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Women of Arrowhead 135

The 2024 Arrowhead 135 race starts on Jan 29 and has 13 women signed up for the bike category. We reached out to the women with a few questions about their 2024 race and how they get through the darkest parts of winter fat bike ultra races. Enjoy the respones they wrote and photos from past winter ultras.

To learn more visit Arrowhead 135.

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The Arrowhead 135 is considered one of the hardest races on earth and takes place during the coldest time of year in the coldest place in the lower 48 states. On average, the finish rate is less than 50%. The races starts in International Falls, Minnesota and follows the rugged and scenic Arrowhead snowmobile rail.

Each year the race registration is done with a lottery style. Before being eligible to register, riders must have completed a prior Arrowhead 135, Tuscobia 160, Susitna, or similar race as well as finishing a 24 hour bike race, with minimum of 100 miles completed for off-road, or 200 miles on road.

We reach out to the women doing the bike category of this year's Arrowhead 135 and here were there responses:

Laura Hrubes

Photo by Rob Meendering

What brought you to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

I’ve wanted to do arrowhead for a long time, ever since I heard about it years ago. It’s taken years of increasingly longer and more challenging off-road and winter adventures to feel like I understood what something like arrowhead would actually take. A couple official Tuscobias and one solo Tuscobia on my own during the pandemic, the polar roll snowflake and polar roll ultra, the Green Bay winter ultra, some marjis, a bunch of Crushers, and more 100+ mile off-road adventures than I could possibly remember have brought me to a place where I feel ready to try. There’s really nowhere I would rather be than in the wild, desolate wilderness of the north country; it’s where I grew up and will always feel more like home to me than anywhere else. I can’t wait to be out there!

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

I’m not sure if you mean when the sun goes down and it gets dark, or when it feels dark. Dealing with the sun going down is something I practice, as it can feel overwhelming and scary. The experience feels a lot more intense in the dark and if you have any insecurities or fears they are heightened. But you do it enough and it becomes much less of a big deal. Be ready for the temperature to drop, be aware of your lights and gear and spare batteries and know where everything is and have it all ready to go (I always make sure I have a headlamp around my neck when the sun goes down) and the darkness becomes an adventure rather than something to fear. And if you mean darkness in a more metaphorical sense, the mental game is the hardest part! The most important thing is to fuel your body so you can keep feeling good. Whenever I start to feel discouraged or sad or defeated, I think “aha, I’m hungry, that’s my body telling me I need something right now!” Most of the time that takes care of it immediately. I have a bunch of mantras or affirmations ready to go that I can remind myself of if I need them…I chose this, I wanted to be here, I deserve to be here, people believe in me, it’s ok to be uncomfortable, right now is not forever and I’ll get through this, this is a privilege and I’m grateful, there’s a lot of people that would love to be able to be here and I owe this to them to try my hardest, etc etc etc. Music helps too, I usually have that handy for a pick me up if needed. Reminding myself that right now, everything is ok, and if it’s not, I’ll fix it. And at the end of the day, finishing what you started feels a whole heck of a lot better than quitting.

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

I decided this year that I would be very, very intentional with my gear, and support USA made and local companies as much as possible. To that end, all of my bike bags are made by Cedaero. I have a bunch of gear from Empire Wool and Canvas. I’ll be wearing base layers from Superior Fleece, an anorak from Wintergreen Ely, Steger Mukluks, and the best socks and hat on the planet from Hollow Alpaca. I’ve got a really cool tool kit setup from Johnny D’s Bike Bags. I’ll be using a Cold Avenger mask as well as needed. All of this stuff is, in my opinion, the best quality goods out there, and it’s all made by small companies in the USA. Local is beautiful.

Amanda Harvey

Photo by Jamison Swift

What Brought You to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

In 2016 I started racing at the NSC Velodrome. I was welcomed into the community and introduced to different types of racing. I started racing crits, road and had one ordeal of a gravel race. Fat biking started when I borrowed my husband's bike for a race in mashed potato snow. It was awful, but for some reason I wanted to do more. When I did the St Croix 40 in 2019, that was my longest race ever. Since then I've been building up to longer distances because they're more of an adventure than a race.

This is my 4th start at Arrowhead, I have 1 finish and 2 DNFs unsupported. I keep coming back because of the unique challenges of the race, no two years are the same, which gives me lots of things to learn and adapt to for the next year. I have lots of Minnesota pride in the people and the environment of the race.

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

If we're talking literal darkness, then that's the part I enjoy the most. The focus of the headlamp, the stars, seeing shapes in the snow.

Metaphorical darkness? I try to find the humor in the situation, or what is going well. "Sure I've been hiking with my bike on my back for 6 hours, but at least the weather is sunny." And also it's ok to cry; usually I feel better after and my tears haven't yet frozen to my face.

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

I'm excited to test out my Osto Arctodus at this year's race. There hasn't been much snow to play in yet this year, but it's handled my training rides like a champ.

