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Arrowhead 135, (2/4): The Taming of the Dragon

The Ice Dragon of Arrowhead breathes ice and snow over the North Minnesotan Plains sometimes down to -60 degs F.  In those types of temperatures, the Minnesotans hide in their warm houses, except for the 135Arrowheaders.  In 2014, it brought the temperatures down to -50 degs C striking down many 135Arrowheaders.  But there are those who can play and ride the dragon and come out unscathed. I wanted to be one of them.

Dragon Picture

Meet some of the Arrowhead Racers

The Voyageur motel is the place to be for this event. It is close to the start line and the owners Sandy and Jerald are soooooo accommodating.  Nothing is ever too much for them.  Additionally you will meet vet Arrowheaders who have tamed the beast and come out every year to give homage. At the beginning of the week, we hung out with Bill Bradley and Ray Sanchez who will one day have his own Pinky dog to bring on the trails.

Bill and Ray

Bill, Rachel, Ray with the animals

By Friday and Saturday there was a full house of Arrowhead racers – mostly vets and a couple of newbies.

VetArrowheaders.JPG

The animals went out with a bunch of vet Arrowheaders

Neighbouring our rooms was Judd with the wicked pointy mustashe and his biker gang. Parker was down the hall (first man unsupported in 41:02); and the lovely Lynn and Daryl Saari next door (Lynn hope that flu bug goes away soon).  Upstairs was Jason (who brought Bisaniiwewin the tyre from Wisconsin and really wanted to play but paid Ken to stop him doing it again!) and the very fit John Storkamp (first man through in 38 hours). All these hardcore Arrowhead legends under one roof.

As for newbies: met the laid back and calm Alex Stoltz with his son at the Voyageur Café on Friday evening whilst baking some dough for the journey. Alex asked for advice, but really wasn’t one to give advice as had never completed the course.  The best I could do was share my race plan.  Out on the trail, checking the start point were also newbies Jeff and Dan. I felt like a mom showing the boys where the registration and start points were.

Back of the pack

B.P.R = Back of the Pack Racer – “Embrace the Alternate Reality”

This year was going to be different. I actually had a plan, better gear, a lighter sled (about 20kgs = 40lbs), and a bunch of animal friends to keep me company. The plan was to finish in the middle of the pack about 55 hours. However, Judd must have had an inkling of my tardiness as he came over on Sunday night to sign Bisaniiwewin and gifted a BPR sticker.

For a bikers’ look at Arrowhead you can read the BPR gang’s report here

Sunday 10pm: I lay in bed remembering the magic of Rovaniemi, wandering in the winter forest, the aurora borelis shimmering in the night sky and the frozen moisture suspended in the air, twinkling like fairy lights when the headlamp illuminated them. In this event, the meteorologists promised a lunar eclipse and the “blood moon”…. I imagined howling to the moon.

Race Day

29 January 2018, 4am: Rachel’s alarm sounded. As she got up to prepare herself, I kept still on my spot on the floor. Sleep had been patchy and I wanted more, considering that had very little the night before. Renata stirred some moments later. “What’s the time I ask?”

“Five Ten” she replied

Dang, I shot up, as meant to get up at 5am, cleared my bedding and filled bottles with hot water from what Jerald had purposefully boiled for us, as well as from the bathroom tap. Breakfast was a glass of coconut milk and chia seeds.  Well Cliff Young survived on drinking milk in his ultra:

What’s in me Sled? A travel bag with one litre of boiling hot water, a spare empty naglene bottle, two down jackets – one is an emergency jacket; food for 3 days (didn’t want to bother about a kit or food drop at Mel Georges); stove + fuel + matches; spare base layers in case; spare googles; spare gloves; spare bungee cords, spare hat; spare knickers, girly stuff; spare goretex outer legs, first aid kit, bivvy bag + -40 below sleeping bag, one snow mobile tyre weighing approximately 8-9 kgs (17-20lbs) called Bisaniiwewin, one pink dog called Pinky, one shark called Sharkey and a penguin called Princess Suma.

