Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Sunday, July 26, 2020

100k in July

To offset Elspeth's discussion of the Screaming Barfies (a term I am thankfully unfamiliar with!) I will share a recent story of challenges with being too hot instead of too cold.

I've been known to do some endurance activities that even my other endurance athlete friends think is too crazy (TI V13TIV14Marji Gesick, etc).  Thankfully I have friends who are equally not quite right in the head and we can encourage each other to do these sorts of things.  Enter Artie and his proposal for a 100k roller ski this summer.

During a nice long Saturday morning ski in Afton, Artie talked about how he was planning to do this short little ski.  He had a route all planned out, a mid-way rest stop to refuel, etc.  It took me about 5k more of skiing to decide I wanted in.

After missing the first proposed date due to a minor injury scare we settled on making a go of it on Friday July 3rd.  As the date approached we were watching the weather.  Thankfully the prospects of storms appeared to be holding off.  Unfortunately we were still in the pre-storm sultry hot and humid conditions.  We planned a nice 5am departure to try to beat the heat.

The evening before I got everything all set.  Stocked a cooler with plenty of snack foods, appropriate recovery beverages, etc.  Swapped out my normal 2/3 combination of wheels on my Pursuits for a 2/2 combination.  100k seemed like plenty far I didn't need a little extra training resistance.  Seeing as I had a 45 minute drive to the start I set my alarm for something dumb like 3:30am.  I then promptly tried to sleep through what felt like pre-race anxiety of oversleeping and missing the start.

It wasn't too long and the alarm was going off and I was sipping coffee grabbing my goodies from the fridge and heading for the door.

Not off to the greatest start as I was getting my stuff out of the fridge at 4:00am.

We arrived at John's house at 4:45 ready for a long day.  John lives right off of the trails at Elm Creek and his place would serve as a nice launching off point, mid-event refuel stop, and a nice post event recovery.  John was going to join us for the first 40-50k and then switch over to a bike and trailer during the second half to keep us fueled.

Artie and I ready to get going before the sun even crested the horizon.

Dave B was our other companion for the first half of the adventure.  Shortly after 5am the four of us rolled out from John's to make our first partial circuit of Elm Creek.  Artie's route had us covering all of the trails in Elm Creek going each direction and then a pair of out and back trips to the Coon Rapids Dam.  It made for a great route since the only repeat section was the trip to the dam.

Sunrise over the steamy prairies in Elm Creek.

Right off the bat things were pretty warm.  It wasn't hot yet, but the humidity was high.  The mist hanging in the air as the sun rose was beautiful but I was already sweating despite a super easy pace.  We rolled along comfortably chatting about how we had a long day ahead but we felt great and were just coasting.

26k and 1:45 in we were at the dam for the first time.

Rolling back to Elm Creek to complete our first circuits we met up with Dave C, Bonnie, and Mark who started at a more rational hour of 7:30 and were going to join us for a while.

Rolling at the back of a nice train of skiers.

At just shy of 4 hours we rolled back into John's at 55k for a quick break to refuel.  I changed socks and boots, shoveled about half a loaf of garlic bread in along with a stack of Chewy Chipsahoy cookies.  I also took a couple of enduralyte electrolyte pills and a bunch of water.

About 18 minutes later we were back on the trails again to knock out another 45k.  How hard could that be?

Dave B joined us for just a bit longer before turning back and calling it a day.  I think he skied about 68k on the day.  Then we were onto the long very gradual downhill roll to the dam again.  I found myself on the back of the train and then yo-yoing off the back as my effort was going sky high trying to hang on.  My HR was climbing out of the L1, this is easy, I could do this all day, very quickly into no mans land, I'm not sure I can do this for a few more hours territory.

It was definitely getting warmer too and the sun was coming out.  I'm guessing it was upper 80's by this time and the humidity was still high.  I was definitely quietly sitting in my own little cave of misery at the back.  I've done enough of these to know signs.  When this happens people either find their way out of the bad patch, or the disappear and drop out.  Only time would tell what was going to happen to me.

After a short stop to refill our already empty water at the dam we turned around to head back towards Elm Creek.  The stretch back to Elm Creek is just a long false flat uphill.  The group had me lead to help set the pace instead of being the anchor.  Despite trying to set my own pace I just could not get my heart rate to come back down.

Just a few km shy of Elm Creek, St. John came rolling the other way down the trail with is trailer full of goodies.  We took another short break to refuel and try to work out some cramps that were beginning to plague Artie.

St. John and his trailer of salvation.

Artie had stocked the trailer with a gallon of Arnie Palmer.  That surgary nectar was a good pick me up.  This would be the inflection point of the ski.  Artie was just beginning to feel the effects of the heat and was starting the process of having various areas of his body cramp up.  Unknown to me just yet, but this is where I started to climb back out of the pain cave.

Artie took his boot off to try and work out some of the foot cramps.  To say there was some sweating going on was a bit of an understatement.

After a 10 minutes stop we decided we better get moving again or the last 20k would not just magically finish themselves.

Just 20k to go.  Piece of cake right?

We dropped Dave, Mark, and Bonnie back off at the chalet and Artie and I pressed on with St. John and his trailer in tow for the final 14k outer loop of Elm Creek.  Bonnie, Mark, and Dave C all did 55.5k.  Dave was adamant we not leave off that half a km.

Artie was starting to come apart at this point.  First a leg would cramp.  Then the shoulder blades.  Then the triceps.  He gamely kept skiing on but he was all on will power at this point.

