Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arrowhead Gear Not-List

I got a lot of questions after Superior about my experiences and equipment for Arrowhead.  I was encouraged to write up a list of all my gear and I started working on one.  It was going to have photos and lots of detail and all that, but then I realized it wouldn't do anyone any good.

Seriously, I'm not trying to be a jerk.  There is a great gear list out there already.  It's the same list I use as I prepare for the race each year.  Besides, it really doesn't matter what brand of stove or pants I'm using.  There are plenty of good choices out there and just copying someone else would be foolish and dangerous at this kind of race.  What is important is that you try out the gear you are going to use.

I know how it sounds, and I've been on the receiving end of it, but it's the truth.  Go running, biking, skiing, and camping in the cold and see what works and what doesn't.  There's no other way.  There is time between now and the end of January to do that.

In the lead up to the 2006 Arrowhead I learned a lot.  I did a windy ride in 14f that told me my gloves weren't enough.  I slept on my back porch in the snow (and scared my roommates) on the coldest nights of December.  I rode 20 miles out of town and found out that I hated sardines.

There are a few tips that I can safely give you though.  They aren't super specific because what works for me might not for you, but here they are:
  • Your sleeping system is warm.  If you have the required gear you have a sleeping bag, pad, and bivy that will keep you alive and warm at -40f or lower.  When you pile a -20f bag, an insulated pad and a bivy together along with perhaps some down pants and jacket you might even be sweating!  Don't be afraid to use it because it's "too cold."
  • If something is wrong do something about it.  Feet cold?  Put on warmer footwear or socks.  Hungry?  Eat.  Hydration pack hose frozen?  Thaw it in your jacket.  Panicking or toughing it out won't help.  
  • You will sweat.  You are working hard.  Don't freak out.  Deal with it.  Unzip your jacket a bit.  Slow your pace.  Wear a man diaper if it makes you happy.  Try out some different layering systems in training, before it matters.  
  • Hands and feet are tough to keep warm.  Try layering gloves and mittens.  Step away from the cycling shoes and try pac boots.  Try socks on the outside of your shoes for extra insulation.  
  •  Again, don't freak out.  Do something about it.  That something might be getting in your sleeping bag and drinking something warm before you end up with frostbite and hypothermia. 
I am happy to answer specific questions on the blog, forum or Facebook, but I can't answer everything in one post or even a book.  Much of this is something you just have to find out for yourself. 

Backyard training at 10f back in '10.  If you look closely you can see some of my "secrets."

4 comments:

Death Rider said...

how do I grow an awesome beard? I have been trying for years but it doesn't grow in very well, I tried chops but everyone laughed at me.
Good advice on not panicking and doing something about it +1
Later; JP

Matt Maxwell said...

The secret is patience and not shaving. Getting started can be hard. It helps to be in college, stay up all night, and not go to class during the day. That way no one can see how patchy it is as it grows in.

MrDaveyGie said...

I started the 'not shaving' part, but having patience is something I really have to work at. :-)

C.J. Ong, Jr. said...

I have always wanted to grow a love patch but my Iron Maiden says no.

Nice piece Matt. Determine what works and abandon the rest.