What did I wear? Wearing 4 layers on my torso plus a 750 ml bottle in my jacket and a Nathan bladder + food + lights + gloves for all occasions (liner gloves + gloves + over gloves) + hand/toe warmers for just in case. On the legs was a base layer and a pair of walking trousers. On the feet a thick pair of woolly socks and a pair of running shoes covered with an overshoe. Hat on head + neoprene balaclava + wool buff.

6:15am: Renata helped us move our sleds out the door into the cold onto snowy grounds. Already the ice dragon had made its presence felt, gently cooling the previous week’s temperatures to -11 degs F (-24 degs C) and a dusting of small flakes gently fell from the skies.

Start to Gateway

As snowflakes danced, fireworks lit up the dull cold morning sky, marking the start of the event. The bikers were let loose, followed by the skiers and then the runners…..and I was there on the start line.  By the time we had started, the snow had stopped and the cold had begun to wrap itself round the body with hands slightly numb.  Big gloves were donned and jogged for at least 5K to warm up. Once the hands were warm, I stepped it down to a fast walk to regulate the body temperature. My North Pole buddy had always reminded me “You sweat you die” – Die of hypothermia if your clothes got wet.

Walking Zombie: After a mile, Rachel passed me. She is a strong, tough lady and was sure she’d be in the top 3 women. In fact, many people overtook me, as I slowed down.  Joe Lang slowed to converse with me. I grunted some responses trying to sync the brain to understand the conversation and the body to understand to keep moving.  As Joe chatted away, I wished for a cup of coffee to kick out the sludge in my head. When he finally sped on, I was thankful for the quiet and returned to closing my eyes for a one to two second walking nap.

The first 10 miles are pretty monotonous with long straight lines, nonetheless was thankful the terrain was like a frozen pavement underfoot. The trail was in the best condition compared to my previous two attempts and I speculated there would be a high number of people finishing this event compared to previous years.

After 10 miles, “eye of the tiger” Bill Bradley had caught up and we gave each other quick words of encouragement. My head was finally waking up.

Towards Gateway2

Bill and I would play leapfrog until Gateway, the first checkpoint.  Newbie Alex overtook me 10 miles from Gateway looking sturdy with every step he took.

Gateway: A Luxury Stop

17:59: At 36 miles, Gateway is checkpoint 1, a store and petrol station where we are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry. The new owners have embraced the Arrowhead event making this a luxury pit-stop with 3 types of homemade soup, multiple types of coffee, a free flow of hot water, and a “OMG from me”….shoe dryers and clothes drying facilities available.  There was a crazy merriment inside from the owners, employees, spectators, and racers. I could imagine a barn dance happening here, if it weren’t for the worn out bodies spread on the floor….

“Rachel! What’s up?” I was surprised to see her on the floor.  She was looking quite down, as she wrestled with her head.

“I’ve been here since 4pm, my stomach’s unwell and I’m bored….”  Renanta looked concerned.

“Ok rest and get something to eat. Get that mojo back” I tried to be positive for her.

Rachel forced some soup down, but I know how she was feeling, having experienced the same physical and mental attributes when mentally tired. Sometimes we just need time out to reconnect our physical, mental and spiritual selves with each other, other times we just need a reboot.

As Rachel was being well cared for, I went into “lala land” talking to other racers; catching up with Bonnie, singing my own songs whilst waiting for clothes to dry.  Lynn Saari came in, Bill followed after. He was looking anxious, wanting to get in and out to make time, and not be drawn in by negative emotions.  I considered going back out with him at 7pm, but my buddy Rachel was down.

I cajoled her and tried to lift her spirit to move on from the mental beating she was giving herself. Mike (an Arrowhead finisher and now volunteer) continued to encourage me to help her, so I patiently waited for her to get her head in order.

Facing the Ice Dragon

20:00 Rachel was ready to go….kind of reluctantly.  I was hopeful she could turn herself around and enjoy the moonlit trail, after all the trail after Gateway is more interesting with undulations and steepening hills. We headed out warm, with down jackets on + outer shell trousers, and closed down the Complaints Department.  We needed to move forward positively.  Rachel’s slow is my fast and knew I would struggle to keep her pace.  I encouraged her to keep moving at that pace as she sauntered on ahead. We both enjoy the solitude of oneself, so if she was now feeling right in herself, I was happy to let her work the trail at her own pace.  Nonetheless, I would catch up with her each time by riding the slopes.

