What can I say? It was on the schedule. That is the excuse I give everyone for doing probably one of the dumbest things I have done in a while. Truth is I just wanted to do it, so I did. 45 mile bike ride for Meals on Wheels Saturday morning and it started while it was pouring down rain. Yep, not the smartest thing I have ever done and just confirms that I am probably at least one socket wrench short of a full tool kit.
There are a couple of things you need to understand about riding in the rain. One is that it really messes up your bike, and if you don’t clean and lube it well after a ride in the rain, you are going to have issues and believe me, I have enough issues to go around without getting my bike wet. The second thing is that when you ride in the rain you have brake problems. The brakes on a road bike are simply two rubber pads squeezing up against an aluminum wheel rim. Unless you are squeezing your brake handles really hard you probably are not going to stop when it’s wet. Let me rephrase. You probably won’t stop when you want to when it’s wet. You’ll stop all right, but it might be when you hit the thing you were trying to stop for. There are a bunch of other reasons to not ride in the rain, such as it’s cold, miserable and just plain not fun, but I think those first two should be enough for our purposes.
I was really looking forward to this ride, and it was for a good cause, though whether or not anyone rode didn’t make a difference as far as fundraising was concerned. I wanted to do it, and it was on the schedule. I had been training for it by riding the route a couple of times in the preceding weeks. However I did not ride the complete route. We missed one of the turns in the training rides and it came back to haunt me, but more on that fiasco later. There were several options one of which really was not an option. There were 5 choices for routes. A 100, 63, 45, 25, or 10 mile fun ride! Guess which one was not an option? As stated earlier I did the 45 miler. Fortunately we could do the 25 miler if it got really bad and we knew where the turn off was so there was always the thought when we started that I could turn back with no shame if it came to it.
It’s one thing to get caught out in the rain while riding. It’s inevitable that one day that will happen, if you ride regularly, and I have been caught out in some monsoons. However, it’s a completely other fun time to start out while it’s raining. AND, it’s just on the other side of crazy when you wake up 30 minutes earlier than you had planned and it’s already pouring down rain. I mean it was a frog strangler. But, it was on the schedule, so I had breakfast found everything I had that I could wear that was waterproof, and set out. I think one of God’s greatest inventions is the Ziploc. The wife, Kim, did give me a look, and suggested that she give me a ride to the start point at Furman which is only about 2 miles from my house. Can anyone guess what that look meant? For those playing at home, it meant, “Why don’t I give you a ride to the start, because it’s pouring down rain, and there is no way you are going to ride in this mess, so you may as well get there, and then get back in the car and come home before you embarrass me by riding in the rain and then writing about it.” I replied to the look in the following manner, “That’s okay honey. This way if it’s too bad I’ll know it before the start and I won’t have ridden very far and can come on home. But be on standby this afternoon because I might need a ride home. Love you.” Just to relieve the suspense I’ll go ahead and say she did come and pick me up afters.
I do want to state categorically that this was a wonderfully presented event, and me pointing out a couple of things humorously, in no way should diminish the hard work, preparation, enthusiasm, and execution the volunteers and the good people at Meals on Wheels exhibited. Okay, everybody clear? Good people, wonderful event, fantastic execution, will do it again, etc. etc…? However…when you send out an email telling people to be there 30 minutes early, 8 am, for specific instructions because of the weather, you need to give out those specific instructions 30 minutes before the ride starts. Guess what time Mark showed up? That’s right 8 am, already soaking wet I might add. Why? Because it was on the schedule. So big, ole, wet, ziplocked up Mark, waits around in the rain waiting for instructions, while everyone else waits, yes wait for it, in their cars with their spouses. I refer you back to the “Look” referenced in the previous paragraph. I did find an overhang to stand under with about 10 other people. Guess what time instructions started? 8:28 am. Guess what the instructions were? No change to the 45 or 25 mile route. 1 change to the 63. GO!!!!
Still pouring down rain by the way. Lots of comments being made about how it has just been decided we are doing the 25 and not the 45. By the way if you are ever riding in the rain don’t ride directly behind anyone. Bikes tend to not have mud flaps, particularly the one in front of you.
