Screaming Into The Abyss

2019 Arrowhead 135 Race Report
By Ben Zvan
On February 08, 2019 at 12:48
Travelogue

When I heard about the Arrowhead 135 it sounded like a fun adventure. When I read the race rules on the website, I realized I’d have to do some work to get prepared and accepted as a racer but, like any good mediocre white man, I applied anyway. I have no race resume except that one time I did the Minneapolis Duathlon as a relay and we came in 8th. But I was born and raised in Minnesota, I used to go winter camping all the time. I’ve been riding a century every month since May including the Powderhorn 24 on my fat bike and I knew that as winter approached, more of those centuries would be on my fat bike. Next thing I knew:

Congratulations you have been selected to participate in the 2019 Arrowhead 135 - 135 Miler!

What have I done? Now I have to prepare for and participate in this ride with the intention of actually finishing.

So I read through many ride reports in preparation; here are some of the takeaways

  • Whatever you planned for is not what’s going to happen (AKA no plan survives contact with the Arrowhead 135)
  • If you’ve identified a potential problem, deal with it before it becomes a problem
  • Lots of people like vapor barriers
  • Be more worried than you think you need to be about your water freezing
  • No last minute gear changes
  • Don’t lose your valve core!
  • You’re not going to win

BikeMy strategy: keep riding at a low enough output that I could ride indefinitely. I learned in training and shakedown rides that I’d burn through my energy reserves much faster on this 135 miles than I had on any other 100 mile ride in the past. The snow and tires just eat wattage like it’s going out of style so the pace is slower and harder. I also have a bum knee and I knew that ibuprofen alone wasn’t going to keep it working for that amount of time on a bike. Not only would I have to be constantly aware of my leg position, but I’d have to make sure I wasn’t overexerting my damaged joint.

On the day before the race, I rode out a few miles on the trail to check conditions. The trail was cold and hard, so I added pressure to my tires to reduce rolling resistance. I also found that my toes got cold below -26F still, so I knew I’d have to keep on top of that with hand warmers. At the pre-race meeting/dinner, some other racers convinced me to use a vapor barrier to keep my outer sock and boot dry. I decided on a thinner baselayer merino sock, a plastic bag, and a thicker outer merino sock. I’m not one to make a last-minute gear change (see ride report takeaways above) but I’m glad I did.

On the morning of the race, I rode over to the start line at about -30F and checked in. The fireworks went off (way bigger than I expected from videos I had seen) and we all started lumbering forward, some much faster than others. After 4 miles, my goggles were uselessly frosted over, so I secured them to my bike and put sports tape on my face since I forgot the facetape I bought specifically for this event. After 8 miles, I stopped at the shelter at the corner of the Blue Ox and Arrowhead trails to add hand warmers to my boots and have breakfast. I hadn’t managed to have enough time to eat before the race start, which was a mistake but not an insurmountable one as I had a pocket full of leftover chicken tenders from our takeout dinner from the Chocolate Moose restaurant the night before. I have to say that fried chicken with ice crystals is a weird texture; the first two were much tastier than the second two.

PrerideThe hour after sunrise is always the coldest and after breakfast, the temps started to rise for the day. About 15 miles in, the trail conditions shifted from hard packed to soft and squirrelly and the track made by other bikes became a narrow safe line with quicksand on either side. I wanted more control and float, but I didn’t want to increase rolling resistance much for such a long race. 5 seconds of air out of the front tire and I was a little more stable over the soft stuff. The soft snow continued for another 5 miles, which took me an hour to cover, then hardened back up with a clear path where other tires had left their mark.

A little after 14:00, I crossed a road that felt like it was large enough to be the one where Gateway and checkpoint 1 was, but I didn’t see any indication that I was supposed to turn. I stopped and checked my phone and sure enough, it was the right road! I rode back and turned south to head down to Gateway and was reassured by the sight of several other fat bikes and people greeting racers as they arrived. Inside, I checked in at 14:20, answered that no, I didn’t think I had any frostbite, and looked around at what was available to maintain myself. A few other racers, including KariAnn Gibbons, who did a double Arrowhead on foot the year before, were stripping off their outer layers and letting them dry in the warm air coming out from under the freezer section’s coolers, so I did the same with my top two layers and checked on my makeshift Holiday bag vapor barrier. My hand warmers were still warm, so I swapped base-layer socks, made sure everything was in place and put my boots back on.

Hydration...I knew I needed to keep up on that, so I wandered around the store and found that everything listed as available at this checkpoint was indeed available, but none of it was provided. I bought 2 quarts of gatorade and a bratwurst, topped off my hydration pack, and put my slightly drier clothing back on. At 14:55 I headed out. 35 miles in 8 hours was slow, but not unexpectedly so given it was the hardest 35 miles of biking I’d ever done. Only another 35 miles to MelGeorges, so I should be there by...11?

