Sunday, February 5, 2012

No Choice but to Confront Your Fear

In a previous post I discussed my fear of having to ride in a cold rain.  It happened yesterday, in a place where I had no choice but to put up with it.

When I got up to eat breakfast before driving to Rockville for a group ride  into Virginia, I saw a Facebook post by a fellow rider saying the chance of rain was 50%, even though it had never been >20% as I tracked it all week.  It was 32F with a high predicted in the 40s, about as cold as rain can get, so I tossed my make-shift collection of raingear into my backpack and headed off. I told myself not to worry, that it really meant a 50% chance of not raining. I usually get my way when daring the weather gods.

Most of the ride was cold, but dry.  We had lunch at the halfway point, a cool/funky deli or restaurant (it defies description) place in Middleburg VA called Market Salamander.  On the way out everyone freaked to see wet pavement out the window, and was very relieved to find out that the owners had just hosed down the patio.

At the 87 mile point we stopped at a 7-11, and emerged into a drizzle.  We were far from home - with no choice but to get on with it.  I pulled out a cheap cycling rain jacket,  and others had nice jackets, but many had nothing but their normal stuff.  It rained contiuously until we got close to Rockville, then it turned into a wintry mix of rain and snow. At some point the sun set and it also got really dark.  That's when it got scary.

People could not see because their glasses were fogging over.  If they could see, people could not see their cue sheets (directions) because they had either been pulped by the rain, or had rain drops on them.  We were warned that, even under the best conditions, the route was "funky": with entries such as take the path just past the house with the white picket fence.  We were riding on a busy 4-lane road in the busy part of town, disoriented, wet and cold, in the dark, unable to find our next turn.  Someone had the presence of mind to recommend we all duck into Metro Coffee Convenience and sort things out.

Once we got inside it was clear that we made the right call.  A couple riders were shivering violently, like I'd never seen before, and it was scary.  We got them going on hot tea.  I had a layer of slush on my fairly light jacket. We wondered about calling a cab to take us the final 4 miles to the finish.  Quitting a 125 mile ride in the final 4 miles was repugnant to everyone, but if the situation was a little worse it's what we would have had to do.  Mike B. and I, possibly the only ones protected enough from the weather to still be coherent, got out our smart phones for a GPS fix and tried to figure out where we were and how to interpret the "funky" directions to the next turn.  He had the number of the route organizer and called her for clarification.  I had brought a second copy of the cue sheet, and replaced my pulped copy of it.  I also added a second light to my helmet, as did Mike, so we could read the cue sheet and see street signs.  I also put on the plastic sailing overalls that used to belong to my wife to cover my lower body - I was almost completely waterproof.   Mike went out and scouted the next turn for us.  After about an hour there, everyone felt good enough to continue on.

We headed out - glasses much less foggy, nav picture clearer (still about 15 turns to go), and lights blazing.  15 minutes later we were back to our cars at the Safeway where we started.  We got our control cards signed and gulped down hot chocolate and coffee.  Everyone looked much better than they did when things got scary.  As if there were a supreme being sending me a message, as I started my hour-long drive home a song came on that used to have special meaning to me as a member of the USNA Sailing Team:  Gerry Rafferty singing "....just one more hour and I'll be home and dry......"

There - I did it.  I can ride in any weather condition.  Yesterday and Death Valley bookend the possible conditions, and I've done them both.

Notes to myself:

- You started out dehydrated because you didn't drink when you got up
- Cue sheet frog light on your helmet still points in the wrong direction.
- Waterproof sheet covers aren't
- Neither is your backpack
- Balaclava alone was waterproof enough in a light rain
- Need a better way to flip between sections of the cue sheet
- One tail light may be shot
- You need a new helmet
- Think about chamois butter