Dirt Rag Magazine

A look at the frozen fun of the Arrowhead 135

Photos by Jeremy Kershaw.

The Arrowhead 135 returns for its ninth running Monday, January 28, racing 135 miles on foot, bike, or ski across northern Minnesota at "hopefully the coldest time of the year."

With temperatures plunging well below zero, riders usually complete the course in about 24 hours and skiers and walkers taking up to two days.

With safety a big concern, there is a large list of mandatory survival gear that riders must carry, including a -20 degree sleeping bag and a whistle worn around the neck to call for help.

Words can’t really describe how treacherous and beautiful the conditions can be, so instead we rely on the work of photographer Jeremy Kershaw, who has completed the race on bike, ski, and foot. His photos and captions appear below. 

Though the Arrowhead 135 is a race of three potential disciplines, the fatbikes dominate the pre-race scene.

Only minutes before the start, racers are snug in their hotel room beds. It is a rude awakening to find yourself at the start line, 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, wondering how you might just pull this thing off.

The first 35 miles are flat and fast. Paradoxically, it is this section that weeds out many who have miscalculated their gear, food or clothing.

The Arrowhead is certainly a test of muscle, but the toughest challenges are often the mental ones faced alone.

If a rider is lucky, they will be part of a paceline of sorts. Having another set of tracks to ride in is often the difference between two precious miles per hour or a tough slog through fresh powder.

Perseverance: Drink on the half-hour: Optimism: Focus on the race: Push Push Push: Never give up

Miles and miles of classic, northern Minnesota terrain greet the racers: pine forests, frozen marshes and lakes, Aspen stands and endless Black Spruce bogs.

The first checkpoint offers a more traditional means of warming up the hands. One of the friendliest gas stations in Minnesota allows racers to refuel, check-in and thaw-out.

The Second checkpoint on Elephant Lake. A welcome flat reprieve from the miles of steep hills just climbed.

The Arrowhead 135 has a way of making you feel very small in the bigger world of Minnesota woods in Winter.

The mid-point check-in. A time to become a grilled-cheese eating zombie. And don a new pair of dry socks.

The cheerful glow of other bike lights is a very welcome site after miles spent alone.

The final check-point. Way after midnight. One more huge hill and then a relentless grind through the last 25 miles of Black Spruce frozen bog.

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