Arrowhead 135 – 2014 Gear Setup and Race Recap, Part 1

This will be more gear setup than race recap, but you can’t really have one without the other.  

While reading, keep in mind that the temperature was between -25F and -15F all day, and I had a tailwind from the WNW at around 10 mph.  I was generally comfortable, and went into the race with the aim of keeping my body comfortable and not losing body parts.

Total time to checkpoint 2 and my finish (including checkpoint 1) was 14:54.



I used the cheap ($16 when my wife bought them) pogies from Amazon.  They generally work well, but I added about an inch of cotton batting (from the inside of an old pillow) on the top (ripped open a seam) for more insulation (hat tip to Ted Bibby).  I think additional insulation on the bottom would have been good to have.  Inside I wore my light-ish OR gloves, which aren’t the greatest in cold temperatures by themselves, but work for feeding, etc.  Inside of the OR gloves I wore latex gloves, which kept any sweat from my hands from evaporating or soaking the insulating layer (hat tip to Dave Sears for the suggestion).  In addition to all this I went through three pairs of chemical handwarmers.


I wore Arctic Pro Muck boots with flat pedals and Power Grips.  The Power Grips were the weak point of the system, as they had to be very large to fit over the boot.  This meant that I had to reach down and adjust one or both straps whenever I started riding.  Not a big deal if you’ve learned patience, but would be annoying if you were trying to race hard.  The straps were well worth the hassle.  Inside I wore a tall Ibex wool sock, a tall hiking sock, and used one pair of toe warmers (stuck directly beneath my toes, not back on my foot).  Feet were generally fine, and wiggling my toes worked to warm them up if they chilled.  Muck boot sizing was 1/2-size up from my regular size and they seem like a good fit with multiple socks, but not too giant.


Burton RED snowboarding helmet from several years ago.  Buff pulled over my chin to the back of my head.  ColdAvenger (regular, not balaclava).  Ski goggles.  Satisfied with everything except the fit of the helmet, which gave me a headache after a while, and the goggles began to freeze up once I turned with the tailwind at ~9 miles.  Cut a slit in the bottom of the ColdAvenger to let me stuff in food bits and drink from a straw or tube (hat tip to Ted Bibby).


UND Cycling Team bib shorts (Hincapie), Ibex windproof boxers, NewBalance running tights, North Face windpants.  On top I had a light Ibex base t-shirt, Ibex Shak jacket, and Arcteryx windproof shell.  All worked great.  I’m really happy with these clothing choices and they are good for a wide range of temperatures.


This is the big one, the one I entered the race knowing I would have to worry about the most.  I had two Ziplock bags full of PowerBar gummies, Sport Beans, mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and (in the caffienated bag) raw coffee beans.  I didn’t eat too many of the Sport Beans and none of the coffee beans because they were too small to grab easily with gloves on, and shoving the right number through my mask would have taken a while.  The other stuff was great.  Everything stayed chewable in the cold.  Extra food that I didn’t use included skinny meat sticks, my mandatory jar of peanut butter, and gas station fruit pies.

Additionally, I relied on Perpetuem powder mixed with hot tap water.  This I stored in a 40-oz Hydro Flask (widemouth) with the straw lid (I think of it as a sippy cup because it doesn’t spill).  I was concerned about even this system freezing, but it did not.  I stored the Hydro Flask upside down in an insulated Granite Gear pouch hanging off the back of my handlebars.  I think this system worked great.  Additional water was in my rear panniers, however, which meant that I did not drink nearly as much as I probably should have.  I intend to buy another Hydro Flask and straw lid just for additional water.

Bicycle/Carrying Capacity

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably brought way to much stuff to be competitive, but at least I felt like I would survive.  I had a front (old aluminum rack) and rear (old steel rack) on my steel Surly Pugsley.  I strapped my sleeping bag/bivy stuffsack to the front rack and handlebars and my sleeping pad to the reare rack.  Two moderately sized panniers hung off the rear rack.  As it happened, my extra puffy down coat was just bungeed over the top of everything in back and worked great–easy access and didn’t interfere with anything.