“You should try it!” I said to her, once I had caught up with her.

Rachel was now moving at my speed and found a slope. “This one?”

“Yeah go for it”

She sat on her sled and sped off along the gentle slope.  I followed after.  As I caught up with her, she thanked me however slowed down further.

“Come on Rachel we can do this.”

She moved slightly ahead and then stopped at the side, signalling she was okay and for me to move on, she would catch up. I moved on, slowly, uncertain to stay or go, but if I hung around it would irritate. Sometimes we just need space to know what we must do. I continued hoping she would regain her composure, often looking back and soon the seemingly endless trail behind collapsed into a black void.  30 minutes and she had not appeared. I wondered if I should have stayed with her. It was too late now. She is a tough gal, having undertaken enough solo expeditions in the snow and ice…. and she is Swiss…..totally organised! She had excellent gear, so I knew she’d be safe. You can read her story here

An hour later I met Bill, he was going to bivy out and I wished him a restful sleep.  As I headed on into the night, enjoying the moonlit trail, the sound of snowmobiles would soon pierce the quiet. Eight times they passed me as they headed out and then back, each time towing someone out of the event. Sheep Ranch Road felt close by.

There, just before Sheep Ranch Road, a shadowy figure was on the trail. As I closed in, it was one of the snowmobile volunteers. We chatted away and found out that Rachel had been picked up and was safe. I decided to forego saying hello, having stopped by this bus in the past to encourage someone to go on. The air would be “heavy” with weary racers beating themselves up in an almost unforgiving way.  There was nothing more to say or do but to let each reconcile their moments out on the trail.

I was in a happy place enjoying every pain free step amazed about the amount of light was projected onto the trail.

See here for great pictures and a fantastic report from Alex Elizabeth

It would be quiet from this time onwards and in the sky was a very weak shimmering green tinge. The full moon’s light was too strong for the aurora borealis and I would have to be satisfied with playing the music of War of the Worlds in my head and remembering the aurora at Rovaniemi.

I was surprised to catch up with Alex as had figured he should have been way ahead. He was with John Taylor, who after some minutes stopped to boil water.  Alex moved on slowly, always looking back, giving me time to to catch up with him and we hung out for a while. We again discussed plans and agreed to go through the night to Mel Georges. Once there we could reconsider the time to see how much “rest time” we could enjoy. He seemed serene and happy, and I was enjoying his company as we propelled ourselves down the small slopes. On one slope, he signaled for me to go ahead, I did and marched onwards, singing a song. After about 10 minutes, I realised he had not followed and was no longer behind. I called out – no one responded.

“Perhaps he stopped for a pee” I thought.

I walked slowly, looking back every so often and after 30 minutes soldiered on, deciding he must have stopped to rest.

I caught up with two women. One was strongly ascending the steepening hills, the other moving somewhat slower.  I chatted to the back lady briefly, a pretty dark haired lady, Kari, before catching up with her buddy in front. She was a shorter maybe blonde haired lady who decided to lay down on the snow whilst waiting for her buddy to get to the top. It seemed a strange thing to do, so I checked to see if she was okay. She indicated she was okay. I asked again to make sure & she signaled to me she was fine and for me to move on.

Along the spine of the dragon, temperatures were plummeting. John had earlier on told me it was about -30 degs F (-35 degs C). Am sure it was colder and a chill crept over the body, despite wearing the heavy duty over gloves and down jacket. Time to work a little harder to warm up before stopping to find the emergency down jacket in my sled. Perhaps tiredness was in my head, but an illogical brain connection had been made as I wasted time searching through a small hole that had unzipped in the bag. As my left hand cooled down, I gloved it back up with the over gloves, ran on the spot and then changed over to the warm right hand, removing the gloves down to the liner to rummage in the bag.

