Sunday, February 15, 2009

The armor

Date: Feb. 14
Mileage: 30.1
February mileage: 396.4
Temperature: 17

I'm officially into the taper period of my training now, taking a few wind-down days to ride an easy two-or-so hours each day and sort my gear. I spent this morning collecting and trying on the clothing I plan to use in the race. I rarely wear it all together, "warm" as it is where I live, so I wanted to walk around in it for a while and make sure everything was comfortable and moved easily together. And I thought as long as I was trying it on, I might as well shoot pictures for a reference point when it's finally time to pack for this trip. So my photo essay today is "The armor:"

This is the base layer, an Under Armour syntetic-blend shirt, basic Canari bike tights with chamois, and RBH designs insulated high-rise vapor barrier socks. It looks like a silly super suit, so I struck a silly super hero pose.

The mid-layer is 2 mm neoprene shorts (to help combat that typically female problem of "cold butt syndrome"), a pair of Outdoor Research polyester long johns, J.B. Fields Icelandic wool socks, a Mountain Hardware fleece hat and a Go-lite vapor barrier vest. The vapor barrier vest is intended mainly to keep sweat from pooling near my back, where I will be carrying a backpack and several liters of water. It also works to funnel moisture up through my neck line, where it's easier to vent, so it helps prevent too much ice buildup on the inside of my shell. As you can see, this is the part of the photo shoot where fashion is thrown out the window.

Getting closer to the outer layer here: A pair of Arc'teryx soft shell pants, Mountain Hardware windstopper gloves and a polyester pullover. I haven't decided yet whether to go with this lightweight pullover or a Mountain Hardware Monkey Man jacket, which is furry and warm with a nice pocket but fits a little tight inside my coat, and feels a little over-warm above single-digit temperatures. Decisions, decisions.

This is likely what I'll look like for the bulk of the race. I have an Outdoor Research soft shell coat, a polar fleece balaclava and my Raichle mountaineering boots. I wrestled a lot with whether to wear these boots again or get a lighter pair of winter hiking boots and some N.E.O.S. overboots. All my experience with N.E.O.S., however, has been annoyance with walking in them and ripping up the nylon sides by pedaling in them, due to chain rub. There is enough walking and pedaling in this race that I started looking for ways to forgo the N.E.O.S. and still deal with overflow (these boots are waterproof to my lower shins, and I plan to wear gators, but I was looking for a waterproof layer that was knee-high or higher.) When I found one, these boots won out. I'm happy with their warmth and I'm comfortable walking in them for long hours, even though they're at least three sizes too big. And no, the boots don't have clipless cleats in them. I don't even like riding clipless in the summer with my road bike ... I can't fathom why anyone would try to deal with it in the winter when walking, ice buildup and heat loss is such a factor. :-)

I also wanted to note that the balaclava is probably the oldest piece of winter gear I own. I bought it at REI when I was a teenager because my neck was always freezing when I went snowboarding. No, I didn't care about fashion back then, either.

This is the rest of it, the 70-below-zero-windchill-I-hope-this-keeps-me-warm outer layer: A Mountain Hardware Subzero down parka with hood, a neoprene face mask, Oakley goggles and Outdoor Research shell mittens. The baggy layer on my legs are Wiggy's lightweight hip waders, a thin, waterproof nylon shell that will protect my boots and pants should I need to cross any open streams or overflow this year (Thanks to Martin for the suggestion). The hip waders are solely an on-off item for open water, to minimize the risk of ripping a hole in them. I also will be carrying a lightweight pair of nylon rain pants as an extra wind layer. I love the breathability of the soft shell pants, but I'm not totally sold on their wind-blocking abilities. The gear looks more like a moon suit than a super suit at this point. The bulk of it may seem like overkill, but I'd rather move slower with more confidence than faster with more uncertainties.

Still seems like a lot, huh? Now you see why I go on such long rides in the winter. It takes so long to get dressed that you might as well make it worth your while.