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2016-12-24 9:16 AM

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Master
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Subject: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
I'll be writing an article in January summarizing the best of what is posted below. Please share what happened and what you learned from it, so we can either laugh at you or take away an important lesson. Or maybe both!

If I want to use what you share in an article here on BT, I'll contact you by PM to get your real name and any relevant photos you may have.


2016-12-24 9:33 AM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Master
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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
I'll go first:

In my first or second season of triathlons, way back in 1999 or 2000, I signed up for an Olympic distance race at the end of September north of Chicago. The swim was in Lake Michigan.
(Lesson one - don't sign up for a Lake Michigan swim in late September.)

I didn't own much in the way of technical clothing at the time, but I did have a full-sleeve wetsuit that fit well. As we made our way to the beach for a mass start, people were wading in to warm up and getting back out quickly with worried looks on their faces. The water temperature was 52 degrees. If you don't know a lot about water temperature, you might think, "Well, a 52-degree day is pleasant enough. That doesn't sound that bad." For context, a hot tub is usually 103 degrees, water that is cooler than 98.6 degrees generally feels a little cool because it's not as warm as your body temperature, and swimming pools range from 78 to 86 degrees. So the water this day was closer to the temperature of ice than the temperature of a lap pool.

I was racing with a friend, who had borrowed a waterskiing wetsuit from someone, and it didn't fit tight enough. Water poured in at the neck. She entered the water and took a few warm up strokes, then elected to join the increasingly large group of people who were going to skip the swim and be disqualified, but complete the bike and run for fun.

I elected not to get in the water, other than testing it with my feet and hands. It felt REALLY cold.

The horn sounded and a bunch of us splashed in, including a guy wearing just a speedo.

In the first 100 yards, a lot of people dropped out and headed back to shore. I could hear shouts and exclamations and cursing, and saw people turn around. For me, I tried to put my face in the water, but all of my human instincts recoiled and I had to swim head-up for awhile. After a time, my face became wetter and more used to the water until finally I was able to put my head in. That was good, because then I could swim using decent technique.

Shortly after being able to get my face in the water, I noticed my feet and hands were growing numb. I started swimming faster, no longer caring about pacing or anything else. I rounded the buoy with the 2/3rds of the entrants who ended up actually doing the swim, and headed to shore. I was becoming a little scared about how cold I was, but I figured all of the other people around me were still alive and swimming, so it was probably OK. I was much younger then, and less risk-averse. If this happened to me today, I'm not sure I would have completed the swim.

As I stood up and tried to run up the beach, I found that my feet were completely numb. Although I could feel the impact of my feet hitting the ground, there was no sensation from the nerves of feet. I couldn't feel whether I was running on sand or grass, or gravel for that matter! I spent about 10 minutes in transition huddled in a towel warming up before heading out on the bike, where it took a long time to get warm.

I ended up having a personal best swim (because I was frantic to get out of the water!) and it was my first time breaking three hours for an Olympic tri, even with the extra time spent in transition.

Lessons learned:
I have since done more research and learned a lot about the human body's reaction to very cold water. There's not much that can be done other than repetitive exposure or being mentally ready and staying rational and present. But this experience gave me an idea of the coldest water I am able to swim in, and has helped me encourage others at the start of very cold water swims. It's also helpful to splash water on your face and even try to put your face in while standing, so that the panicky reaction can subside while your feet are firmly planted. Neoprene cap and booties would have been good, too. More recently I registered for an early October race in Ohio. Concerned about the swim, I swam the weekend before in open water with a friend and a lot of safety precautions. Luckily for me, the practice swim was much colder than the race. (The air was very cold the day of the practice swim.)
2016-12-24 11:25 PM
in reply to: #5208052

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
I raced in the 2000 Canadian ski marathon and it rained all of the week before and then flash froze on the Friday before the race start on Saturday. They cancelled Saturday because the ice and frigid Temps made it dangerous.

I started the 85km Sunday section using Klister. The course was ice and really cold at -30c which is just really cold. I was pulled off the course at 30k to warm up in a mini van as my exposed skin was white and frosted. I continued and it warmed up to -25c which was a nice break. I could not reapply Klister except at a station that had fire. I put the Klister in the coals for about 4 minutes and was able to get new grip. That ran out by about km 80 and I had to double pole the last km s home.

Awesome day. Got a lot stronger and learned how to deal with ice in the frigid cold and body protection in 8 hours of really cold weather.
Cheers
2017-01-05 11:39 AM
in reply to: alicefoeller


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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
I learned the hard way about swimming in cold water without a wetsuit at my first triathlon. I signed up for a sprint triathlon in Terre Haute, Indiana. I didn't have a wetsuit, but since it was in May I didn't think the water would be cold enough to require one .

