Cold challenges U.P.200 bystanders

lori.stanis

Each year, many people attending the start of the U.P. 200 in downtown Marquette make the same mistake. It’s much easier to dress for looks than to dress appropriately. But in order to stay warm and not lose any extremities from frost bite, it is necessary to forgo vanity and dress for warmth.

According to Cori Bodeman, volunteer coordinator for the U.P. 200, the most important thing to staying warm is a lot of loose layers.

“You’ve heard it time and time again: layers, layers, layers” she said.

While at her station during the race, Bodeman wears silk long underwear, a cotton turtleneck, a fleece sweater, and a warm jacket. On her bottom half, she wears long underwear, loose fitting jeans, and when it’s really windy, ski pants.

One winter accessory that many people under-appreciate is mittens.

“Gloves isolate your fingers and make them cold” Bodeman said.

Because mittens keep fingers together, body heat circulates around the hands and in the mittens, making the hands warmer. Mushers also use big, furry mittens to keep their hands warm while on the trail.

A major challenge that many of Bodeman’s volunteers face is footwear.

“I can’t tell you how many people come in tennis shoes” she said. “Please wear boots.”

According to Bodeman, a nice pair of boots, slightly bigger than one’s shoe size, is ideal. This allows more air to circulate around the feet, using the same principle as the mittens.

Lindsay Henderson, a winter camping instructor at Northern, agreed with Bodeman about wearing good boots to the race. Henderson encouraged spectators to wear nice big Pac Boots with hand warmers in the bottom of them. Along with the hand warmers, she said to wear wool, rather than cotton, socks. The wool socks trap heat and keep water away from feet, keeping them warm and dry.

“Wool socks are the way to go,” she said.

Another good choice for staying warm is a down jacket, which is more insulating than any other type of winter coat, according to Henderson. If the coat has a hood on it, that’s a bonus; pairing the hood with a hat keeps one’s head warmer. Because most of a person’s body heat is lost through the head, both Henderson and Bodeman agree on wearing a hat.

Another way to stay warm during the race is to eat a good meal and drink plenty of water before the race, Henderson said. Digestion generates body heat, keeping the body warm.

If bundling up isn’t doing the trick, try moving around. Bodeman said to “run back and forth, jump up and down, and walk around.” Using muscles exerts energy, which in turn creates heat.

Henderson offered an additional technique to force warm blood into the fingers and toes. She suggested making a big enough area to move freely, then swinging one arm back and forth quickly and hard several times. This gets the arm moving and causes blood to move down the arm and into the hand. Repeat this action with the other arm and then each leg if necessary. Another way to get fingers warm is to pull arms into a jacket and put them on the stomach.

Another innovative and effective way to remain warm is to use an item many people have but wouldn’t think of bringing to the race: a foam pad used to sit on bleachers during sporting events. There are two ways to use this, Henderson said. The first and easiest way is to stand on the foam pad during the race, creating an insulated barrier between the feet and the cold ground. The second way is to cut the pad in the shape of a boot and put the pad inside the boots.

The final thing, according to Bodeman, is to not drink alcohol before the race. Many people believe that alcohol will keep them warm, but alcohol is “not an anti freeze,” she said. “It simply opens up your blood vessels and makes you colder in the long run.”

Alcohol, which is a diuretic, can also become a nuisance. If one is dressed properly, there are a lot of layers to get through in order to use restroom.

While hot cocoa and coffee can be used to help warm one up, being dressed properly is the only way to prevent serious injuries and maintain a decent body temperature.

“There’s no substitute for being properly dressed and . (wearing) proper foot wear,” Henderson said.