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  1. #1
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    Jeny and The Race.


    Around about this time of year -- if you are of a certain mind -- it becomes impossible not to think about riding (or racing, depending) the Iditarod Trail Invitational in AK. I participated in some variation on that event for almost 20 years, and that sort of addiction doesn't just go away without a 12 step program. At minimum...



    I am neither racing nor riding this year. Won't even be in AK.



    But my lovely wife Jeny has been bitten by that bug, and is deeply immersed into her planning, prep, and training for the event.



    She won't be racing, will emphatically be touring the route. Even with all of the online info available (maps, gps tracks, trip write-ups, etc...) for a rookie it's very difficult to be competitive. Add in work stress and commitments and it just isn't reasonable for Jeny to commit the time to training that she would need to really race. She gets that, and she's OK with it. In some ways, removing the pressure of racing makes the event more alluring, in that you know you won't be suffering, head down the whole time -- you give yourself permission to look around, sniff the roses as it were.






    Laying the foundation: A schedule of ride days (and nights, after work), recovery days, and days devoted to gear prep.




    All my years of racing I was so immersed in planning, prepping, and training, that I didn't have time to really share the process as it happened. In some ways that's good -- it's not that exciting.



    In other ways it's a bummer, because there are lots of opportunities to be creative as you ready yourself for the ITI. Even though fatbikes and the associated accoutrements are a dime a dozen these days, the nitty gritty decisions that you need to make to arrive at Knik truly prepared for the route are anything but obvious unless you live there. And we live a very, very long ways from there.



    So, over the next ~month+ I'll be documenting, a little at a time, Jeny's path toward the ITI. Not having done this before I'm not exactly sure how it's going to shake out. Bear with me, and feel free to ask questions as we go -- or even in advance if there's something you really want to know more about. I'll do my best to accommodate.

  2. #2
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    Cool.
    --Peace

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    Awesome!

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    Just showed this to the wife, it's on her bucket list to try it will be good for her to see what goes in to the process.

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    Thanks for sharing. Probably a bucket list item for lots of people, but there aren't too any soup-to-nuts resources out there for everything one needs to take into consideration for such an event.

    Even if not racing, doing the ride "as a tour" at race time is probably smart because your chances of receiving support if something goes wrong along the way are probably significantly higher (more frequent support opportunities, checkpoints expecting riders).

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    Bucket list? I'm sure there are many steps in between buckets, this ain't no casual jaunt.

    So Mike, you're not going to be support?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    So Mike, you're not going to be support?

    Pre-race, yes, in that when she has questions or concerns I have some experience to share.

    During the race? No support allowed -- you've got you to take care of you, and that's the way it should be.

  8. #8
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    Stoked to follow this as it's a bucket list item of my own to do a long tour. Very interested in how she carries her gear and what essential items are in it.

    But i won't ask for a gear list!

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    This will be interesting from so many perspectives.
    Will she be gracing us with any guest appearance posting?

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    I will be following this endeavor!

    I have never thought about running fatbike races until this year. Being friends with a couple of mushers that race in the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest has only stoked my interest in these events...even if it is dogs vs. bikes!

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    Look forward to seeing what you have to share as my wife is doing her first ITI this year. This should be a good cross check for her preparations. Thanks again for sharing Mike.

    OE

  12. #12
    Rippin da fAt
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    Mikesee, that sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime for your better half. Hope the Mrs. has a successful and safe time as she takes on such a challenge. Best wishes to both of ya in this endeavor!
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  13. #13
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    Awesome - I am really looking forward to reading about her race preparation process!

    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Even with all of the online info available (maps, gps tracks, trip write-ups, etc...) for a rookie it's very difficult to be competitive.
    Last year the second place and third place finishers both were rookies. I would expect it is definitely harder though.

    I hope Jeny has a great ITI, and enjoys preparing for the race!

  14. #14
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    The Golden Rule.


    Jeny and I spent yesterday afternoon, evening, and a good chunk of today "out" riding in the snow.


    And while it'd be easy to assume, given where she's going and what she has planned, that that meant we put in a large volume of hours or miles, that's not the case. At all.


    Why not?





    Because first and foremost, you have to survive the ITI.


    Or, to put it in the words of perennial contender and Nome-record-holder Jeff Oatley, "It's not a bike race".





    For the folks whom choose to contend the event on foot or skis, they just slapped their collective foreheads, muttered "duh", and closed this tab.





    Put simply, pedaling and pushing a bike is the easy part of the ITI, and anyone that's been vetted (it is an Invitational, after all) and accepted into the race has probably got that part figured out already.


    The more challenging aspect of the event is taking care of one's self in the subarctic for a ~week, while trying to make reasonable progress every day. Setting aside the 18+ hours of pedaling (and pushing) you're doing every day, you also have to take care of your feet, dry sweaty clothes (or learn to not wet them out in the first place), keep your bike functioning, and get a little R+R so that you can get up and go again tomorrow.





    In short, it behooves one to learn to take care of themselves first. Forward motion comes fairly easily if you've got that other part figured out.


    To that end we spent a good chunk of our "out" time fiddling with layering. Managing moisture is *difficult* when the temps are (relatively) warm, the snow is soft, your tire pressure is barely measurable, and you're manhandling a 70# bike. It is work. Some people would say it's impossible to NOT sweat in that situation. I say those people are either lazy or inexperienced, and if they've finished the ITI without learning to NOT sweat, then they're also probably really lucky.


    My golden rule for success at the ITI is simple:


    You aren't allowed to sweat.


    If you sweat out your layers mid-day, and then night comes, the temps drop below zero, and your clothes are still wet, you've dug yourself a pretty good hole. Options include continuing to move until you can enter a warm building and dry out your gear, or stopping to build a fire to do the same. The former assumes that buildings are handy when you need them: On this route they usually aren't. The latter is more likely, but costs you time: It's difficult to go fast if you have to keep stopping to dry out layers. It's much faster, big picture, to learn to layer and moderate your effort such that you aren't sweating to begin with. Go slow to go fast.





    Want to know the biggest secret to success in winter layering?

    You don't need nearly as much as you think.

    Speeds are generally slow and effort is usually high. The slow speeds keep evaporative cooling to a minimum. The effort produces heat.

    Now read that ^ again, because there isn't much more to it.

    Want to vent excess heat? Unzip your jacket and pit zips, maybe take off your hat. Doing so dumps heat and replaces it with cold outside air -- and the cooling happens fast.





    Getting cold, need to warm up? Put your hat on, close your zippers. Doing so removes wind from the equation, and allows your internal combustion engine to re-warm that micro-climate inside your outer shell.

    Is it *just* that easy? Of course not, but that's the basic premise, and there's not a whole lot of reason to complicate it.


    Over this weekend Jeny experimented with many different weights, materials, and combinations in her layers: Wool vs. plastic, down vs. synthetic, water proof breathtables vs. water resistant softshells.

    What has she decided on? Positively nothing yet -- but she's learning to ask questions, draw conclusions, and formulate answers, all in the classroom of the real world.

    Late in the ride today, with the sun already down, the wind coming up, and a big climb just behind us, she stopped, dropped, and fired up her stove to melt snow -- both to drink and to rehydrate a snack. The end of the ride was close and we could have easily finished without this break. But it is precisely this devotion to practicing these important rituals overandoverandover that builds a level of comfort and confidence -- in both yourself and your equipment -- that can make all the difference in a worst case scenario when deep into this event.

    The time to make mistakes is *now*, so that you can learn from them, internalize the lessons, then practice again tomorrow.


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    Not sure if this question is appropriate or not, if not I apologize and just ignore it. I wondered what her background is with riding? I'm not questioning her ability, I'm wondering what most consider a starting point to take on something as huge as this. I know there are qualifying events for the race, but I'm sure they aren't even close to making one really prepared for this.

    Anyone that lines up to starting line of this event has got a boatload of courage, that is for certain. Good for her, I will keep you guys in my thoughts and prayers.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeduda View Post
    Not sure if this question is appropriate or not, if not I apologize and just ignore it. I wondered what her background is with riding? I'm not questioning her ability, I'm wondering what most consider a starting point to take on something as huge as this. I know there are qualifying events for the race, but I'm sure they aren't even close to making one really prepared for this.

    Anyone that lines up to starting line of this event has got a boatload of courage, that is for certain. Good for her, I will keep you guys in my thoughts and prayers.

    She's been riding off-road her whole life. Raced for a bit and had some success, but the stress/anxiety of racing wasn't her thing.

    She's been bikepacking for years including several multiday trips. She's owned and ridden a fatbike, in/on snow, for 4 years now. Some winter camping experience from ice climbing/mountaineering awhile back.

    In short, none of this is "new" to her per se. But putting it all together in this specific way is very new, and it isn't as easy as it might seem at first blush.

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    Mike, Without derailing the intent of the thread; which is certainly interesting to watch unfold, how one goes about preparing for an event of this commitment. Would you please give some of your thoughts on tire/wheel considerations for the bike that is being put together for this event, being you have first hand experience in what to expect? Thank you

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post



    To that end we spent a good chunk of our "out" time fiddling with layering. Managing moisture is *difficult* when the temps are (relatively) warm, the snow is soft, your tire pressure is barely measurable, and you're manhandling a 70# bike. It is work. Some people would say it's impossible to NOT sweat in that situation. I say those people are either lazy or inexperienced, and if they've finished the ITI without learning to NOT sweat, then they're also probably really lucky.


    My golden rule for success at the ITI is simple:


    You aren't allowed to sweat.


    If you sweat out your layers mid-day, and then night comes, the temps drop below zero, and your clothes are still wet, you've dug yourself a pretty good hole. Options include continuing to move until you can enter a warm building and dry out your gear, or stopping to build a fire to do the same. The former assumes that buildings are handy when you need them: On this route they usually aren't. The latter is more likely, but costs you time: It's difficult to go fast if you have to keep stopping to dry out layers. It's much faster, big picture, to learn to layer and moderate your effort such that you aren't sweating to begin with. Go slow to go fast.

    Want to know the biggest secret to success in winter layering?

    You don't need nearly as much as you think.

    Speeds are generally slow and effort is usually high. The slow speeds keep evaporative cooling to a minimum. The effort produces heat.

    Now read that ^ again, because there isn't much more to it.

    Want to vent excess heat? Unzip your jacket and pit zips, maybe take off your hat. Doing so dumps heat and replaces it with cold outside air -- and the cooling happens fast.

    Getting cold, need to warm up? Put your hat on, close your zippers. Doing so removes wind from the equation, and allows your internal combustion engine to re-warm that micro-climate inside your outer shell.

    Is it *just* that easy? Of course not, but that's the basic premise, and there's not a whole lot of reason to complicate it.


    Over this weekend Jeny experimented with many different weights, materials, and combinations in her layers: Wool vs. plastic, down vs. synthetic, water proof breathtables vs. water resistant softshells.

    What has she decided on? Positively nothing yet -- but she's learning to ask questions, draw conclusions, and formulate answers, all in the classroom of the real world.

