Arrowhead 135 starts at International Falls, in northern Minnesota, the Icebox of the Nation, in January. International Falls stands at the border with Canada and has a gritty feeling to it. The race is gritty too, from the start, when Race Director Krueger hollers “Release the hounds!” as he pulls the trigger on the gun, in the morning darkness. Winter ultras offer unique and high levels of uncertainty: snow condition and depth, temperature and temperature fluctuations, and weather. The race is mostly self-supported: a gas station, a couple of drop bags, some access to hot water, a few emergency sheds along the way. You can run it, bike it, or ski it. It is a beautiful race.
I ran Arrowhead in 2015 and finished sixth after 40 hours and 30 minutes of effort. It was unseasonably warm and the snow turned into mush. This and, ironically, the heat, were the leading factors that made competitors quit. Mismanaged heat leads to sweat, and to foot problems.