Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Me vs. my Will Power vs. the Weather: First Outdoor Long Ride of 2011

Needs no caption.
March in Cleveland - I've said it all. I'm sure you don't want to hear about it again. The rain. The snow. The ice.

The SLIPPING on ice.

The treadmill. The indoor track. The trainer.

The LONG rides on the trainer.

With seven weeks to go until Ironman St. George, Spring broke in Cleveland this past weekend - but only for a brief moment. That was the moment I managed to get outside for my first long bike ride of the season. My goal was 100 miles. But you need more than a moment to finish a century ride. You need several moments. And a little luck. And I seem to always run out of those things when I need them most.

The day, and my ride, started out relatively pain-free. It was noon on Sunday and the temperature had warmed into the low 40s. I checked the weather and saw it wasn't too windy and the rain would hold off (rain? what rain? it was a clear blue sky) until 7 pm. I mixed up my nutrition bottles and decided what to wear - concerned about wind-chill, I chose my fleece wind-stopper mittens and jacket.

My husband Jim was heading out for lawn care supplies, but before he left, I asked him to check my bike's wireless computer battery because the display had been blinking. (That meant the battery was dying, right? What else could that possibly mean?) Jim swapped out the battery with one from an older bike computer then pocketed the "dead" one for reference to buy extras.

At noon standing in my kitchen, I was unaware I had just made the first two mistakes of my ride: (1) I made a hugely wrong assumption about the weather (more on this later) and (2) I didn't READ THE MANUAL and therefore made a MORE hugely wrong assumption about bike computers. When I rolled my bike out of the garage, there was an obvious problem with the computer - the display was working but the numbers were all zeroes. I adjusted the sensor and tried again. Nothing. I read the manual. There it was in black and white: if the speed number is blinking, THE SENSOR NEEDS A NEW BATTERY. NOT the computer. And I just sent Jim out with the only other "good" battery.

Jim was treated to a frantic phone call, after which he stopped for batteries and made his way back home as quickly as possible. The bike computer was back up and running by 1:30 pm. At this point, in any other city, I would have looked up at the sky and said "no problem." But I live in Cleveland, and I know better. And I was having a massive anxiety attack about the weather.

I jumped on my bike and began my journey through the hilly west branch of Cleveland Metroparks. The wind had already begun to kick up as my route headed north. By the the time I reached my turnaround near the lake, I had been riding for 34 miles almost directly into the wind.

At this point, it would be a safe assumption that riding out against the wind means you'll be riding back "with" the wind. This is never a guarantee in Cleveland. We truly live by the old saying: "if you don't like the weather in Cleveland, wait 15 minutes - it'll change." I looked up at the blue sky and then whipped out my iPhone to check the weather.

And there it was in front of me - around 4 pm, the wind would change direction. And it did. On my way back, the wind shifted from north to east to southeast. What direction was I headed? South. Then east. In disbelief, I mused that this must be the kind of day that leads us to recall how bad we had it in the "olden days." I could just hear my future self: "..way back when I was a triathlete, we rode into the wind, BOTH ways."

More from the "mad scientist": Weather Underground plots
prove the wind changed direction between 4 and 5 p.m.
By the time I hit 50 miles, my speed was dwindling from the hills AND the wind. The clouds had rolled in and the temperature was fighting to stay above 40 degrees. My wind-stopper jacket had done such a great job that I was soaked through the layer underneath it. I was now starting to feel the cold. I stopped again and called Jim, hoping for some moral support and to ask him to meet me somewhere with dry clothes, another water bottle and the lighter lenses for my sunglasses.

What I really wanted to do was pack it in. I was cold. I was tired. I didn't want to finish my ride in the dark. My legs were rebelling from running 21-miles with hills the day before. And worst of all, my motivation had taken a nose-dive. Jim's moral support came more like a warning: "if you don't do 100 miles today, you'll have to do it next weekend on the trainer because it's going to get cold again." Ouch, the double whammy - slamming my attitude AND the crap Cleveland weather.

But it worked. Ok. OK! I'll finish this thing. He offered to meet me with supplies on the second out-and-back leg. I was about to head into - and subsequently, out of - the Cuyahoga Valley. I had visions of having to walk my bike up those final hills. In the DARK.

Shake it off!

The downhills into the valley were good for some speed, even into the wind. And by the time I turned around, I was feeling better mentally and physically. In the 20-mile homestretch, I would FINALLY be riding with the wind at my back. Jim met me and I was able to quickly change into dry clothes and get back on my way. Would I make it home before dark? Jim gave me a little blinkie light just in case.

Warmed up and dry now, I was able to get back on the road with newfound enthusiasm.

It lasted about 10 minutes. Then I heard what distinctly sounded like acorns hitting the pavement. Hmm.. I glanced around. No acorns - in fact, no nuts of any kind. And then it hit me - right smack in the face. The SOUND (the one of "acorns hitting the pavement") was not acorns hitting the pavement but RAIN DROPS hitting the pavement. Enormous MONSTER rain drops. Rain drops with attitudes of their OWN. And they were hitting ME now. I heard myself groan. This ride had now entered the realm of the Disaster Magnet.

The rain clouds darkened the conditions even further, and I decided to take the quickest way out of the valley - mostly for safety. I got off the road and onto a paved bike trail for as long as I could. By the time I rolled into my driveway, I was soaked from the outside in, the roads were slick, drivers were yelling at me and it was almost completely night.

And on my (now working) bike computer read the following: 100.2 mi.

1 comment:

  1. Here’s the deal, “Against the Wind” was a bad Bob Segar song and it’s a bad situation to ride in. Next time, have Saint Jim drive you 100 miles from the house to the top of a hill so you can ride 100 miles downhill with the wind at your back. This way your long ride should only take 2 hours and you won’t get rained on.

    You’re welcome.