Surprisingly the ride itself was fairly uneventful. It rained for the first hour and a half, but stopped after that. Conveniently it stopped when we got to the first rest stop which was placed strategically at the turn off for the 25 and the 45 mile routes. I had worn enough layers and Ziplocs so that after the first 15 minutes I was no longer cold, just wet and when we pulled into the rest stop for fuel. I mean, am I going to pass up snacks? Not a chance. I met a nice guy named Robert with whom I was riding the first leg (had to look up the grammar on that one, don’t expect it to be a reoccurrence). I was feeling pretty good so, hey, let’s do the 45! So instead of turning right we turned left and went up the first wall, notice I did not say hill. This one I was expecting as I had ridden this part of the route before. 15 minutes later my heart was out of my nose and back in my chest and we were cruising along in the Scenic Highway 11 area. No issues, it was a nice ride, the rain had stopped, the weather was cool, and I was feeling good. I was riding my ride without worrying about keeping up with a crowd. The course was really well marked so there was no worry about getting lost. The next stop was at the 24 mile mark and it was on top of a looonnnngggg hill. But it was manageable. Stopped again for “free” food and realized that the new position of standing up vertically was a little more of a challenge than I had anticipated. But I still felt pretty good, so we continued on. Got to a turn off at about the 30 mile mark and interestingly enough there were two people at the intersection and neither one of them was pointing in the same direction. As you can imagine I was a bit disconcerted, but my fears were quickly alieved when one said “turn right for the 45, left for the 63.” Now I have never been the sharpest sword in a fight, but this was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made.
I was feeling good. No cramps, no fatigue, not overheating, butt not sore for sitting on a seat made for skinny people, so I thought about turning left and doing the 63. I turned right. And to quote Martha Stewart, “It was a good thing”. Remember, good people, wonderful event, fantastic execution, will do it again, etc. etc… I don’t know who the sadistic bastard was that came up with this route but at mile 32 everything went to hell and the route decided to go straight the frack up. I still have 13 miles to go. I was no longer feeling good. I was now going straight the frack up, straight the frack down, straight the frack up!!! The slow rolling inclinations and declinations of the Carolina Foothills were no more. For those of you know Paris Mountain, I ride that probably once a week, and these inclines, while not as long, were steeper than anything Paris Mountain has to offer. To top it all off, now we now had the SAG car behind us, the car that brings up the rear of the group with its lights flashing, so that no one gets lost and so that everyone knows where the back of the group is. I sort of expected it, since the crowd was light and I ain’t exactly what you would call Speedy Gonzales on a bike, particularly when the route goes straight the frack up, straight the frack down, straight the frack up!!! But it’s always kind of embarrassing to know you are the last one. But dignity has never been one of my strong suits anyway. For crying out loud, I’m 6’4”, weigh 300 lbs., wearing lycra, a stupid looking helmet, soaking wet, wearing a bright yellow jacket so everyone can see me looking like this and I am sitting on a device that I have been hit by a car, not once, but twice while riding. Plus the seat I am sitting on is not much wider than a stick. Needless to say I am not bothered too much by the SAG vehicle right behind me.
My understanding was the route was changed to avoid a hill, that to be honest, is a bad one. I think they replaced 1 really bad hill, with 73,412 bad ones. I prefer my pain all at once not spread out.
We made it back. I was completely gassed. There was beer and one of the trainers at the Y, Sharon, had suggested beer was a good recovery drink. Who was I to argue? There was great food from Table 301. Fabulous Mexican chicken, pork and fixin’s. I texted the wife to come pick me up. I could feel the “Look” through her texted reply and she came right down. She’s real good about that. She knew I was hurting. But I got a different “look” when I got in her car. Someday I will write about how my wife likes to keep her car clean. I mean, “throw someone in the back, take out their appendix, and never worry about MRSA” clean. The hospitals in town should take pointers from my wife. I got in the car and got the new “look”. I really couldn’t figure it out til we got down the road a little and I caught a whiff of myself. Whew!! Sweat, and road rain ain’t exactly a Yankee Candle kind of fragrance. It also explained why my dog, who is normally so excited to see me, she will climb all 82 lbs. of her ½ Great Dane self into my lap, was hiding in the back of the van.
I told Kim that despite the rain, and the hills, it was a great time. She replied that she was still trying to figure out why I did it. I told her, “It was on the schedule.”