I showed up that early the morning of the race and was informed that the water temp was around 60 degF. Even though the air temp was around 75, the lake was spring fed so it stays much colder. Since I had driven 4 hours to get there, I decided to try it anyway. I figured the 800 meter swim would not be that bad.

I stayed on shore until my wave started. When I rushed into the water, what a shock. I felt like my heart was in my throat and I couldn't catch my breath as I started swimming. I didn't think I was going to make it and was going to stop at the first rescue surf board, but when I got to it there so many others were already hanging on to it, there wasn't enough room. So I headed for the next one. By the time I got there, I thought I was going to make it (must have gotten numb to the cold) so I continued on. I thought I was swimming OK, but the rescue boat pulled up by me and asked if I drowning or still swimming. I yelled I was good and could make it. When I reached shallow water, I stood up and feel right back into the water. I struggled to make it to shore. I must have looked like a drunken sailor as I staggered up the path to the transition area. When I got to my bike, I was still shivering so bad I had trouble getting on my bike and riding.it away. I eventually warmed up enough to finish the bike and run.

I figure I was in the first stage of hypothermia and barely had control of my muscles. If the swim had been much longer I could have been in serious trouble. I did not want to go through that again, so I bought a wetsuit. I now always check what the water temp is going to before hand and bring my wetsuit in case I need it. Swimming in cold water is something to take seriously



2017-01-10 5:31 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
My cold-weather story is similar to yours - a half-distance race in early October in St. Louis (2014? 15? Can't remember). The swim was in the Mississippi river and the reported water temperature the day before was still 70F, so excellent! However, the night before the race the Corps of Engineers decided to drain the slough that the swim was in and so all that was left was the super cold stuff on the bottom - 52F, just like you had. I had a sleeveless wet suit on since - in those (predicted) temps would have been way too hot for a sleeved one. I didn't even get in for a warmup so I had no clue what was about to hit me, but once that first toe went in I knew I was in for a slug fest. Had the typical "oh crap that's cold" types of reactions and troubles breathing, but was able to get myself calmed down and horizontal. The water was so low that there were spots you had to walk over the sand bars.

The last 300 yards or so of the swim I could feel something going on with my knees - they just felt weird. I tried to tread water and flex them differently for a bit to no avail. Figured there was nothing to do but finish the swim, so on I went towards shore. Stood up and same as you - instant numbness in my feet. Some lady was watching me walk up the shore peg-legged (remember I couldn't flex my knees for some reason) and she looked a bit worried. Can you imagine walking uphill in the rock/sand peg-legged and with no feeling in your feet? I was also a bit worried.

Both of my legs seized up immediately when I tried to pull my wet suit off, and I wasn't the only one. T1 was like a trauma ward - people were lying around writhing in pain, some throwing up over on the side, others still didn't have their wits about them. After about 10 minutes I was able to get my wet suit off and bend my knees a bit. The outside temperature that day was 47F so the only two ways I was going to warm up were to DNF and get in a vehicle or to get on the bike and start pedaling - somehow, my competitive drive won out over my normally very sane brain.

Luckily, I had brought a light long-sleeve to ride in. Not so luckily, I did not have any other warming items for the bike - key amongst them, toe covers. I think my feet finally thawed out by about mile 40 on the bike.

That lady that had the worried look at the beach? That was my sister. Coming out of the water I couldn't have told you that - no clue it was her. I think I was 10 miles into the bike before I put those particular pieces together. Talk about a "Whoa" moment!

Did I finish the half? Yes. Was it slow? Lords yes. Am I glad I finished? Also yes, but Mother Nature certainly made me earn my first 70.3 finish that day. Mother Nature, and the Army Corps of Engineers...
2017-01-14 10:11 PM
in reply to: #5208052

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
A second story: Muskoka long course June 6 some time ago. In transition the temp was 8 degrees Celsius. We had to walk 1200 m to the swim start and although I was in my wetsuit my arms and feet were freezingly number by the time I reached the swim start. I immediately got in the water to warm up. It was cold. Can't give you numbers but my feet withered up. The race start was delayed and I was still warming up, warming up, warming up and not getting any warmer. Finally it all started and I was amazed to swim and clearly see my breath so much so that I could not see the shore I was swimming along.
It was a short 2k swim but by the time I got out of the water my feet, hands and head were so cold that I had to walk to transition because it hurt to run. I got on the bike and was pedal ing squares for an hour. I finished the bike but cashed out as I could still not feel my feet. This was a horrible day that ended poorly but helped me toughen up as an athlete
It's a race day I'll never forget.


