Epic

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It was epic to say the least.  This Sunday I attempted to ride in the Gran Fondo, San Diego.  Attempted being the key word.  The weather conditions on Sunday were not normal for So-Cal at all.  The day started off at a chilly 51 degrees with a light shower.  As I was standing by the start line I started noticing the other riders with their cold weather and rain gear on.  I thought to myself, “Hmm, this was not a good time to be cheap.”  See I didn’t want to spend the extra money on this gear since summer is right around the corner and wont be cold or rainy until next year.  Plus I haven’t been in a bad enough storm in San Diego in the past to warrant me buying this stuff.  Boy was I a dummy.  So back at the starting line it was about 6:40 AM when I started noticing the rain picking up at the same time as more riders starting lining up for the start.  I looked to my left and saw a group of people huddling under an awning of a coffee shop on India Street.  “That’s smart”,  I thought.  So I scuttled over and pushed myself in.  Ah, not to bad.  At least I wasn’t getting rained on……..for the moment.  So time started slowly ticking by as the announcer started his commentary.  You can see in everyone’s eyes that they were ready to get going.  Finally 6:55 comes rolling up and I thought I’d better get back out in line.  I pushed my way back into the crowd and waited for the start.  Holy crap, what timing.  It started to pour.  It was raining so hard that everyone started moving in closer away from the sidewalks as the gutters started filling up like a river.  While everyone was standing in the street getting soaked to the bone, including myself, the announcer made one really bad comment, “We have to delay the start until 7:07 due to the Amtrak that is coming by.” What?  Are you kidding me? People are starting to get so pissed that they’re yelling at the announcer.  It was seriously getting rowdy.

It was at this moment I started thinking about what I was doing standing in the rain and if it was all worth it.  I slowly start talking myself out of the ride.  Then I saw it.  A twelve year old kid standing in the same rain as I was waiting to get started.  OK, that was a big time burn.  Had to do it now.  No chickening out.  So I stuck it out at the start.  We finally got rolling at about 7:20 due to the fact that they only allowed groups of 200 riders in 90 second intervals.  I was in the 4th wave I believe.  Off I went.  It was cold.  Seriously cold.  It was already 50 degrees.  Add to that being soaked to the bone and riding at about 18 mph makes the wind unbearable.  After about 6 miles I reached the Coronado bridge.  Never did I want to climb so bad.  It warmed me up enough to keep me going with out thinking too much of the fact that my arms were numb and my feet were frozen.

I was able to latch on to a fast group and hide from the wind for about 45 minutes.  We had the wind at our back and were flying down the strand toward Imperial Beach.  Felt OK then.  If it stayed that way I think I would have faired pretty good.  Of course things change, that includes the weather.  At mile 20 we had our first SAG stop. SAG stands for (Support And Gear) not (Stupid Ass Guys) as “some people” might think, wink wink.  It consists of food, water and restrooms and  typically a mechanic on site for the really good rides.  As soon as I got off the bike I knew I was in trouble.  I could feel how cold I really was once I wasn’t exerting myself.  Standing in line for the restroom I started to shake pretty bad.  I pushed through the chills, grabbed a snack and jumped back on the bike as fast as I could.  If I stayed on the bike at least I could somewhat stay warm with the work I was doing.

Another 10 miles past and I tagged on with a few guys who were from the OC.  We started chatting about the weather and how ironic it was for it to be cold and rainy on this particular day.  One of the guys commented “It’s all relative”, as someone cracked a sarcastic joke about the sun starting to come out.  I was at that moment trying to stay positive myself as the rain had let up for about 20 minutes. We talked about past rides we’ve done, some future rides.  Typical cycling chatter. It was also mentioned the fact that I didn’t have any rain gear on.  They said to me “Your pretty tough to be out here like that.”  I replied, “nope, just stupid.”  Of course we laughed for a bit and talked some more.  I lost that group somewhere when the climb hit at about mile 40.