I headed back up the road to the Arrowhead trail, turned right and followed the turn markers at the next junction. In the distance, I saw a gas station that looked suspiciously like the one I had just left. What happened? Oh! The trail does go here, I just had to keep following it instead of second-guessing. Time to turn around and follow the next set of turn markers to continue onward to checkpoint 2.

After Gateway, the hills start. I remember reading a race report by Joel “sweet beef” Swenson that described Wakemup hill as “I was told I’d know when I reached it because I’d come around a corner, see it, and utter some sort of expletive” well...every hill made me utter some sort of expletive and they just kept on coming. I’m not a hill climber at all; most of my riding is on flat rails-to-trails style paved paths with no real challenge. These hills, on the other hand, were often as steep as 80% both up one side and down the other. I was dragging my breaks on the way down, then hopping off and hiking my bike up the next hill. Just multiply that by 35 miles and you’ve pretty much got it. Then remember it got dark when the sun set at 17:00. One thing I started to get good at was finding the safe trail down the hill so I could let off my breaks and ride it out. I was also happy to find my footprints weren’t always the lowest on the uphills.

Somewhere on the trail, I met with another biker who was having tire problems. I helped out by holding his bike while he tried to inflate it with a hand pump, then gave up and used a CO2 inflator. It was a tubeless tire that must have burped off the bead and not re-seated properly so he was really worried he wouldn’t make it to the next stop. The CO2 seemed to reseat the bead, so we parted ways and I hoped he would make it. It was a long way to walk from here.

KariAnn told me at Gateway that there was a sign reading “MelGeorges 5 miles” that lied, so I ignored that and continued on. When I got to Elephant Lake, the wind picked up a bit, but it was the flattest section I’d seen in hours. I had been looking up at the stars through the trees, keeping a general Idea of which direction I was going by where Orion was in the sky. On the lake, there were no trees to obstruct my view and I was overwhelmed. I haven’t seen that many stars in a long time. So I stopped in the middle of the lake, turned off my headlight, and just stared up for a few minutes enjoying the view. -20 degrees wasn’t going to keep me from a little stargazing.

Eventually, I reached the other side of the lake and pulled up on the shore. The main resort building and restaurant was to my left (and I was tempted to stop for a full meal inside) but checkpoint 2 lay somewhere to my right. I started down that trail and luckily KariAnn came up behind me and actually knew where we were headed. I followed her in and checked into the lodge at 23:28, a little behind schedule after the hardest 35 miles of biking I’d ever done.

Everyone at CP2 was great. Grilled cheese sandwiches, hot wild rice soup, cookies, chocolate milk, hot chocolate, coke...everything you could possibly want plus running water, a fire, and a place to dry out my mittens. Other racers came and went, or came and stayed. Runners ate and kept going, a skier decided to drop to protect their knee. KariAnn was family with the people volunteering and decided to nap for a few hours.

I rested and I debated my plan for the rest of the race. It was after midnight and getting colder, but I knew the temperatures Tuesday night and into Wednesday were going to plummet into the danger zone. -40 was something I was theoretically prepared for, but not sure I really wanted to deal with. My speed had been less than the 5 MPH I had hoped for and if I left now, I might just get to the finish by sunset. So the volunteers refilled my hydration pack and melted the slushy gatorade out of my back-up water bottle, I layered back up with some of my clothing still slightly damp from condensation, and headed back out into the night at 02:09 for the 40 miles to checkpoint 3. Should get there at 14:00 maybe? 12 hours should be enough time even at my snail’s pace.

Unfortunately, my Garmin InReach Mini GPS tracker had died in the cold outside the checkpoint. I was pretty sure it had just turned off due to “extreme cold” temperatures, so I tucked it into my jacket to warm it back up enough to power on at the next intersection 2-3 miles down the trail. Good enough to get it started again. I made a mental note to figure out a better way to manage that thing in winter.

SunriseThe trail was still beautiful and the sky was still clear and bright with stars. The hills came back with a vengeance and I was hiking up bigger and longer hills, some of which were extra sneaky and continued after turns. I was feeling more confident rolling down with less brake than before, but still braking hard on the steepest downhills to reduce my fear of a race-ending crash.