CygoLite MityCross headlight.  I brought two spare batteries but only needed the one.

Kodak video camera .  Kept this in my pogies, so the battery survived but I only shot a little video and took a few photos.

Bontrager wireless computer.  This didn’t work right off the bat and I never got it to function during the race.  I think the cold may have caused my issues but I’m not sure.  I did use the time function, which continued to show.

Watch alarm.  Strapped my Timex Ironman watch to the handlebars, but the cold kept the face from appearing.  Stuck it in my pogies and it survived.  Intended use was to make me eat every 30 minutes by an alarm, but I never heard it and had to rely on the computer.


I carried all the required gear for the Arrowhead, most of which I did not use.  If you have a question about what other gear I carried, please ask.


I did not train enough for this race.  I was focusing too much on logistics/setup/staying warm, and most of my training consisted of riding to work and back (5-6 miles round trip).  My longest ride before the race was at GGCOWS in early December, at 35-40 miles.  This was my own fault, and my body told me so.  My knees (which I tore up pretty badly during the 2011 Ragnarok 105) were hurting by the time I reached the first checkpoint (Gateway Store), and the hill climbing with a heavy load took more of a toll than I was ready for.  

This seems to be as good a place to stop as any.  I’ll try to write more about the race in the next week or so.


Cycling through the Blizzard

Eight inches of snow?  No problem:

The Grand Forks Herald has a thing for putting winter cyclists on the front page–check out this one of Chase Christenson from January 2010:

Updated: Here are a few more (I’ll keep updating below).

Matt Burton-Kelly waits for traffic at the intersection of University Ave. and N. 25th St. as he bikes to work at EERC
Tuesday. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald) (1 Dec 2015)

Professor Gordon Iseminger of the History Department at UND pedals across campus during Thursday’s snowfall. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald) (15 Jan 2016)



Arrowhead 135 Central (#AH135 2013)

Ali will be competing in the Arrowhead 135 race this coming Monday, January 28th.  Here she is on the right:

On the left is Ted.  They’re planning on riding together for the race, since it’s the first one for them both.  Ali’s feet are artfully camoflaged so that she may pedal undetected (in fact these are boot covers, and they are Dave Simmons approved).

For family and friends, here is some information about the race this year:

  • Official website:
  • Official results:  NOTE: The official results are not going to be super up-to-date, because they get uploaded when the race organizers get a chance.  So if you see it’s been a long time since Ali and Ted have come through a checkpoint, don’t worry.
  • LIVE MAP: (new window).  Ali is carrying a SPOT tracking device that she will be “checking in” with during the race.  As she checks in, her position will show up on the map, and each check-in will be listed on the right side.  Although the SPOT device communicates with satellites and not with the cellular network (which is spotty in the area), there may be a delay in posting the most current position.  (Computers are involved, so who knows what will happen.)
  • Other racers:  You’ll also be able to live track some of the other racers at this map, if you’re interested in what else is going on.
  • Update: news video from the week before:
  • Regarding all safety and emergency protocols: volunteers on snowmobiles will be going back and forth on the course throughout the race.  I will also be at the race and meeting up with Ali and Ted at various road crossings.  If you are relying on the map or results linked to here and are worried, please DO NOT try to contact the race directors–call/text me instead, I will know what is going on.
  • I will be updating Facebook as much as I can with relevant information (and hopefully photos), but this will depend on the cellular coverage.
  • For general race info and positions and photos, you can follow me on Twitter at nplainsathletes or you can follow along with the hashtag #AH135 (I have no idea how much this will get used, but I know at least a few others should be using it).

Ali will be competing against 10 other women this year, under conditions that are actually expected to be warmer than normal!  We’re both super psyched to see how she does, see a new area of Minnesota, and be part of a great endurance tradition.