I was actually very thankful for the climb.  From what I read Honey Springs climb was supposed to be pretty difficult.  I immediately thought about being able to warm up and possibly dry off.  Nope, mother nature had other plans.  It started sprinkling just about when I rode over the sensor to start the timing part of the climb.  Shit, of course.  Oh well can’t get much worse.  I dug in, and pushed through.  It was challenging.  The only horn tooting I can do with this whole ride is during the climb.  It felt good to pass people and know I wasn’t the only one suffering.  Sure people passed me as well but it still felt good.  As I weaved my way up Honey Springs I just kept picturing the top SAG stop and stepping off the bike for a moment to rest.  It was beautiful going up though.  The mountains were touching the clouds and were so green.  It was quite a site with Lake Hodges below me and seeing the mountains wrapped all the way around. There was a fog creeping in with the rain.  It was really quiet too.  No cars, and I was all alone.  All I could hear was the swishing of my tires on the wet pavement.  Don’t get much of that.  Usually you have a car screaming by you at 50 miles an hour. I was very thankful to finally get to the top and ride over the last part of the timing section.  No more climbs.  All down hill.  Uh oh.  I started hitting about 35 going down the climb and could already feel the temperature drop.  It must have been about 42 up there anyway then add on the wind chill factor.  The the sign for the SAG stop came up, only 1.5 miles.  It couldn’t get here any sooner.

I got off the bike at the stop at mile 50.  I was shaking uncontrollably.  I snuck under an awning of a local store in an attempt to get out of the rain.  As well, so did the other few hundred cyclists coming by.  It was nuts.  There was mud, rain, fog, people scrambling for food.  Everyone was trying to dry out by wringing out their socks and jerseys.  They were selling trash bags for a buck a piece at the convenience store to the riders who like me tried to brave the elements.  The store owner kept coming out and asking everyone to leave from the front of the store and use the tents the Gran Fondo put up for the SAG stop.  To be honest not much thought went in to this SAG stop.  They put all the bike parking on concrete right in front of the store but the tents with the food and water in the dirt.  Now what happens to dirt when you add water?  So everyone was huddled in 5 pop up tents in 3-4 inches of mud trying to stay dry and also eat and refuel.  That was it.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  I looked down at my legs and could see they were shaking nonstop.  I tried a small cup of coffee.  Nope, hands shaking so much it spilled.  After about 10 minutes of battling with myself I finally decided to quit.  It took me a few minutes more just to get my hands to stop shaking enough to use my cell phone.  Oh and by the way the service out in that area sucks.  Not one person had a signal.  I had to walk back out in the rain to find signal enough to send a text because there was a waiting line for the 75 cent pay phone.  So I did what all cyclist dread doing.  I called my own SAG wagon.  My wife of course.  I’m not saying I dread calling my wife but just dread having to say I give up and please come rescue me.  Basically I was admitting defeat.  To the rescue she came.  She luckily had her friend with her who with both of their excellent navigation skills were able to find this freezing cold, helpless man on the top of the mountain.  Much love to you two for that by the way.  For the hour or so I was waiting all I could think about was getting warm in the heater, and damn did it feel good wrapping myself in towels and rocking myself in the back seat.

You’re probably asking yourself at the moment “What were you thinking trying to ride in this weather?”  Yeah I know.  Trust me I’ve already heard it.  My wife was probably living in the shadows a bit when she knew I cycled.  When she actually saw the conditions for herself and could see the amount of danger we are in with not only ourselves on the road but also the cars, she made a quick attempt to persuade me not to ride anymore.  In all honesty I cannot explain it.  I love riding.  No matter the conditions.  Yes it was dumb to do this ride.  I should not have done it.  With that being said, under different circumstances I would do it again.  If I had the right gear, i.e. rain jacket, warm base layer, then I could have completed it just fine.  Safely? Well in my hands safely but there are others on the road and I can’t control it all.  In the future I will make an effort not to put myself in these conditions again.  Life is short, and there is no reason for unnecessary risk.

So I bowed out of the ride at 50 miles and a time of about 4 hrs.  I’ll get you next time Gran Fondo.

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