Sveta Vold

Photo by Amy Broadmoore

What brought you to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

This is my AH135 #9 (finished 2 supported 3 unsupported as well as 3 DNF)

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

I love to be in the woods by myself. Lots of thoughts.

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

I always have LOTs of gear. It depends on the year and weather conditions . I did it in very cold and very warm conditions with lots of extra stuff as well as the minimum. But always after the race I have the stuff I never used and food I never ate. When we started to have the unsupported category - the only one I sign up for now - it is a changed game. The gear I use and the way I pack are all completely different now. In the unsupported category, the amount of the stuff you need is more. I hope one day that the unsupported category will take more attention than the supported category. You carry all you need without the option of warm check -points and drying out, and eating hot food at the check-point. Now it's all you have to take care of what is much harder.

Jill Martindale

What brought you to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

I've been to Arrowhead 5 times (3 finishes) and am looking forward to seeing the community again this year! I love winter ultras and have finished Tuscobia, Fat Pursuit, White Mountains 100, ITI 350, and ITI 1000 - AH is one of my favorites and one of the closest for me to get to, so of course I want to come play!

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

I keep myself pretty entertained with a busy mind - I'll make lists of things, celebrate the little victories, and daydream. I don't allow myself to say negative things out loud and try to avoid people who can be verbally negative while out on the trail. Laughing and making up jokes, sarcastically saying that I love things when they aren't that enjoyable - it all helps to trick my brain out of the dark times. It also helps to know that things will get hard, but that they won't be tough forever (so long as you're taking care of yourself.) Conditions will always get better - you just don't know when, or if it'll be while you're out there (ope!)

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

Studded 45NRTH tires are always a hit out on winter trails, and they keep me confidently riding when there could be a potential for ice. Their Wolfgar boots have always keep my feet toasty, too! My Salsa Beargrease is a comfortable bike that I like to play around with year-round, and spending time getting to know the bike loaded up with gear also inspires confidence. Removing any "what ifs" and doubts before race day means there's less negative and intrusive thoughts out in the cold, and I can spend more time listening for creatures out in the woods or day-dreaming about the grilled cheeses at Melgeoge.

Aga Fine

What brought you to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

I have done Arrowhead a few times and I just love this race so I keep on coming back. I bike a ton all year long. But I never have done anything like tour Divide. Lots of gravel stuff.

Love the winter I think I do well in this race because of my mountaineering background. I feel comfortable not being comfortable.

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

I just keep moving forward one pedal stroke at a time, or if I’m pushing my bike one step at a time. I break the trail into three checkpoints. I just tell myself I need to make it to the next check point. I never look at it as 135 miles all at once. I break it into mileage between check points. I talk to myself. I regroup at checkpoints. And at times as much as I love the solitude I really like running into other people on the trail.

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

I love my Salsa Beargrease. As to my bike I trust my mechanic that sets up my bike before the race. I always have a few pairs of hats and gloves/mittens so I know my hands always will be warm and dry. As long as your head is warm your core stays warm. OR mountaineering mittens I swear by them.

Claire Richard

What brought you to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

I've always enjoyed outdoor physical activity, but during COVID I was introduced to MTB and endurance cycling and dove in head first. Over the past 3.5 years I've done several ultra events including 906 events Crusher and Polar Roll Ultra, Lumberjack 100 and Coast to Coast along with some extended bikepacking trips with my partner, Ken. I love to challenge myself, am a little bit of a box checker and am ITI curious so Arrowhead seemed like the next logical step from PRU. I am looking forward to meeting more people in the winter ultra community!

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

I rely a lot on my competitive nature, but I guess I also pull from what I would consider a toolbox of mental exercises. These generally involve talking to myself in some way; hyping myself up, positive self talk, mantras, in the moment gratitude practice, letting myself feel my emotion and then making a plan with myself to make things better, picking a small goal to focus on that I know I can achieve and then building on that. I'll sometimes sing (badly) out loud or in my head and change lyrics to include something about spinning.

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

New to me this year for winter riding is a fur ruff that I put on the jacket I plan to wear most of the race. So far it's been one of my favorite pieces especially when snowing or windy; it makes a nice little micro environment for my face!

Beth Freymiller

Photo by Jamison Swift

What brought you to the 2024 Arrowhead 135?

There aren't many races that I make time for on the calendar every year, but Arrowhead is special. I love the course, the people at the checkpoints and the experience of the solitude on the trail. 2023 will be my third consecutive year. I love that the trail has been so different each year.

How do you keep the momentum going when things get dark?

I like to switch things up when things get dark. It's usually a good sign that I need to eat something, drink something or maybe hike a bike for a little while to warm up my toes.

Any gear highlights you want to mention?

I'm tinkering with my gear every year. I keep learning new things and am still trying to sort out the ideal layering strategy. If I had to pick a gear highlight, I'd say my onyx hubs. I love the quiet, quick engagement and how tough they are. I learned the hard way that a good set of hubs can make or break your race.




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