Ok, so it’s a week to the day that I settled down for the night and experienced -25 C temperatures for the first time. Sure, it’s easy to keep warm; light a fire and get in your sleeping bag. Simples…
Some things went wrong though, mainly food and water.
My bike had a good setup, could have been lighter but it held my kit well and it was all accessible with ease. My down jacket and down hat were easy to get out and use, one of the key parts of my setup. My sleeping system was held with a rack and a wildcat harness, all quick to deploy. Food and spare clothing was kept in two separate, small panniers. Again, easy to reach. My frame bag kept my day to day snacks in, whilst my feedbags stores my water bottles.
Food, as highlighted, was my weakness. Running up to the race, I would train for four hours with a small snack. Thinking I was getting fitter and needing less fuel, I carried less snacky food with me.
For snacks, I carried 3 cooked sausages (each containing 1000 calories), one large bag of sweets, 4 carb bars, gels and energy sweets, two large bags of fruit n nut and a massive jar of copy-Nutella (3000 calories in one jar!). This should have kept me going with my main meals, 6 packages of food (500 calories each), several puddings and some high energy food drink mix thing (again 500 calories but in drink form). Washing it all down were some zero, salt tablets. Nice!
First weakness, drinks! I thought salt tablets would lower the freezing point and therefore, keep my drinks flowing. In principle, this works but in reality, it doesn’t quite work this way. Between a certain, the salt tablets keep the water from freezing but going lower than the threshold, it makes it worse. The minerals (?) in the salt make the water freeze quicker. Whoops! That’s why a lot of riders used hydration bladders, using body heat to keep the water warm (I avoided these as I didn’t want to get sweaty from carrying a bag on my bag and thus getting cold from the sweat). I carried two flasks with me (screw top not push top) and these worked well, so more flasks in future (jury is still out on the bladders).
Next up, snacks. Three negatives points on these; carry more as I function better snacking than large meals. Secondly, gels aren’t good in sub zero conditions as they freeze (who would have thought!) but these could be warmed up against my skin. Lastly, Nutella! If Nutella goes solid in the fridge, why did I think storing it in the worlds largest freezer (Arctic Circle) wouldnt result in solid Nutella. Next time, peanut butter works in sub zero.
Main meal wise, disaster [rolls eyes]. I’ve never really enjoyed dehydrated food, sit around boil water, add water, sit around for a dozen minutes and then consume! I came across Alpkits food section and saw some hydrated boil in the bag food that did not need a stove. Win. If my stove stopped working or I needed a quick fix, these were ideal (as did the chat section on alpkit suggesting these would work in the Arctic circle). In principle, they were great but reality, the food froze and was thus, useless! With it being packed food, I wasn’t sure if it was allowed to be frozen and consumed (this was the final straw 100km and I binned the race then and there – I’d been looking to my beef dinner for 30KM!). I also had a problem with my dehydrated food, I was directed to the kettle to pour hot water into my food to cook it but it hadn’t boiled and so, I poured cold water over my food and making it almost impossible to consume. Next time, I’ll check the kettle myself!
Future trips will see no Nutella, no emergency gels (pointless taking for an emergency hit if they’re frozen) and will see more cheese (mature cheese) and cooked meat snacks. Sweets worked fine as did fruit and nut mixes. No hydrated food will be taken and all main meals will be dehydrated.
Penultimately, batteries. I didn’t realise that (in simple terms) ultra lithium batteries give lower power than normal batteries. This means electronic devices register that your batteries are low when when they have full power. At the start line, I put in fresh batteries and by CP1 (10KM away), my GPS was reading that the batteries were half burnt. So I turned off my device to save for the second half of the race (the batteries actually lasted for a further 2 days after the race in similar weather conditions).
Lastly, the only piece of clothing that could have let me down was my outer coat. It was a half waterproof hard shell with a non-membrane soft shell body. I was hoping it would super breathable and for most part, it was but it did struggle with breathing in the waterproof part (the jacket would ice up on these section – I had concluded pre race a full waterproof would not work but I wasn’t anticipating that this jacket would struggle).
Future trips would see me carrying some hand and boot warmers (although one rider reported a 90% failure rate on these) and I thin pair of gloves to wear whilst carrying out tasks. Better fitting piggies would also be nice 👍