2017-01-15 4:24 PM
in reply to: MUSKOKAFIVEOH

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!

Love Rox Half Marathon.  February 2013.  I signed up for it about 6 weeks before the race cause it's local and my friends were doing it.  I was relatively well trained for a decent run--but race day weather SUCKED giant hairy monkey balls. Freezing rain, sleet, snow--the wintery mix of h3ll.  This is Richmond VA--it is NOT well equipped for sloppy weather like that.

Pre race-- trying to stay warm in the heated tent.  Not very effective

Race: course was poorly laid out for this type of weather.  We started in a field and had multiple flights of stairs which were crowded on the first loop.  The volunteer pool was sparse, evidently people who signed up to volunteer decided that craptastic weather gave them a pass to stay home.  SO, on top of poor planning,  it was poorly laid out and marked....And sparse volunteers to direct turns.  There was a steep down hill at the end of each loop of this (2 loop) course--it was a brick to cobblestone section  in the wintry mix.  UNSAFE.

The lead runners went off course, the RD never did know who won the race because they couldn't sort out WHO went off course & who didn't . 

The RD for that race put all her efforts into the post race party, booze tent which was crowded....and noisy....and who really needs booze after running a HM in that weather?  We needed coffee or cocoa.  

 

Unfortunately, this race soured me from doing any other races that this particular organization put on because several of her other races had similar logistical mess ups.  Communication was unclear and others have commented on that RD being pretty rude to them in other race reports.  

2017-01-15 10:35 PM
in reply to: QueenZipp

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
IM Lake Tahoe. It snowed the night before, frost on the bicycle seats in T1, sand numbingly cold on my feet before we went into the much warmer 55F water. Came out of the water pretty cold, air temp 34F ish. Put on windproof shell up top, gloves, cap under helmet. I shivered pretty bad for the first 55 miles on the bike, couldn't hold aero while shivering. I got feeling back in my feet around mile 75 on the bike. I kept the same clothing for the run. Temps started dropping again at dusk. My core body temp held, but was dropping a bit by the end. The elevation was a factor also.

What I learned. Neopreme booties for the swim, windproof leggings for the bike, wool socks and keeping the warmer hat for the run would have made for a better day.
2017-12-31 11:00 AM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
2016 Season. First race was a sprint Tri with an indoor swim. Had been forecasted to be 60 ish (April). Weather turned nasty, sub 40 degrees, rain and of course windy. Swim was awesome, short pool swim and then on to T1, ran outside and WOW, it's cold! Figured, just get on the bike and give your all to warm up. No jacket, hands and feet numb, can't feel anything, finish bike without incident, T2, extremely difficult, can't feel hands or feet almost impossible to change over. Finally get it done. Off on the run, can't feel my feet until 1.5 miles in, finally starting to limber up as I finish... Took the rest of the day to warm up.

Sadly next race was a few weeks later... Much the same only outdoor swim. 55 degree water... It was the warmest pat of the day! I had the foresight this time to bring a wind breaker it made all he difference, while hands and feet were numb again my core temp was pretty stable and I actually felt better. T2 was still difficult as I still couldn't feel my feet or hands. But I finished the race. I have been colder one other time in my life.

These races did a lot for my self-confidence. I'm a fair weather athlete, I don't like to run or bike in weather colder than 50 degrees. But, I proved to myself, that will power is supreme. While these races were not fun, I know that I can power through anything and be successful.
2017-12-31 9:30 PM
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Master
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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
This is probably more in the category of something to laugh at--

My first attempt at HIM was supposed to be at Pacific Crest in Sunriver, Oregon (near Bend) in 2012). It was an easy day's drive from home at the time (Eugene) and an attractive destination for my family. I also thought the altitude would make it a fun challenge and the scenery would help distract me from misery on the bike. But I forgot to consider the old adage that "Summer in Oregon begins on July 5." Anything can happen in June there in the mountains, including.....snow! This also needs to be placed in the context of me (about 5'7" and a skinny 115-120 pounds dripping wet) and the fact that I live in the tropics most of the year. I HATE cold weather and especially cold water. It was the race from h....

We had nice weather in the 70's and 80's the week before, but a cold front began moving in as we drove to the race venue on Friday. By the time we arrived, it was in the low 50's and raining. The following day, I drove out to the swim venue (at about 4000 feet) to park my bike in T1 (the race had different venues for T1, T2, and finish, making it a real challenge for spectators). By that time, it was in the high 30's or low 40's and raining. I attempted a practice swim in the lake in water that was about 58 degrees. While I was swimming, a wall of fog, rain, and gusty wind swept in. Thought I would never be able to see the shore again, much less swim back to it. Finally got back to shore and attempted a practice transition--I was shivering so hard it took me 23 minutes!

