Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trying to reason with Hurricane Season (will get you very wet)

Since "Hurricane Season" is only a week away, and we already have our first named storm in the Atlantic (I think the Hurricanes are stalking us right now, to be honest), I thought it very fitting to use the Buffett song as a tribute to the ride from last night.

As I have been told already, the weather forecast in the upstate is extremely volatile.  It can change at a complete moments notice.  Growing up on the barrier island in Florida I'm somewhat used to this phenomenon, as it can be raining on one side of the street while being sunny and dry on the other side at times.  The problem is that I haven't gotten accustomed to scouting out how long between "oh it's just drizzling a little bit" and "you'll want to wring out those clothes before washing them" is right now.  Thus what happened last night.

Around 3pm 7am I start checking the weather.  It's Tuesday, so it means SC-TAC rides out in the country.  This was one of the events that I look forward to every week, and really is a baseline for my fitness routines.  I see a high chance of rain, getting worse as the evening goes along.  The trick is that at 6pm there is only around a 25% chance of rain, but it gets higher by 7:30 or so.  I decide it's worth the risk, and thus after work I get changed and head over to the meeting spot.  I had already decided I really didn't want to do a major warm up like I had the last few weeks, because I wanted to do the entire 30 mile loop instead of cutting it short at the end and not riding Perimeter Road afterwards.  It gets to be about 5:30 and while doing a small warm up to make sure everything is good on the bike we learn that because of the rain the official rides are canceled.  It had started to drizzle at this point, but the roads weren't wet and it was tolerable.  Thus I talked both myself and Paul into doing at least one loop of Perimeter road.  It's only a 7 mile loop, thus at any point we're only 5 or 10 minutes from being back to the parking area, right?

We start out, and we get about 1/3 of the way around the loop, and the rain starts to pick up some.  It's now getting to the "it's going to be uncomfortable" level, but we're keeping a good pace, and while my glasses are starting to get wet the water isn't really impacting my vision and the wind isn't horrid.  Honestly I didn't even consider turning around at this point.  I was already wet at this point, I might as well get the loop in.  At this point Paul's comment to me was "who's idea was it do to this loop, anyway?".  I acknowledged it was my bright idea and some references to a company I formerly worked for were made, and we kept moving on.

By the time we got to the golf course, the wind was starting to pick up.  As a note, the golf course is at about the halfway point on the loop, and also starts the area with most of the climbing.  Not a great place for the wind to be picking up, but it was still somewhat manageable.  Since it's the halfway point, there was nothing really to do but keep moving and get back to the vehicles as fast as we could.  Then, we got to the "last little climb".

I call it "the last little hill" because that's the name of the segment inside of Strava.  It's a half mile stretch on the back side of the road that has a nice 85 ft climb.  For me it was one of the first segments I ever "attacked" while using strava, so it has become one of the markers by which I determine how I'm doing riding.  It's not vicious, in fact I've taken it as a pretty decent clip in the past.  This time was definitely an adventure, though.  The first quarter mile is the real climb of the segment, and it's a place you can really attack.  When I got to the start of the segment I had a decent speed going, and I wasn't completely gassed out, so I took it as strong as I could.  Just about the time I got past the main climb to the "false flat" at the top, the wind decided it was time to give me a real challenge.  The rain turned from being just wet to being sharp (and wet).  Sharp like needles, and it managed to find every possible way to get past my glasses and attack my eyes directly.  At this point my glasses were slightly fogged up as well, but the push on the bike from the wind wasn't bad, it just slowed me down.  After attempting multiple times to determine how to actually see while moving on, I determined that looking mostly down so I could just watch the white stripe was my best bet.  I kept my speed down to a manageable level, and just did the best I could.

At this point I made the turn that marks the end of the segment.  I was dealing with a cross wind, but I also knew that I had one more turn and then it would be a tailwind.  At this point I figured I was dealing with the worst of the weather I'd have to struggle through, because once the wind was pushing me the water should be mostly out of my face and I could concentrate on getting back to the van.  Outside of just keeping my head down to keep the still sharp water out of my eyes, this segment was mostly uneventful.  We made it to the turn for the last stretch on perimeter road before the parking area.  This is where Mother Nature decided to have a real sense of humor.

We made the turn, and we were dealing with mostly a tail wind (somehow wind never really acts like you think it should on the bike), but the rain changed from the sharp little droplets into entire buckets at a time being dumped in a single drop.  At the same time the wind seemed to increase in speed and visibility was not improving at all.  My shoes quickly transformed from light and breathable into bailing buckets for the air.  I think I had an extra 15-20 lbs of water soaked into my clothes, and I was extremely happy that I had decided to put my wallet and phone into a ziplock bag before we left.  Up to this point, while I'm sure I was wet to the core, I had not really considered the wet to be a real negative.  It was something I had to deal with.  Now, it was uncomfortable.  My socks were now soaked, my body was soaked from top to bottom, the water was just dripping from everywhere while more was being poured onto me.  I started feeling like Mickey from "the Sorcerer's Apprentice".  All I was missing were brooms carrying buckets.

I finally made it back to the van, and had to figure out how to get everything into the van without needing to bail water once I was done.  The best I could do was do everything quickly, getting the bike, my shoes, helmet, socks, hat and gloves thrown into the back, and myself as quickly into the front as possible.  I removed what I could of the drenched clothing to not soak the upholstery any more than I had to, and started off for home.  It might have only been 7 miles, but it will probably be the most interesting ride of the week.

No comments: