There are not a lot of cycling stories to write in Minnesota in January that are happening now. There is one great story that has come time once again.It is about one of the toughest, if not the toughest cycling endurance race in America and possibly in the world, and it’s right here in Minnesota. The Arrowhead 135 is a race down the Arrowhead trail in the coldest weeks of winter with no support. Not only do you want to finish the race, you want to survive the elements.
You can enter the race and bike, run or ski. The race starts on Jan 27 in International Falls Mn and you must complete it in 60 hours or less in Tower Minnesota at the other end of the trail. If you don’t know about this part of the country in January, let me give you some facts.
It is common in this part of Minnesota in January and February to be -40 without the wind chill. I can’t even do justice to describing what that feels like to someone who has not experienced what even a balmy -10 feels like. Exposed skin can literally freeze and be dead tissue in 5 minutes of less. The moisture in your nose and eyes can even freeze. It makes walking into a meat freezer feel not so cold.
The participants in this race have to carry mandatory supplies that they would need to survive if they got into trouble. They also need to carry food and water for the trip. There are checkpoints along the trail, where the riders can get warmed and get some food, but they don’t have support vans alongside of them if they need help with something, they are on their own. Even with a fat bike and all the right gear, the riders end up walking and pushing their bikes for many miles, especially if it snows during the race.
There are few rules for the race but the rides do have to finish with all their emergency gear and emergency food or they will be disqualified. The race started in 2005 with 10 entrants, this year the allotted entries will be 135. Extreme athletes have a strong desire to push themselves to the limits of what a human can do, this is one of those events, and I admire the people who can push themselves to compete.
Here is a great article that is a first hand account of a rider who has done the race 8 times and a very good read. I’m not into cold so this is as much as I want to experience the race, but it is fascinating to read about the motivation and excitement people get from doing the ultimate endurance events.
Read the article above, watch the video and be amazed at what some people will do for fun. Riding 135 miles is not that tough under normal conditions, but it becomes a fight for survival under the brutal conditions in this race.