One of the world's most challenging endurance events kicks off Monday in International Falls, Minnesota, where brave souls on foot, on skis or atop bicycles will set out on a 135-mile journey over scenic – but tough – terrain.
The Arrowhead 135, as it's called, began in 2o05 and was even featured in the book "The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges" by Richard Hoad and Paul Moore, according to the official website of the "ultra-endurance event."
Though the race has seen temperatures as cold as "-30 to -40C/F," organizers Ken and Jackie Krueger write, competitors are in for a bit of a break this year (depending on what your definition of a "break" is). According to The Weather Channel, the International Falls area is in for temps in the mid- to high-20s. The lows are forecast to be in the teens.
Favorable weather conditions or not, participants are still facing a monumental challenge. It'll take place on the Arrowhead State Trail, which is marked by rolling hills, and "large areas of exposed rock and enormous boulders," a lot of which isn't passible during the warm weather months, the DNR says.
Runners, skiers and bikers (competitors can select from one of the three) will be "traveling around the clock" as they try to make the 7 p.m. deadline on Wednesday, Jan. 27 to complete the race, which ends at Fortune Bay Casino in Tower, Minnesota, the International Falls Journal reports.
The paper says the athletes – who number about 160 this year and come from across the U.S., Canada and other countries – are "required to carry mandatory survival gear" and will rely on a mere three checkpoints along the way.
And this is something they'll have to keep in mind – according to the Kruegers, the race has an average finish rate of less than 50 percent. It's even lower for new racers, and the 2014 finish rate – when temps were at a brutal minus 24 degrees – was a scant 35 percent.
That same year, one of the racers made headlines after circumstances forced him to drink his own urine on the trail. Facing serious dehydration, he mixed some snow and his urine inside a water bottle and drank the resulting liquid. "It saved me," he told GearJunkie.com. He ended up finishing second.