 The temperature continued to drop over night and the trail was just a series of hills in the cold darkness. At some point in the morning, I realized I couldn’t close the vents on my helmet because they were frozen, so I switched to a hat and hood with my ruff pulled up to block wind and attached my helmet to the front of my bike once I realized my pogie was about the same size as my neck. When sunrise came, it was bitter cold again. At least -30 by the thermometer on my bike. I was glad I changed the handwarmers in my boots at MelGeorges even though they were still warm, but I was starting to feel the cold penetrating my upper layers. I decided to stop and add a layer under my shell just for a couple hours until it started to warm back up again. That’s when things went wrong for me.

My jacket wouldn’t come off over my gloves, so I took them off; both layers. I put on my new layer and slipped my shell back on, but my gloves had frozen solid in the few seconds that took and I had a hard time getting them back on. I managed to get my fingerless bike gloves on, but my left pinky was so cold it was numb in only a few more seconds. I threw my left merino over-glove into my right pogie with my fully-gloved right hand to try to thaw it while tucking my left hand as far under my armpit as possible. I couldn’t feel my hand getting warmer so I thought about the next most accessible warm place on my body and shoved my left hand down my pants and between my legs, over my bib but under my fleece. In a few minutes I was able to feel my pinky again and my glove was soft enough to put on. Job done.

But then I found that my jacket wouldn’t zip back up. Something, snow or ice maybe, had gotten into the zipper box and was preventing the teeth from lining up correctly. “Shit, now I have to completely swap outer layers.”

I pulled my back-up puffer jacket out of my fork bag and got it ready. There was no way I was going through the glove thing again, so I loosened the cuffs on my shell and pulled it off over them with no problem. “Why didn’t I do that before? I have no idea. Excellent! All the zippers work now and I just have to shove an extra jacket into my overstuffed pannier. Why is my bib number falling off? That can’t be good. How did that skier have theirs last night, can I do that? Would it be more secure?”

As one of the bikers I had chatted with at MelGeorges caught up with me, they asked if I was ok. I said that yes, I was fine, I just had a series of unfortunate events. At this point I was just mucking with my bib number and they told me that sounded like a really trivial problem, which I agreed with and explained my failing zipper. They seemed satisfied that I had everything under control and wasn’t deliriously hypothermic and continued on. Swap my Namakan Fur ruff to my new outer jacket and it’s time to move on.

The trail and the day continued to be amazingly beautiful. There was really no wildlife except for one fox checking out the bikes at MelGeorges, but the snow on the trees and the bright blue sky were something to behold. If only it wasn’t for all these hills. So many hills. I had a little song stuck in my head from the hills I encountered even before CP1. Sing this to the tune of The Kinks’ Tired of Waiting for You

“So tired Tired of pushing Pushing my bike up these hiiiillllls”

I decided there must be no end to the hills and there was no way I was going to be able to continue past checkpoint 3/Surly/Sky Pulk unless there were no more hills. Even one hill was going to kill me at this point. But the trail was opening up a bit to fields and slightly fewer hills already. That meant more wind, but it also meant I could actually use my bicycle as something to support my weight and act as a sort of conveyance rather than just a means of transporting all my gear as I hiked beside it.

Around the corner, I saw smoke. Was that it? Was that the teepee? It was! Finally!

I sat down by the fire and considered my options. I could refill my hydration pack, but that was a lot of work and I was pretty sure I had 25 miles worth of liquid in it. I cracked open my spare supply and was happy to discover it was still liquid, so I drank 1L of gatorade by the fire. I asked about what was coming up on the trail and they said “there are a few rollers, then one really big hill, then one really big downhill, then it’s mostly flat.” That doesn’t sound too bad. I asked what time I checked in; 14:37. Wait, only 14:37? I’m not hours behind schedule? I can do this!

CP3Jodi came by and greeted me and encouraged me. I was obviously in quite the state and our dog was still sitting in the car, so it wasn’t much of a conversation. She took a few pictures of the heroic adventurer (me) and I mostly just sat there drinking my gatorade until it was gone, being careful not to close the lid or touch the bottle with my lips because any liquid I dripped onto it was immediately freezing to the threads.

I don’t know why I didn’t go into the teepee and refill my water bottle with hot water or check my boots and socks or have a shot of whiskey. There was a frozen bottle of whisky outside on the table that might have scared me off. After my shortest stop yet, I walked my bike up the short incline after the checkpoint at 14:58 and rolled off down the first of the rollers.

One roller, two rollers, “is this the big hill yet?” Another hill up and down and a bit of a straight shot to…”what is that? All I see is snowy trail going up into the sky. Fuck. Me.”

Wakemup mountain, after all the other hills on this course, is at least not the steepest, but it is certainly the tallest and the longest. I don’t know how long it took me to get to the top, but it felt like forever. The view was totally worth it though. I considered stopping to take a picture and I probably should have, but I didn’t feel like dealing with...anything really, at the moment and continued onward.

