COMMUNITY JOURNALISM: Local athletes survive Arrowhead 135

Author is only fourth woman to complete event on foot

The Arrowhead Trail that awaits runners, cyclists and skiers. (Lisa Paulos photo)
The Arrowhead Trail that awaits runners, cyclists and skiers. (Lisa Paulos photo)

Editor’s note: Lisa Paulos, 52, is a native of Dubuque who has been a Cedar Rapids resident since 1982. She finished the Arrowhead 135 on foot this year in her second attempt. She became the fourth woman in the eight-year history of the event to do so.

By Lisa Paulos, Community contributor

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. — For those of us who love being outdoors in winter engaging in one of our passions, the Arrowhead 135 is the ultimate test of mind and body endurance.

While DNF usually stands for “Did Not Finish” at races, it also means “Did Nothing Fatal” at Arrowhead.

Athletes from Iowa — including one skier, three cyclists and one on foot — assembled for this year’s 135-mile on Jan. 30 on snowmobile trails from International Falls to the Fortune Bay Casino near Tower, Minn.

There are three check points along the way with cutoff times to be met. The fastest cyclists can complete the mileage in less than 16 hours, while the slowest people on foot squeak in under the 60 hour time limit. Conveniences are minimal, at best, with the second half of the race, 65 miles, offering no services other than hot and cold water at mile 108.

No outside support is allowed. Racers must be self sufficient, carrying mandatory survival gear for temperatures typically well below zero. The list includes a stove, fuel and pot for melting snow, if your water freezes or runs out, a sleeping bag rated to at least 20-below and a whistle worn around the neck in case of emergency.

Racers carry their own food and water, clothes and emergency tools and first aid for one to three days on the trail.

In the eight years the race has been held, there have been no deaths, but plenty of frostbitten fingers and toes and lots of cases of hypothermia. Race officials partner with local snow machine groups to patrol the trail during the event to check on the safety of racers. Those in danger are loaded into a rescue sled and delivered to the nearest cross road and the safety of a warm vehicle.

Iowans meeting the Arrowhead challenge this year were cyclists Craig Irving from Mount Vernon and Matt Maxwell and Nick Wethington of Ames. Lisa Paulos of Cedar Rapids finished on foot. All four are ordinary people achieving extraordinary goals.

Follow their lead and set your sights high. Find your Blue Zone and you will never go back.

Photo galleries, racer blogs and results can be found at 

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