Arrowhead 135 endurance racers experience the wild of a north woods winterThere were the 30-below-zero temperatures. There were the miles and miles of desolate swamp and forest. And then there were the wolves.
By: Andrew Krueger, Duluth News Tribune
There were the 30-below-zero temperatures. There were the miles and miles of desolate swamp and forest. And then there were the wolves.
As if the athletes competing in the 10th Arrowhead 135 endurance race from International Falls to Tower needed any further proof that they were in an event like few others, some had the rare — if somewhat disconcerting — privilege of seeing the elusive animals up close.
“They were out in the daylight running on the trail,” related race volunteer Russell Loucks, who met and talked to competitors at the finish line at Fortune Bay Casino. One racer reported seeing a pack of six wolves; Loucks reported some competitors said “they had to stop and start shouting” to clear the trail.
In the end it was Idaho’s Jay Petervary who persevered through the cold to be the first across the finish line just after 3 a.m. Tuesday. Petervary, who was on a fat-tire bike in the race that also is open to runners and cross-country skiers, covered the 135-mile wilderness course in 20 hours, 11 minutes.
“It was a long cold day,” Petervary, who is the record-holder in Alaska’s 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, reported on Facebook after the race. “My body is trying to figure out what I just did and so am I.”
Petervary had to push his bike across the finish line because of a frozen rear hub that kept him from being able to pedal, he said. The temperature at the finish line early Tuesday was about 30 below zero.
Petervary said by phone on Wednesday that the cold "was something I really embrace." Aside from the late mechanical problem, and the fact that "it becomes more of a job to eat and drink at those temperatures," he said he fared well and enjoyed the ride.
It was Petervary's second time in the Arrowhead 135; he finished fourth in 2012.
Tom Puzak of the Twin Cities was the second racer to finish, by bike at 4:26 a.m. for a total time of 21 hours, 26 minutes. Tracey Petervary — Jay’s wife — was the first woman to finish and fifth overall, also on bike, in 27:22. Duluth’s Charlie Farrow was sixth overall, by bike in 28:16.
Scott Hoberg of Duluth was the first runner across the finish line, crossing at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday with a time of 43 hours, 26 minutes. He was followed by Minnesota's John Storkamp in 46:30 and former Duluth resident Alicia Hudelson in 47:59.
Hudelson broke the women's race running record by 7 hours, 8 minutes, race officials said.
As of 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, 28 bikers had finished the race that started at 7 a.m. Monday when it was 24 below zero in International Falls. Two were still on the trail, and 54 had dropped out. Four runners had finished the race; 14 were on the trail and 38 had dropped out. Of the two skiers who entered, one was on the trail and one had dropped out.
Overall, 92 of the 142 racers who started — or about 65 percent — had to stop short of the finish line, more than the race average of about 50 percent.
At checkpoints and the finish line racers “would come in like snowmen,” Loucks said. “Everything was completely white. They’d start pulling layers off, and there was ice in between the layers.”
“Hard, really hard,” said Jane Chadwick of England after finishing the race — by bike — for the first time on her second try. “The cold, it just got into you.”
Chadwick faced a tough choice on the trail — her husband and racing partner, Andy, had to drop out at the halfway point because of frostbitten toes. He encouraged her to go on — “that was a really hard call to make,” she said — and she did. At the finish “I just couldn’t believe it — I had made it at last,” said Jane, who was 17th overall in 34:15. But there were mixed emotions of not having her husband alongside. “I was overwhelmed, really.”
Jim Reed, a deputy fire marshal with the Duluth Fire Department, finished 18th in 34:27 and became one of the few in Arrowhead 135 history to complete the race all three ways — skiing, biking and running. He biked this year, one of the only competitors to use a regular mountain bike as most racers now ride fat-tire bikes.
The cold was a constant struggle on top of the physical challenge of biking 135 miles, Reed said. Every so often, he’d have to get off his bike and walk around to warm up his toes. The 30-below temperatures wreaked havoc on batteries for headlamps and other gear. And being out on the trail so long is mentally taxing. “You really start to wander,” Reed said. “It’s a lot of boredom.”
But on Tuesday evening the cold, the tedium — it was all behind him.
“I am really thrilled,” Reed said of his accomplishment.
This year’s Arrowhead 135 bikers were well off the record pace set in 2013. Duluth’s Todd McFadden remains the record-holder with his time of 14 hours, 20 minutes on bike in last year’s race; McFadden had to drop out of this year’s race at the first checkpoint because of frostbite, race officials reported.
Among other Northland athletes included in a pre-race story in Sunday's News Tribune: