By Eric Peterson
I reluctantly rode thru the soft junk snow for the next hour or so until something wonderful happened. Up from behind came some new faces and with it an escape from the prison of mental misery for which I currently resided. Some people came and went but I ended up riding with Jason Novak from Rochester for most of this leg. It was a treat to talk to him while we rode and it totally revitalized me, but he on the other hand was getting worse and worse in comparison. This leg of the race starts to get hilly and it felt great to get off and push the bike. As dusk started to approach, Jason sensed that he was holding me back and he told me to go on ahead. This was his third year racing the Arrowhead and he said that it’s really great for morale if I made it to the next checkpoint before dark. I was reluctant to leave him but since I knew we were getting quite close I decided that it was time to let the legs do what they had been begging me to do for quite some time.
I hopped on the bike and opened up the throttle a little bit. The speed felt really nice and my legs felt strong. I pushed a little harder for several miles and then finally there it was. Elephant Lake. Joy poured over me like a hard rain and I felt the fire within grow. This new found drive was incredibly invigorating and when my tire touched the lake it was go time. I shifted up a couple gears, cranked the cadence to my max, and “let ‘er buck.” I felt like a brand new race car. My body floated motionless across the landscape while my legs mashed down on the pedals like the pistons in a fine tuned engine. The cold bite of the now much stronger wind felt amazing on my bare face and before I knew it I was at the next checkpoint just before dark.
I pulled up on the shore and there was my dad. It was great to see him and he pointed me to the check in cabin. I ditched the bike and walked in. It was incredible in there with racers and volunteers everywhere. I found a chair and started to strip down to my base layer. The volunteers in there were like angels. They filled my camelback, made me grilled cheese, got me soup, poured me a cup of coffee…. It was incredible. Not too long after I got settled in Jason showed up. He told me he wasn’t doing too great and if he didn’t start feeling better he was going to drop the race which he ended up eventually doing.
After an hour and a half of eating and enjoying the warm company of fellow racers I decided it was time to go. Apparently my timing was perfect because I hit the trail at the same time as Ken and Mike. I quickly rode up behind them to ask if I could tag along and they said that would be fine. At this point twelve hours had passed since the start, it was night time, and we were now headed into the most challenging leg of the race…..