That evening at the briefing, the organizers announced that due to snow on higher elevations of the course, with more predicted for the following day, the bike course was being cut to (28? 30?) miles. They also gave athletes the option to switch from the tri to the du with no penalty. I opted for that as it wouldn't be a "real" HIM anyway, and I had no desire to face that lake or T1 again.

Race morning brought temps of 43 and pouring rain. I wore about six layers of clothes and huddled under the overhang of a restroom until we were called for the bike start. I wore my neoprene wetsuit booties--as socks on the bike! Even so, my feet never got warm. Temps remained in the 40's with periodic drizzle and gusty winds for the entire bike leg. I never could feel my feet. Got to T1 and was so cold I decided to keep on the bike jacket I was wearing. I did not have a warm hat, just a running cap. Used some extra socks I had stashed as gloves.

The run was 13.1 miles, normal half-iron distance. It was probably in the low 50's as I left T2. Four miles in, the drizzle turned to HAIL for about two miles. Now ice was falling onto my head and into my face. It was big enough that some of the hailstones hurt! At about five miles, someone staying in one of the resort cabins along the course had set up a table with whiskey shots for athletes. I had never had whiskey in my life--I rarely even drink beer or wine--and knew this was a dumb idea in a race, but I took two! It was worth it for the temporary sensation of warmth....

Kept running and then somewhere around 7 miles, the sun suddenly came out and the skies cleared. At altitude, this makes a huge difference, fast. By the end of the race, it was probably in the low 70's. I had my bike jacket tied around my waist and my warm tech shirt unzipped to the limit, sleeves rolled up, and still was miserably hot because I was wearing thermal tights over my tri shorts. Was afraid if I stopped to take them off I would not be able to start running again as I was already cramping. I finally finished this weird-distance "event" and I think I ended up 3rd out of 4 in my age group. This is NOT in my race log, mainly because I wasn't sure what to call it, and didn't want to think about it again.

The moral of the story is--One should probably think a little more carefully before signing up for a "first" event at a place/time with really erratic weather.
I eventually did finish my first HIM about four or five weeks later at Chelanman in eastern Washington in much better weather!

Edited by Hot Runner 2017-12-31 9:42 PM
2018-01-01 12:36 AM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
We had a triathlon in late March one year. It was 29 degrees out that morning so I thought they would cancel. I arrived and they were going to put it on. The swim was an indoor swim. I missed the message about the transition point from the swim to the bike was also indoors. I got out of the pool and ran out in my bathing suit to the subfreezing snow and probably made the fastest transition I've ever done.


2018-01-01 12:29 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!

Originally posted by alicefoeller I'll be writing an article in January summarizing the best of what is posted below. Please share what happened and what you learned from it, so we can either laugh at you or take away an important lesson. Or maybe both! If I want to use what you share in an article here on BT, I'll contact you by PM to get your real name and any relevant photos you may have.

 

PM me I have got hypothermia twice (one doing a mile swim in a mountain lake lake at 8,500 feet above sea level (Water temp??? 65?), and once in a Half Ironman race when it was raining and 50 degrees all day and we had a 7 miles down hill decent out of a canyon where I was doing 35 MPH and the wind chill did me in).   

I also have seen some fun cold days for work outs.  :-)

2018-01-03 11:16 AM
in reply to: alicefoeller


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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
You people are true ironpeople.
I can get into a kiddie pool in July after a week of 100 degree temps and still be cold.
I'm almost always cold these days. I miss my protective layer of blubber. About the only time the water wasn't cold, was a Midwest race in mid-October. The air temp was cold. Maybe low 40s. But, it had been warm all week. The water felt warm-ish. The first 15 minutes on the bike were 'chilly'. That's about it.

Louisville, I was cold from about mile 6-12 this year as the front had fully come through and the sun was setting. Maybe towards low 50s? Not exactly cold, but after everything that came before it and still trotting along in a tri-suit I was cold. I knew I had a long sleeve T in special needs. It was my talisman. I love that t-shirt.
2018-01-05 4:31 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
Two cold weather stories...

Did a Time Trial a few years back where it started to snow after the first few rides. I started #5 and had to baby the bike around any corner or I would take a spill. By the time the 10th rider started, it was white out conditions. They cancelled the race after that. Probably should never had started.