    Late in the ride today, with the sun already down, the wind coming up, and a big climb just behind us, she stopped, dropped, and fired up her stove to melt snow -- both to drink and to rehydrate a snack. The end of the ride was close and we could have easily finished without this break. But it is precisely this devotion to practicing these important rituals overandoverandover that builds a level of comfort and confidence -- in both yourself and your equipment -- that can make all the difference in a worst case scenario when deep into this event.

    The time to make mistakes is *now*, so that you can learn from them, internalize the lessons, then practice again tomorrow.

    I have a long ways to go in the "Sweat Management" department. I did a 100k race yesterday and was soaked. Even on my commute rides where I don't need to push it I struggle staying dry. I think I need to be more aggressive in my cool down procedures. I've always wanted to take on a longer endurance event and to be successful I need to get this figured out!

    Thanks for the thread Mike!
    Last edited by farleybob; 01-16-2017 at 01:35 PM.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geraldv9 View Post
    Mike, Without derailing the intent of the thread; which is certainly interesting to watch unfold, how one goes about preparing for an event of this commitment. Would you please give some of your thoughts on tire/wheel considerations for the bike that is being put together for this event, being you have first hand experience in what to expect? Thank you

    Will cover this in detail at some point.

  20. #20
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    Wonderful! What is her name!? Would love to chat with her if she's interested. Always good to get a woman's perspective on things. I don't ride snow with many women, so it would be lovely to chat! Good luck to her in her planning and prep! I hope she is excited and motivated!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post

    My golden rule for success at the ITI is simple:

    You aren't allowed to sweat.
    Maybe that should read:

    You aren't allowed to wet.

    ?

    You're gonna sweat. What you do with that sweat is the important part. Accumulate it in a garment and you'll chase it the rest of the trip...

    g

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    I know a few people who've finished the ITI and never learned to not sweat. I'm not convinced they tried very hard to learn, with the result that they'd get to a checkpoint, wring out their base layers, and get comfy for awhile while they dried over the woodburner. You can make your rest strategy work around that, but the checkpoints tend to be busy/loud/chaotic, and as such it's hard to get good rest there.

    At worst I'd have a small damp spot in the small of my back where my water pack sits.

    I think with proper attention to exertion and layering you don't have to be wet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregclimbs View Post
    Maybe that should read:
    You aren't allowed to wet.
    You're gonna sweat. What you do with that sweat is the important part. Accumulate it in a garment and you'll chase it the rest of the trip...
    g
    I think the truth is is the middle. Insensible perspiration is unavoidable. Sensible perspiration is avoidable, to a very large degree.

    Not overdressing, removing layers, venting and slowing down are all strategies to avoid 'sweating'.
    Most people, on most rides don't bother to do these, either because of ignorance or laziness. On a shorter ride, or a moderately long ride at a constant power output, that's not a huge issue.

    It is very hard NOT to accumulate moisture in your system in very cold weather. If the outside temp is -30, the condensation point for your body's moisture is likely to be somewhere inside your clothing layers.

    This is why wicking layers are so important, and why moderate to high air-permeable garments are a better choice than more windproof ones in very cold weather.

  24. #24
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    I dunno, I sweat like a pig almost immediately, always have. Even when young, skinny, and in perfect condition. Some people can't help it.
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    Happy feets.


    To say that it is easy to equip one's self for the ITI these days is, from my perspective, a massive understatement. That doesn't mean it's cheap, nor that work isn't required.



    Swing by any decent bike shop on your lunch break and, if you've done even a middling amount of research, you can order a complete ready-to-ride fatbike shod with high volume/low pressure studded tires and complete with good lighting, pogies, a frame bag, gas tank, feedbags, under-bar bag, etc... Plunk down your credit card and 4 or 5 days later voila -- your chariot hath arrived.



    Likewise with clothing, food (gluten free and vegan freeze dried, anyone?), shelter and insulation -- options abound and if you've educated yourself on the basics and know yourself at all, then the most difficult thing about the process is getting past the analysis paralysis and pulling the trigger.



    I'll spare you the 'kids these days don't know how easy they have it!' grumble and just say that it's a good time to be in the market for a fatbike and associated accoutrements.



    Of particular interest in this conversation are shoes -- or boots if you will -- for February riding at 62* north latitude. I wrote this a decade ago, after spending many years fiddling with different systems to achieve a warm, dry, clipless-ready setup for the ITI.



    I've continually refined that setup and it's what I use today. But you don't need to go to those sorts of lengths to set yourself up now -- you can (see above) simply swing by your LBS and have them order you something.



    Specifically, Jeny will be riding a set of the 45N Wolfgar boots in the ITI. We sourced them roughly 4 sizes too big for her feet, knowing that we were going to get medieval on them.



    Even though 45N has highly polished my decade-old idea with modern materials, thusly making these boots good enough out-of-the-box for 90% of lower 48 riders, they don't arrive quite ready for the ITI. Why? Moisture management.



    In short, unless your feet are frozen they will be sweating, and that sweat has nowhere to go -- it just collects and saturates the felt liner. For a day ride? Pfft -- no biggie, just lean them on the heat register when you get home and they'll be ready to go tomorrow.



    For the ITI, where the clock is ticking and the opportunities to hover over a heat source are basically nil, you have to do better.



    Spend a few bucks at the local hardware on some contractor grade trash bags and a can of spray glue, then go get sticky fingers in your basement while effectively shrink wrapping your felt liners.







    There are two benefits to this arrangement -- your perspiration is no longer a concern, and now, should you happen to slosh through overflow or have to wade through a creek, you haven't hosed your insulation. In fact after you've waded Pass Creek and Dalzell Creek you simply remove your liner, pour out the water, slip your foot back in and head up the trail.



    Sock choice still needs to be considered -- too thick and they hold too much moisture, and once your feet are cold you can't produce enough to re-heat that amount of thermal mass.



    Like many of the ITI crowd, Jeny has been steadfastly and incrementally preparing each part of her kit such that a slow building of confidence is happening imperceptibly as she sews, glues, researches, wrenches, and even sleeps every night. Like adding bricks or blocks to a foundation, each one adds to the last and if you keep at it, eventually you stand up, stretch your back, and marvel at the totality of what you've built.



    Thanks for checkin' in.


  26. #26
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    I don't understand this: "
    In fact after you've waded Pass Creek and Dalzell Creek you simply remove your liner, pour out the water, slip your foot back in and head up the trail."

    Isn't your liner going to be all wet on the inside, along with your socks and foot? Or are you saying your waterproofing extends above your boots and the water you dump out is outside the liner?
    Last edited by radair; 01-18-2017 at 01:20 PM.

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    Has she spend much time walking in those boots? I love my pair, but I am 95% sure I am not taking mine on the ITI, as they are too stiff for me to walk any real distance in and not destroy either my shins or feet.

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    "Even though 45N has highly polished my decade-old idea with modern materials, thusly making these boots good enough out-of-the-box for 90% of lower 48 riders, they don't arrive quite ready for the ITI. Why? Moisture management."

    I swear by using unscented SURE antipersperant on my feet, and have been using it for years. When I'm at home, I use the aerosol, when I'm traveling/in the field, I use the stick. It keeps the moisture way down and doubles as a lubricant to mitigate for blisters/hotspots.

    Working outdoors in Leadville through the winters trying to raise fish is a stupid endeavor, one which required me to wear the biggest, warmest, most ridiculous pack boot available. I'd find myself standing in shin deep slush, in zub 0° temps breaking creek ice trying to get water flowing between ponds again, followed by body heat generating work shortly thereafter when the temps would climb to 10-15° - then the sweating would begin. My pack boots would be soupy from sweat, and as temps dropped in the afternoon, foot freeze would follow. All that came to an end once I began diligently using antipersperant on my feet. Works wonders in ski boots too.

    You've probably seen every trick out there, so this may be old hat to you, but for me its been a great discovery that's treated me well. Good luck with the race.
    I would advise not taking my advice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by watermonkey View Post
    I swear by using unscented SURE antipersperant on my feet, and have been using it for years. When I'm at home, I use the aerosol, when I'm traveling/in the field, I use the stick. It keeps the moisture way down and doubles as a lubricant to mitigate for blisters/hotspots.

    Working outdoors in Leadville through the winters trying to raise fish is a stupid endeavor, one which required me to wear the biggest, warmest, most ridiculous pack boot available. I'd find myself standing in shin deep slush, in zub 0° temps breaking creek ice trying to get water flowing between ponds again, followed by body heat generating work shortly thereafter when the temps would climb to 10-15° - then the sweating would begin. My pack boots would be soupy from sweat, and as temps dropped in the afternoon, foot freeze would follow. All that came to an end once I began diligently using antipersperant on my feet. Works wonders in ski boots too.

    You've probably seen every trick out there, so this may be old hat to you, but for me its been a great discovery that's treated me well. Good luck with the race.

    You should demand a raise for dealing with those working conditions. Even if you're wired to enjoy 'em!

    Antiperspirant never made any noticeable difference for me in either direction. But we're all different, and it's always a good idea to try things before discounting them.

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    Are you not seeing the picture of the shrinkwrapped liner?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Are you not seeing the picture of the shrinkwrapped liner?
    I see the picture of the liner but can't imagine how water deeper than the top of the boot stays out. But I suspect there are more tricks yet to be revealed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    I see the picture of the liner but can't imagine how water deeper than the top of the boot stays out. But I suspect there are more tricks yet to be revealed.

    Perhaps what's missing are pics showing that the shrinkwrap job entirely encapsulates the liner -- inside and out. No gaps -- her insulation can't get wet.

  33. #33
    jeny jo
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    Quote Originally Posted by spruceboy View Post
    Has she spend much time walking in those boots? I love my pair, but I am 95% sure I am not taking mine on the ITI, as they are too stiff for me to walk any real distance in and not destroy either my shins or feet.
    Hey there, Spruceboy!
    I have only had the boots for a couple of months, but have used them exclusively this season.
    I purchased them very large so that I could waterproof the liner, and get my custom foot bed (very important) into them, and have a lot of room to wiggle my toes around in them (both with heavier socks and with a very thin sock).

    Waterproofing the liners actually makes the liner much smaller with every layer I add, and customizes the liner to fit my foot, ankle, calf, etc....

    I have walked in them more than I had expected to walk in them yet this season (a lot more than any other season to date). So far, I find them very, very comfortable. No heel issues, no toe issues.

    There is one spot on my left shin that I can feel being 'pressured' after a while. I can adjust that by adjusting the tightness of the laces.
    There is one spot on my right calf that I can feel being 'pressured' after a while. Again, easy to adjust the tightness of the boot.

    I find that the bigger boot set up, allowing my feet room to breathe and move around keeps my feet feeling much happier than if I had a very tight boot on.
    I also find that hiking for long distances/time in them is quite comfy to date. The stiffness of them seems to actually work for me, especially when hiking up a hill -- they act almost as a mountaineering boot would act: providing me a stiff platform upon which to stand or step. Add to that the studs on the bottom of the boots and I feel slightly indestructible in them ... like I could go bashing through almost anything (maybe not a good thing).