After a harrowing downhill on the other side of Wakemup, I was on the false flat 1% uphill grade through the lowlands and on the final stretch to Fortune Bay. The wind picked up and I started to hope I’d be staying in the trees because the sun was going down and it was going to get bitter cold again.

I honestly don’t remember much of this stretch. I remember wetlands and trees and tall grasses all covered in snow and ice. I remember a small bridge with such a big snowdrift in front of it that I preemptively got off my bike and shoved it through lest my rear wheel get sidetracked and throw me to the ground. I remember the sun going down, but not in any detailed way. And yes, I remember it getting colder. Tuesday’s low was supposed to be brutal and there were forecasts of wind chills in excess of -55 for Wednesday. I kept an occasional eye on my thermometer and watched as the temperature slowly dropped.

Hours later and with hours to go, the temperature passed that magic mark between -26 and -27; my toes started to get cold. I regretted neglecting to check on my socks at Surly I guess because my handwarmers had still been warm at Melgeorges after over 15 hours of riding. That was not the correct decision to make. There was a light breeze, but it felt like a blast chiller at these temperatures and it was flowing directly down the trail between the tall pines. I knew I needed to deal with my boots, so I got off my bike and laid it on the trail at an angle where the bedroll on the handlebars could act as a mediocre wind block and started to attend to keeping my feet warm.

I knew I would have very limited time to have my boots off, so I made sure I had two opened and shaken hand warmers ready before sitting down in the snow and taking off my left boot. Then I discovered I definitely should have taken care of this at Surly in a shelter rather than out here on the plains. The plastic bag I was using as a vapor barrier had slid down my leg and half of my foot, meaning my outer sock had a chance to get wetter than I’d like and therefore less insulating. I hadn’t grabbed a change of socks before sitting down to take off my boot, and my outer sock was wool, so it had a better than average chance of staying warm despite the moisture. I rearranged everything and replaced the no-longer-warm hand warmer. When I put my boot back on, it had stiffened up significantly in the cold...or I had...either way, it was harder than it should have been to put on. I made the call to only deal with my left foot since that was the one likely to get cold, put the second handwarmer in my pocket, and got back on my bike.

My energy was sapping and I had no idea how far I’d gone. My GPS tracker was only checking in every 10 minutes to save battery so with the twists and turns the distance it showed me didn’t seem to match with the distance I knew I had gone. On top of that, I’d been having a terrible time trying to keep it warm enough to run and needed to tuck it under my jacket to warm it back up nearly every time I took my hand out of the pogie where I was storing it for any extended period, like the time it takes to put a hand warmer in my sock. That meant the distance it showed was from some arbitrary location on the trail and wasn’t useful at all. I knew it didn’t really matter how far I had to go because it was the same distance from start to finish no matter where I was now.

The hours of being awake were taking their toll and I felt like I was going to fall asleep riding. Luckily, it turns out clif shots are not solid at -30 and slightly softer if you put them in a pocket with a hand warmer for a couple hours, so over the course of the final miles, I downed 3 of them trying to stay awake enough to keep upright and have enough energy to keep pedaling. My strategy of drinking the last of my reserve gatorade at Surly and leaving my hydration pack as it was for the last leg also worked well as I continued to have warm-ish gatorade that provided a few ready calories.

For some reason, I kept wanting to know where I was and how far I had come. I referred multiple times to the cuesheet someone (I’m sorry I don’t remember who and I can’t find the post) posted in the Arrowhead facebook group over this last 25 miles. “I’m crossing a road, but it doesn’t have any signs pointing toward the trail. What road is it? Is it this one on the sheet or some other one? I see a shelter! Is it this one? Do I really have another 10.5 miles to go? That’s like 3 hours! Wait, is there another shelter that isn’t on here? Why does that sign say Vermillion when that’s supposed to be before the shelter, not after? I guess I’ll just keep cranking and hope the casino is still in front of me somewhere.”

The driver of a snowmobile yells out “2.6 miles left!” Probably the longest 2.6 miles I’ve ever ridden even though I’m pretty sure it was less than that.

FinishFor what had seemed like the last few hours, I saw the glow of lights on the horizon that pretty much had to be the casino. They kept moving back and forth as the trail twisted its way across the plane, but they never seemed to get closer. Suddenly a bright orange snow fence I remembered reading about in people’s race reports appeared and then the trail had a bright light at the end with a big flag that said “finish” on it. As I got closer, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to cross the finish line riding my bike because the tiny 10’ hill in front of it was just not something I could climb at this point. As I got still closer, I could hear hooting and hollering and cowbells. They continued for what felt like minutes as I made my way to the finish line. I thanked everyone for their patient exuberance and one of them said “you have to actually cross the finish! Keep going another 3 feet” or something to that effect.