I wouldn't say that I felt good, but I didn't feel bad either.  Hot and tired, but no cramps or the nausea I've come to expect with these really hot events.  We just kept plodding along, inching ever so close to the finish.  The final little climbs on the north east side of the park felt like Bitch Hill.  But finally we were over the last one and it was pretty much all downhill to the finish.

At the end I had 101.2km and 7 hours and 47 minutes elapsed time, 7 hours exactly moving time.  High temp on the day was recorded as 90F about an hour after we finished.

We grabbed some chairs and tried to cool off in the shade of John's garage.  Without going into too many details, Artie gave me a bit of a scare as the heat really hit him hard.  We got him inside finally and then the cramps hit him hard!  To pair with Elspeth's Screaming Barfies, we can call this the Screaming Crampies.

Things finally settled down though and apparently it wasn't so bad, Artie is talking about giving it another go in September as there are a few other crazies who think 100k roller ski sounds like fun.  And to answer anyone's questions of why you might want to join us, in the immortal words of George Mallory, "because it's there".

Thumbs up post the worst of the cramps.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Screaming Barfies

I’ve purposely published this blog in the middle of summer when the Screaming Barfies are as far away from us as possible (unless you happen to be reading this in Antarctica). Hopefully this will prevent anyone from actually puking at the thought.

Perhaps some of you have heard the term “Screaming Barfies” before, but I first learned about it last winter when, you guessed it, I was in the middle of the Screaming Barfies.

So what are the Screaming Barfies? It’s that really really intense pain we feel when our fingers or toes are thawing after getting them really cold. It makes us want to scream and vomit. I’m guessing most of my readers have experienced this at some point and you’re probably starting to feel a bit nauseous even though it’s a tropical 80 degrees outside.

After yet another experience with the Screaming Barfies last December, I decided to try to prevent this from ever happening again. I’ve already resorted to some crazy measures in the past like wearing my really really warm mittens for the coldest skis but I decided to take an even more bold move and get battery powered gloves.

Oh, wow, these sure look warm! The fingers are just glowing red!

My first ski with these was under relatively “balmy” conditions: 9 ℉ with a windchill of -6 ℉. The gloves came with 3 settings and I mistakenly thought the coolest of the three would be adequate. A big problem with these bulky gloves was getting them into my pole straps. With my big mittens, I’ve previously taken my hands out of the mittens, then used my bare hands to pull the mittens through the pole straps. I did this with the new heated gloves thinking that because they were heated my fingers would immediately warm up but this wasn’t the case.

Here you can see the battery pack. It fits into a pocket in the cuff.

I increased the setting on the gloves to the warmest setting (making the button glow red in the night causing lots of questions from fellow skiers) but I only felt a mild amount of warmth coming from them and my fingers still got cold. After I did a couple intervals my hands warmed up nicely and they stayed so until I felt a sudden coldness. Uh-oh, maybe the battery died? Sure enough, the left battery died (so the button no longer glowed) and shortly thereafter the right battery died as well. My fingers got cold again as we were at a Vakava technique practice. I ended up splitting my intervals on either side of the technique practice and my fingers got super cold until I returned to doing intervals. It took until my third interval before my fingers finally warmed up and when they did so it was a mild case of the Screaming Barfies. And so my first ski session with the heated gloves ended with the Screaming Barfies!!!

I decided to give these gloves a try a few days later. This time I made sure to charge them to their full value. Temperatures were again similar to a few days previous. This time I put them on the warmest setting. I skied for 2 hours, the maximum battery life. They worked- but just barely.

After these two encounters with the battery powered gloves, I was done. They were super bulky, difficult to get through my pole straps, and limited to two hours of charge assuming I had remembered to charge them. And they barely worked under what I considered mild conditions.

The battery fits inside the zipper compartment. The button that looks like it has a knight on it is how the gloves turn on and off and what glows!

I went back to using good old fashioned mittens on the cold days. What I like about mittens is that all of my fingers stay together and if they get really cold, I can ball them up to my palm to warm them- although that really only works if I’m no-pole skiing. I also have a pair of lobsters without separators between every finger and these tend to be my go-to lobsters.

My old-fashioned mittens
My go-to lobsters
On the really cold days, I use my super mittens. Yeah, I know I look ridiculous, but especially for the short skis these are a game changer. As I get older my tolerance for frozen fingers is decreasing and I want to avoid the Screaming Barfies.

My super mittens. An absolute must for those -20 skis!
I also use nitrile gloves inside my mittens or lobsters on the cold days when I ski for longer than 1.5 hours and thus risk my fingers getting cold again from the sweat on my gloves. And in general I try to dress a bit warmer- often wearing a big vest for the beginning of the workout- and then shedding clothes as I get warm.

Of course, there’s also those air-activated disposable hand and foot warmers. Maybe I’m just too cheap to use these but I find that they are worthless in gloves where they can’t directly heat the fingers. They provide the best benefit in ski boots when sticking them on my socks over my toes inside my ski boots.

After that case of the Screaming Barfies last December, I haven’t had a bad one since. Maybe if I play it smart and keep using mittens if the temperature warrants I can avoid the Screaming Barfies indefinitely. That would be really really nice.

There are many brands of battery powered gloves and perhaps if I kept searching I could find some I like but my first experience deterred me from wanting to try anymore.
Just a reminder of what the cold days can look like- here I am immediately post sub-zero ski. I used my super mittens this day.