The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I always struggle with race reports. Chris always tells me to sleep on it. This one I've slept on all week and I still don't know what I want to write about. How I want to frame it. What spiritual revelation I had. It doesn't help that I don't really have any pictures to prop up the story either.
I think the one thing that sticks out to me about this trip was how smoothly it went and how many people were a part of making it go smoothly. I got a couple of comments of how I made the race look easy. When it comes to pedaling a bike all day, that is easy. I had so much help with the hard stuff, the logistics, that I could just focus on pedaling, and that I'm pretty good at.
LW got me to this race with an insane amount of fitness. I used to think I could never be coached, but I'm learning that if I show up each day and do the work, I can put 100% faith into LW. There are always times I'm skeptical, when I'm exhausted, feeling like poo, and then I show up to these events and can positively fly. I don't know how she does it.
Chris got me to the airport with a packed bike (68.5 lbs), a suitcase (49.5 lbs), a carry-on stuffed full of food that my mom bought me (my parents are my most loyal food sponsors), and my mom's purse which held everything else that I couldn't fit into the other bags.
After a plane and automobile ride I found myself at Tim's house where his wife Elisabeth told me to feel free to build my bike in their living room and organize my stuff. Apparently this living room has been the launching point for many arctic expeditions. I built up the Fatback, a bike that I am quickly falling madly in love with.
The drive up was easy with Tim (local Minnesotan navigating) and Rima who has to be one of the most interesting individuals I've ever had the opportunity to meet.
Don the Gear Nazi checked off all my gear. Rima and I split a 1-person room in half and exploded all our stuff for final packing. I went for a ride and watched the sunset. We slept in the next morning before testing final gear pieces and going to a women's lunch where we wined and dined with 8 other women crazy enough to run/ride the Arrowhead.
We did the racer meeting. I brought myself rice and sweet potatoes to put the spaghetti sauce on. I failed to win anything at the raffle.
The next day we raced. This is where I struggle to put words to the experience. After the first checkpoint, I rode mostly solo. Once the sun set, wolf tracks littered the trail. The hot cocoa at the third aid station was nothing short of heavenly. I sang the Chumbawumba 'I get knocked down' song every time the snow gnomes got me. I recited Robert Frost whenever the woods got spooky. I cursed the clouds for not being able to see the Northern Lights which were supposed to be amazing because of a solar flare.
The final 20 miles nearly brought me to tears as the trail deteriorated to a soft mush and I couldn't get my speed above 8 mph. Then there was finish line greeter: You have 250 yards to go! The finish banner was lit up like a Christmas tree and I shifted into my granny gear to get up the final incline. Done and done.
18:18. New women's record. I'm satisfied.
Soup greeted me in the hospitality room as well as the 8 racers who'd finished before me. Kevin, the men's winner blew a blood vessel in his eye when he sneezed. I ate soup and gluten free chips, wondering how everyone else was looking so spry. I was anything but.
A nap, another soup, and a spoonful of peanut butter brought me back to life. Six of us ate breakfast at the casino restaurant that morning. Some barefoot, me in my PJ's and bike shoes that were 7 sizes too big, all wide-eyed Arrowhead finishers.
I made my way back to Minneapolis that afternoon after a nap in a gas station parking lot halfway. I loaded up my bike, slept, and drove to the airport. Chris picked me up on the other end and we spent the night at my parents' house. We escaped the Front Range before the storm hit and made it home seven days after I left for my little adventure.
Spiritual growth? Maybe. Good memories? Definitely.
On a completely separate note, I've decided to make up for lost time skiing and am going to try to ski every day for the rest of February. This was Day 1.