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Charlene Barach
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2003 Coldest Century - Winnipeg, Manitoba
February 23, 2003

Today I lost my mind . . .

I woke up at 7:15 am and proceeded to get ready for my February century. When I turned on the TV I noticed that the temperature was -32C/-25F. Sorta cold. So I dressed in three layers plus my jacket and windpants. I used my Sorel winter boots on platform pedals. On my head I used a fairly thick headband, a balaclava, a scarf-like thing for around my face, and my helmet. On my hands were mini-gloves with heavy wind-proof mitts. On the exposed part of my face I smeared J&J's Daily Protection Cream, the same stuff I use to prevent saddle sores.

I hit the road at 8:00 am and within minutes my gears and one brake had frozen up. I did 20K on the first loop and then took a break at home where I made a couple mistakes. I didn't eat enough, not realizing how much energy I was expending out there, and I donned the same scarf-like thing which was still wet from the frost that had formed all over it. It froze solid after a few minutes.

I did 24K on the second loop and by the end I was bonking, but I made it in and ate quite a bit. This was when the mental struggle began. It was up to -25/-14F by now but it still felt very cold and it would have been so easy to just stop. I struggled with that for the rest of the way.

Two more 24K loops brought me to 92K, and at that point, even though we had reached the high for the day of -20C/-4F, the wind had picked up and I could not do another one of those loops. It was now just after 5 pm. I had been on the road for 9 hours and still had a long way to go.

So I set off in a different direction and did another 21.5K. By the time I finished that, the sun had set and I had decided on a 3.5K loop that went by my apartment for the remaining kilometers. 14 of these loops would do it.

Midway through the first set of 7, the temperature really started dropping again. Then on the last loop of that 7 some idiot threw a bottle out onto the bit of good pavement (the rest was covered in snow and ice) on one spot of my loop. I road through it trying to avoid it, but fortunately my tires were fine.

My last set of 7 laps started with a temperature of -27C/-17F and a windchill of -36C/-33F. That was the only time they reported a windchill all day. Fortunately for the most part, the wind was light but even so, I still create a windchill as I ride. I sang songs to myself all the way through those last 7 laps to pass the time ... mainly "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

I finally arrived home at 11:20 after 15 hours and 20 minutes. That's total ride time. I think I took 7 breaks of about half an hour, so my total road time would have been about 12 hours. My average speed on the road was 13.5 km/h (8.4 mph). I just could not get any speed up the whole time.

That was the longest, hardest, coldest, most exhausting, most mentally challenging century I have ever done! I do not want to ever do another century at those temperatures. But for now, I successfully completed my February century.

Some tips for riding in temps like that:

1. Every second break I had to change my top layer (not the jacket and windpants). The first two layers I had did a wonderful job of wicking the moisture away from me . . . and into the third layer. It was soaked.

2. Every break I had to change the scarf-like thing I was wearing for something else. Then I hung whatever I was not using above the heater so it would dry. They were completely covered in frost and ice by the time I got in.

3. Every so often I had to change gloves/mitts because they too got too wet.

4. Almost every time I stopped, I added more J&J's Daily Protection cream to my face - that stuff has not only saved me from getting saddle sores, but it also saved my face from freezing.

5. I used all my heat packs and made an interesting discovery. The ones designed for feet last maybe 3 hours at best (despite the fact that they say they should last at least 6). The ones designed for hands lasted about 6 hours (despite the fact that they say they last about 8 hours). I started using the hand ones in my boots because they would last longer.

6. The heat packs are also useful for opening the waterbottle after it has frozen solid.

7. Despite the fact that I didn't feel like drinking, I was dehydrated by about 68K in and had to consume a lot of liquid on that break to get myself back to something like normal.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." -- Anne Bradstreet

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