Races & Events

Arrowhead 135 2013 Race Report

For my fourth attempt at Arrowhead, myself and 42 other runners would start the Arrowhead 2013 race on Jan 28 at 7am with a 30f deg day in the forecast. This would be the warmest temperature I had experienced at Arrowhead. I would start wearing a base layer and a light Gortex jacket. The talk at the start was that 8 " of snow was forecast for later in the day. I talked to a couple locals who didn't think the sky looked dark enough to snow that much. Both thinking only an inch or two would fall. So I went with that, thinking positive! Nervous "LOL."

My sled I was dragging with my food and survival gear weighed 42lbs. I was strong until mile 25 then I slowed down drastically. I unzipped my jacket and discovered my shirt had become soaking wet with sweat. In addition I hadn't peed yet. I figured I was becoming dehydrated that's why my pace had slowed so much. I changed my shirt to a dry one and put on a fleece vest in place of the Gortex jacket. I then made a concerted effort to drink more. I finally peed after being in the race 9 hrs. At about 5pm and after being on the trail for 10 hrs. It began to snow.

I came into the 35 mile Gateway checkpoint at 7:30pm after 12 1/2 hrs on the trail. I was super thirsty! I chugged a Gatorade, my thirst seemed unquenchable, so I chugged another and then a Third! It's that dang excessive gene I have! If a little is good then a lot has to be better! "LOL" I figured I had really got myself in a hole on hydration so might as well catch up quick! Well what I hadn't counted on was the shock it would give my system. First I got really cold and started to shiver. I had to put 4 layers on inside the check point and I was still shivering. The cold Gatorade had made me hypothermic. I probably was right on the edge when I entered the check point.

Then my stomach started to cramp I now felt like I had to puke. We were told the check point was getting ready to close. I said to myself " Get your self together Bradley it's time to roll! I headed out the door into the dark snowy night still shivering and my stomch cramping something awful! I was in way worse shape then when I had arrived an hour earlier. Genius!! There was one positive however I had changed my socks and my feet were in great shape.

Two other runners would leave the checkpoint with me. The chills would die down quickly once I started moving and generating heat. The stomach cramps continued for about half hour and finally stopped. Then I felt great ! Just as I had planned! "Ha Ha" I would leave the other two racers behind and head on down the snow covered trail into the night alone. I was rehydrated and kicking Ass!!! I started banging out 2 1/2 miles an hour. Even as the snow kept coming down and piling on the trail.

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At 1am , four hours after I left Gateway. i came up on two snowmobiles and 6 really sore looking and tired racers who were in the process of being taken off the the course. The snowmobile rescuers would give me a few words of encouragement and I would head on down the dark trail. It was now 10 miles since I left Gateway and the hills started getting bigger. As I started going up the hills I was working extremely hard. The three Gatorades had long ago worn off. I was having a hard time getting the solid food I had used in previous Arrowheads down. I had never worked this hard at Arrowhead before. My 40lb sled was sinking in the wet powdery snow and the weight of the sled now felt like a hundred pounds as I was dragging the snow up the hills with my sled. After another hour of battling the hills I was really slowing down. I figured I would have to go through the night with no sleep if I was going to have a good shot at making the time cutoff at the 70 mile MelGeorge check point. Right around this time another runner caught up to me. I said "You're doing great!! He said thanks for breaking the trail as he had followed in my foot prints and the trail my sled had left. He let me know he figured everyone behind us had now dropped out. I said do you mind if we take turns breaking the trail. He then went quiet on me and dropped back out of sight into the dark . I would take that as a " No" "LOL" After another hour and the snow still falling I had slowed to a crawl. Fatigue was really setting in! The other racer now came up on me out of the dark and went around me and left me. He looked fresh as a daisy. He would now head out into the dark. I had no energy left to stay with him. I would stagger along for another hour until I started falling asleep on my feet. As hard as I battled I couldn't snap out of it! I kept nodding off even as the snow was coming down. I was now down to a snail pace. I had been in the race for 20 hrs I had been on my feet for almost 19 hrs dragging that 40+ pound sled. I was absolutely exhausted! I had no choice but to sleep!