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    I believe the liners have been fully encapsulated by the trash bag material, inside and out...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Perhaps what's missing are pics showing that the shrinkwrap job entirely encapsulates the liner -- inside and out. No gaps -- her insulation can't get wet.
    Interesting. This is a slight variation on what you've written about before, no? The glue and bag strong enough to stay put after walking?

    Have you looked at hydrophobic material treatments? Think there was a thread here a few years back.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvTkefJHfC0 lots of brands out there I think.

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    Interesting - maybe I should mess around a bit more with them before I give up on them.

    I should just force myself to go for a long walk in them and see if is actually going to be a problem.

    Thanks for the reply, and best of luck with your race preparation!

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    Quote Originally Posted by bme107 View Post
    Interesting. This is a slight variation on what you've written about before, no? The glue and bag strong enough to stay put after walking?


    I just never updated that decade old 'warm feet' post, even though I've been using the shrinkwrap idea since not long after it was written.

    That hydrophobic link you shared was eye opening. Anyone want to go in a 55 gallon drum?!

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    So cool, ride on Jeny!


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    Neoprene boot liners?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Anyone want to go in a 55 gallon drum?!
    Is this some sort of Breaking Bad murder scenario?!?!

    The waterproofing the insulation is pretty smart. All you have to do is change into dry socks and you are good to go. I would be giving that a go if I was attempting a multiday winter trip. Alas, I am lazy.

    Definitely will be trying antiperspirant though!
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    Quote Originally Posted by tims5377 View Post
    The waterproofing the insulation is pretty smart. All you have to do is change into dry socks and you are good to go.

    The socks that we use are basic wool liners. Ultra thin. So thin that even when they're soaked you can't really feel wetness against your skin. If you dunk a foot and it's truly soaked enough that you spend the time to remove the boot and dump water out, while you're doing that you also wring out the sock and just put it back on.

    Part of our routine for keeping trench foot at bay -- since our feet may not feel wet but with any sort of VBL system there is at least some moisture present all the time -- is to replace the moist socks with dry ones when we get into our sleeping bags at night. Thus we have a total of 2 identical pairs of socks on our persons the entire trip: One on our feet, and one in reserve. At bedtime the dry pair goes on and our feet get to dry out as we sleep. The felt liners do double duty as our sleep booties as well, saving the bulk, weight, and hassle of carrying something else to do the job. The wet socks that come off as we get into the bag get placed under our layers, against our bellies, the heat from which quickly and effectively dries them out.

    Come morning you already have dry socks on inside your liners, so as you swing a leg out of your bag to get dressed all you have to do is slip that foot into the shell of the boot. No way for cold or even discomfort to intervene, no thermal mass to have to pre-warm. Quick and easy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The socks that we use are basic wool liners. Ultra thin. So thin that even when they're soaked you can't really feel wetness against your skin. If you dunk a foot and it's truly soaked enough that you spend the time to remove the boot and dump water out, while you're doing that you also wring out the sock and just put it back on.

    Part of our routine for keeping trench foot at bay -- since our feet may not feel wet but with any sort of VBL system there is at least some moisture present all the time -- is to replace the moist socks with dry ones when we get into our sleeping bags at night. Thus we have a total of 2 identical pairs of socks on our persons the entire trip: One on our feet, and one in reserve. At bedtime the dry pair goes on and our feet get to dry out as we sleep. The felt liners do double duty as our sleep booties as well, saving the bulk, weight, and hassle of carrying something else to do the job. The wet socks that come off as we get into the bag get placed under our layers, against our bellies, the heat from which quickly and effectively dries them out.

    Come morning you already have dry socks on inside your liners, so as you swing a leg out of your bag to get dressed all you have to do is slip that foot into the shell of the boot. No way for cold or even discomfort to intervene, no thermal mass to have to pre-warm. Quick and easy.
    You can do the same thing during the day. Put a sock over each shoulder, against the skin. Easier if you have a pack to keep them in place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The socks that we use are basic wool liners. Ultra thin. So thin that even when they're soaked you can't really feel wetness against your skin. If you dunk a foot and it's truly soaked enough that you spend the time to remove the boot and dump water out, while you're doing that you also wring out the sock and just put it back on.

    Part of our routine for keeping trench foot at bay -- since our feet may not feel wet but with any sort of VBL system there is at least some moisture present all the time -- is to replace the moist socks with dry ones when we get into our sleeping bags at night. Thus we have a total of 2 identical pairs of socks on our persons the entire trip: One on our feet, and one in reserve. At bedtime the dry pair goes on and our feet get to dry out as we sleep. The felt liners do double duty as our sleep booties as well, saving the bulk, weight, and hassle of carrying something else to do the job. The wet socks that come off as we get into the bag get placed under our layers, against our bellies, the heat from which quickly and effectively dries them out.

    Come morning you already have dry socks on inside your liners, so as you swing a leg out of your bag to get dressed all you have to do is slip that foot into the shell of the boot. No way for cold or even discomfort to intervene, no thermal mass to have to pre-warm. Quick and easy.
    If I was attempting the ITI, I'd want to be married to you!

    Really clever stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I just never updated that decade old 'warm feet' post, even though I've been using the shrinkwrap idea since not long after it was written.

    That hydrophobic link you shared was eye opening. Anyone want to go in a 55 gallon drum?!
    Covering the liner inside and out also got me thinking about some sort of liquid dip process that would coat both easily. Just talking out loud, would Plasti-Dip either spray on or the can of liquid coat this type of material without soaking in between the fibers? I'm envisioning the commercial where they dip a pair of pliers several times to form a new "rubber" grip on the handles.

    I've seen several Hydrophobic products advertised over the past couple of years including academic displays by scientists demonstrating the nano technology. Very cool stuff. I think I remember that it does have an active lifespan before re-application is necessary. Maybe the technology has improved?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bme107 View Post
    Covering the liner inside and out also got me thinking about some sort of liquid dip process that would coat both easily. Just talking out loud, would Plasti-Dip either spray on or the can of liquid coat this type of material without soaking in between the fibers? I'm envisioning the commercial where they dip a pair of pliers several times to form a new "rubber" grip on the handles.

    I've seen several Hydrophobic products advertised over the past couple of years including academic displays by scientists demonstrating the nano technology. Very cool stuff. I think I remember that it does have an active lifespan before re-application is necessary. Maybe the technology has improved?

    Plasti-dip works ok in non-flexible applications, but this ain't one of 'em.

    I'll dig into the hydrophobic nano stuff at some point. For now the bag + glue is cheap, effective, and lasts a season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The socks that we use are basic wool liners. Ultra thin. So thin that even when they're soaked you can't really feel wetness against your skin. If you dunk a foot and it's truly soaked enough that you spend the time to remove the boot and dump water out, while you're doing that you also wring out the sock and just put it back on.

    Part of our routine for keeping trench foot at bay -- since our feet may not feel wet but with any sort of VBL system there is at least some moisture present all the time -- is to replace the moist socks with dry ones when we get into our sleeping bags at night. Thus we have a total of 2 identical pairs of socks on our persons the entire trip: One on our feet, and one in reserve. At bedtime the dry pair goes on and our feet get to dry out as we sleep. The felt liners do double duty as our sleep booties as well, saving the bulk, weight, and hassle of carrying something else to do the job. The wet socks that come off as we get into the bag get placed under our layers, against our bellies, the heat from which quickly and effectively dries them out.

    Come morning you already have dry socks on inside your liners, so as you swing a leg out of your bag to get dressed all you have to do is slip that foot into the shell of the boot. No way for cold or even discomfort to intervene, no thermal mass to have to pre-warm. Quick and easy.
    Most of that is familiar to us with a mountaineering background. The one thing that has me confused is the liner sock is the only sock you wear? No heavier sock over it? If that is the case, why 4 sizes bigger?

    I wonder how a moldable foam liner like those from Intuition would work in a boot like the Wolfgar? They sure work well in plastic mountaineering boots.

    Great post you started. Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SJ-AK View Post
    The one thing that has me confused is the liner sock is the only sock you wear? No heavier sock over it? If that is the case, why 4 sizes bigger?

    I wonder how a moldable foam liner like those from Intuition would work in a boot like the Wolfgar? They sure work well in plastic mountaineering boots.
    Just the liner sock. You can add something bigger but once it's soaked with sweat (roughly a few hours into a 5-7 day ride) it's never going to dry out again, and feet don't produce enough heat to re-warm that amount of thermal mass once it's gotten cold.

    As for sizing, we actually went off of the 45N chart, where you take some measurements of your feet and then find your "ideal" size on said chart. The chart suggested between a 40 and 41 for her, and knowing that too-small is always bad when circulation is important, we opted for the 41.

    It's probably 2 sizes bigger than it needs to be for her. I wear a 43 in street shoes and it fits me.

    But after mulling it over for a few days, and considering how much space the layers of trash bag/glue take up, we decided to stick with it. I think a size smaller might be better, but no one complains about having enough dead air space in their boots to keep feet warm, as long as the size isn't creating other issues. And so far it isn't.

    I've heard others say great things about the Intuitions. Haven't seen or used them but am intrigued. If I didn't already have a great setup that's probably good for another ~2 seasons I'd look into those and some sort of a nano coating.

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    I'm very familiar with intutions, I have numerous sets from skiing, used them BC. They are not warm enough for this application, lining is compressed during fitting, their purpose is to hold the foot in place for skiing.

    [QUOTE=mikesee;13004339]Just the liner sock. You can add something bigger but once it's soaked with sweat (roughly a few hours into a 5

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    Ben are you referring to the moldable foam style Intuitions? It's been a few years since I stopped climbing but they were a very popular replacement for the liner in plastic mountaineering boots specifically for their warmth. Probably still are. I can't remember my feet ever getting significantly cold in them, including a Denali expedition.

    Not defending them, just want to ensure we are comparing apples to apples.

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    It would make more sense to use a different model of intuition liner than the one used in ski boots.. the mountaineering boots liners make the most sense or the ones designed for mukluks..

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    Quote Originally Posted by SJ-AK View Post
    Ben are you referring to the moldable foam style Intuitions? It's been a few years since I stopped climbing but they were a very popular replacement for the liner in plastic mountaineering boots specifically for their warmth. Probably still are. I can't remember my feet ever getting significantly cold in them, including a Denali expedition.

    Not defending them, just want to ensure we are comparing apples to apples.
    Intuition makes lots of liners, all sorts of applications, but I wouldn't consider a liner that molds as being a top choice for this application as you will have thin zones from molding. Unlike compressable linings, thermo molding does not expand when the pressure is released.

    It's not a performance/precision fit that's needed in this scenarion, but insulation. Intuition are also absorbent, so it doesnt really answer the question, it only increases the cost; them liners ain't free.

    Mike, why not have a custom neoprene boot sewn for the occasion? That would answer the water absorption problem. There may even be liners out there that are thick enough.

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    This may be another dumb ? Why not Bata Bunny boots ?
    Great thread Mike. I do know some guys that dont sweat much . I'm not one of them. Unless I'm dehydrated, if I'm producing heat I'm sweating . For me its all about heat and moisture management. And protecting the body parts that can be cold injured/frozen.
    Were you saying you eat vegan freeze dried for racing ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    Intuition makes lots of liners, all sorts of applications, but I wouldn't consider a liner that molds as being a top choice for this application as you will have thin zones from molding. Unlike compressable linings, thermo molding does not expand when the pressure is released.

