Monday, March 9, 2009

A Sunday in Hell (or, more specifically, MY Sunday in Hell)

I love Sunday morning rides. I love getting up at the butt-crack of dawn and spending a few hours on the road and just enjoying the leisurely feeling that accompanies this closing of the week. It's one of the things I look forward to most on the weekends and this Sunday started off as no exception.

Weather called for temps in the low 40's and heavy rain in the PM. Cold? Yes. But compared to my ride last weekend, 40 would feel like spring break in Cancun. I suited up responsibly, even embrocated (Mad Alchemy Medium is my fave) in the anticipation of getting a little wet. Little did I know "wet" would be an understatement...

Left the house about 9 AM, a bit later than I wanted, but that's what happens when you have a 17 month old running around (that and daylight savings time always makes for a sluggish start). Streets were fairly dry and skies were overcast but not ominous. All in all, a decent day for a ride.

Off I go. My plan is to do "The Usual" today. "The Usual" is this 30ish mile there-and-back ride I do on a very regular basis (all my routes involve some derivative of "The Usual"). Today, I'm doing the straight up variety, which involves mostly flat to rolling terrain and a couple of short "climbs" to open up the lungs.

About 30 minutes into the ride and my legs have warmed up and I'm feeling good. My posterior is all nestled into the saddle, my head, hands and toes are feeling toasty - it's a great day for a ride. That's when the rain started...

I don't mind the rain. In fact, I like to ride in it every once in a while, because you never know when you are going to have to race in it. But, there's one caveat, when temps are just north of freezing, the rain sucks. I was bound and determined to get my miles/time in so I continued on. At least my toes and hands were still warm.

As I rode along, the rain got more intense. Not only was the deluge hitting me from above but also coming at me from the road. Water quickly permeated every pore of the "hi-tech" material of my cycling clothing. "Hi-tech"? I might as well have been wearing clothing made out of "Shamwow".

Great. Now I'm soaking wet and feel like I'm carrying around an extra 40 lbs from all the water I've absorbed. Sponge Bob Spandex Pants, that's me...

About an hour in, I get to my usual turn around point and start heading back home. The rain isn't really bothering me anymore since I can't get any wetter but now I'm starting to notice a chill creeping... My digits... Fingers and toes. Always the damn fingers and toes. They were getting cold but it wasn't unbearable.

As I negotiated the "Michigan pave", I learned something. In the rain, it's actually nicer to ride on a road with lots of potholes than it is to ride on a newly surfaced road. When you ride a newly surfaced road, the uniform surface allows the water to coat the entire road, which results in more spray back (reminder: I need fenders). It can also get a bit slick (thankfully I didn't learn this the hard way...) The pothole-ridden road on the other hand, allows for the water to pool in the depressions, thereby keeping the rideable road surface dryer.

As I road along contemplating my new revelation, I soon came to the conclusion that I was going to have to stop somewhere and warm up. My fingers were having trouble working the shifters and brakes and my toes were totally numb. Unfortunately, this route is mostly through residential areas so there aren't too many places to warm oneself. I couldn't take it anymore. I pulled off at this little strip mall (none of the shops were open) and walked my bike back and forth under the awnings until I got some feeling back in my toes and fingers. It actually wasn't too bad when I wasn't moving. I rode around behind the strip mall for a quick pee and was off again. It's funny how when you're on a bike, things like indecent exposure and public urination are completely acceptable...

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it's all right... No, not really. There would be no sun today, but for some reason, this little ditty was providing me with the illusion of warmth, sort of a trick to the old subconscious. I'm not sure if I was singing it aloud or if it was just in my head, but i just kept on singing. I rode by the park that marked 20 minutes until home. Fingers and toes were numb again, but I felt like I should just press on. I can handle 20 more minutes of this. Man, nothing like straight up suffering to teach you that time is relative.

Home at last. I can barely walk. I've always found it odd that with cycling walking actually seems harder than riding, especially after an exceptionally hard effort. I get inside and immediately strip. I'm almost afraid to remove my socks because my feet have been numb for so long. The wife is looking at me and I see a bit of concern in her eyes. Evidently my face had a waxen appearance and she thought I had crashed or something. Nope. Just foolishly riding in some of the worst conditions I can think of...

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