I've just been informed via email that i'm now admitted (pending payment) to the Arrowhead 135 race this february. The field was initially capped at 75 but due to overwhelming interest this year (last year only 59 lined up at the starting line) the DNR has been successfully lobbied to increase the limit.
The race is staged in International Falls, MN, which is regarded as the 'icebox of the nation' since it has the record for the coldest average temperature in the contiguous united states. It's part of a series of three 135 mile ultra-marathons that includes the notorious bad-water ultra that has participants running from the depths of Death Valley to Whitney Portal (base of Mt. Whitney) in the heat of summer. I guess the planners figured they had a hot weather race and needed something similarly grim at the other extreme and chose the location accordingly.
Because not very many people are crazy enough to run 135 miles along snow-mobile trails in the middle of winter, the race directors created two additional categories that allow for entrants to ski or bike if they don't want to run. Decisions don't have to be made until race day, so some people even bring all the gear and then decide based on the conditions at the time. I myself tried to complete the course on foot two years ago and made it just over half way (70 miles) to the only 'aid' station - a chalet at elephant lake where racers are allowed to come inside, warm up, and eat hot food provided by volunteers. My feet were a horrible mess and i lost the will to continue after i was told i had been disqualified because i was running with my brother, who hadn't paid the entrance fee (long story) - which meant i was 'receiving assistance from a non-racer'. For a long time i used the disqualification as my excuse for not finishing, and although it did probably contribute somewhat to my decision to drop, the over-riding reason was, truth be told, great amounts of pain (i mentioned in a previous post what a wimp i am when it comes to really bad blisters).
This year I'm biking. A friend of a friend who's attempted the ride a number of times offered his bike up for a worthy soul to use (although not everyone does, most riders use pugsley bikes in an effort to 'float' over the snow) and apparently i qualified. i'd been interested since my attempt on foot to bike it but was simply financially unable and unwilling to shell out several thousand dollars for what would amount (most likely) to one race - but with the generous offer, this problem has been solved. Now all i have to do is figure out how to train, on three hours a week, for a race that will likely take 8 times that long (if i'm lucky). Biking has always been my weak point, but i'm a bit burnt out on running at the moment so excited to be diving in and taking on a new challenge.