Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How To - Rain Gear for Your Feet

Earlier this year we held the Bethel Spring Series. The last race fell on Sunday, April 15th. And although that was sort of tax day (in Connecticut it was actually April 17th due to a holiday in Massachusetts), most people remember that day for the rain.

It was the worst storm in decades.

Sections of I95 were shutdown, as were many local roads. One road near our house had water running over it so hard it resembled a foot deep white water rapids - and that was a state road!

Our house, usually snug as a bug, gave up and let some water in - my afternoon, evening, and night were spent pumping out water and moving damaged and almost-damaged goods around the basement.

In the morning of this insanely hard rainstorm, we held a race.

As you might imagine, few people turned up - basically the overall contenders, their friends and teammates, and some hardy souls out for a nice race in the wet. That last category - I figure they were scuba divers or fish or something because the rain was just overwhelming in its volume, ferocity, and duration.

The women almost didn't race but a single racer made it theoretically possible for the other women to switch the overall order, so the women went out and raced. After a long, sloggy race, the order didn't switch and things stayed status quo.

I entered my race really to help out a friend. My personal goals for the Series had been dashed after two weeks so I had no chance for the overall. After the race, although I had a rain jacket, I was totally drenched. The rain jacket simply served as a wind break, keeping my torso warm, but my bootie-enclosed feet were cold and sopping wet in the spray and the rain. I'd even duct taped the top of my booties to my calfs so I didn't get that piercing cold water trickling down my calves, but as the booties soaked through, my shoes and my feet ended up soaked.

A long time after the race, I got to talk to one of those women who placed overall. She claimed her feet were dry during the whole race.

Ha. Right. And it wasn't really raining hard, right? Just a little sprinkle?

Without a stitch of sarcasm she repeated her claim. I know there are no booties that good so I asked her to explain. She did.

First, put on some socks and your shoes.

Second, put a plastic shopping bag (think of a thin plastic bag from the grocery store) over your shoes. Tape the ankle area of the bag shut.

Third, put on booties.

You can clip in and out a few times without compromising the integrity of the plastic bag (at least with Look Keos). And the bag will keep out the rain and wind.

I tried this the other day - while kitting up for a two hour ride in a heavy rain, I did exactly that. To give credit, I had to ask the missus exactly what to do with the plastic bag as I'd forgotten. The missus never forgets and so detailed the three steps above.

Properly kitted up, I left on my ride. After the first hour of riding, I felt like I had my feet up in front of a warm fire, cozy, toasty, and comfy. The fact that my quads were wet and cold seemed a bit of a contrast but the plastic bag idea worked on my feet. Since I was reconning houses, I had to unclip a number of times, but the plastic bag remained intact.

I figured out two more things to do but the overall idea works well.

The first addendum is that you need to tape the plastic bag top to your calf/shin, not just tape it shut. Wrapping it in duct tape would work (shaving your legs regularly also helps keep the pain factor down when undressing after your ride).

The second addendum is to tape the top of your booties to your calf. I use black duct tape so it looks clean (and black duct tape works the same as the grey stuff).

The two addendums help prevent water from entering the plastic bag. On my two hour ride my shoes ended up wet, either from condensation (likely) or water coming down my ankles into the plastic bag (very likely based on how wet my calf was above and below the plastic bags - which had gotten loose).

Now I have to figure out a good strategy for protecting my quads in cold rain - they always get wet, my knickers heavy, and my sprint starts to lack umph. I want to figure out a way to reduce the wet weight of my gear as well since I seem to gain 10 pounds in water after riding for an hour.

The shoe thing is a good place to start though.


Anonymous said...

I've been doing the plastic grocery bags trick for years and years. Actually used to take a bunch with me to Belgium, just to see the look on the faces of the other riders in the changing room. They work for rain or cold and especially for both, as long as you don't mind a bit of sweat. Nothing like still being able to spin a light gear with flexible ankles, whilst eevryone else is dropping their heels and mashing due to frozen limbs. And I never had a problem with my Look cleats. I hate passing on this advice to others, as their numbness, is my ally during cold, rainy races.
--Mike Starr

Aki said...

I only found out about this trick earlier this year - and it was a revelation after all the racing/riding I'd done. What a difference!

When I first started writing I debated internally about sharing things like tactics, how-to tips, and other things which I use to my advantage in races. Giving away the "secret to my (limited) success" won't help me any when I try and do well in the same types of races next year. But I realized two things:

1. Even if people know or read about something, it doesn't mean they utilize them. Moving around in a field, for example, is reasonably difficult to master, so telling someone how to do it may not help them beat me right away.

2. Cycling is such a small sport that helping everyone can only benefit the sport as a whole. It's easy to get discouraged when it seems everyone else is doing okay when you're not, and although one might point out that cycling isn't for wimps, it doesn't need to dissuade new participants unnecessarily.

I'm also not a great racer - I've sort of stabilized in a low Cat 3 level, pretty much on tactics and a jump. If I can do it, so can a lot of other people. It's a fun and exciting sport and it'd be nice if there were more races, or people didn't honk at you, etc etc. You raced in Europe - you know the respect racers get. I'd love to have the same here.

So for the reasons above, I'm opening my plan book for everyone to read.