The night before Arrowhead found me at the only Chinese restaurant in International Falls. I had just opened my fortune cookie and it seemed prophetic:
The only problem was that I wasn't facing defeat. I was taking the easy way out, not risking anything, by biking the race. I had planned on and trained for skiing all summer and fall only to be stymied by a lack of snow in December and January. It seemed like there was no other choice but to bike, but in the back of my mind I knew better. There was more I could have done. Days when I could have gotten out on roller skis, days when I could have skied on the river or on the golf course.
Even more prophetic was the back of the fortune cookie:
If ever there were a sign from the "master" this was it (I don't know about the numbers, maybe I should have played some roulette at the finish line casino).
The race was, in a word, uneventful. It was warm, too warm for Arrowhead. That took away some of the challenge, some of the cache of the race. It would be wrong to say that the race was easy. It wasn't, it was a hard ride and I was surprised by how difficult biking was, but it was too easy for my satisfaction. I never pushed myself to the edge of what I could do and pushing myself is why I go to races like this.
My goals for the race were not well defined. I had visions of doing the race in under 24 hours or at least under 30. Then I had ideas of touring the race, taking photos and not stopping to rest and refuel at any of the checkpoints. Those two goals didn't mesh well with each other and at different points during the race one or the other was ascendant. I didn't manage to accomplish either one. It was an unsatisfying way to race.
As the skiers and runners finished the race I couldn't help but feel somehow left out. Like they had had the full Arrowhead experience that I had denied myself.
All that said I did have a good time. It was great to see old friends and inspiring performances. Especially from Jason Buffington, Casey Krueger (who showed what a real skier can do), Lisa Paulos, Roberto Marron and Alica Hudelson. Those last three embody courage as the fortune cookie defines it. I will be back, just not on the bike.