I had a really nice day riding Rosaryville with Art and Dave yesterday, fellow Coppis who will make up Squadra Sporcizia for the 12 Hours of Lodi next week. We're a splinter cell of Squadra Coppi making a probably ill-advised foray into team endurance mountain bike racing. To paraphrase Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket, We are... in a world of shit. It's still fun though, and yesterday's ride was just about perfect, 60 degree temps, very sunny, perfect trail conditions, and a couple other friends who are appropriately easygoing and truly a pleasure to ride with. Mid-ride, Dave said "I like mountain biking because it reminds me that riding a bike is supposed to be fun."
Yeah, that sums it up for me too.
So today I had to grind out some more miles, the bike don't pedal itself. I was supposed to do a little short of two more hours on the mountain bike, but the weather closed in overnight and we had heavy thunderstorms. That's bad for the trails. I don't want to go out there and be *that guy* who wrecks the trails, so I decided to ride the roadbike and just do a moderately hard ride but with highly variable effort levels, all out on the hills, and a range of efforts on the flats, to simulate the highly variable ride you get on a single speed MTB. It was 50 out, damp as hell, the roads were wet, but I figured I would be okay in a base layer, knee warmers and short sleeve jersey. It was chilly, but there was no rain at ride start, so I figured it would be fine. Right?
Houston, we have a problem.
About 45 seconds out of the house, I was still getting comfortable on the seat, and the frickin' skies opened. At first, it was just a crack, like being spit upon by an angry cat. A fleck of water here and there, nothing for a second, then more consistent flecks...
About halfway around Crofton Parkway I decided to turn around since the rain was getting heavier. It was cold and raining harder and harder, and it was making me feel as uncomfortable as Paris Hilton in church. This was a pretty straightforward stimulus/response cycle. It hurt, so I turned and ran.
Back near the house - with about 8 minutes of riding under my belt, there wasn't as much rain. Weird... but Crofton's like that, we seem to have two or three little microclimates here, for some reason. So then I stopped to adjust my bars - first ride with the new bolt-on aero bars - and noticed that it was suddenly bone dry. Maybe it would be safe to go, not too painful, and I was only a little damp. So I started turning the pedals.
Then it started to rain heavily, as if the sky believed fairly strongly that it needed to wash me down.
What to do?
For me it was pretty simple, though the decision wasn't easy. As much as I wanted to turn around, it occurred to me to ask myself if I gave more of a shit about being warm for two hours, or racing better. Racing better won out, and within minutes I was 5 miles away from the house pedaling hard in a downpour, head down into the teeth of the wind, freezing my ass off.
I saw two other riders out over on Herald Harbor Road. The one guy had on what looked like Route 1 shorts, so I assumed it was a couple other equally numbskulled racers. Nobody else was out on bikes though... just some idiot racers.
No, it didn't remind me that riding a bike is fun. I only mentioned Dave's comment because today's ride was the exact opposite of fun, but I suppose if you want to be a good rider, especially if you want to race well, you don't let rain and cold and other obstacles get in the way of your training.
That it's for a good cause doesn't make your hands and feet any less numb when you stop, it doesn't make your sodden, sore ass feel better, and it doesn't help you stop shivering violently any sooner when you get home and hop into the shower. In the end, it may not even make you a better racer or rider. That may be a hopeless cause when you look back on it in retrospect.
I'm willing to consider, however, the possibility that a ride like today's, makes a ride like yesterday's stroll in the sun that much sweeter.