Yesterday I headed out to do a 90 mile ride from Providence to Wellesley College and back with a group of 5 racers on the Brown cycling team. When I woke up it was raining pretty hard, yet I received an email confirming that the ride was still on. For a moment I hesitated: on the one hand, I knew that if I went out it would be a long, wet, cold slog, but on the other hand, I knew that if I stayed inside I would regret it. Also, given my long-term goal of doing an ultra-endurance cycling race, I was keenly aware of the need to become accustomed to training in any and all conditions. So at 7:50 AM I left my apartment and met up with the other riders.
At first, the roads were wet, but no rain was falling. Within half an hour of our departure, however, the heavens opened up and we were all instantly soaked. Fortunately, I had a rain jacket with me which, though it kept me dry, is made of PVC and doesn’t breathe, so I was soon covered in sweat instead of rain. It became clear that the rain wasn’t going to abate anytime soon, and I started fretting about hypothermia and other neurotic concerns. The ride itself was fast–averaging well over 18 MPH over slightly rolling terrain on beautiful back roads.
We covered the first 35 miles in 2 hours, despite the constant rain and chilly temperatures. Unfortunately, after about 35 miles, in the middle of nowhere and still 15 miles from our turn around point, one of the riders with us got two flat tires in a row. It turned out that his tire was actually coming apart, causing the flats, but it took us about 40 minutes to figure that out–40 minutes of standing in the rain, getting eaten alive by mosquitos and, of course, feeling cold. Given my neurotic nature, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the cold, the wetness, the distance and the time (I had to be back by a certain time). So I decided to turn around and ride home on my own.
In order to find my way back, I made use of my Garmin 705 GPS unit; I simply entered in the address of my apartment, and the GPS routed me all the way back. I rode the entire 35 miles back home at a time trial pace, feeling strong, and actually enjoying the sites and sounds around me–the clouds hanging low, the grey atmosphere, my wet brake pads and tires, my breath. I rode on beautiful roads that wound their way through neighborhoods, woods and, yes, strip malls. But most of all I rode, with nothing else to do or say. My only responsibility was to follow the instructions given me by the GPS (turn right in .2 miles on “Wood St.”, etc) and pedal.
I expect to have many, many more days of training like this–at once difficult, fun and, in short, epic.