In the hospitality room, I picked out my trophy (with a nice black, burnt-looking arrowhead) and got my photo taken in front of the sign. I sat down and stared into space for a bit. I answered the post-race follow-up questions for the sports nutrition study Jonathan Erber was doing but I hadn’t taken any notes while eating so my answers probably weren’t as accurate as they could be. I ate a bowl of chicken soup he got for me, which turned out not to be what I wanted. Then he said someone who won in the past, Jay Petervary I think, always had tomato soup with Doritos and it sounded way better than I expected. I tested by dipping a chip in the tomato soup and the combination was ok, so I crushed a double handful of chips into my bowl and mixed them in. That ratio turned out to be much better and exactly what my body wanted; don’t laugh.

Finding my way back to my bike was harder than I thought, but I managed it after a couple extra elevator rides, rolled it outside into the cold, stripped everything off of it, put it on my car, and climbed into the passenger seat for the trip to my hotel for the rest of the week.

Other people have said that at the end of the Arrowhead, the answer to “would you do this again” is always “ask me in two weeks” but I was already on the side of “yes.” It was a hard ride and I was embarrassingly slow at an average speed of 3.5 mph, but I made it from one end to the other of what is widely considered one of the hardest races in the world. In the days leading up to the race, I had consoled myself in advance with the knowledge that just by being accepted, I was in an elite group of athletes who had accomplished amazing things. At least one had climbed Mount Everest, another had swam the English Channel (and DNF’d the Arrowhead 7 years in a row). So if I finished before I reached the finish line, I had still accomplished something great just by showing up. Finishing as the 5th from last cyclist to cross the line and in the half of cyclists who did cross the line rather than dropping early, was a strange sensation of accomplishment I really couldn’t properly appreciate at the time.

Now...do I go for Order of The Hrimthurs?


 

Packing list:

Required Gear:gear

  • Aqua Quest mummy bivy
  • Big Agnes Crosho -20F sleeping bag
  • Therm-a-rest RidgeRest SOLite sleeping pad
  • 2 cheap, red, Schwinn blinkers from Target (1 on bike, 1 spare)
  • NiteRider Sabre 80 rear light (spare)
  • Planet Bike Superflash 65 taillight (on bike)
  • NiteRider Lumina Micro 450 front light (on bike)
  • Black Diamond Storm 375 headlamp
  • Lithium AAA batteries (note lights optimized for using AAA batteries)
  • Esbit Pocket Stove
  • Esbit Solid Fuel Tablets (8 oz +)
  • Box of matches
  • Ultimate Survival Technologies Klipp Lighter
  • JetBoil pot
  • Geigerrig 3L hydration bladder
  • Revelate Wompak hydration pack
  • Emergency whistle
  • Reflective vest/straps
  • 3000 calories of emergency cashews

Gear to Wear:Clothing

  • Smartwool Merino 250 base layer top
  • 45NRTH Naughtvind bib tights
  • PEARL iZUMi Select Thermal LTD jersey
  • PEARL iZUMi Elite Pursuit softshell jacket
  • Columbia Whirlybird jacket shell
  • Fleet Farm fleece pants
  • Showers Pass Transit pants
  • 45NRTH Wölvhammer boots (with reflectix and DryGuy Boot Gloves)
  • Bontrager bike gloves
  • Outdoor Research Flurry Sensor gloves
  • Seirus Magnemask Combo Clava
  • Giro Zone MIPS snow helmet
  • Oakley Canopy snow goggles
  • Holiday Stationstore plastic bags

Gear on Bike:

  • Spare 1L insulated water bottle with reflectix coozie
  • Random Amazon carbon handlebar accessory bar (think baryak only cheaper in all possible senses)
  • Sport tape
  • 2 Spare tubes
  • Paper towel (for sealant)
  • Gerber multitool
  • Bike tool
  • Pocket knife
  • Tube patch kit
  • Park Tool valve core tool
  • Tire levers
  • Tire pump
  • Hand warmers (20)
  • Sierra Designs Stratus puffer jacket
  • Columbia whirlybird liner jacket
  • Columbia C9 Tech Hoodie
  • Down skirt
  • Puffy pants
  • Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner
  • Spare hat, gloves, base layers, socks, and more socks

Mounting on Bike:

  • Topeak UNI Super Tourist Fat rack
  • Topeak MTX Trunkbag
  • Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic panniers
  • Salsa Anything Cages
  • Sea to Summit lightweight dry sack - 4L
  • Revelate Mag Tank top tube bag
  • Revelate/Salsa Mukluk frame bag
  • Moosetreks stem bag for snacks
  • Custom sleep roll bag made by my wife
  • More velcro and other straps than were strictly necessary

