Arrowhead 135 Preperation

After a few months of researching and testing outdoor gear I've come up with my best guess setup for getting through Arrowhead 135. There were a few blogs out there that gave very good advice about how to prepare for this race and I've like to be able to add to that collection. I'll be sure to update what worked/didn't work if I have any fingers left at the cessation of the journey.

The list below represents what I hope will be my setup for most of the race, 0 weight items being worn. The sled will probably weigh in at 30 pounds. When the snow conditions are right the sled travels really well, sliding crazy far with very little input.

The gear choices are all about reducing the likelihood of me sweating through any particular thing, the better option to be a little chilly. I'll have an extra base layer to switch into when I stop for a short nap on the first night. I had some luck with drying out lightly damp clothes by keeping them in my sleeping bag at night. In the later part of the race where I am simply walking it I have more than enough to keep me warm I believe. There is no way around my back sweating with the hydration pack and sled’s waist belt on. 

The intimidating parts of the cold are how quickly I need to throw on gear after stopping. To test out my sleeping bag I forged out on the one super cold night we had (Overnight low of around -4F I think) and slept in my friend’s back yard. I only had a few minutes after stopping before my hands were useless, even after putting the majority of my gear on. The sleeping bag performed well enough, I caught some fitful sleep, though I stripped off a few layers once inside that may have been better worn instead of used to block a draft.

One big difference (hopefully not too noticable in practice) was that I’ve since cut a portion of my sleeping pad off to make it less bulkier. This was an idea I got after reading about fastpacking with only small bits of pad, on the bodies pressure points. The sleeping pad needs to be a little larger than that in this case because it will have the important job of keeping the frozen earth from stealing my body heat.

Originally I intended to have my sleeping bag packed inside my bivy with the mat but this proved to be quite bulky on the sled. I may still play with this configuration before the race. It would be idea that in a rushed ditch to get warm I don’t have to take that extra step. It sounds trivial but trying to do it with uselessly cold hands is a frustrating endevour. Speaking of cold hands, one item I haven’t tried in training is the chemical hand warmers. My gloves have a little spot inside for them and I hope they kick as much ass as I think they should. I’m bringing 10 pairs so I’ll be good for like 80 hours? Or I can barter them off for bread, cheese and sexual favors on the trail. A handy for a handy?

Primary water source will be a 3L bladder on my back. The insulated tube will probably still freeze but I’ll route it through my shirt in an attempt to prevent that. Maybe keep the nozzle in my balaclava. I have two nalgene bottles in OR Thermos things. On the cold practice night I filled the bottles with luke warm water before leaving my house and left them outside my bivy all night while I slept. Upon waking I was still able to drink from one, keeping them in my sleeping bag will probably keep them liquid.

The race plan? Get 60-80 miles out of the way before I think about laying down. Eat trail mix and Gus and maybe Gu brew. Buy food at the first checkpoint, eat at the second too. When I stop for the night maybe make some soup. The alcohol stove can warm ramen in about 10 minutes and I can melt some snow to make water while I eat. The warm bottle can help keep the sleeping bag warm. Wake up and try to finish the bitch off with maybe 1-2 more stops at 2-3 hours each.

I can honestly say I’m a bit nervous. I still haven’t figured out how to check the sled at the airport, or what I’ll be able to find in International Falls that I can’t take on a plane (Fuel, matches..?). I never used Heet in practice but I believe it will be available at gas stations there. One of the hardware stores has 1 gallon jugs of Methylated Spirits. 

Most of all, I am afraid I won’t stop if something goes numb and I’ll end up doing something dumb. My gloves will get too wet with sweat and the hand warmers won’t make much of a difference…….

But, I am so excited. 

The wonderful cold. The blissful solitude. Romantacizing the pain and lonelyness makes for a stark realization when they sink in. The bookends of projection that happen before and after adversity are soulfully fullfilling. Long tails of reassurance that the conflict will be, and was done. The race makes for an allegory of what my minds tells me my life is like. Periods of darkness and staunch exclamations of excitement.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, my dream an endless run on rocky trails. In the confusion of rousing I feel as if I am in the middle of a race and I still have so much more distance to cover. The laughably frigid reality of waking up in that goddamned bivy and still having to run 50 miles makes me smile. Enough for now, a blog update on the other side..

Weight (oz)Total Weight (oz)Total Weight
Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy3244828pounds
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Anorack20oz
Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Hooded Jacket10
Mountain Hardwear Epic Dry.Q Core Pants 8
Cold Steel Voyager (Large)4
Petzl Cheapo Headlamp3
Petzl RXP6
Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX0
Mountain Hardwear Effusion Jacket12
Arc'teryx Beta AR Shell13
Mountain Hardwear Long Sleeve Zip Merino Shirt7
Craft Base Layer
Superior Buff3
BoB Buff3
Mizuno Knit Cap3
Sea to Summit Pack cover3
Outdoor Research Thermos3
Trangia Stove24
Saucony Tights
REI Fleece Pants12
Nalgene (32oz)64
8AA Lithium Batteries4
8AAA Lithium Batteries2
10 Pair handwarmers16
4 Flashy lights2
Contractor Harness + Clips
Salomon 12L pack
3L Bladder
4 Pair wool socks5
Mountain Hardwear Lamina -3081
REI Mountain gaiters6
Reflective Vest1
Trail Mix64
OR Mt. Baker Modular Mits10

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