After a little “dig around”, felt the jacket stuck behind some other gear. The fool me continued trying to work the jacket out from behind gear and under the bungee cord strapping with the hand that was rapidly becoming cold and numb. It would have been easier to have unclipped the cords to make the task easier. By the time I had pulled out the emergency jacket, the two women had overtaken me and the fingers on my right hand had become frozen.

“Idiot! Fool me, fool me!” – I scolded myself as I recalled 2014 and had frostbite and quickly pulled the jacket on.

I could have put my hand on my neck or down my trousers but the synaptic nerves weren’t sparking. I was going to test my warming powers.

“Fool me, fool me, fool me” I again uttered. The ice dragon smiled whispering “I got you”

“No you haven’t buddy”

I flung my hand down hard several times: “C’mon babies be strong”

I moved quickly, as the ice dragon clenched my right hand….”I got you”

“No way buddy…” I punched the air several times and semi ran pushing hard up the hills and down. I soon reached the two women at the top of a hill. By now three fingers were just come back to life, and felt a little nipped. My little “pinky” finger was still rock hard.

“I couldn’t see you.” said the blonde haired lady. “Your reflectors are all covered”

“Yeah” I was a little confused. “I’ve got my emergency jacket on. Gotta warm up. It’s cold. It’s only temporary” as I continued to try to wake up my little finger in my glove by wrapping the other fingers around it.  No way did I want to sort out anything further at this moment in time.

Kari turned to me: “The snow mobiles won’t be coming out again until dawn or when we call them. It is the early morning so I wouldn’t worry.” I thanked her for her kindness.

Blinkies and reflectors are so the snowmobiles can see you and part of the mandatory gear.

There appeared to be a momentary pause, as they seemed to be waiting for me, so I took off down the hill and slightly crashed and they followed in pursuit, with a “wheee”. I smiled. Always fun to see tough people letting their hair down.

As we were together at the bottom of the hill, and to make light that I was still with them: “Just hanging out with you gals. Hope that’s okay” and thought had heard one of them respond “Yeah sure” or perhaps I had imagined it.

I hung with them, still trying to warm my little pinky and was grateful to ascend another glorious hill to force the body furnace to fire harder. This was the first of the big steep ones.  At the top, the little finger was finally free of the ice dragon. I looked up and mouthed thank you. It was alive, working well and not even nipped! This time I waited for the other two women to go down and followed them down, steering my sled on the twists and turns like a luge rider, finishing to the left of the blonde haired lady. She seemed somewhat annoyed with me:

“You know I really cannot see you! Your blinkers have turned over in your sled and your reflectors are hidden. It would be a shame if you were disqualified having got so far.”

I looked at my blinkers. “Ahh you’re right. Thanks”. I turned them back over and decided to hold back, pretending to get something from my sled. As they got up to go, Bisaniiwewin reminded me….so I whispered “Peace be with you sister” and let them move on ahead. She was right, I hadn’t thought much about the emergency down jacket covering my normal down jacket which had a reflective vest on, and perhaps I scared her when I slid in next to her…but well…. I sighed, ate and drank something, feeling a little disappointed….maybe I smell…speaking of which…

At Mel Gerorges

Bisaniiwewin: Pulling For Peace

I did a quick check of cheeks, ears, and nose. My nose had frozen solid under the balaclava. It had been constantly streaming on the way out of Gateway and should have taken that as a sign.

“No way are you getting this one either buddy. It’s mine”

I placed my gloved hand over my nose and got moving. After some minutes, it warmed back up and I pulled the wool neck gaiter over the nose to reduce the risk of further refreezing.

Soon I caught up with a woman and a man who had seemed so strong earlier on in the first leg towards Gateway. He seemed blurry eyed. They had tried to sleep but had felt cold and were feeling very tired.  I was kind of familiar with this part as had been picked up at this location in 2012 on my first attempt for being slow.

“We’re about 8 miles from Mel Georges and we’re still in excellent time. C’mon you can do it. Keep moving,”  I encouraged.

The dawn was coming and noticed they too had their reflectors covered up with their down jackets, then tried to remove the pettiness of the earlier comment out of my head.