    It's not a performance/precision fit that's needed in this scenarion, but insulation. Intuition are also absorbent, so it doesnt really answer the question, it only increases the cost; them liners ain't free.

    Mike, why not have a custom neoprene boot sewn for the occasion? That would answer the water absorption problem. There may even be liners out there that are thick enough.
    The Intuition liners don't have to be heat molded, you can just use them out of the box at full thickness(some models at least). If they are foam, why would they be absorbent? Neoprene would be interesting as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cold Trigger Finger View Post
    This may be another dumb ? Why not Bata Bunny boots ?
    Great thread Mike. I do know some guys that dont sweat much . I'm not one of them. Unless I'm dehydrated, if I'm producing heat I'm sweating . For me its all about heat and moisture management. And protecting the body parts that can be cold injured/frozen.
    Were you saying you eat vegan freeze dried for racing ?
    You must have missed the part about clipless pedals...

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    While this thread is great, I find it to be much more better-er when I read "Jen-nay" in forrest gump style.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    Mike, why not have a custom neoprene boot sewn for the occasion? That would answer the water absorption problem. There may even be liners out there that are thick enough.

    I hadn't considered that, and it might work for someone. Maybe for many people.

    I haven't used neoprene on my extremities for a few years -- essentially since experimenting a lot and learning that when I use neoprene against my skin two things tend to happen simultaneously:
    -My fingers/toes get colder, and
    -They also tend to sweat *a lot* more.

    Why? I don't exactly know, but it's been consistent for a few decades of riding and 5+ years of paddling.

    That said, this is the kind of out of the box thinking that needs to be applied to situations like this. Seems like people find it easier to say "that won't work" from the comfort of their couch, instead of thinking outside the box and then doing a little footwork/sewing/gluing to devise a solution to a unique problem.

    Someone way wiser than I once said, "Keep doing what you've always done and you'll keep getting what you've always gotten'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I hadn't considered that, and it might work for someone. Maybe for many people.

    I haven't used neoprene on my extremities for a few years -- essentially since experimenting a lot and learning that when I use neoprene against my skin two things tend to happen simultaneously:
    -My fingers/toes get colder, and
    -They also tend to sweat *a lot* more.

    Why? I don't exactly know, but it's been consistent for a few decades of riding and 5+ years of paddling.

    That said, this is the kind of out of the box thinking that needs to be applied to situations like this. Seems like people find it easier to say "that won't work" from the comfort of their couch, instead of thinking outside the box and then doing a little footwork/sewing/gluing to devise a solution to a unique problem.

    Someone way wiser than I once said, "Keep doing what you've always done and you'll keep getting what you've always gotten'.
    I paddled for years in neoprene, even after getting dry gear I still had neoprene as undergarments for paddling sketchy creeks in winter.

    Waaay back, in the early 80's, I snowboarder in neoprene and it worked, but you do get a bit clammy. Maybe something a little less form fitting and using a liner.

    As to Intuition being foam and non absorpent, uhhh, yes they are absorpent and the foam compresses and does not recover. Neoprene compresses and recovers.

    I did some internet browsing and found some 5-6mm diving booties that could work for experimentation, Ebay cheap too

    I'm angling toward some neoprene socks to augment my wool; my toes have been getting chilly, me thinks it's the sweating.

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    Happy hands.



    “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”


    -Aldo Leopold



    I'm quite certain that Mr. Leopold wasn't thinking of Alaska winter racing when he wrote A Sand County Almanac way back when, but for the purpose of illustrating my point I think it apropos to co-opt that quote.


    We've already discussed core temps and feets. Hands are the last, most critical, and potentially most difficult. The foot system previously described does well because it's set and forget, and because you don't have prehensile toes: You aren't taking your shoes off to do fine tasks with your feet.


    Not so with hands -- you're using them constantly, and it's not possible to do every fine task (brushing teeth, changing a flat, replacing headlamp batteries, cinching straps -- to name but a few) with gloves or mittens on. Sometimes you have to go barehanded, and if the wind is up or it's just plain cold, that means your hands are numb before the task is complete.


    Often way before the task is complete: Pat Irwin and I learned this lesson repeatedly at -55* to -65* on the Yukon River, when our tubes kept cracking (not being cut, punctured, or pinched -- definitely cracking) from the cold and failing, and we kept having to stop to change them out.


    Our solution was to take turns: One person would stop and drop, pulling the wheel out of the bike, then starting to work the bead loose from the rim. By that time, because we were handling bare metal, our hands were already numb. So you'd hand the wheel to the other guy, then *run* 100 yards up the trail, and back, to generate some heat. By the time you'd returned *his* hands were numb. Then we'd switch, over and over, until the deed was done and we could start to move forward and generate some lasting heat.


    The problem was that even once moving again, we'd not really anticipated this problem, thus we had pogies on our bars but our grips were cold sinks: Pat had cheap kraton rubber grips. I'd taken the time to wrap my rubber grips in cork tape, but out of fear that the cork would come undone in the cold had wrapped that in hockey tape.


    Note to self: There is nothing warm, or insulative, or isolative, about kraton rubber *or* hockey tape. The hockey tape even developed a sheen of ice over the course of the trip, from when my infrequently warm hands perspired onto it. Awesome.


    After each extended break to fix a flat, our grip temps measured the same as the outside temp, and *nobody* has circulation good enough to push back -55* with just the blood that's making it to their hands.


    When that trip ended I knew I had other, bigger fish to fry riding in cold places, and I knew I had to develop a better system to keep hands on-line in the worst an Alaskan winter could offer. If I could keep my hands warm there, then I knew they'd be warm anywhere.


    After too many complicated and prone to failure (battery powered heated grips, anyone?) fits and starts I realized that the solution had to be simple. And what I came up with was, and is, simple: Neoprene.


    I've tried neoprene gloves and socks in both my riding and paddling career, and when used against my skin learned that they do two things simultaneously:

    -they make my extremities sweat profusely, and
    --they make my extremities colder than with almost any other material.


    Learning that was liberating, as it removed one potential option from the pile.


    But neoprene is such a good insulator, and when configured right (i.e the right kind of foam and backing) it doesn't absorb or transmit moisture. So instead of using neoprene gloves that I'd have to take off to do fine work anyway, I sewed a few crude grip covers out of neoprene foam I found in the scrap bin at a fabric store:







    Note that I even have a sleeve over the (cold!) rubber cover on my shifter. Also note that my brake levers are carbon. You don't use your brakes that often in the ITI, but when you *do* need them, if they're made out of metal, you'll emphatically notice how cold that metal is as your braking fingers go numb.


    Carbon doesn't transmit the cold -- but carbon levers aren't always possible. If you can't get carbon levers, then at least find a way to insulate them with neoprene.


    To this day, that's what I use. I used them on my self-supported trips in 2008 and 2010, and again on the South Route to Nome in 2013. Those are my grips pictured above, but Jeny has sewn herself a similar set and I think I saw her installing them yesterday.


    So that's what's *inside* my pogies.


    On my hands I wear basic summer riding gloves down to about -10*f. Below that I have a cheap ~$9 pair of gas station fleece gloves that keep my hands happy down to any temperature I've yet encountered in the Alaskan Interior in February. So to say, -60*f or so. Nothing else needed, as long as you have good pogies...


    And the pogies themselves? I was fortunate when I started down this rabbit hole that Eric @ Revelate was still a one-man show, interested in pushing the limits of human-powered travel, and not yet encumbered with explosive growth and a growing family too. He was willing to indulge my fastidious, even pernickety suggestions in creating what came to be known as his Expedition Pogies. Jeny has these on her bike. Jeny wishes it was colder, longer, every winter, so that she could ride with these more. I think she dreams about them on the first cold days of fall...





    In truth the production pogies that Eric sells now are nicer, lighter, and more polished than my prototypes -- but they still retain the most important characteristics of being windproof, waterproof, closable (so that spindrift doesn't fill them while you sleep), and with pockets to keep emergency gear (warmer gloves, warmer hats, glasses and goggles) all at your fingertips for constantly variable conditions.


    Last detail when it comes to insulation? That frozen block of leather, plastic, pleather, and metal that you're sitting on. If temps are forecast to be below zero I slip on a neoprene saddle insulator.





    These are made for tri-geeks but they function at least as well to insulate us from that cold block of discomfort. And while our nether regions are truly the last to get cold, if it's way below zero and you're fighting to keep warm blood moving to your extremities, it's nice to be able to sit on something that's not sucking yet more heat away. These are most often found in the bargain bin at your LBS -- if you can't source one there go digging at a tri-geek website.


    Don't hesitate with questions.


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    In the event that I'm getting carried away with minutiae, here's something related and potentially even more helpful, but easier to digest:




  60. #60
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    With regards to the golden rule:
    "You aren't allowed to sweat."

    I made a discovery recently that has been something of a revelation for me. I did consider starting a separate thread for this, but figure it is as helpful here.

    I also really try to avoid sweating while fatbiking, though I am never exposed to temps like the ITI, and I am out for much shorter rides with much higher output than is possible or smart for such an extended race. I typically only have trouble with three areas getting cold: hands, feet, and ears. I have great pogies and great boots now. Strike one and two off. But those pesky ears!

    The problem with ears is that even a merino wool headband would lead to excess head sweat on the climbs. And when it is super cold, the snowboard helmet, hat, or headband was not enough to keep them warm on the descents.

    I needed something to keep just my ears warm or offer an additional layer of warmth/wind protection to just my ears in temps at 0F or lower. And that is when I discovered perhaps one of the nerdiest, but also greatest and cheapest products that has dramatically increased my quality of life while fatbiking.

    Ear. Bags.

    Earbags

    So dorky, but if you sweat out hats, headbands, helmets and still have cold ears, I highly recommend these little guys. They fit perfectly under a helmet and practically disappear. I love getting on extended climbs with just my baselayer and having warm hand, feet, and ears. It rocks.

    I will say I wish they made one with gore windstopper, alas.

  61. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogdude222 View Post
    With regards to the golden rule:
    "You aren't allowed to sweat."

    I made a discovery recently that has been something of a revelation for me. I did consider starting a separate thread for this, but figure it is as helpful here.

    I also really try to avoid sweating while fatbiking, though I am never exposed to temps like the ITI, and I am out for much shorter rides with much higher output than is possible or smart for such an extended race. I typically only have trouble with three areas getting cold: hands, feet, and ears. I have great pogies and great boots now. Strike one and two off. But those pesky ears!

    The problem with ears is that even a merino wool headband would lead to excess head sweat on the climbs. And when it is super cold, the snowboard helmet, hat, or headband was not enough to keep them warm on the descents.

    I needed something to keep just my ears warm or offer an additional layer of warmth/wind protection to just my ears in temps at 0F or lower. And that is when I discovered perhaps one of the nerdiest, but also greatest and cheapest products that has dramatically increased my quality of life while fatbiking.

    Ear. Bags.