A nice Sunday morning drive:


One final note: you can leave comments here, but I will probably not be able to reply to them until we get back from the race.

First winter training ride 2010/2011

[EDIT: My winter riding setup has changed quite a bit since this post.  The basics are there, but I’ve upgraded pretty much all of my clothing, requiring me to wear fewer, lighter layers.  I’ve replaced the bicycle (won a Pugsley frame at a race), upgraded the lighting, and gone to flat pedals with Power Grips combined with Muck boots for my feet.  2014-02-05]

I just got back a while ago (:-P) from my first “official” training ride of the winter season. It snowed the weekend before Thanksgiving, but I was returning from the Smithsonian and missed out on the freshie powder, then was busy all week aside from commuting. This evening I finished what I was doing in time to get some real training in.

(All You Haters Stud My Tires)

The temperature when I returned (a little before 7 PM) was 17 F (-8 C), so it’s balmy by Grand Forks standards (or it will be by March!). There was an 11 MPH (17 km/hr) breeze from the north, but it definitely (to my out-of-shape body) felt like a lot more than that. I did the pedestrian bridge loop (to north bridge to south bridge and back) on my mountain bike, following the Greenway path. The path is nicely plowed for the most part, so much so that once my light died I could still see well enough to not endo over any piles of snow kicked up by the snowmobiles (the clear sky may have helped in this regard; nothing like following a black ribbon through a white wilderness).

As I said, the wind being from the north I got a bit of a workout, followed by a long period of speed, followed by my realization that I had forgotten how much of a workout I’d had at first, once I got to turn back into the wind. The weather was nice, and I think I dressed appropriately, which is always something of a challenge for me. I tend to run hot, which up until recently has resulted in me winding up drenched by the time I get to school since I wear a down jacket. I finally bought a clip-on pannier/shopping bag that I can throw my messenger bag into and not have to carry it on my back, so it’s much easier to regulate my temperature while commuting.

Anyway, back to tonight: the image below shows what I was wearing, with a list in case people are interested. I was warm enough with the tailwind, but the headwind sections were somewhat chilly on the knees and arms. I tried out vapor barriers for my feet for the first time since I have chronically cold toes in the winter; they may have worked, or it may have been too warm for me to feel the difference. Any time I can step off the bike and not feel like I’m standing on two frozen lumps of flesh is a good day.

(All You Haters Wash My Shorts)

“RED” snowboarding helmet (from Play It Again Sports)
Smith goggles and neckwarmer (from Ali!)
bike shorts from inside baggy mtb shorts
Teko socks from END-AR 2009
plastic bags from phonebooks
cheap Nike mtb shoes
wool mittens (knitted by Mum) inside Swedish mitts from Midwest Mountaineering
North Face fleece (from Ali’s parents)
Cloudveil pants (from Ali)
Under Armour coldgear shirt (from a guy I ran with at SLU)

My other equipment could use an upgrade (maybe someone could b[u]y me this?), especially my front lighting system. I bought this light when I first got my mountain bike in eighth grade (thankfully the frame has proven large enough!). It runs a single incandescent bulb, I have no idea what the candlepower is, and uses 4 D batteries. It also seems to be having a lot of trouble in the cold this year 🙁

(All You Haters Velcro My Batteries)

Since I’m trying to limit the whole blog post production time (BPPT) to a half-hour or less, I’ll only throw up one more photo of my new camera sweater. I’m not sure it works to keep things warm so the batteries last longer, but my buddy Mario (now Cat 2 road, congrats!) uses a similar setup for his power meter, and considering he’s an electrical engineer, it can’t have deleterious effects. I’ve been taking some decent winter commuting videos, so hopefully they’ll make it up eventually.

(All You Haters Sweater My Camera)

Happy riding!

Ride distance: 16.2 km
Ride time: 45:11
Average speed: 21 km/hr