Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jump In

Some times it is just like going swimming a cold lake, you just have to take the plunge and jump in. Often in fact, that is the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Once you in, you will often find that the water is just fine. But getting over that initial shock can often take your breath away. In fact, people often drown when plunging into frigid water because of the shock of the cold and the body's natural reaction to that shock, which is to take a deep breath. When that happens uncontrollably while under water, you can well imagine the results.

Heading out at 7 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping
Lately it seems, our weather has been fickle which has resulted in a bunch of harsh if not extreme weather conditions. This has made riding over the past few weeks in some instances, a bit more of a challenge that normal. For one we have had just an absolute ton of really cold days this season. By really cold I am talking temperatures in the teens or lower with a few days where we had to ride in the single digits.

I know that in the grand scheme, that isn't really unbearably cold. In fact, having grown up in northern VT, as a kid I was used to being out all day playing in the snow in temperatures like that. As an adolescent and young adult, I would often alpine ski in temperatures below zero and recall the tribulations of trying to start my '77 'vette with morning temps of 30 below for a week straight in the valley where I grew up. Even recall as an adult I recall (briefly) skiing Sunday River one morning with air temperatures at 25 below. We would often sled in the far northern reaches of the country in temps well below freezing as well.

I've come to realize that spending all of this time in the extreme cold has contributed to making me really, really intolerant of the cold. I'm not sure if it is because of the residual damage that I have done to my extremities as a result of the cold or the fact that I lost a bunch of body weight and insulation but dang, I get cold in the summer shade and have no end of trouble keeping my hands and feet warm. This of course poses trouble on the bike when trying to do a nice long ride in the cold.

The flip side of this strange weather pattern that we have been having this winter is the rain. It has been a year of amplified peaks and troughs on the weather map, where by we either have frigid arctic weather or wet tropical weather. Often it seems it will be one backing right up against the other with no stability in between. This has meant lots of snow and cold then rain and mild that tears the snow pack down only to then refreeze and leave ice in its wake.

Pouring rain, ice and 34 degrees
After learning to deal with the snow and cold, a challenge in and of itself, we have also had to deal far too often with ice. The ice is the toughest of all possibilities as the roads are typically unsafe to be anywhere near and the snow or woods has turned to uneven sheet ice. If we had studded tires on the fat bikes we would probably be OK, but given the cost, we do not and can not justify them. Thus the challenge.

The last part of the weather equation has been rain. We certainly have had our fair share of precipitation in the form of rain this winter. More in fact that we had all fall I think and for that matter, probably more than the summer either. Solid days in a row of steady driving rain. It is one thing to have this type of weather in the summer, when it is warm. That can actually be novel to ride in, but when it is pouring and 40 degrees, riding is all that much fun.

No matter how well you dress, nor how good the fenders are on the bike, you inevitably end up soaked. Your shoes, which are moderately good at keeping water out are excellent at holding water in. You overdress in material that doesn't breath effectively and so what water doesn't make it's way in from the outside, comes out from the inside.Over the past five days I have had two days of riding in absolute pouring rain. One was also on ice in Maine with 34 degree temperatures. Tough to stay warm let alone stay upright, say nothing about staying dry, which was impossible.

Last night, after working on projects all day and dragging my feet about riding I finally came to the realization at 5:45PM that I just had to jump in. I dressed and saddled up on the fendered CX bike then took to the road. It was unbelievably dark, pouring, 44 degree rain and foggy. I wore a ton of reflective stuff, had a headlight and two blinkies but was still nervous riding the road. My glasses were useless and I ended up pulling them down to the bridge of my nose and looking over them, using them as a shield of sorts from water flying up from below. I literally could not see more than 20 yards ahead of myself in many places and even when the visibility was better, the reflection and road glare from oncoming traffic was pretty much blinding. For the most part I was on back roads though with little traffic so not a big deal.

Fenders only go so far in a steady rain
The really notable thing about the ride was that the hardest part was just getting out the door and onto the bike. Once I was going, well, it really wasn't all that bad. In fact, it was good enough that I ended up staying out and riding about twice as long and far as I had initially intended to ride. It's funny how often in life that this really is the case and that the hardest part is just getting started. I can't begin to say how many aspects of life that holds true in for me. Granted, I am one of those that really struggles getting caught up in the details and preparation and has trouble breaking ground. The artist that just needs to make that initial stroke, the craftsman that needs to make that initial cut, the athlete that just needs to make that initial movement.

Stop dragging your feet and thinking about it and just do it. Do it now, take the plunge. It's really not as bad as it seems.

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