    Earbags

    So dorky, but if you sweat out hats, headbands, helmets and still have cold ears, I highly recommend these little guys. They fit perfectly under a helmet and practically disappear. I love getting on extended climbs with just my baselayer and having warm hand, feet, and ears. It rocks.

    I will say I wish they made one with gore windstopper, alas.
    When I was a kid we had a name for those...only girls wore them

    I'm older now, I'd wear em.

  62. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post

    ...we had pogies on our bars but our grips were cold sinks...

    Don't hesitate with questions.
    I am surprised you didn't mention carbon bars...
    --Peace

  63. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lars_D View Post
    I am surprised you didn't mention carbon bars...

    I get the theory, but I'm not convinced they make even a minor difference.

  64. #64
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    I'm running carbon bars from allow, don't make a damn bit of difference. The whole heat sink issue is BS.

    Grips insulated your hands from the bars, no losses there. Unless your running some paper thing cheap crap there is no heat loss to the bars.

    Everything else is hot air (more ways than one). Air that's not moving has little effect on anything. The minor transfer of heat to the bars from the warm air inside the pogies is not something no one (sorry but no human here can) is going to be able to feel a difference.

    If your feeling a difference it's due to the fact that you have tissue paper thin grips or none at all. And no gloves. So no insulation between you and the bars.

    But the theory is because the bars remain cold even while it's nice and warm inside the pogies. That's because there is no warm air actually moving over them. But there is a ton of cold air outside blowing across them.

    Sent from my XT1565 using Tapatalk

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    It'd make more of a difference to insulate the inside of the bars, but with what and how, maybe closed cell foam cut to the bar id, stuffed in from the ends ~ 6"

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    Soft snow strategies.


    We've all seen winter pictures of Alaska featuring sunshine, big mountains, clean white snow, a hardpacked trail, maybe an apex predator or two somewhere in the frame. Kinda like this:







    Clearly that Alaska exists, but it isn't necessarily the Alaska Jeny is going to get to see. At least not all the time, and possibly not much of the time.



    Part of that is because she'll travel several hours of every day at night, by headlamp. With only a ~week of vacation to burn, she needs to make the miles when she can, and the days simply aren't long enough that time of year to ride only in daylight.



    The other reason that she's not likely to see the postcard Alaska is that the Alaska Range forms the heart of the route she's traversing, and the Range creates it's own weather. Fresh snow and wind are the two most likely causes of an 'other than' hardpacked trail.



    Don't get me wrong: Maybe she -- and the rest of the ITI racers -- will get a hardpacked sidewalk from Knik to McGrath, always riding in taller gears, laughing, singing, hauling ass uphill and down. It can happen. It *has* happened.



    But banking on it probably isn't wise.



    Fatbike rims and tires have evolved tremendously in the past ~5 years, becoming wider, lighter, and more varied in design and intent, to the point that we can choose from many different sizes (essentially "big", "bigger", and "silly"), and many different tread patterns. Usually we can also opt to spend more on a higher thread count casing, which makes the tires both lighter and more supple, which decreases rolling resistance at any given pressure. Less rolling resistance means more speed, which is always sought after in a multi-day event like this.



    I'll talk more about tire and rim specifics in a later post. For now I want to talk about what Jeny's going to need to do with them: Ride soft snow.



    To the end of acclimating her body and mind to that sort of thing, we seek out miles of soft singletrack at least one day a week all winter. That was easy this week after a storm dumped a fresh foot on top. Skiers and snowshoers had been out in some numbers, so the trail was broken in and visible, and at times you could even say there was a base underneath. But not much more, and often much less. We earned every inch of progress today, immediately dropping air pressure into the low single digits (I'd guess we never had more than 1.5psi all day) and leaving it there for the duration.







    Almost everyone knows that low pressures in fat tires allow a rider to "float" atop the snow. That's the easy part. But snow is inconsistent -- and so is terrain. Passing through a thick stand of trees there would have been little evidence of wind, so the trail would seem firmer, more rideable for a few moments.



    Basically until you entered a meadow.







    Out in the open the trail had been affected by wind from many directions, such that it was both scoured and drifted, never firm, never predictable, never consistent, often (due to low contrast and spindrift) not visible.



    What then?



    Sometimes you could still ride, usually by braille -- by literally feeling where the trail was with your tires, and by slowly, delicately proceeding along where that hint of traction and float existed. Often it would vanish and you'd be left floundering thigh deep in cold smoke, then struggling to get your bike back up onto the platform of the trail -- wherever it had gone.







    Walking is just a part of riding in snow. Accepting it is mandatory, embracing it is recommended.



    Eventually we'd feel the surface beneath our feet getting firm enough to attempt riding again.


    Every mountain biker knows the delicate balance required to remount and get going on a steep climb on dirt. This is similar, with the added difficulty that the trail is so narrow, and the snow so soft beyond the margins of the trail, that remounting the bike while standing *only* beneath the bike is the only way: Any wider and your feet are off the narrow track and sinking.







    We find that a dropper post greatly aids in remounting the bike in these conditions. And by "greatly" I mean that they are invaluable. Jeny is still debating whether to gamble (with durability) on taking one to the ITI. I'm not sure I'd go there again without one.



    Anyhoo -- let's assume that you've managed to get back on the bike and get moving. A huge assumption, but there you are. Just because you've performed that minor miracle (in these conditions) doesn't mean all that much, because the trail is every bit as narrow, soft, and inconsistent going forward.







    Any tiny, tiny, seemingly unnoticeable nudge of the bars in either direction usually means that your front tire just left the packed track, which means it also immediately buried itself to the hub, stopping your momentum. If you were lucky or very good at predicting this you might have managed to step off the bike on the trail side. If not, now you're back up to your knees in fluff, and have to start all over again.



    It probably seems as though I'm laying it on thick here, because no way, no how could anyone do this over and over, much less *enjoy* doing it over and over.



    I'm not exaggerating: We did this, each of us, dozens of times today. Perhaps you live somewhere with less snow, or more moist snow, or groomers?



    Sure -- it's easier to ride in those places. But this is what we have, and my experience is that these conditions will happen some of every day in Alaska. Maybe not *quite* this bad. Maybe not *quite* as often. But it will happen. See above about accepting and embracing.



    So there you are, on and off the bike, increasingly frustrated with your inability to ride for long. Maybe you're even doing the math on saving energy by just walking a mile or two, until you're *sure* you can ride. Nothing wrong with that -- lots of country to see while you're walking, too.



    The only problem with that is that you might (in certain years with really bad conditions) end up walking a few hundred miles. It'd be smarter to leave the bike at home and just *walk*.



    Let's not get too drastic here -- there's still time before race day to learn a few tricks.



    First, whatever pressure you've figured out for your rear tire -- to provide that optimal blend of float + traction -- your front tire should be a bit softer. Conventional wisdom says the opposite, and you can stick with that or you can dump some air and ride some more. Why? Because lowering your front tire pressure slows down steering inputs, and (unwanted) steering inputs are what keep taking you off the edge of the trail repeatedly. Try it -- I'm not kidding.



    What else can you do?



    You can learn the subtle art of steering with your belly button. Not literally, of course, but rather *unlearning* using your hands and arms to make steering corrections, which are almost always too much when the trail is really unpredictable. I like to rest my palms lightly on my grips, but not curl my fingers around the grips themselves. Thus I can't pull on the bars, can only push, and even then I'm careful to do it gently. The other half of this equation is tightening your core and literally using your core to do the steering. Think more in terms of leaning than steering. The goal is to keep the bike going as straight as possible, and to use tiny, tiny, tiny bits of body english to correct the course. It's easier than it sounds, but it also takes conscious effort to keep doing it when these conditions go on for miles.



    OK, cool. But what else can you do?



    Well, since you still have a few weeks til race start, you can start to think about how you're going to pack your gear on the bike. Given the above knowledge that having a light touch on the bars matters, do what you can to keep the front end of the bike light. Clearly this is an exercise in compromise because all of that insulation, food, stove, and other crap has to go somewhere. And piling it all in your pack or on a rear rack is going to have other deleterious effects.



    My goal is always to minimize the swing weight on the bars -- which is to say I keep the load narrow foremost, and then as light as I can manage. You simply have to experiment with this.



    It bears mentioning here, since we're pretty far down the rabbit hole already, that the recommendations I'm making here are for soft snow. If you've got Anchorage or Minneapolis hardpack you can get away with almost any packing setup -- it just doesn't matter.



    Anything else worth mentioning?



    Yes, actually: Gearing. We've all been hit over the head many times with the moral imperative of spinning a high, light cadence on the bike, essentially using the gearing on the bike to do the work, and in so doing saving our legs (for later?!). I subscribe to this theory on dirt and especially for long days out, and I think it's smart. When groveling over and through soft snow and barely able to stay on the bike, it helps to shift into a harder gear, maybe even two, and grind.



    Yep, I said it: Grind. A lower cadence keeps your upper body quiet, and at the same time it minimizes the likelihood of rear tire slippage. Again, and as always -- don't take my word for this, go out and experiment.



    Last point: technology.



    When referring to sub-optimal course conditions, perennial Idita-champ Jeff Oatley likes to say that "You cannot buy your way out of this". He's referring to the human, nay American tendency to believe that a trip to REI and a quantity of dollars spent can solve any problem you might encounter out there. Every year at the ITI many people have tens of pounds of needless, useless crap strapped to their bikes in the belief that it will help them meet or defeat a certain on-course eventuality.



    I almost always agree with Jeff's take -- you cannot buy your way out.



    There is one exception:








    Pictured above is a Hopey steering damper.



    It essentially slows steering movements away from center, to whatever degree you tell it to, with free return. So, depending on size and speed, a hidden rut or wind-drift is either less likely or completely unable to knock you off line.



    Think about that for a minute.



    And if you do, you might wonder what it does to the feel of your steering -- do things get weird when steering is damped?!



    Kinda.



    Since rider inputs are coming through a ~28" wide lever, and wheel inputs are only coming through a 5" wide lever, rider inputs are far less affected. On soft snow days I ride with my Hopey cranked to the tightest (most damping) setting I can get, and I always wish for *more* damping. Then, invariably, when we get back to firm trail or finish our ride on pavement, I can't believe I could ride with so much damping -- because it is essentially impossible to do so on a firm surface.



    I keep it turned off most of the time, but with a quick twist of the dial on top it can be activated for uber-soft snow. If you ride groomed singletrack you don't need this. If you spend more time on ungroomed and especially wind-affected snow, you won't believe how much of an effect this little unit has in keeping the front end quiet so that you can stay on the bike longer. Easy to test, too -- ride a mile with it on, then twist the dial to turn it off and be amazed at what a drunken sailor you've suddenly become WRT holding a line.







    I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but it isn't -- I don't sell them, and I don't benefit one iota from their sales. I'm not even positive if Tim Hopey still answers his phone or email.



    Lots of info crammed in above. Took me more than a decade to learn all of that, to understand it, and to embrace it. If you often have soft snow to ride, and want to get better at it, enjoy it more, or just get from A->B faster, read it again, then think about and practice some small part of it on each of your next few rides.



