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REGIONAL — It doesn’t matter if it’s frigid enough to grow a full mustache and beard of ice, or just warm enough to catch hypothermia from freezing sweat, the Arrowhead 135 ultra marathon from …
REGIONAL — It doesn’t matter if it’s frigid enough to grow a full mustache and beard of ice, or just warm enough to catch hypothermia from freezing sweat, the Arrowhead 135 ultra marathon from International Falls to Tower never fails to deliver a long and grueling expedition to its racers. This year’s 11th annual 135-mile backcountry race on the Arrowhead State snowmobile trail was no different.
When the race’s runners, bikers and skiers jumped from their starting-line-jitters early Monday morning, it was 24 degrees and a fresh four inches of powder lay on the ground. Beyond the mental and physical challenges that come with the intensity of 135 miles, marathoners faced the risk of hypothermia from sweaty clothing, over-exhaustion from trudging through soft snow, raw blisters from wet socks and shoes, and twisted ankles or worse from slipping on awkward rocks and roots hidden underneath a thin layer of snow.
“It was basically four inches of mashed potatoes you were running through,” said Joe Weise, one of Ely’s two Arrowhead 135 runners.
Weise ended up withdrawing from the race about 60 miles in at Sheep Ranch Road on Monday night due to severe blistering on his feet.
“Everything was so wet,” he said. “When your feet are that wet, and they’re taking that much of a pounding, they just blistered up.”
Weise was among 22 of the runners to drop out by the Timberjay’s deadline at noon on Wednesday.
“This race is crazy,” said Weise. “You have no margin for error. You don’t have the time or the conditions. These are world class athletes dropping out of this race regularly … They’re fit enough to do 135 miles. It’s the variables that do it.”
By the time Wednesday rolled around, however, more than the average 47 percent were finishing.
“We could finish maybe 120 racers,” said race volunteer Russ Loucks. “That’s way high.”
By noon, 104 of the 205 racers had finished at the Fortune Bay Resort Casino. Seven of the 84 bikers dropped out and three were left to finish. One of the four skiers survived to the end and another dropped. And 19 of the 66 runners had made it.
Ely’s second race participant, runner Jerritt Johnston, was “just about to finish” as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Needless to say, he couldn’t talk at the time for an interview.
On top of a higher than normal finishing rate, both the men’s and women’s running records were shattered.
Runner Marcus Berggren, of Sweden, came into the finish at 5:20 p.m. on Tuesday to win the men’s title in 34 hours and 20 minutes, just under three hours of Duluth’s Jason Buffington’s now-defeated record.
Sue Lucas, of Manitoba, was the first woman runner and eight overall. She crossed in 42 hours and 31 minutes to break Alicia Hudelson’s record of 47 hours and 59 minutes.
Though no records were broken in the bike race, the finishing sprint exuded just as much excitement with the top four racers finishing within four seconds.
Jorden Wakeley, of Michigan, peddled over the finish line at 10 p.m. on Monday night in 15 hours flat. Just one second behind him, Tim Bernston, of Alaska, came in.
Defending champion, Jay Petervary, of Idaho, was inches behind Wakeley, finishing in 15 hours and two seconds.
The first female biker, Tracey Petervary, of Idaho, made it to Tower at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday in 18 hours and 27 minutes. She was 18th overall.
As for the ski race, Steve Schuder, of Duluth, won in 34 hours and 51 minutes at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
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