As dawn broke, it became warm enough to take off the emergency outer jacket.  The gloominess of yesterday’s morning seemed to melt away.

Closing in on the lake, I stopped again to take my googles out of my sled ready to face the wind.  The woman, Bridget, had caught up with me, leaving her buddy about 100 metres behind.  He was moving slowly but steady.

We chatted a little, crossing the lake together and there was a calm over the lake with just a subtle light breeze and sometimes a wind behind us to push us along.  She shared with me her feet were hurting. I told her mine were too as I could feel the blisters bubbling under the forefoot on both feet.

Mel Georges – the R & R Checkpoint

09:51 Mel Georges. It turned out mine were blisters and her toes were frostbitten. Dang! I gave her a hug, acknowledging she will complete this event the next time.

Mel Georges is checkpoint 2 with hot cheese sandwiches, hot soup and a table of salty and sweet snacks. Upstairs there are beds for you to rest. Downstairs is a fire where you can try to dry your clothes.

Rachel and Renata came in to welcome me and I was happy to see Rachel safe. She lent me her “cold avenger” mask to protect my frost-nipped nose and then left to check out of their cabin to move onto Fortune Bay, the final stop.

As the blisters were being tended to by Bill the medic, Lynn turned up with Sarah: “Come on over and see us. We’ve got a cabin”

11:05 Blood blister was drained, covered with Compeed, applied a whole lot of Vaseline to my nose, and checked out of the crowded checkpoint, to head over to the cabin Lynn and co had rented.

I was happy to have escaped the talons of the dragon.  I got nipped but was not bitten and the dragon had let me play on those spiny hills. As for the nose, it must have been to celebrate the year of the dog.

Burnt Nose

16 Feb 2018 = Chinese New Year

Kindness brings so much more joy to those around as well as yourself. I am thankful and blessed to have met so many kind people in this event who have warmly welcomed me back each and every time. Lynn and Daryl certainly went over the top for me, which I will be eternally grateful to them.

72 miles completed and 63 miles to go. Time is going good but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

Race Post Part 3: The Hare and the Tortoise

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Arrowhead 135, (1/4): Connecting with My Fluffy Team

I had started this event as a girl and finished the event as a lady!

Some background

This is a 135 mile event that has to be completed within a 60 hour limit

You can run, bike or ski. Temperatures can go down to -50 degs C as it did in 2014 and bit my fingers.

It is held at the end of January as this typically has the worst weather and starts at International Falls, a town on the US/Canadian border. It should be known as Killer Frost Falls but not to put off visitors, it is called the Icebox of the Nation. The route is along a snowmobile trail, which is mostly along the Arrowhead Trail. It is very reasonably priced at $200 USD. You are expected to carry all your own survival gear and boil water if you have to. There are 3 checkpoints along the entire route and a snowmobile rescue will come out if you call for one.

Know how to use your gear and ensure you have the right gear for your own safety. The official website is here: http://www.arrowheadultra.com

I went hunting for the Ice Dragon 2012 and 2014. Both times the dragon kicked me off and in 2014 bit my fingers as a warning.

2012 attempt: http://tyregirl.com/the-adventures-of-tyre-girl/arrowhead-ultra-pulling-for-peace

2014 attempt: http://tyregirl.com/the-adventures-of-tyre-girl/arrowhead-ultra

2018 would be my 3rd attempt.

Many sprouted the “3rd time lucky” motto. I really dislike this phrase as it feels like you can keep trying and luck will somehow intervene on your 3rd attempt and miraculously make everything happen. How about 1st time lucky or 2nd time lucky or nth time lucky? Load of hash browns & fish fingers if you ask me. Am happy that I did fail the first two times. It taught me to be more respectful of the environment, and how to better equip myself in my mind, body and soul. Failure happens because we fail to prepare in areas that need strengthening. God likes proactive people. The Bible is littered with “proactive” people doing great things who have been both physically, mentally and spiritually prepared to go forward.

