Ending in Water and more Water
Saturday was the Cycle Salt Lake Century bike ride. This year makes my third riding this course and the first year the race started someplace else than the fairgrounds.
This has been an interesting year or so for me and cycling. I have moved from being in the best physical shape of my life to trying to figure out why I continually have a sickening feeling in my chest whenever I think about biking. Regardless, I paid my money, tried to prepare myself for the ride and though I felt lacking in long distance saddle time, I found myself at my brothers house, 7 in the morning, my mind ready for 108 miles and 6 hours on the bike.
We rode from his house towards the Gallivan center. The weather looked grim from the beginning, with low clouds and wet roads, but the forecast called for a break in the storm between 10 and noon. The clouds kept things cool and though it was obvious we were going to get wet, some rain is no excuse not to ride.
I was tired to start, but as we went through the city, my blood and body warmed. Soon, Dylan and I were talking and laughing the way we usually do. It always amazes me the way some riders tackle long rides like a century. This particular ride is not difficult, just long, but some riders were huffing and wheezing as they went by us. There are always those in better shape who effortlessly do 24 MPH or so, but the hard breathers aren’t those riders. One poor girl would sprint ahead, then we would catch up and pass her, mouth open and struggling. A few minutes later, she would cruise by us again.
At one point, three riders blew by us, one pulling off the road just after. The rider directly in front of me decided he needed to stop and join his buddy, but figured I had magically vanished after he passed by. As I swerved to the left, avoiding the accident, I cursed under my breath. Not an apology or a wave, nothing. Several times, teams of riders passed by, refusing to allow us space to avoid holes or puddles, basically pinning us in, forcing us to slow or stop. A few times, groups would split the tiny gap between us without a warning or acknowledgement we were even on the road. I don’t understand the inconsiderate nature of some of these riders. It is a trend I see in more places than supported rides, but when there are thousands of riders, it is more frequent and more blatant.
About ten miles in, the rain really began to fall. My glasses were a hindrance, so I took them off. Water ran off my helmet and into my eyes. It wasn’t overly cold and while riding in heavy rain is frustrating, it is doable. We both agreed to pass the first checkpoint without stopping, hoping to get ahead of the largest group of riders. It was a solid plan and seemed to work as the near accidents, blow by’s and amount of people around us was definitely less than before.
The rain continued to fall.
My body felt good and at mile 20 I knew I could once again complete this ride. That was a pleasant revelation. We rode through Farmington and started to find our rhythm, cruising at about 20 MPH towards the second stop and lunch.
I brought a second pair of gloves, thinking that it would be nice to have something dry to put on. We stopped for a quick snack and I changed gloves, the first set being soaked through. It was here that I first noticed how wet my feet were getting. I had brought extra socks and thought of changing them, but the amount of water inside my shoes made any sock change pointless.
As we rode the back roads towards Syracuse, the weather worsened. Both Dylan and I determined that we were going to ride to the lunch stop, try and dry out a bit, then head back to Salt Lake. We were wet and miserable. The thought of riding out to the lake was unpleasant and with the lunch stop being 40 in, we would still get 80, which was more than enough.
Dylan was starting to have trouble riding, making very wide turns as his muscles were freezing up. Simple 3 or 4% grades were slowing us down considerably and the rain starting coming down in sheets. At one point, I looked down at my feet (trying to get a break from the pounding water that kept running into my eyes). Water came out of the tops of my shoes in streams. My clothing was completely soaked and my fingers were starting to numb as the temperature seemed to drop.
I have ridden in colder weather, more rain one other time (down Emigration Canyon), but this was a completely different animal. There was nowhere to stop and get out of it, just ten more miles of riding to the check point. Dylan came along side of me. “No way in hell are we riding back through this.” Which was true. Both of us were shutting down mentally but more importantly, physically. The weather was beating us.
Head down and legs pushing, we rode straight into the wind and water for another five miles. I honestly don’t remember anything else but water and the numbing sensation in my feet. Just as I thought I could not ride any farther, we were there. Everyone looked beat and cold.
My legs were jelly and my feet completely numb. I peeled off one shoe and sock, massaging my toes. Around me, cyclists stood shivering, some pretending they were not in as bad of shape as they appeared. Ride officials came by, telling us that the Syracuse Fire Dept. was warming their bay and encouraging all of us to go inside. I pulled my shoes onto my bare feet and wandered over.
It was comical how wet everything was. Once we knew we were done riding (we called a friend to come get us), and once we felt safe, the insanity of the last 40 miles made us laugh. Everything we had with us was very wet and there was nothing to change into. My pack was soaked as were the extra things I had brought. I couldn’t get my hands dry and water ran from my over-wet shorts down my leggings and onto my bare feet. All you could do was laugh at the absurdity of it all.
My favorite moment-When the announcement came discouraging anyone thinking of going on, I said aloud that that wasn’t a worry, I was done. One gentleman looked at me as if I was the most pathetic rider in history. I looked back at him and mouthed. “I don’t (expletive ending in ing) care what you think.” he looked away.
I had nothing to prove to anyone in that room. I knew if the weather were better, I would have finished the ride. Continuing on in those conditions was not tough or brave, it was stupidity. If the fine gentleman next to me wanted to pretend otherwise, good for him. I hope he didn’t injure himself or get ill from the ride.
In the back of the car, still soaked to the bone, I watched the freeway miles pass by. Water, water everywhere. I can laugh about it now, laugh about how foolish the whole endeavor was. I am dry and totally recovered, but part of me wonders if I will ever participate in an organized ride like that ever again. I love the course, but I can ride that regardless of a place to stop and get some food or drink.
I am put off by the participants as much as the weather I rode through. There is a culture I am obviously not a part of and I am not sure I even want to be. If what makes someone a ‘cyclist’ is riding through conditions like that, when it was obviously unsafe (several others were talking down on those of us who were ‘pussing out’), then I guess I am not a cyclist. I still enjoy riding and will certainly continue to do so, but the attitude and carelessness of other riders, the lack of consideration towards others, the overall unfounded arrogance, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.