Bike:

  • 2016 Salsa Mukluk SUS GX1
  • Salsa carbon fork
  • Salsa carbon bars
  • 45NRTH Cobrafist pogies
  • 45NRTH Dillinger 4 custom studded tires (tubeless)
  • Surly My Other Brother Daryl rims
  • Salsa generic hubs
  • Thompson carbon seatpost
  • Sel Royale Lookin Athletic saddle

Food:Food

  • Gatorade mix in seal-a-meal pouches
  • Trail mix of Red Table salami, cashews, chocolate covered fruit balls, and dried pineapple
  • Kit Kat minis
  • Snikers minis
  • Reese’s minis
  • Dill pickle cashews
  • Sour patch kids
  • 6 Clif bars
  • Stinger honey waffles
  • Clif shots with caffeine

 


 

Post-race notes:

Food

Too much food. I brought about 12000 calories and used maybe 3000. Too much salt in food/water. I retained water until Saturday after the race (5 days)

What worked

  • Dried pineapple
  • The more chocolate part of the mix
  • Clif shots! I wouldn’t have finished without them because I’d have fallen asleep on the trail
  • Hydration pack remained usable except for the very beginning.

What didn’t

  • Cashews and sour patch kids in the same bite. Do not recommend!
  • Back-up water would have been inaccessible after one use. Need to wax threads.

Still have questions

  • Reese’s minis. They were really good and then suddenly gross, but they got me through to surly.

Gear/Clothing

Too much gear; bike too heavy. Pushing up those hills was not fun.

What worked

  • I had plenty of layers and mostly didn’t have difficulty staying warm
  • The way I packed worked ok
  • Zero mechanical failures
  • Starting with high pressure
  • My phone as a camera, mostly
  • Namakan ruff! I could move it to another jacket when my zipper failed.

What didn’t

  • Everything froze solid from perspiration
  • The zipper on my jacket completely failed and would not re-zip after I put on a new layer under it and had to abandon it and switch to a completely different set of layers
  • I packed my paniers by “new clothing”/”clothing changes” and couldn’t remember a) which bag was which and b) how things got categorized.
  • Tire pump lock lever froze in place from too much moisture in/around trunk (maybe that’s why people have those screw-on pumps?
  • Need insulated pouch for garmin/phone with hand warmer inside. Spend way too much time dicking around with the garmin to warm it up after the “critically low temp” shutoff and it wasn’t easy to take pictures.
  • Be careful with velcro! There was no overlap on the tabs holding my bivy to my handlebars so there was nothing to grab to release it
  • Smaller or no backup battery. I didn’t use it and I didn’t need the weight
  • Too much extra gear. I was overprepared, which was good, but also very heavy

RouteCurtis Eberhardt Photography

  • First 35 miles were the hardest ride of my life
  • Second 35 miles were the hardest ride of my life
  • Next 40 miles were the hardest ride of my life
  • Last 25 miles were ok and mostly flat, which was nice

Body

Overall, I did ok. I kept my output low enough that I could continue nearly indefinitely. The problem was the hills pushed my heart rate up and took a toll on my knee

Post ride symptoms

  • Right pinky, 3rd finger, and thumb have some numbness. Probably due to elbow stress.
  • Left middle finger base knuckle sore and swollen. This was a problem in the weeks before the ride, but probably exacerbated by the ride. Whole hand swollen after climbing across a bed to get to the window at the hotel
  • Right knee really rough, but expected.

What worked

  • Kept my output low enough to continue
  • Mostly kept my ibuprofen up to date
  • Legs were tired but didn’t give out
  • Mostly stayed warm enough
  • No frostbite!

What didn’t

  • Needed to take and bring more ibuprofen
  • Needed to have a better plan for taking evening drugs (melgeorges was to late)
  • Needed to keep on top of my emergency inhaler. Coughing for days after.
  • Toes could have been warmer. Should have done vapor barrier maintenance at surly; the bag pulled down and allowed my outer sock to get wet
  • Coughing a lot, but i was already coughing from a multi-week cold

Last image courtesy Curtis Eberhardt Photography

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2014 MS 150
By Ben Zvan
On June 25, 2014 at 19:25
Travelogue

On June 7th and 8th 2014, I rode my bicycle 150 miles and raised $1035 of the $3,000,000 raised by the event for the National MS Society, Upper Midwest Chapter. Here are two videos, one for each day.

Day 1

Day 2

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Another Update to the Wayback Machine
By Ben Zvan
On March 13, 2007 at 11:34
Travelogue

Way back in December, I went to Mountain View, CA for some training.