    Good luck.
    Last edited by mikesee; 01-23-2017 at 07:42 AM.

  67. #67
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    This thread has been very interesting, informative and inspirational. However, I'm probably never going to participate in the ITI so I'll just keep sipping hot drinks while reading these great posts. Thanks for all the ITI survival hacks, really a very good read.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  68. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    It's not a performance/precision fit that's needed in this scenarion, but insulation. Intuition are also absorbent, so it doesnt really answer the question, it only increases the cost; them liners ain't free.
    Intuition liners are actually a closed cell foam, so they are completely non-absorbent. The fabric covering the foam might absorb a little, but that is far less than most other materials.

    I use the Palau brand liners in my mukluks for fat biking, they are similar but a fair bit cheaper than the Intuition Liners.

    Like any other material they do compress, but in a bike application this is mostly under the foot. You will need to add an insulating insole that doesn't compress. I use a aerogel mat cut to fit in the bottom of my mukluk and top it off with a Specialized insole inside the liner boot.

    I also use a thin neoprene sock as a vapor barrier liner, with thin merino wool liner sock underneath.

    The advantage of this system is that there is no water absorption, so even if I go through the overflow I will stay warm, if not dry.
    Last edited by Tjaard; 01-23-2017 at 01:52 PM.

  69. #69
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    I've been using LaSportiva Spantik liners in my Wolfgars, but am interested in the Palau's for my Steger mukluks. Is this the mukluk you're using? What model Palau? How did you size it in comparison to the size of the mukluk?

  70. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    It'd make more of a difference to insulate the inside of the bars, but with what and how, maybe closed cell foam cut to the bar id, stuffed in from the ends ~ 6"
    Actually this would not make a difference. Filling the inside of of the bar in no way inhibits the conductance of heat/cold down the length of the bar. To interrupt the conductance one needs a thermal break in the material. Insulation on the outside of the bar (grips and wrap) provides that thermal break.

    I am currently running some heat transfer calculations for window systems and have been looking at different materials. Assuming carbon fiber transfers heat at a similar rate as fiberglass, aluminum will transfer heat 3 times faster. (assuming neither is insulated).

  71. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogdude222 View Post
    With regards to the golden rule:
    "You aren't allowed to sweat."

    I made a discovery recently that has been something of a revelation for me. I did consider starting a separate thread for this, but figure it is as helpful here.

    I also really try to avoid sweating while fatbiking, though I am never exposed to temps like the ITI, and I am out for much shorter rides with much higher output than is possible or smart for such an extended race. I typically only have trouble with three areas getting cold: hands, feet, and ears. I have great pogies and great boots now. Strike one and two off. But those pesky ears!

    The problem with ears is that even a merino wool headband would lead to excess head sweat on the climbs. And when it is super cold, the snowboard helmet, hat, or headband was not enough to keep them warm on the descents.

    I needed something to keep just my ears warm or offer an additional layer of warmth/wind protection to just my ears in temps at 0F or lower. And that is when I discovered perhaps one of the nerdiest, but also greatest and cheapest products that has dramatically increased my quality of life while fatbiking.

    Ear. Bags.

    Earbags

    So dorky, but if you sweat out hats, headbands, helmets and still have cold ears, I highly recommend these little guys. They fit perfectly under a helmet and practically disappear. I love getting on extended climbs with just my baselayer and having warm hand, feet, and ears. It rocks.

    I will say I wish they made one with gore windstopper, alas.
    About 7 years ago, I made these. Really simple and easy to make. 10 minutes on a sewing machine, maybe an hour hand sewing(with no previous experience). Could probably even make them without sewing. They do the same thing, look normal-ish.

    Jeny and The Race.-kks.jpg

  72. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueCheesehead View Post
    Actually this would not make a difference. Filling the inside of of the bar in no way inhibits the conductance of heat/cold down the length of the bar. To interrupt the conductance one needs a thermal break in the material. Insulation on the outside of the bar (grips and wrap) provides that thermal break.

    I am currently running some heat transfer calculations for window systems and have been looking at different materials. Assuming carbon fiber transfers heat at a similar rate as fiberglass, aluminum will transfer heat 3 times faster. (assuming neither is insulated).
    So carbon does make a difference?

    I was thinking about air trapping in the bars, not unlike insulating a wall or thermal window panes. Clearly I'm not sn engineer; )

  73. #73
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    Cap off an aluminum handlebar, add 1 ounce of 134a and you have a heat pipe!

    Ben, carbon bars do not transfer heat/cold as readily as aluminum or Ti.
    Get fAt, Stay fAt, Ride fAt
    Doctor recommended...

  74. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    So carbon does make a difference?

    I was thinking about air trapping in the bars, not unlike insulating a wall or thermal window panes. Clearly I'm not sn engineer; )
    The air space in a window, or insulation in a wall provide a thermal break between the warm side and cold side. With a handlebar the entire outside of the bar is on the cold side. Now if you desired to keep something hot or cold on the INSIDE of the bar, putting insulation on the inside would work. (think insulated coffee mug here)

    I cannot say carbon makes a difference, but it is less conductive of heat/cold.

  75. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueCheesehead View Post
    I cannot say carbon makes a difference, but it is less conductive of heat/cold.
    Data point of ONE here- I am fully convinced that it does make a difference. I will also add that I do not use pogies unless I really have to. Hate the things personally, but that is just me.

    So, I have used Answer carbon bars, FSA carbon bars, and a Jones Carbon Loop Bar and all do the same trick versus various aluminum bars I have tried in the past. My hands actually get warmer sometimes with the carbon bars. The grips feel warm when I touch them with bare hands, (cork or cork matrix grips are my choice), and with aluminum my hands are always colder. The grips never get warm, and it seems that the windier it gets the worse it is in that way.

    Again, it works for me so well I couldn't deny it and I have carbon bars on all three of my fat bikes. YMMV.......
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  76. #76
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    I agree with Guitar Ted. I've noticed the difference between aluminum and carbon brake levers is significant. I want my old carbon levers back! Carbon just does not conduct cold like metal.

  77. #77
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    Great post, Mike. I am trying to find a link to your ~10 y/o post about waterproof liners, but am having no luck so far. Any clues on where I should look?

    I have been experimenting a bit with carbon vs. alloy bars, and my understanding is that carbon makes little noticeable difference if you have enough of a conductive barrier between your bar and your hands.

    Any metal will be a better conductor than a composite material, but it is important to differentiate that only heat actually flows along a gradient. Cold doesn't actually flow, we simply notice the loss of heat as the sensation of cold seeping in.

    The carbon bar outside of your grips will be a less effective heat sink for the air around your hands, but since air is a fairly poor traditional fluid, the measurable difference is negligible.

    A simple analog would be to hold a wooden spoon next to your face (but not touching) in the cold, and then do it again with a metal spoon. Unless the spoons are actually touching your face, your cheeks won't actually "feel cold" or any noticeable difference between the two.

    What does make a more noticeable difference is the base around which your grips are built. Case in point: Ergon's Biocork and regular slip-on grips. With the biocork grips you have effectively three transitional layers between the bar and your hands: 1.the rubber over the cork matrix, 2. the cork itself, 3. the plastic base, and finally the bar itself. each of these three layers, and the interface between them is an effective blanket between your hand and the heat sink. With different grips, it'd then be more or less effective in insulating your heat loss.

    All of this is what I can make sense of with my knowledge in thermodynamics and material properties. If you have different ideas, I am curious to hear them and learn better.

  78. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by abrar View Post
    Great post, Mike. I am trying to find a link to your ~10 y/o post about waterproof liners, but am having no luck so far. Any clues on where I should look?....
    It's on the first page of this thread in the post about happy feet: Big Wheel Building: Warm feet are happy feet.

    I'm still trying to wrap my head around wearing only a thin liner sock under a plastic-wrapped boot liner. I can't imagine my feet being warm enough but I haven't seen those boot liners in person.

  79. #79
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    Grub for thought.

    The question of how to fuel one's self on the ITI route has been asked ad infinitum and will never be completely answered. The correct answer will always be some variation of "It depends", and the variables are you, your gut, your mental baggage, the ambient temps, what your goals are for the event, as well as relative windspeed when cross referenced with the angle of the dangle.



    Ahem.



    The correct response could be mistaken for the answer to the Omnivore's Dilemma: Eat food, not too much. But even that says nothing because we all define food differently and too much for me is a starvation diet for almost anyone else.



    We all know someone, probably many someones, that swear by some variation of astronaut gels with barely pronounceable marketing-based names that taste like ass and eventually make you feel similarly. The people that eat this stuff swear that it gives them consistent energy for as long as they consume it.



    And that right there is the catch: You have to eat whatever it is that you decide on for a long time -- maybe 3 days, maybe 7. Today is Sunday -- let's do a little mental exercise where we think back to what we had for breakfast last Tuesday. Was it a gel-based substance? Probably not, but even if it was, you didn't eat it for every meal of the last 6 days. Yet some athletes would have you believe this is the way. More power to them, I say, but I think life's too short for that.



    So what should you eat?



    My answer has been different every year that I've participated in this event, and would undoubtedly have morphed were I to line up again this year.






    A not-atypical selection.




    Here's how I do it:



    First, I start with a clean slate, making no assumptions about what I might or mightn't want 3 days into the ITI. I know only that it has to be edible when frozen, needs to sit in a box in a warm post office (or en route) without spoiling for a ~week, and needs to be something my body can process when I'm working.



    Then I go out for a long, hard weekend ride: something like 10 hours on the bike, usually finishing in the dark and well after dinnertime. I'll take not quite enough of whatever random snacks fall to hand, eat them as needed while riding, then on the way home, hungry enough to eat roadkill, I'll stop at a grocery store. Just my neighborhood grocery store. There I'll stroll the aisles and grab anything that looks remotely palatable and everything that my tired, depleted body is craving. When I do this exercise I usually plan to spend at least $100 and maybe twice that, never knowing for sure which delicacies will shake out in the end.



    While shopping it's important to keep the three food groups in mind: Sweet, salt, and substance, reminding yourself to keep the proportions roughly equal as your cart begins to fill.



    Basic examples that have made the list at various times through the years and that you'll always see being consumed during the race include pop tarts, cookies, crackers, chips, beef jerky, summer sausage, licorice, gummies, Cheez Whiz, cake frosting, cookie dough, chocolate bars, energy bars, M&M's, and sammiches of all sorts.



    I'll sample casually from everything in the bag on the way home, as I put the bike away, while showering, after showering, right up til bedtime. The idea being to simulate what your body wants when depleted, then to wake up the next morning and see what still looks appetizing enough to eat. I'll continue grazing on any/all of it through that day and into the next, at which point I already have a pretty good idea of what my "tastes" are going to be.



    One year I rode to McGrath eating PB&J burritos and not much else. Temps being what they were, the jelly had frozen and within it there were ice crystals that I was convinced were helping to keep me hydrated, in addition to the bonus caloric density of the peanut butter and tortillas.



