Monday, March 02, 2009

Dirt is hard

Or at least harder when it's frozen solid. Tired of spinning away and going nowhere inside, I headed out early on Sunday morning. As most of my fellow partners in crime are prepping for the sunny skies of Tucson this week, I didn't think anyone would be interested in several hours of cold riding so I headed off alone. On Saturday I tried to get a 2 hour ride in on the trainer and was finding it so monotonous, I hung up the towel after 70 or so minutes. I'll post more about that later as I have some thoughts on training that are starting to creep into my head.

In any case, after 70 minutes, I knew I needed to be outside to get properly motivated. Sunday dawned with a blue bird sky and unbeknowst to me, below zero wind chills. I headed out on the 3 hour tour route knowing that I could cut it short in a couple different spots in case I wasn't maintaining a quick enough pace to roll it all in my 3 hour block. I was a bit excited as I had mapped out a route that would leave me rolling new stretches of gravel and exploring a bit more of the local countryside while still being within the safe confines of being semi local to home in case the need arose. I imagine that I'm not unique in the fact that there are probably hundreds of miles of roadway within 10 miles of home that I've never explored.
I added a dirt road loop that Brian had taken me on last summer during our exploration down to Summerset. It looked like this during the summer: (oops guess it's time to upgrade my flickr account as it's more than 200 pics back!). In any case, at that point in time it was a rut laden treacherous stretch of road where we had to pick our lines through ruts 1-2 foot deep in spots. I guess I was expecting something a bit better for the winter, but as you can see, that wasn't to happen.

This is actually the more rideable section of road. Beyond the hill behind my bike in the top picture was a mass of solid ruts spanning the entire width of the road requiring full concentration to navigate including walking a short stretch or two. However, I navigated that section just fine, but my luck soon ran out as I botched moving from one rut to another shortly after I stopped to shoot these pics. One second I'm upright and moving forward, the next I'm still moving forward, but now I'm sliding along my left hip and shoulder. Ya, dirt is hard when it's frozen! Ouch. No damaged to the riding gear and bruises will heal so off I head again.

Just before rolling into Summerset park I came across thousands of geese setting on the ice at one of the conservation areas. It was cool to see so many of them just hanging out in one spot.
I also managed to catch a nice tailwind at this point of the ride. Though I was routed mostly east/west today, the few sections heading south were tempered by sucking it up as I had to roll north into the wind. Amazing how much stronger 10-15 mph winds feel when they're piggy backed on 10 degree temps. I began to notice as I rolled west that the right side of my face and my right foot were getting increasingly cold. Not much to do at this point but soldier on.

I stopped to consult my map a few times, but for the most part the route was pretty easy to follow. I had one major run in with a pack of 3 dogs just south of Norwalk that got my heart pumping a bit. As I rolled up to the house, 3 medium dogs came running and barking straight at me. I didn't try to out sprint them and opted for the loud voice and yelling at them. Luckily they stayed just far enough back for me to roll past without getting nipped. A few other dogs barked and showed a little attempt at giving chase, but nothing major. It had been so long since I rolled through the countryside, I'd almost forgotten about dogs.

Around 2 hours in, the cold was starting to get me down a bit. For the most part I was staying pretty toasty, but my cold toes were nagging as they'd go from cold to seriously cold, to almost numb and then back to cold again. Seeing that I was going to be running way over time if I rolled the additional 3 miles into Cumming, I headed back north at Orilla catching some pavement before I logged back onto the gravel that runs just south of the golf course on old Army Post.

It was on this stretch I had an almost oh shit moment. After reading too many blogs about crazy guys doing crazy things on their bikes in way below zero temps, I tend to be a little more mindful of my own vulnerability when riding in cold temps. I had no idea what the temp was other than I knew it was as cold or a little colder than I'd ridden in before when I factored in the wind. As the gravel passed under the 65 bypass I stopped to adjust my IPOD armband as it was slinking its way down past my elbow and beginning to bother me. I pealed off my jacket noting the solid layer of frost I'd been building up under it (nothing new) and pulled off my gloves as well. My hands had been comfortably warm all morning and were actually a bit damp with sweat, again nothing new. I got the armband adjusted and put the coat back on. Now time for the gloves. Oh shit, my left hand had stiffened up in the cold air and nearly become immobilized in just a minute or two. With a sweaty inner liner to my gloves and barely able to wiggle my fingers, I literally yanked the glove down over my hand to get the glove back in place. I was amazed at how hard it was getting the glove back on and felt lucky to get it on when I did. I realize I wasn't really in any major danger of losing an appendage to the cold as I had a number of alternate ways to heat it up, but it brought the risk involved with cold weather riding back to the forefront of my attention.

By now I was 2.5 hours in and ready for home. I rolled back in jumping on Army Post to head back to my place and got home with just over 3 hours on the clock and 37 miles down. Not a barn burner pace by any means, but it was good to get out and suffer for a bit. I'll need to draw on that this coming weekend when I head out for CIRREM. I'm short on long distance rides and though I know I can get it done, I need to know that I can put up with a little suffering too. I hope to see a number of you there.


Brian said...

Yes, sketchy B level road made sketchier that day due to skinny cyclocross tires. I had those ruts pitch me off the crosser one other time when I was out there. The ground wasn't frozen then though.

Neve_r_est said...

Level B singletrack. Looks fine to me.

Ya, winter is fun. Good on ya.

See ya Sunday.