Watching the Weather

One of the most vivid memories I have of my 50 states + DC quest was sitting on a chilly bus, driving up Blacksmith Fork Canyon towards the start of the 2000 Top of Utah Marathon. The heat was on in the bus, but that didn't matter. It was still cold and the breath of the runners had fogged up the windows, obscuring the view of the canyon we were driving up. Not that it mattered. At some point, someone wiped clear one of the windows and his words sent shivers through the bus.

"It's snowing..."

It was the end of September and a wet cold front had dipped low across I-80 and pushed backwards into the Wasatch mountains. Top of Utah was only my 7th marathon and my 5th road marathon and I was about to disembark a school bus into a snow storm, faced with running 26.2 miles. 

Why do I bring this up the week before the Breck Epic? Because that experience taught me several valuable lessons. Lessons that might come in handy as I keep one eye on the weather for next week. I was still novice marathoner at that point and the fancy tech clothes around today were in their infancy. But I'd followed the weather forecast and knew there was a chance for bad weather and had packed the warm clothes I had for running in at the time. I knew even then that I had no control over the weather - I just need to manage how I handle the weather that I am given. Heading into Breck Epic is no different - I have no control over what is currently looking like a potentially scary week of rain, thunderstorms and frozen mix. Yes, that's on one of the weather apps I have....
So what does that mean packing? Beyond the basics, it means Amber and I have to be ready to ride in potentially ugly weather. From head to toe, we need to be able to stay warm and dry so we can focus on the trail and ride smart. I know we will have access to washer and drier, but I'm taking a cue from my 24 hour racing to guide my packing. Pack the entire closet.... Seriously. Washing clothes after each stage isn't the best use of time. I need enough to get through at least the first three stages regardless of weather. Different weight rain coats for different conditions - some to just stay dry, some to stay dry and warm. Multiple weight gloves and hope I have a pair or two that survives well in the rain. I might need to borrow the surgical glove technique to keep my hands dry if all else fails. Arm warmers, knee warmers, baselayers - including my long sleeved wool shirts. Hats and headbands - again thin and warm even when wet. I also need to have clothes for warm days just increase the weather forecast changes between now and then. 

Helping pack - as usual!
For me, the most important part is my feet. I have a horrible time keeping my feet warm when I'm riding, especially when it's wet and cold. Booties are great, but when there's HAB, they get shredded in about five seconds. I've learned that the hard way every year at Vapor, alway sacrificing my booties on the Granite Mountain HAB to keep my feet warm. What I've found works the best is to double up the socks and wear a size up shoe. Stick with wool (my choice is the Swiftwick Pursits) and my feet are happy. That means I need to double my sock collection for the race, just in case! I'm hoping I can wear some of my fun Aspire stripes as well, but if the weather is at all questionable, I'll sacrifice whimsy for warmth. It's too long a race to take chances with feet getting cold and wet - and that's for just one stage! 

The sock collection I'm bringing with me... Some for warmth and some for whimsy!
At least in 24 hour racing, I have the ability to ride a lap and then get into dry clothes for the next lap. In Breck, we will be looking at 3-4 hours of riding with the potential of getting wet early. Make a mistake there and huge chunks of time might be gone for good. But I've raced in crappy weather before - from the Arizona Huricane at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo in 2011, to the race pausing downpour during the 2013 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. I've headed up into the mountains under clear blue skies only to find myself chased down the trail by hail and lightening. This is no different - except for the one-way traffic with a number plate. Either way, Amber and I have to be prepared to handle anything the mountains and the weather throw at us. And repeat for six days...


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