    The next year I took burritos but this time they were filled with Velveeta and bacon. A lot of bacon. 15 pounds of bacon. My house still smelled of bacon when I got back a month later. And I still get a quasi gag reflex thinking of the Velveeta. But that's what looked good in the store that night, and what continually tasted good in the weeks leading up to the ITI. And that was all that mattered.



    Leaning in a very different direction, one year I ate four and a half pounds of Mike & Ike's en route to Nome, and stopped at a convenience store on the outskirts of that coastal village to grab another 8oz on the run in to the finish. I couldn't get enough of them, and felt invincible as long as I could hear them rattling around in a water bottle on my fork leg.



    I've never worried too much about vitamins or supplements during the event, knowing that a balanced diet before and after will iron out any inconsistencies introduced during the speedbump that is the ~week of the race.



    After drilling down to identify the things your body wants, you repeat the process on an overnight ride a ~week later, taking your finalists along to eat while riding, while bivying, and while riding some more the next day. The idea here is to test them and filter out the duds that looked appealing in the store -- like Sour Patch Kids or Crunch Berries -- but that wasn't ideal because it shredded the inside of your mouth and left you with little interest in eating anything.



    Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you can never be sure what your body is going to want when out there. John Stamstad used to quip that (for a 24 hour race) he'd need something like $25 worth of food, but he never knew *which* $25, so he'd buy $100 and pick from it as needed. Taking someone else's list will almost never work, which is why I never supply lists. Experimenting on yourself in the weeks leading up to shipping your food drops is critical, and that's what Jeny's out doing right now.

  80. #80
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The question of how to fuel one's self on the ITI route has been asked ad infinitum and will never be completely answered. The correct answer will always be some variation of "It depends", and the variables are you, your gut, your mental baggage, the ambient temps, what your goals are for the event, as well as relative windspeed when cross referenced with the angle of the dangle...
    Awesome po
    st!!! I wist I had read it years ago.
    --Peace

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    On the PCT we did a lot of food drops. Every boxed packed well in advance, lots of treats, and plenty of Powerbars.

    Those Powerbars became known as "sawdust" bars, but we fixed the problem by dipping them in peanut butter

    I still don't care much for Powerbars.

  82. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post



    If you don't mind - another gear question - how are you guys liking that xpot for melting snow over a white gas stove? I have used one in the summer, but have never really thought of using one for winter stuff.. It sure packs smaller.

  83. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by spruceboy View Post
    If you don't mind - another gear question - how are you guys liking that xpot for melting snow over a white gas stove? I have used one in the summer, but have never really thought of using one for winter stuff.. It sure packs smaller.
    So far, I love it. Used it again this weekend. No issues. Just need to be mindful of the flame - it cannot be bigger than the base of the pot. I would have chosen a smaller one ... but the flame on our stove is just a bit too big. Packs very well!

    ONE thing I have noticed is that you need to be mindful of placing any pressure on the sides of the pot when you have water or snow in it. It will collapse ... so you just have to be mindful.

    Otherwise: awesome.

    jj

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    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    It's on the first page of this thread in the post about happy feet: Big Wheel Building: Warm feet are happy feet.

    I'm still trying to wrap my head around wearing only a thin liner sock under a plastic-wrapped boot liner. I can't imagine my feet being warm enough but I haven't seen those boot liners in person.
    What I've noticed so far is that yes, the think liner sock is soaked, but the plastic-wrapped boot liner stays dry and warm. Warm as can be. In fact, I wore the liners in the sleeping bag while sleeping Saturday evening out in the cold... feet were hot. I had placed a fresh, dry pair of socks on before going to bed. Feet were actually sweaty in the morning. Given, it's relatively warm right now. But... warm feet. And, more importantly, I could DRY the other thin pair of socks just by sleeping with them next to my skin on my belly. So I always had a dry pair of socks to change into ... and while they were in the plastic-wrapped liners feet were toasty.

    I still need to test this a bit more. Like going for a walk in the river then riding around. I will let you know how that goes

    Jj

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    Quote Originally Posted by TBerntson View Post
    I've been using LaSportiva Spantik liners in my Wolfgars, but am interested in the Palau's for my Steger mukluks. Is this the mukluk you're using? What model Palau? How did you size it in comparison to the size of the mukluk?
    I am sorry I don't remember. I think it was the AT liner, since it should flex the most. It's still stiffer than I'd like, I might do some modding to provide a hinge point on the tongue and back cuff similar to the Intuition Liners from my Scarpa AT boots.

    As far as sizing, I think I started with my foot size, sized up for multiple thick layers of socks, you might also want to compare the inside length of your Mukluk and use that as a max size. Since mukluks are rough, not slick on the inside, I would err on the side of a smaller liner, rather than a larger, since its hard to get in there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jenamin View Post
    So far, I love it. Used it again this weekend. No issues. Just need to be mindful of the flame - it cannot be bigger than the base of the pot. I would have chosen a smaller one ... but the flame on our stove is just a bit too big. Packs very well!

    ONE thing I have noticed is that you need to be mindful of placing any pressure on the sides of the pot when you have water or snow in it. It will collapse ... so you just have to be mindful.

    Otherwise: awesome.

    jj
    Nice! I guess the only downside is the stove completely dies, then it can't be put on a fire. Not sure how likely that is...

    It looks like you are using an XGK - the new ones have sort of iffy pumps, you guys might have already figured a way around this, but the pumps from the older versions (with the leather rings in them) work fine with the newer stoves.

    Thanks again for posting this stuff, it is really neat to watch your prep.

    Best of luck with the rest of your ITI prep, and with your race!

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    Awesome, I really like the idea of heading to the store after a long effort, puts you in the right frame of hunger.

    A question along the line of sustenance in the McGrath race, how much extra food would you recommend carrying? Obviously this event is so conditions dependent I don't want to end up short on food, nor do I want the bring along an entire Thanksgiving feast. Is planning on an extra 24hrs between checkpoints enough? 36hrs? 2x your planned leg?

    MD

  88. #88
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    Quote Originally Posted by spruceboy View Post
    Nice! I guess the only downside is the stove completely dies, then it can't be put on a fire. Not sure how likely that is...

    It looks like you are using an XGK - the new ones have sort of iffy pumps, you guys might have already figured a way around this, but the pumps from the older versions (with the leather rings in them) work fine with the newer stoves.

    Thanks again for posting this stuff, it is really neat to watch your prep.

    Best of luck with the rest of your ITI prep, and with your race!
    Yup: Major down side is that you cannot use that pot in a fire. Major negative.
    Knock on wood: so far, no issues with the pump or the stove.... i am learning to repair it. Knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood...

    Would love to hear what other people are doing to prep as well! I will need to post up a number of the things i've landed on taking/doing, etc...

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    jj

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    Tired.


    Quality fat tire options are incredible these days, to the point where analysis paralysis could be a legitimate concern for your average ITI participant.



    Even removing all of the tires smaller than ~4" from the equation still leaves one with a healthy pile of rubber to choose from.



    Having been on the ITI route through a wide variety of conditions gives me some depth of experience to draw from when considering options. I know that unless someone is holding a gun to my head I'd never willingly choose a smaller tire when a bigger one is available. I also know that the decrease in rolling resistance from running tubeless is substantial, and again I'd never choose to start with tubes if the choice was mine to make.



    Bigger. And reliable tubeless. That's a good start, but there's so much more: Tread pattern, thread count, rubber composition, and the ability to (easily and reliably) run studs all have to be factored in, too.



    Because we have a backyard mountain that's received over 300" of snow already this season, and because that snow is deep, cold, dry, and with limited traffic to pack things down, it is not a stretch to say that we have an ideal place to test tires. And we've been doing just that -- literally for years.



    The snow is so deep up there that we can't get down to bare ice to test, but we have ice in the valleys and we can test ice performance down here.



    The one thing our testing grounds rarely produce is real, strong cold: The kind you can expect in the Alaskan Interior in a "normal" winter. That last bit -- the "normal" part -- is the elephant in the room, because winters just aren't what they used to be in Alaska. -30's during the ITI used to be a given, with -40's common and, if you were truly blessed, you'd be gifted some precious time out at -50 and into the -60's.



    In recent years the deep snow that was a constant companion on the ITI from the late '90's onward has twice been replaced by a veritable sidewalk of ice: Not hardpack, but ice so firm that studded tires were absolutely mandatory. Conditions like that are the rare instance when bigger isn't better for tires.



    Because the ITI is still several weeks away there's no way to say what the weather is going to be. Thus the challenge becomes to test as many tires as possible in the conditions you think you might get, and to know which tires do well in which conditions, so that in the days leading up the event you can nerd-out on weather across the state, make some educated guesses, then install the tires that make the most sense.



    With all of that as preamble, Jeny and I have already narrowed her tire choices down to three. Pictured left to right are the 45NRTH Dillinger 5, Vee Snowshoe XL PSC, and Surly Bud.







    There are lots of other tires that are similar in size to the range represented here. Schwalbe Jumbo Jim, Maxxis FBF, FBR, and Colossus, Surly Knard, Surly Lou, Vee 2XL, and Bontrager Barbegazi to name a few. These are all quality tires without question, but each had some characteristic that rendered it undesirable for Jeny for the ITI. We're not going to go into detail on those -- instead we're going to focus on the finalists.



    Of these final 3, the Dillinger 5 is probably the most popular tire among ITI participants over the last few years. I attribute this to the oddball weather that has twice produced the icy sidewalk stretching from Knik to McGrath (and beyond), and for which the studded version of the D5 was a great tire. I'll take it a step further and posit that had the "ice years" never happened, the D5 would never have found favor at the ITI. And that's quite simply because in unstudded form it's a mediocre tire at best, and significantly undersized relative to the 2 other finalists pictured above. 45N labels it a 4.8" tire but it comes nowhere close to that size even on a 100mm rim.



    If the conditions morph over the next few weeks to where the route is ice, ice, and more ice, and a small-volume studded tire seems to be called for, the D5 will be it.



    That leaves 2: Vee Snowshoe XL and Surly Bud. Worth mentioning that both of these tires use 120tpi casings and measure very close to 4.8" wide.



    Pictured in the middle above is a visually distinct tire made by Vee, called the Snowshoe XL. Vee calls the creme-colored compound "Pure Silica". Once you remove the marketing geekspeak what that means is that the rubber has a slightly softer durometer that is less affected by cold temps. This is worth mentioning because anyone that's tried any black-compound Vee fat tire on snow, and particularly in cold temps, has thought to themselves "Jesus, did someone throw out an anchor?! as they looked around and tried to determine why they were working so hard to go so slow. Vee's normal black Silica tires are known to be very slow rolling, and that only gets worse as the temps drop.



    The creme colored PSC compound rolls well in the cold, and this particular tire has a true 4.8" casing, on par size-wise with the Surly Bud tire sitting at right in the pic above. If course conditions look to have a mix of soft snow, hardpack, and any significant quantity (defined as more than ~30 miles, total) of hard ice, Jeny will ride these Vee tires fully studded en route to McGrath.



