By Dan Stinton
My social media feeds have been filled with comments on how cold it is, how many layers are needed and whether or not to wear a hat. Whilst sorting through my selection of hats, I also started taking a look at the conditions for the Arrowhead Ultra which began to put it all into perspective.
The Arrowhead is a 135-mile race across Northern Minnesota on rugged, scenic Arrowhead State Snowmobile Trail which took place on 28th-30th January. Clearly, conditions are always going to be tough during this race, but this year competitors had to face the polar vortex – the mass of low-pressure cold air that sometimes splinters off from the arctic and heads south, with temperatures dipping to -35⁰C and windchills reaching nearly -50⁰C.
Photo credit: Arrowhead Ultra
Before the start of the race, you need to pick your mode of travel, with a choice of foot, ski or bike. This year sees the 15th year of the race which has an average finish rate of less than 50% demonstrating the extent of the challenge. The organisers state that it’s recognised in the book “The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges” by Richard Hoad and Paul Moore as “one of the 50 toughest races in the world”.
As an added twist, you can also choose to go “unsupported” which means you’re not allowed food, water, or time to warm up at checkpoints. You can’t change your mind either, once you’re unsupported, there’s no backing down and using the facilities – its either finish unsupported or DNF.
Photo credit: Scott Rokis
Unsurprisingly only 52 of the 146 competitors reached the finish line. On bike, Jordan Wakeley finished first in 11:43:00 setting a new men’s record. Credit to second place Neil Beltchenko who finished in 13:27:00, but also competed the race as the first unsupported men’s biker. In total 39 bikers finished the race.
When it came to running, just 13 people finished, with Jovica Spajic and Scott Hoberg crossing the finish line in 36:09:00. First female runner, Faye Norby, finished in 48:34:00 at the same time as the first unsupported runner, Jeff Leuwerke. Just four people attempted the ski race and unfortunately, none of them finished.
We’ll be sure to give you a heads up when the entries open for next year!