Arrowhead 135 Ultra
By Eric Peterson
Of all the professional shots taken at the start this is definitely my favorite, and it was taken by my father with his smart phone.
The temperature is just barely above zero and I’m pretty cold which is good, since if you are not cold at the start then you are overdressed. The strategy is to stay just a little bit cold all the time in order to keep at bay the number one enemy. Sweat. Hydration and nutrition are key in an event like this and excessive sweating means extra hydration will be needed. Not to mention clothing becomes wet and the insulating properties of any garment are greatly hindered when wet.
When the gun went off the entire group lurched forward and before I knew it we were all in single file. The movement felt rehearsed and strangely comforting which was a very pleasant surprise. What I found next brought me back to reality in a hurry. The unpredictability of the trail proved to be something that I wasn’t prepared for. I would be riding along having a good ol time and then without warning, bam, the bike would sort of kick out sideways. This wonderful phenomenon was caused by everyone riding on the “path of least resistance,” which in this case is the track made by the twenty or so bikes in front. This “sweet spot” ends up being roughly six inches wide with little raised edges which holds your tires in the track. This is all fine and dandy until your body wanders outside this track, but because of that little edge, your tires don’t want to follow. The result is a momentary front tire skid followed by the tire breaking thru the edge of the sweet spot and the bike shooting several feet sideways across the trail. Needless to say, this is very exciting in the dark. The whole thing takes place in a nanosecond and the recovery, if executed skillfully, can put you back into the sweet spot in less than a second. The first time it happened I almost peed my pants, although I’m not entirely sure that I didn’t. After it happened a few more times (the sliding, not the peeing) I noticed that it was happening to most everyone else and I started to feel a little better. The thought of riding like this for 135 miles quickly became rather daunting and I started to rather seriously wonder if I have what it takes to finish this thing.
The Arrowhead is all about quandaries just like this. Do I continue doing what I’m doing and suffer thru crappy conditions? Do I give up? Or do I find some way to make this easier on myself. It sounds simple and rather minor in context but this is one of those life defining situations. Problem solving is something that I am very good at and my mind starts to race with possible solutions and related experiences. Information starts flooding in from so deep in the catacombs of my intellect that I momentarily forget where I am and I almost ride right off the side of the trail. I regain my composure and try to hold back the flood gates of information so I can devote at least some concentration to actually riding the bike. After a few miles I develop a process for tackling the task at hand and I find myself quite at ease on the bike again. The sun is starting to rise and I find myself looking around to enjoy the scenery. The pack has started to spread out at this point and I’m cruising along with four or five other bikers. We come up on a ranch that has horses and when we ride past they run next to the fence parallel with us and at about the same speed. There is about five adult horses with two or three smaller yearlings all running together with their mains flowing together behind them as though they are one. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. I picture a family having a picnic at the beach on a sunny summer day and the parents running with their children down to the water for the first time. I allow the emotion of the experience to overtake me and I feel that I could stay in this moment forever, but I’m brought back to reality as quickly as I drifted off by my tire grabbing the edge of a rut. I almost crash again. “Ride your bike idiot,” I think to myself. This is going to be a long race…..
More to come later.