Me and Fog Me @ Apple Deer and Fence M5 Industries

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More Panoramas From Duluth
By Ben Zvan
On June 28, 2006 at 22:03
Travelogue

When we were in Duluth, I took a couple more panoramas with my Treo 600. One was on the St. Louis river, where it goes through Carlton, MN. We spent some time fishing there, but didn�t catch anything. You can see Raster, Rick and Nick on the far bank. Nick's hard to see though, 'cause he's wearing camo.

The second one was at Split Rock Creek, just north of Split Rock State Park. We didn't catch anything there either, but we decided it wasn't SmeltFest without dipping our nets in water for half an hour. Afterward, we drove back to the campsite and drank beer and played cards. Yay!

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The Northern Expanses
By Ben Zvan
On June 10, 2006 at 11:11
Travelogue

I'm currently in Grand Marais, MN, but I got here by way of Hancock, MI.

My 4th iPod is still going strong. It occasionally starts to play a track, then skips to the end, then goes back to the menu though. This usually happens on podcasts, but I've had it happen on songs too. I'm hoping that this isn't some sort of incremental failure indication. It still plays music though. I've had it running nearly straight through since Tuesday night when I left home.

There's a lot of snow hereHow much Depeche Mode is a lot of Depeche Mode? I decided to find out. On Tuesday, as I entered the Duluth area, my iTrip started breaking up as expected. There's a radio station that broadcasts on or near 87.9MHz there. Rather than mess around with changing frequencies, I just listened to local radio for a while. When I left Duluth on US 2 eastbound, 87.9 cleared up again and I was free to listen to my own music again. But what to listen to? I had a brilliant idea and set the old iPod to shuffle all the Depeche Mode on it. 135 tracks. I listened from Duluth to Ashland that night, hearing some of my least favorite songs, but ending with John the Revelator from Playing the Angel. I listened on Wednesday from Ashland, WI to Hancock, MI. I listened on Thursday from Hancock to Copper Harbor and back through Hancock and Ashland almost until I met with interference in Duluth again. Wow! That's a lot of depressing music. It was fun, but unlikely to be repeated.

Way Out ThereDuluth ended up making me glad I didn't schedule more than one hotel in a day. When I do that, I plan on 2 hours per hotel plus travel time plus 30 minutes. I started three hours early there and still wound up leaving one hour late. I got a great series in the water park though, I'll have to make an animated gif and put it here later.

The hotel here in Grand Marais is nice. I get a good view of the lake from my window and it's easy walking distance out to the point or anywhere else in town really. I hear there's a cafe with microbrews here. I think I'll go look for it. And try to find an eye-glasses place at which to get my shades fixed.

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Cinco de Smeltfest
By Ben Zvan
On May 10, 2006 at 15:18
Travelogue

Smeltfest this year was a hoot. We actually caught a fish and grilled it. (Raster brought his propane grill.) Not that it was a big fish, or that we caught it in the Lester or the Knife, but it was a fish and we ate it, dangit. All one bite each.

When we got to Jay Cooke on Friday afternoon, I borrowed Rick's digital camera and took a hand-held panorama of the campsite. It turned out OK except for one big glitch.
Panorama goes here

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Aah, Vacation!
By Ben Zvan
On February 08, 2006 at 21:06
Travelogue

We've been up here on vacation for half a week now and I've really been enjoying the time off for sleeping.

I've made progress in some video games, we watched Super Bowl XL and swore at the referees' bad calls. I've even done some work-like things with a wireless router and some cat 5 cable.

One of the things I was introduced to recently was the PhotoStitch software that comes with Canon digital cameras. Since I bought a used 10D from my uncle-in-law last summer, and he's organized enough to still have the original box and documentation, I now have a Canon CD with all of the software I usually think is just junk since it's free and I have Photoshop. The PhotoStitch package is great though. Here's a sample QTVR of the place we're staying this week.

The Back Deck
The Back Deck of The Lodge. 832KB QTVR. You will need Quick Time from Apple to view this image properly

We just got out of the hot tub after watching several deer wander in across the lake to munch on the corn tossed out by the neighbor for them. I got a real appreciation for they way they'll look at you as long as you're not moving or making a sound and then run away as soon as they figure out you're not part of the terrain. Of course these particular deer ran away only as far as the pile of corn they new was their duty to eliminate from the terrain.

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Stupidest Street Sign Ever
By Ben Zvan
On October 01, 2005 at 07:25
Travelogue

I have received some suggestions as to the real meaning of the radar-enforced no-parking zone and I thought they needed sharing:

  1. The cop beats you over the head with his radar gun to keep you from doing it again. If your head is not availble, he beats on your car.
  2. Your car gets microwaved because of all the radars pointed at the area.