I would bivy under a large tree to get out of the snow to sleep. I remember thinking maybe if I sleep for a couple hours, the snow will have stopped and a snowmobile would have come by to groom the Trail. In addition I would wake up fully energized and be able to pound out a fast pace. It doesn't hurt to dream! "Ha Ha"
I would sleep for 2hrs and wake up down inside of my sleeping. I was so delirious I had no idea where I was. I finally poked my head out of the sleeping bag and realizing where I was and yelled " No! I'm still in the race!" After the shock wore off, I then looked at the trail, not only hadn't it been groomed but 2 more inches of snow had fallen as I slept. The snow had now been falling for 12 hrs. I opened the zipper on the cover to my sled to put in my sleeping bag. Just then a branch on the tree broke loose dropped a huge amount of snow in my sled. As I was digging out my sled I figured somebody was trying to tell me something.

After digging out my sled and sticking my sleeping bag back in it. I was ready to head out. Even after sleeping I was still really fatigued and moving at a slow pace. After an hour I came up on a shelter by the side of the trail. A racer was under it in his sleeping bag. I asked him if he was okay. He said "Yes, he told me he just needed to rest a little more and he would continue on." He looked totally exhausted so I had my doubts. After a couple more hours I would hear a snowmobile coming up the trail. It would be the first one I had seen in about 7 hrs. It was now 8 am and daylight had arrived. He had a woman in her early 20's on the back who had tried to bike the race and was now being taken out to Sheep Ranch Road a couple miles up the trail to be picked up by a van. He stopped next to me and told me after he dropped her off he would then go back to get the guy from out of the shelter. He then he would be leaving the area as no one would be left on this area of the course but me. He had no idea when someone else would be back around to check on me. I did some calculations. I figured I was now at least 6 hrs behind the cutoff if I continued the last 17 miles into the Mel George's check point. My pace was slowing with every step. It had finally stopped snowing but the damage was done. I was totally wasted and back down to a one mile an hour pace. When the snowmobiler came back with the racer who had been under the shelter, I told him I was done and come get me after he dropped the other racer off. My race would end after 54 miles. I had dragged the sled for 22 1/2 hrs of the 26 hrs I was out there. It had snowed for close to 14 hrs anywhere from 10" to 12" had accumulated on the trail.

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When he drove me the last mile to Sheep Ranch road. I was shocked to see no one was there. He said the van had left but would be back in an hour or so and I could just wait for it. Sheep Ranch Road is a snow covered dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I told him I didn't feel comfortable waiting in the middle of nowhere for the van. Once I'm mentally out of the race all I want to get is someplace warm. I was super sore, exhausted and everything I had on was soaked again from the wet snow. He told me another option is he could take me back to the Gateway check point on the snowmobile. It would be about an hour ride. I am not a genius, but I said I like that choice better. As I said everything was wet on me so that snowmobile ride was extremely cold! After about 50 minutes we took a sharp turn. The trailer we were towing with my sled on it went off the trail. He took a quick look back to make sure everything was still on the sled. Just then the trail turned again and we ran into a snow bank. I remember we were both flying through the air thinking this isn't happening! Fortunately with all the powder we had a soft landing. We had to push the snowmobile up right with our feet. Due to the soft landing no harm came to either of us. The snowmobile however was seriously stuck as I stood there shaking from the cold, he told me he would have to dig it out and I should start walking to stay warm. I remember thinking this is crazy! It felt like I was in the twilight zone! Fortunately it was only about a mile walk to Gateway. He would dig the snowmobile out and arrive at the same time as me.

Of the 43 racers who would start the race on foot only 7 would finish. It would be considered the toughest conditions for Arrowhead to date! I can't tell you how amazed I am at the 7 runners who finished! Fifth time will be the Lucky Charm! Woo Hoo! Show Up and Suffer!

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