Friday, January 3, 2014

Freezing Thresholds

My hands were so cold after taking this shot that only took about 15 seconds.
          Have you ever been so cold it was hard to breath even though you have no history of asthma? Or have your fingers lose all sensation. Add precision shooting to that one. To be fair I've never breached the limits of what cold temps can do to someone, but I've gone well beyond the point of what's considered healthy. After venturing into those cold and unhealthy regions last December I thought it would be worth going into some detail about what can be done to deal with low temps and what happens when you don't

The rest of the pictures have less to do with the article and more to do with home life over Christmas.
         When I first made it to Canmore in November I was optimistic. For the most this was the right feeling as it was pretty warm for the middle section of the trip. The first and last few days were not so much. On top of that when 30+ snow guns are dishing it out it acts as an outdoor humidifier. That way it makes feel even colder than it actually is... At one point we were doing race pace intervals. I was unable to settle in for shooting. It wasn't the excessive amount of clothing, it had more do to with the lack of feeling in my fingers. Last year I missed all five of first stage for the opening world cup in Ostersund. Similar to the intervals that day it was due to having do go from an exposed finger setting on a sharp bladed trigger too nudging what might have well have been a piece of dead wood towards what I guessed was the trigger. You could say it felt like using and old flint lock black power rifle. This is not ideal and Seth recommended that just stick with skiing that day. I kept the shooting effort up only because I knew it could be cold later on when the shooting really mattered. Turns out I was onto something.
           Before leaving Canmore I would like to mention that my feet got pretty cold to. The thing is when you face turns white you can run inside and warm it up in a matter of minutes. If you hands get cold you can spin them around in circles. This pushes the warmer blood in you arms out towards your fingers. It must also look very entertaining from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know that move. When your hands are that cold you pretty much stop caring how you look around others. When you toes get cold there is less immediate action available. This normally isn't much of problem because as long as it fills out the toe box of your ski boot it works. This can be done with a frozen block of wood if need be. On the other hand there is a limit to how cold the toes can become. When we were in Canmore I froze my toes so badly that when I came inside to room temperature they swelled up and hurt. This didn't fade away in five minutes like your hands do. This went on all night. After about four in the morning when I had given up at trying to sleep I just opened the door and stuck my toes in the fresh snow. Ironically this helps... a lot. The cold snow reduced the inflammation and let me sleep for an hour or so. Who said exercise had to be healthy?
         The cold front that plagued Alberta pretty much followed us right into Minnesota for trials. What are the odds huh? With out any snow guns -25 Celsius felt almost balmy. “Almost” because at this point I had froze the skin on face so badly that I had to lather on duct tape and kinesio tape. It wasn't that bad but I wanted to prevent any life altering facial surgery. Thankfully, there is this thing call “legal race temperature” It's -20 Celsius or -4 Fahrenheit. Because of this one race was postponed and the others held at the warmest part of the day. If push comes to shove officials have been know to place the thermometer over the heater to fake a legal race start.
            To give you an idea of what I did to combat the cold whether here is what I was wearing during the races. One long underwear top that stretches out your palm, the normal race top, the warmer insulated race bottoms, my thickest pair of socks, overboot covers, the warmest USBA race hat, a buff, the thicker USBA gloves, sunglasses, an additional long underwear piece down my right arm, duct tape and kinesio tape was all over my cheeks and nose, and even my race bib counted as extra warmth. I also used and over mitt for my right had on the first loop. I don't normally like this because it can mess up the rhythm skiing. But after some rough shooting with cold hands it wasn't worth the risk. This may not even seem like very much to you, but with an average heart rate 180 how much should you need?

Nothing says you're home in the Currier family like a deer rib cage in the sink. 

           Yeah it was cold. Surprisingly I dealt with it better than I have before. It helps to look at it as an advantage. My barrel hold up amazing well in cold temps. I had a top ten on the world cup in cold conditions. It's something that can be done, but crikey is it ever painful. Hands and feet will recover in matter of minutes, but what's going to happen to my lungs when I'm older after inhaling cold dry air at max capacity for so many years? As much as I despise the cold weather it sure does feel nice when it's all said and done. When you're curled up in bed for an afternoon nap and all that's left is the memory of how cold it was it really helps amplify the enjoyment of being warm. Try achieving that with just sub freezing temps.

Groomed classic track from the house to the trails, just like old times. Thanks for the Xmass present Snowy Mt Trails!

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