Second race was a snowshoe race. Was 8F at the start, which is not too bad, but we had just spent 2 weeks in FL and came home the night before from 80F... that was a shock to the system! Never been so cold in my life!
2018-01-05 5:59 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
I did a standard distance duathlon this past October at the Mosport Race Track, just northeast of Oshawa, Ontario. There was a steady drizzle all day. We started the race with the temperature at 10 C. The first run wasn't too bad but as soon as I started the bike, the wet clothes, the cold temperature and the moving air from riding the bike just sucked the heat out of me. The temperature fell to 8 C and people started telling officials that they couldn't pull the brakes because their hands were so cold. They pulled us off of the bike course at about 30 km, worrying about hypothermia. We did the last run. I felt like I was running on pieces of wood because my feet had little feeling. I shook for about an hour after the race.
2018-01-07 10:51 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!

Not sure if this will be of much interest to you but it turned out to be a great day when I was expecting it to be the worst.

And now for something completely different:

 Last November I took part in a fun run “To the Tunnel (20km)” on an old rail line up a 2% grade for 10km then turn around and run back down.  This was my 3rd year for this race and a couple days before the race we had a sudden early cold snap and snowfall.

Before the race I was unsure how to dress for the weather and I wasn’t sure about what to wear on my feet.  I know well from experience that tight socks make my feet colder.  Race morning it was cold and there was a strong wind.  I decided on wearing 3 long sleeved t-shirts under an under-armour shell jacket.  Plus, a tuque, leggings and my normal runners without any YakTrax.

Before the run it was cold and we were huddled around heaters as we waited to get the run started.

Immediately after the start I was quickly left behind as usual and there weren’t as many runners as in past years.  I just maintained my own pace and soon realized I was comfortably warm enough and running on the trail in the trees protected me from the wind.  I also found I had no trouble running in the snow.  The only ice was in the tunnel and once I was passed through I was now alone with no one in sight either behind or ahead.  For the next 5km or so I had the trail to myself.  I was maintaining a good pace for me and the snow made for beautiful scenery and the forest was totally quiet.  I was really enjoying the day and the run.

As I neared the turn around/ half way point I saw a few other runners and my friend Lisa.  High fived her and stopped at the aid station.  I wanted some coke but it was frozen so I took some energy drink that tasted pretty good and then headed back now going downhill at a faster pace and again I was alone but this time for most of the 10K back.  Again, I was protected from the wind and enjoying being in nature.  I managed to navigate the ice and wind at the tunnel and with 4km to go I started seeing other people.

I never mentioned to anyone that I was keeping an eye open for any bears or cougars.  Thankfully I never saw any (we usually do on the trail). 

I finished the race with my best time yet (for this race) and I really enjoyed the scenery and the solitude.  It turned out to be an unexpectedly awesome run.  Across the finish line I was particularly pleased to hear from my friend Lisa and other people we knew that they had also kept their eyes open for any bears or cougars.

I was fully expecting the day to be a suffer-fest of cold and unrelenting wind chill.  It turned out to be better than I could have possibly imagined and I am looking forward to running the race again next year.



2018-01-08 2:20 AM
in reply to: wenceslasz

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Master
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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
I have run in temps down to 20 below zero and actually had similar experiences--as long as you dress appropriately, are protected from the wind (and protect any exposed skin if temps are below about 10 or 15), running will usually keep you warm enough until/unless you have to stop. When I was studying in Harbin, China (in the far northeast of that country, not far from Siberia), I had some wonderful runs despite the temps mentioned above. It was rarely windy when I ran at first light (which was about 9 AM!) and the sky, contrary to what you'd expect for China, was often this amazing shade of deep blue that was reflected in the snow. It tended to be windy at night and blow the pollution away to create those blue/white crystal mornings. This occasionally also happened during the ten years I lived in Beijing later on.

On cold days when it was windy, I would plan my run in one direction with the wind at my back, then hop on a public bus back to the university where I was studying. Often someone at or near the bus stop would be selling roasted sweet potatoes or chestnuts, so I would bring extra money to buy some--eat one and use the others as hand-warmers.

I've struggled more with keeping warm in what would seem on paper to be fairly moderate conditions for tri--40's and 50's. I think it's harder because you start wet and then are much more exposed to wind on the bike.
2018-01-09 4:54 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
May 22 2016.... Wet heavy snow on the roads... bike cancelled. Race converted to Aquathon.
2018-01-12 8:50 AM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Subject: RE: Please share best/worst cold weather race stories!
Love Harbin! Beatiful city, especially in the winter with the ice statues.
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