My friend and occasional ride partner cheapcyclist, recently posted some no-frills cycling tips for riding in the rain. I admire and respect his experience-laden insights, but I want to go on record that NONE of it matters when you find yourself in the midst of…the event described in the title.
The setup: A mere ONE week after the (somewhat) ill-fated Tragedy of Errors described in Part I here and Part II here, I undertook riding in the Flat 50 offered by Blazing Saddles Bicycle Club of Decatur, sans cheapcyclist (aka alone).
I felt good. I felt prepared. I felt (mostly) recovered from the events of a week prior. The weather forecast indicated enough of a chance of rain (and other forces of nature) to raise the question of whether or not the ride would remain as scheduled. I was duly informed, “rain or shine.” After all, how often are meteorologists REALLY on target with predictions?
I drove to the ride/start location in the early morning dark, through occasional rain and reasonably mild temperatures. Did some standing water on the roadways cause me to turn back? Of course not! I paid money for this (and drove ~2 hours to get there), and how bad could it really get? (more about that later)
Without a proper cycling rain jacket as described here, I improvised with a non-breathable one from my motorcycling days. Very truly I tell you, this made not a bit of difference in the quantity of moisture my body encountered. Nor did the recently installed, highly recommended fenders. But, I digress.
Short version (longer version continued below): It rained. A LOT. Then, it rained some more. In total, within my finished ride time, it rained for all but approximately 15 minutes. It was also VERY windy (whitecaps-breaking-on-puddles level of windy or worse).
I was mostly sopping and saturated before the first drink/snack rest at 9-10 miles, but I felt like I was riding well. I never try to keep up with a ride pack because I (try to) recognize my own limits (again, see Tragedy of Errors noted above) and ride within them; NOT a competitive rider.
You might be thinking, “So what! A little rain? Deal with it!” Very truly I tell you, it was SO MUCH rain. When the ride/route has to be modified (on the fly, by organizers, traveling in vehicles trying to track down riders) and they tell riders to avoid a particular part of the route because “a car is in water up to its taillights” (yes, that’s true), it is some indication of how much rain was falling (and continued). Several short portions of roadway were under enough water (through which I adventurously rode), it seemed the water level was up to the bottom of my pedal stroke.
Oh and I haven’t yet mentioned the WIND that was near constant at no less than 20mph with regular gusts upwards of 30-40mph. The wind was even more noticeable on the (modified) return-to-start trip after the lunch stop.
Still, I slogged on with the words of the Ancient Mariner echoing in my rain-soaked ears, “Water, water everywhere.” After having maintained what I think is a respectable pace up through the 30-mile mark, the environment began to best me. The road seemed, at that point, to be as endless as the wind & rain. I could barely raise my gaze. I couldn’t get higher than my lowest gear, and I was pedaling with everything I had just to avoid from being blown over in a heap.
I was greeted at the finish line by much less rain and a cheering/cheerful group of organizers and support personnel with snacks (whom I think were just really grateful to not have to set out in search of a blown-over puddle-bound rider). Sincere thanks to all of them!
While not really an Ironman event, this was easily the most challenging ride I have done. I FELT like I had biked/swam/marathoned when I was done. AND, it simply wasn’t supposed to be that way (hence the “unplanned” part of the title). You may be able to see my ride stats here.