The email went out Friday. The ride rolls out from the cobbles at seven AM sharp. It was supposed to be wet. 100% chance of rain wet. I was up early and checked the radar map. The map wasn’t green; it was yellow. It was raining hard. We usually think there is fine line between stupid and epic, there was no line today; this ride would be both.
As I was gathering my stuff for the ride I spotted my camera. “Not today, it’s too wet” I said out loud. On the drive to the rendezvous, I plucked a pair of toe warmers out of the glove box. I game them a kiss before opening the pack and sticking them to my socks. The rain was slapping my windshield as I drove.
We gave each other fist bumps like most morons do just prior to all manner of foolish undertakings. It was raining pretty hard. Like solders following orders we rolled out with minimal emotion.
We stopped for a moment whilst Sam made a brief clothing adjustment. As I was stopped, a drop of water from a power line fell as if aimed by a sniper, and went down the back of my neck and chilled my whole body. A cold rain continued to fall.
I looked out across Lake Washington. It was so dark and grey it looked like a black and white photograph. The ride was going to be so epic, the story should have been told in monochrome.
As we crossed I-90 there were whitecaps and the wind was blowing. For the first time in two years I closed the pit zips on my rain jacket. Dave kept going off the front. We three chasers; El Hefe, Hardman, and Evo spent the early miles trying to catch him. It seemed to be raining harder now.
The rain was unrelenting and we found ourselves crashing through puddles the way one does the last lap of a cross race. We seemed to have a mindset of, “I’m already soaked, and it’s almost over.” The only problem was; we were not nearly done; we had just started.
We were in Medina when Dave needed to take a natural break. Considering the neighborhood, we stopped at a gas station. While Dave was using the bathroom, Hardman bought a cup of cocoa, to show some patronage while El Hefe hung out in the walk in beer cooler to try and warm up. He passed the cocoa around and we all savored a sip or two.
Dave contemplated taking a bus back home and his body language revealed how cold he was. He mentioned how his feet were soaked. The store clerk, I’ll call her Marge because I could believe she was a Marge, offered Dave her socks. She said they were men’s socks and that her feet were clean when she put them on before her shift. Even with all of the sarcasm I have, I can’t say anything except that was among the nicest things I’ve seen in a long time. It was bombing rain outside.
Dave did take her up on her offer of two plastic bags which he promptly inserted between his shoes and his failing Pearl Izumi Cyclone Shoe covers. We scarfed food in hopes of stoking a fire in our bodies and warming up. With our bellies full we again set out.
The road was being resurfaced, so it was as rough as the cobbles we had started on. We kept the pace conversational and asked about each other’s gloves and shoe covers. Today was the test for all of our gear. I opened and closed my hand. My (waterproof) gloves were soaked. The temperature was in the upper thirties. The rain wasn’t ever going to end.
We climbed out of Kirkland and my glasses fogged up. My feet were now cold. My core was still good. Our bikes were covered with road mung. They looked like they had just finished a Cyclocross race. Mud on the chain stays and seat stays and down tubes.
We stopped in Kenmore for a second natural break. Would the bathroom have hand dryers that blew warm air? No such luck. For a moment I thought the rain had stopped. It hadn’t.
As we pointed south for the return to Capital Hill we were greeted with a stiff headwind. We had the weather trifecta; cold, wet, and windy. We plodded toward home. We were on the home stretch and each of us suffering quietly. I took some solace that there would only be thirty-nine more days and thirty-nine more nights of this biblical storm.
Dave kept popping off the front, not so much because he was aggressive, but because he was trying to warm up. After passing through the University of Washington we began to climb. Standing on the pedals only served to stir the water in my shoes and pump the warm water that had been close to my pruned skin away, and draw the colder water close to my skin.
“Guys,” Dave offered in a tone that concerned us. He sounded like he was about to confess something serious. “I’m just going to go straight home and sit in my hot tub.” We continued to climb and as we neared Dave’s house he bid us farewell. I don’t know if Dave changed his clothes or just dropped his bike and stepped into his hot tub in full kit. Either way, I respect him.
Hardman, El Hefe and I stopped at Fuel and started to acknowledge reality. I wrung out my waterproof gloves and then winced at the resulting puddle. I searched in vain for my second cleat cover and had to concede I had lost it somewhere along the way. It was still raining.
We were all soaked. What was the best part of the ride? The end was the best part. We all knew exactly what we were getting into when we started. It was as rough as expected. We didn’t whine and our bravado was all tongue in cheek. The warm coffee was good, but we were so cold we knew the path to warmth involved a shower, and so our respite was brief.
I didn’t even think about putting on my soaking gloves, I just wedged them into a back pocket and rode the half-mile back to the war wagon with bare hands. At the car I plopped my wet clothes in a pile and climbed in.
I drove home sitting on a towel. Once back I had to do the full Post-Cyclocross Race routine. I hosed my clothes off and washed everything. I hosed off the black gunk that coated my rims.
The shower was welcomed and the washing machine did its job as well. My boot dryer was called to service and my shoes are there right now.
I think I’ll get up early tomorrow and do it again.