Editorís note: Lisa Paulos, 54, is a Dubuque native who has lived in Cedar Rapids since 1982. She finished the Arrowhead 135 on foot in 2012 in her second attempt. This year, she wasnít as fortunate.
By Lisa Paulos, community contributor
INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. ó Another DNF.
I Did Nothing Fatal and I Did Not Finish due to cold temperatures. International Falls is the ďIce Box of the Nation.Ē
Expectations were high for me this year to finish pulling a puck. Itís the traditional way to haul gear. With one success using the pushsled, I knew what to expect. I teamed with friends Laurie Tulchin and Bonnie Busch. We have dozens of ultra run and bike finishes between us and are seasoned to the preparation and hardships of such events. We also are aware of the feeling we get when completing tough challenges.
Before sunrise on Jan. 27, 2014, the temperature in International Falls was minus-24 with a favorable northwest wind at 10 to 15 mph. The day would warm to minus-12 with lots of sunshine.
Officially their were 142 starters ó 84 cyclists were off at 7 a.m., two skiers at 7:02 and 56 of us on foot at 7:04.
As we set out toward sunrise and the new day, out support person, Jim Glasgow, loaded up his truck with drop bags for the halfway cabin at the MelGeorge Resort at Elephant Lake, mile 70. We followed the endless string of blinking lights and reflective material. The route starts and stays on the Blue Ox snowmobile trail for nine miles, then makes a sharp left turn to join the Arrowhead Trail.
The Gateway checkpoint closes at 9 p.m. We arrive at 6:30. Family and friends of racers can help us at checkpoints, but not anywhere else along the route.
With an overnight temperature forecast to get to minus-35, I opt for dry socks, warmer packers and mukluks for my feet. I stow the winter running shoes in the puck.
Laurie and I set out at 7:55. The second leg of the trail from Gateway to MelGeorgeís is much hillier. We are running down the hills and walking mostly on the flat section. We are moving along and in good spirits. The stars are brilliant and our headlamps help find the sweet spot in the trail.
We plan to stop at Shelter 3 for a little rest break. I expect to see it a little later than midnight. Usually a welcome break with a fire going, this year Shelter 3 was dark and empty. We didnít stop because there was no point.
Shelter 4 is another 4 hours at best, but also is empty, dark and cold.
We are told race organizers Ken and Jackie Krueger have a little hut set up with a propane heater. It will be no Taj Mahal, but it is a beacon. Itís 3.7 miles. We press on.
Iím doing the math. Neither of us are eating, we have cold hands and my feet are getting cold.
We make it to the hut. Itís smaller than a childís playhouse. Laurie and I discuss withdrawing.
Jim, his truck and Darrell Busch are outside. My decision is made. Laurie struggles with the situation. We waited about 30 minutes in the warm comfortable truck for Bonnie to arrive. It is 4 a.m., the temperature was minus-31 and there would be no more snowmobile support until 8 a.m.
We are all disappointed.
There is a circular component to the Arrowhead Ultra 135. If you donít finish, you want to come back and do better. If you finish, you want to come back because the dividends paid are huge.I think weíll all be back next year.