I must be getting better. I set off somewhere just past half way down the group. But not many people seem to pass me in the day, and I even catch people up and pass them.
I don't spend so long at the rest stops these days for a number of reasons - I don't need to recover as much, but also having moved up to new outer Lycra type clothing, and only breathable layers beneath, as soon as you stop, you soon feel the cold. (It may also be something to do with getting older). Gloves that are comfortable when expending energy go very cold when you stop, and even at -10C it can take 10-15mins after you get going again before the hands are warm. As a standby, I keep a thin pair of silk inner gloves to put on underneath if the cold feeling persists and I have also taken to carrying a pair of thicker, warmer gloves, which I use as padding for my thermos.
I have given up on a water bottle - in these temperatures it soon freezes, and even if it doesn't, after first use, a thin film of ice forms preventing you getting the cap open to drink again. After much searching I found a 0.35L stainless steel thermos about the size of a water bottle. Little improvements like this add up to quite a bit over time. Having got close to frostbite on my face during training (driving snow can cool the face surprisingly well without you noticing), I have taken to wearing a thin cotton balaclava, which I always carried with me, as a matter of course in these temperatures, and took the precaution of buying a "commando" balaclava for colder conditions which has just a slit for the eyes and a hole for the mouth.
I set out for the day with a vague time I hoped to complete today's 60km in - 7.5 hours, including rest stops. At the beginning, I was well ahead of this, but later on snow conditions became a bit slower, but I did finish the day a few minutes inside target. Better still, on the sections that are just icy roads, I did not do my usual "Bambi" impression, but actually kept balanced and at times even managed to maintain the odd 50-100 metres skating. Of course, any feeling that I am completely in control was lost a couple of times when I caught a ski tip in heavy snow when transitioning to a plough down steep sections, and made a quick nose dive into the snow. This has the effect of blinding me, until I have removed my glasses, and got rid of all the snow on the "eye" side.
Once again, the benefits of having professionally waxed skis are clear. These guys know the local conditions. They often use a kick wax slightly warmer than I would have chosen from the weather forecast. For example, starting at -15C rising to -10C, I would naively have used something like a -20C to -10C. But waxes have two temperature ranges - one for fresh snow and another for older snow. This is down to the hardness and sharpness of the snow crystals.
Several people on this year's RR have apparently read my blog from last year, and I was even asked for advice for the longest day - my main advice is not to take a wrong turn like I did last year!
Well off to bed shortly - you really do need your beauty sleep on this trip,