To prepare, I found a shorter event to complete in the form of Rovaniemi 150 (150 kilometres). In this event, Isaiah 40:29-31 and Matthew 14:22-33 whispered continually in my ear.

https://tyrelady.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/65-rovaniemi-150-luck-angels-and-lsd/

So 150K completed, and now with my newfound confidence, I no longer wanted to hunt the dragon, but was ready to tame the great Ice Dragon of Arrowhead.

Arrowhead Preparations

9 December 2017 completed my last long run along the North Downs Way of 30 miles with my buddy Paddy. December and January are administrative months with the taxman thumping on my door, so training was limited to strengthening the Achilles and lower back with stair dips and back exercises respectively, interspersed with about 10 miles a week to keep the body going.  At the same time, I visualised the route to the first two Arrowhead checkpoints, seeing what I was doing, how I was feeling. In my mind, once I had got to the second checkpoint in good time, then I could play it by ear. Rome marathon taught me the power of visualisation.

17 January 2018: Finished personal tax, dumped winter gear onto sled and flew out to the US on the morning of 18 January.

I dropped in to visit my adopted US family that has been part of this learning journey on my last two attempts; who cared for me when I limped back to them. It was also to pick up important team members:

  • Bisaniiwewin (16-18 lb tyre) – Lynn, an Arrowhead finisher, had organised the tyre to be brought up by Jason – a dedicated athlete & Arrowhead multi-finisher.
  • Princess Suma – a peace penguin and daughter of an Emperor
  • Pinky – a fluffy dog full of love
  • Sharkey – to provide aggression to help me attack the route when needed
TeamMembers

Pinky and Sharkey in the picture; Princess Suma is absent as out playing in the snow

The plan was to go to International Falls the week before to get some R & R as the last two attempts, my very jetlagged brain hated starting at 7am. 2012/2014 taught me to arrive with plenty of time to keep the mental side calm. In 2014, I was still in the toilet when the start had kicked off.

22nd January 2018: A snow storm visited Minneapolis and all flights were cancelled to International Falls. Plans scuppered temporarily and instead a snow shoveling workout would have to be sufficient.

SnowShovelled Drive

Left: Shoveled Drive; Right: Snowstorm

23rd January 2018: More snow shoveling to get out of the drive. Managed to strain a muscle in the peck. So pathetic!

Arnica

Arnica to the rescue

You’re Going No Where

I laid my cardboard boxed sled next to the rope barrier that guided passengers to collect their boarding pass and informed a “check in” service lady that I was just leaving the sled to queue to get my pass. As I went to the back of the queue she calls out:

Check-in Lady1: “Are you checking that in?”

“Yes” I replied

Check-in Lady1: “Hmm, that is rather big and will be $200 USD to go through”

“Ok” I replied a little puzzled

Check-in Lady1: “Where are you going?”

“International Falls”

Check-in Lady1: “Hmm. Come on over, I’ll check you in”

I was grateful, but as I followed her to her counter another lady who was managing the Boarding Pass line calls out to me and tells me that I need to go pick up my boarding pass first.

Check-in Lady1: “It’s okay, I’ve got this”

Check-in Lady2 comes over to me, and wags her finger at me, annoyed that I was “jumping the queue”, telling me what I was doing was not right and what I should be doing.

I looked at her, trying to give her a puppy dog confused look (Pinky’s head was peering out of my coat at the time) and she wagged her finger further. After her tirade at me, I responded “Thank you for letting me know”. She then turned away and returned to the other passengers.

In the meantime, Check-in Lady1 had taken out her measuring tape, ummed and ahhed: “This isn’t going to fit in the hold. It’s a small plane. Look it is one inch too long! I am not going to check you in because we cannot guarantee this will get on with you. You need to go to Specials and send this some other way”

Anxious and confused, I borrowed a trolley and took the sled over to Specials, leaving it near the front and joined the queue. There were two service women on one side and two service men on the other. I wished to see a man as have been “unlucky” with the check in women at St Pauls in the past. I remember having baggage of 51.5 lbs and was told to take out 1.5lbs of gear or be charged an excess weight. 1.5lbs is about the weight of a pair of socks! One of the men called me over and I explained that the other lady would not check me in as she thought my sled would be too big for the hold. He asked to see the sled. I placed Pinky and Sharkey on the counter top, introduced them to him……and he greeted each one of them as I went to pull over the trolley with my sled to his counter.