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Late Update - Clearing out the 'Log
By Ben Zvan
On September 26, 2005 at 19:31
Travelogue

09/22/05

Wow. I haven't written any notes in my Treo in a couple of days. Usually I've tossed something to write about in here every day even if it doesn't make it to the 'blog for a while. Well, let's see (holy crap, my treo just added an apostrophe to my "lets". That's creepy)...

I am still enjoying the photography gig. I had a chance to walk down to the breakwater at the Duluth lift bridge and take some pictures of my own this afternoon and I'm sitting in the Pizza Luce right now drinking a Stella and waiting for my pizza. It's a little odd to be the only table of one in the place but last time I was here It was me and my fellow fisherman at a table for two. It wouldn't be any different in the bar and It's smokey in there so...

My waitress gave her name as PK and reminds me a little of Lojo Russo. I suppose PK could stand for something like "Patricia Konig", but I prefer "Player Killer".

It's ironic, I think, that the night I don't have Internet access to tie up my laptop is the night I won't watch a DVD because House is on.

09/26/05: Final notes from this wisconsin trip.

On the subject of Canada: What he said. I brought back two 12-packs of beer and four 12-packs of Coke (with sugar) from the Great White North. I'll have more info on the two beers later and I hope to do a blind taste test of the Coca-Cola as well.

Canadian television is different. The Food Network has many more shows from Canada so the schedule is completely different. They show The Surreal Gourmet far more frequently there than here and The Thirsty Traveler is on Food TV in Canada when it's on Fine Living here. I did get to see a show called Christine Cushing Live which is aparently a Canadian exclusive programme. The episode that I saw was The Brewery where they got Kevin Brauch of The Thirsty Traveler to help Christine host a party with a whole tonne of Beer Brewers from throughout Canada. One of the beers they highlighted on the show was Mill Street Coffee Porter which sounded yummy, but I had already bought two cases of beer and wasn't about to go out and try to find some. I just hope that they export the stuff.

Why yes, now that you mention it, there were a couple of odd signs. The first one was just a road sign for a road named "15th Side Road" which didn't seem to be at the side of anything. It was even perpendicular to the highway. The other one gets its own paragraph and even a photo.

While driving around Thunder Bay, I saw several signs for no parking zones, but this one takes the cake. I could have understood "Radar Patrolled" but "Radar Enforced?" I can just see the cop getting a bead on the car sitting at the side of the road and carefuly clocking it at 0 Kph just to make sure that it's really parked and not just being driven by an old person.

Anyway, now that I'm back for a little while, What he said again.

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The Second Trip continues
By Ben Zvan
On September 17, 2005 at 21:46
Travelogue

All of the king beds in all of the hotels I've stayed in have had three pillows as if they're secretly expecting three "users". To me, a king bed seems kind of lonely for one person, especially if it's set up for three. But, just for variety, I used all three pillows.

I have officially moved north enough to be solidly in the start of fall colors. The ferns are all dead, the leaves are drying up. Anyway, it's kind of nice. On my way here, I drove through the town of Hazelhurst "Quiet Side of the North Woods". I laughed out loud because there's a huge motorcycle ride in the area here. Lots of Harleys, not so much with the quiet.

This morning I saw a guy mowing the lawn. Not so weird really until you see that he's only got one leg: One hand for the mower, one hand for the crutch and one leg for the ground. Push ... crutch ... hop ... push ... crutch ... hop ...

As per usual, this post is full of things I saw today because I can't make interesting things up from scratch. Here are a couple more signs I saw.

Beware Dust over Road: The road was clean and dry, no dust in sight. But then a huge cloud of dust descended over the road, darkening the sky. It settled down on the car in front of me and stripped the paint right off the metal, found a slightly lowered window and seeped into the passenger compartment, scouring it clean. Truly: Beware Dust over Road

That one was closely followed by WARNING! Watch for Low Flying Planes: OK fine...I don't see any...can I go back to watching the road now? What would I do if I saw a low flying plane anyway? Duck? Swerve? There aren't any airports around so if there's a low flying plane it's below the legal minimum altitude (by definition). I would think that the more maneuverable craft should be the one to look out: Watch for High Flying Cars.

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Arts

New Pictures 8: Sarah Jones
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
04/18/2013—02/02/2014 - Free

31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
11/02/2013—08/31/2014 - Free

New Pictures 9: Rinko Kawauchi
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
02/20/2014—08/10/2014 - Free

Finland: Designed Environments
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
05/10/2014—08/17/2014 - Free

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
at State Theatre
06/21/2014 \ Doors 8:00pm

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