    So that leaves Surly's venerable Bud tire, which is hands-down Jeny's all time favorite fat tire. I've ridden it to Nome and many, many others have ridden it to McGrath. It is a known quantity, and while it is definitely not the fastest rolling tire, nor the best for rear-specific digging, it is the best overall "one tire" compromise that we've found to date. It is a true 4.8" thus it has huge air volume for running at super low pressures when the snow is soft. But it also has big, blocky, siped and directional knobs that give steering control and confidence in every snow condition imaginable. Bud is unlike almost every other tire in that it works well in such a wide range of conditions, and yet somehow doesn't feel too slow when the trail is firm and the going is easy.



    If Bud has a drawback it is that once you've gotten used to the confidence he gives, it's hard to seriously consider any other tire. If the ITI shapes up with "normal" snow conditions this year, which means little to no ice, Jeny will leave Knik Lake running Bud front and rear.



    Without question there will be many that disagree with the direction our testing, thinking, and conclusions have gone. And some of them will have valid points for their disagreement. We're open to hearing these opinions, provided they are backed up with detail on how you arrived at them. In short, provide enough background so that we might all discuss and learn.


    Thanks for checking in.

  90. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    ....I'll take it a step further and posit that had the "ice years" never happened, the D5 would never have found favor at the ITI. And that's quite simply because in unstudded form it's a mediocre tire at best....
    Agreed. If one needs the combo of more than 4" of float (but not a full 4.8" for some reason) and an easily stud-able tire, then the D5 is a good choice. But otherwise, meh.

    If Bud has a drawback it is that once you've gotten used to the confidence he gives, it's hard to seriously consider any other tire.
    No kidding. In fact, I think this was a big reason I never got along well with the D5s - I got sick of the front end consistently washing out from under me on stuff that Bud would have railed on.

    Thanks for taking the time to share all this info, Mike. Continuing to follow with interest...
    I dream of a day when my children will live in a world without the shackles of cause and effect.” - S. Colbert


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    Thanks Mike,

    So, its bring a quiver of tires, and pick the mosts suitable just prior to raceday? For us in the lower forty-eight, with even a glint of aspiration to partake in an event up in Alaska, this thread has been, in my opinion, interesting to follow. I have ridden the tires you have mentioned, with the Snowshoe being the 2XL size. Any need/call for a tire of this size up north, taking into consideration the increased drag, hence effort to keep a wheel of this size turning long distances for really only a small window in which it would out perform the Bud/Bud combo or the XL?

    Please, extend kudos and a "Best of Luck" to Jeny! Thanks again

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    If I were heading to AK to do the ITI, I'd need a real good reason to use anything other than the PSC 2XL's. The only reason I can think of is ice.

    Jeny weighs 65# less than I do and doesn't need the float that my carcass requires. For her Bud/Bud or the PSC XL's are big enough.

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    Did you do the race when they went around the pass in 2007? How much ice was there on the Kuskokwim and Hells gate?

    I think the trick is actually knowing how much ice there will be - there is always lots of "info" on the trail in the days leading up to the start, but most of it seems to be wrong.

    You guys should share your water proof to the knees trick! I think everyone is worried about wetness in the re-route (or perhaps I am just projecting - I am worried! )

  94. #94
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    I was there in '07, but I started a few days behind the race. I made it "over" Ptarmigan (it's not much of a pass or even a hill) and down to the Kusko, and camped there for ~2 days waiting for the high winds to abate so that I could get to Rohn. It's a natural wind tunnel and it never abated. When I realized that no one else was coming that way until Iron Dog the next year, and the trail behind me had already been wiped clean, I packed up and retreated.

    Thus no idea how much ice or open water in Hellsgate, because I never got to see it.

    There were a few bad glaciered stretches on the way to/over Ptarmigan. I remember being happy to be waterproof.

    You have plenty of time to experiment and get creative with waterproofing footwear. The feet you save may be your own!

  95. #95
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    I'm writing the bulk of this post on my blog and then cross-posting it here to share with a different audience. Someone just asked (via the blog) this:


    Curious what you are using for your "go to" tubeless fat set up. I've been messing through a few different Clownshoe Bud/Lou tubeless iterations, and the latest and seemingly greatest version is based off 100mm wide Siga Wigluv tape...

    My answer to him:

    I've liked and believed in tubeless for bicycles for almost 2 decades now. It follows that I had to do lots of experimenting with stacking layers of tape to make things work tubeless way back when, and again ~6 years ago when I started fiddling with tubeless fat, because there were no readily available rim or tire options.

    That process can be both intensely rewarding and frustrating -- as you are undoubtedly well aware -- and often both within minutes of each other. Fiddling with layering tape and struggling to understand why some setups worked and some didn't was very educational and I'm glad to have done it.

    But every tape setup has eventually failed. Some lasted ~1000 miles. Most lasted far, far less. They rarely fail in the warmth of the shop/basement/garage, which adds to the frustration of the failure. So you stick in a tube, then try to scrape the schmutz off your hands before putting your gloves back on to keep riding. During a day ride? Not the worst thing. Many days out from home? Frustrating, unnecessary, and potentially unsafe.

    There are a few fatbike rims these days that are turn-key tubeless ready. I build with all of them several times a week. Of these, the Bontrager Jackalope's are my favorites. Jeny will be using them on this trip. They require one lap of normal mtb width (~22mm) tape to seal the spoke holes. That's it. Once that lap of tape is installed, you can inflate and seat the tires using the teeniest, weeniest mini pump out there. No compressor. No floor pump. No hopping on one foot while holding breath and hoping. No drama at all. Jeny proved this to both of us yesterday as part of her 'mechanical prep'. I wanted her to have confidence that if she flats she can fix it -- whether that means plugging it from the outside, patching it from the inside (which would then require her to re-seat the bead), or simply sticking in a tube.

    So, in short, my answer is to stop fiddling with the layers of tape and use a real tubeless ready rim.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    MC

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaOE View Post
    Awesome, I really like the idea of heading to the store after a long effort, puts you in the right frame of hunger.

    A question along the line of sustenance in the McGrath race, how much extra food would you recommend carrying? Obviously this event is so conditions dependent I don't want to end up short on food, nor do I want the bring along an entire Thanksgiving feast. Is planning on an extra 24hrs between checkpoints enough? 36hrs? 2x your planned leg?

    MD

    Good question. I suspect everyone will have different answers, based on how many calories they need and how fast they're traveling. Leading racers usually cut things tight. Back of the pack usually carry too much.

    If I were mid-pack and more interested in enjoying myself than pushing hard at the front, I'd probably carry what I thought I needed, and then double it.

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    On the tire front - the buds are a really great tire when the snow is soft, but are a real drag when the trails are firm, and more of a drag when the trails are firm and fast. I guess there is a trade off between more "riding vs pushing" in the soft stuff vs the slowness on the firm trails. Buds seem like they would be a drag from the start to Skwentna then a great to Rohn (assuming no epic ice) then a drag again to Nikolai, then a big drag to McGrath. The snowshoe XLs roll faster than the buds, but still a lot slower than the D5. I guess you guys see this trade off differently?

  98. #98
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    Hmm, I thought Buds rolled fairly well. Have you noticed this in more Fairbanks cold temps, or all around, Jay? I felt like I was able to coast just as long as the riders on D5's during the Su last year. Maybe because I was able to run higher pressure in my Buds and still get good float?

    Regarding studs, my Buds have 60 gripstuds in each, which adds minimal weight and makes them perfectly rideable on ice. I only notice the increase in rolling resistance on occasional patches of bare asphalt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spruceboy View Post
    On the tire front - the buds are a really great tire when the snow is soft, but are a real drag when the trails are firm, and more of a drag when the trails are firm and fast. I guess there is a trade off between more "riding vs pushing" in the soft stuff vs the slowness on the firm trails. Buds seem like they would be a drag from the start to Skwentna then a great to Rohn (assuming no epic ice) then a drag again to Nikolai, then a big drag to McGrath. The snowshoe XLs roll faster than the buds, but still a lot slower than the D5. I guess you guys see this trade off differently?

    Our experience, based on decades of riding snow most of the year in the Colorado alpine, and then 17 years of a ~month in AK on the Iditarod, Quest, or other snowmachine trails:

    -If the trail is ice or *very* hardpacked, the D5 is a great tire. Run it firm (~6 to 8psi) and it goes fast.

    -If the trail is less than hardpacked, requiring medium low (~3-5psi) pressures, D5 is no longer a benefit, because at these pressures it lacks the volume to truly float. So where Bud can be run at ~5psi and sing along pretty good on this sort of trail, D5 has to be run at ~3 and it is no longer fast. Is in fact more work than Bud.

    -As trail conditions deteriorate and still lower pressures are needed, Bud can be run down to ~1psi all day long with predictable steering, edging, and propulsion. In trail conditions that require anything below ~2psi D5 is rather worthless. Knobs aren't big enough to dig in and propel, nor are they big enough to keep the front end from knifing in. The softer and more chewed up the snow is, the worse D5 is.

    -With Bud you rarely seem to notice these differences -- you just keep riding. With D5 your frustration at being on and off the bike builds on itself, forcing you to continually experiment with fine tuning pressures. This downtime frustrates you (me/us) even more.

    In short, if trail conditions are awesome and consistent from start to finish, D5 is the tire of choice. D5 ruled the "ice years" because the trail started hard and stayed that way. D5 is a great tire for the Arrowhead, for example, because the snow up there rarely gets anywhere near as soft or as baseless as it almost always is in AK, and the Arrowhead is short enough that conditions don't often change dramatically in the time that you're out.

    For everything else D5 is a gamble at best, and a liability at worst.

    I think the main difference in your experience vs. mine is partially in where we live (your trails get a lot less snow and a lot more traffic) and partially in the experiences we've had on the ITI route. Once have I seen the Yentna hard and fast. Once has the trail from Nik to McG been hard and fast. The rest of the times they have been somewhere between difficult-but-doable and impossible to ride.

    Every tire is a compromise. Jeny and I both believe in stacking the odds in favor of riding. Riding is almost always a good chunk faster and easier than walking. Getting on and off the bike in marginal conditions requires more energy (physical and mental) output than pushing a tiny bit slower tire and staying on the bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sean salach View Post
    Hmm, I thought Buds rolled fairly well. Have you noticed this in more Fairbanks cold temps, or all around, Jay? I felt like I was able to coast just as long as the riders on D5's during the Su last year. Maybe because I was able to run higher pressure in my Buds and still get good float?

    Regarding studs, my Buds have 60 gripstuds in each, which adds minimal weight and makes them perfectly rideable on ice. I only notice the increase in rolling resistance on occasional patches of bare asphalt.
    Buds roll fine but a bit slower when it is warmer - I mostly notice the slowness as things get colder. It was near freezing at the su, if I remember right. On firm, cold trails those things really drag. On firm, cold trails with fresh snow on top (something that isn't that uncommon in the ITI setting) they are even slower. In the last cold snap we had, I messed around a bit comparing my ice cream truck (d5 front, bud back) and my fatback (d5 front, white xl in back), and in the mid -40s they both roll slow, but the xl less so. I didn't try it, as I didn't want to swap out tires, but experience tells me that d5 on both ends would be much faster. Obviously, this is an extreme case, but the same thing happens in the -20s - those tires just roll slow.

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