BoxedSled.JPG

Check-in man: “Yup looks no problem”

Me: “Really?”

Check-in man: “Yup and when I sign it, it will be on that plane”

My anxiety dropped and we had a nice conversation about the Arrowhead event.

Check-in man: “Now have a great event and don’t get frostbite”

Me: “I love you sir. Thank you”

Yeah I went a bit mushy as I just experienced night and day and a good reminder that an event can start off negative, but just got to believe in the positives. A pat on the head to Pinky

Catch Up and Final Preps

I would catch up with the amazing Rachel and her equally wonderful and loving friend Renata at St Paul’s airport.

Meeting Rachel

Rachel had decided to see this dragon that I had chatted about when she was doing Rovaniemi 300 and I was doing Rovaniemi 150. Her friend Renata came to support her. We shared a room and the organisation of each of us couldn’t be more different:

  • Rachel was so well organised and ready to try out her gear
  • I was still sorting out stuff, deciding on what I should take on the trail. My kit exploded into piles of mess in the room and I couldn’t find a thing….but it had been a long day and bed reeled us in early.

24th – 28th January 2018

Being part of the “Last Minute” club, I was still sorting out gear, purchasing another set of lights and carabineers, sewing on reflective tape onto my harness and gluing the over boots onto my running shoes (as suggested by Ray Sanchez – another participant). The tireless Jerald and Sandy (owners of the Voyageur Motel) were soooo helpful having all the tools to help make all the last minute adjustments. So many more thank yous to them both and hope they can find good people to work in their motel.

At the same time, Bill Bradley, whose team had helped me get around when my fingers had been burned in 2014, was at the motel. He was doing his 7th attempt and had concerns. We concluded that with the right reasons for completing an event, the negative and disappointment that can be felt from fellow competitors who quit can be deflected…..and off I went to do some sled practice with Bill. Bill is like a big brother, who I want to help just as much as he cares for others (myself included).

Video of Sled Practice

The undertaking to organise this event is huge, and so offered my services to help out. We were given a special project to put fluorescent tape on the posts.

Preparing Posts

Yup – Pinky (Ray) staples the tape onto the post, Princess S (Bill) cuts the tape and Sharkey (Me) sticks the tape onto the posts.

During the week, Ray and Bill pitched in to help create the posts that would guide participants along parts of the route, and on Saturday we loaded and unloaded two trucks of gear to Baccus – the registration area. We would have happily done more, except we all still had to do last minute preparations. I was still sewing the reflective tape onto my harness to prepare for the 4 o’clock registration.  Jason also dropped by to present Bisaniiwewin…..the animals brought her in.

The Animals Bring Bisaniiwewin to Tyre Lady

GearCheck

Mandatory Gear Check

Saturday at 17:30 had organised a dinner date with Al – a Canadian who I had met on my last 2 attempts at Gateway and always got me food. I must have looked pathetic! He would be helping and supporting some other racers this time round and great for my Swiss buddies to meet someone new.

By Sunday, my gear was finally ready to do a test run with my entire entourage. I had made some minor changes to the Rovaniemi gear, carrying more food and an extra emergency down jacket for the extra cold. It roughly weighed 40lbs (about 20kgs).

TEsting the Trail

The team testing the trail

Rachel and I ran over to the Baccus for the pre-race briefing, and I hung around after for the pasta dinner to chat with Stephen and Erv the oldest man in the event at 75 young years. Great to see the dinner now uses ceramic plates instead of the single use plastic polystyrene in previous years. In the future, hope they get rid of the plastic cups for drinking, perhaps encourage the participants to Bring Their Own Cup as provided in the goody bag!

PastaDinner

Pasta Dinner on Reusable Dishes

The only part missing now was sleep. A sleepless night on Saturday night and a chopped up sleep on Sunday night.

The difference between quitting and finishing is having the right reasons for completing an event. Without those reasons, it is so easy to quit when the going gets tough.

Next post: The Taming of the Ice Dragon