I had been only running the summer of 2023 in preparation for the Marji Gessick, I hadn’t put many miles on a bike at all. Sometimes that’s good. But this created some angst and I need to get my a$$ training. I took a few weeks off to recover from Marji and then put my head down and started riding. Ann and I made a few trips up north in Oct, Nov, and December so I could get away from people and just ride, relax and eat. Winter hadn’t started out like it typically does so as we all know, there wasn’t much snow but I was still able to get some great long gravel rides in testing out gear to see what would work and what wouldn’t.

I signed up for the TWU80 again that would be taking place the weekend after Christmas. I would use it as a good shake down ride and ride it with almost all the exact same gear that I would plan to use for AH135. My friend Tyree Williams in good fashion continuously gave me crap I was only riding the 80 and not the 160. I’ve done enough of the TWU’s to know that even doing the 80 miler can result in several weeks of recovery. I wanted to be able to still put in some big training rides after the Tuscobia so the 80 it was for me.

The equipment you carry for AH135 isn’t just for show. Extremely cold temperatures are probably the biggest hurdle to overcome but the race is course gets progressively more difficult as it goes on with it getting hillier. The hills are no joke either as I will explain later. The race starts and you have 60 hours to finish it. That amount of time on the trail will require people do have to sleep outside, melt snow if they run out of water or cook some food between checkpoints. Everything I read about the race from veterans was to make sure you know how your equipment works and make sure practice it so much you can do it blindfolded with big mittens on. I wanted to make sure I knew how my equipment worked in case I would need it. So, I did indeed practice. During some of my rides I pulled out my sleeping system while on the trail, getting in, getting out and packing it back up and continue riding. I had never slept outside in anything under 30 degrees above zero so the one cold weekend we did have, I practiced sleeping outside in my sleep system. I was able to sleep about 3 hours in about 5 degrees below zero and was plenty warm. I’m not sure if any of my neighbors saw me in my back yard, but no one called the cops on me. I also practiced with my white gas stove. I have another stove that uses small cans of LP but from what I’ve read these don’t work well when the temps get really cold. So, with my new stove, I practiced a few times boiling some water to make sure I was efficient with this too. After these tests I felt comfortable that if I needed to use any of these life saving items I could confidently.

The weeks / weekends came and went. I continued long rides before Tuscobia and after. I was able to get one, 100 mile ride in during this time and was feeling pretty good about the progress. About mid January training started to become a chore. I think Tuscobia took it’s toll and mostly because we didn’t really have any snow to ride some good trails and it’s also not the easiest to find people to head out on long rides this time of year. I was stuck riding either gravel roads or the same old trails during the week and weekends. I am really thankful for getting out with my friends, Jon Olstadt, Nicholas Leisz, Kristian Larsen, and Patrick Rasmus a few times though to break up the monotony. AH135 was coming up quickly

The week before the race was spent getting everything packed on my bike, making my cheat card so I know were everything was packed. Getting food prepared for what I may want to have on the ride and one last check of my bike. Kate Coward, Ken Krueger and others put on a very good online Q and A with some veteran racers the week leading up to the race. It was really good to hear some stories and advice from racers who have done the race before so it gave us rookies some insight. One item that did stick out was whether or not riders should use studded tires or not. I have a set but really, really don’t like to use them unless I absolutely have to. They are very heavy compared to my non studded setup. In the end I did not use them and I’m glad I didn’t, the icy areas were rough enough that I didn’t find it slick.

That’s pretty much it of why I decided to do this race and the events leading up to the race. I’ll leave you will some pictures to check out and over the next few days, I’ll type of how the race went. To be continued…