December 30, 2013

Princeton-Polar Ride, it's a finish

Glen, Steven and I headed out into a dangerously cold morning yesterday, and came home with a finish.  I have never been so cold, for so long, in my life... despite the amazing micro-climate afforded by layers of technical gear amassed over the last decade.  A longer post to come, as usual, but, for now, the streak is still alive with only two days to spare in December, and in a very tough 2013.

Tenacious, or galactically stupid... it's a fine line:  but, we're alive, warm once again, and all of our extremities are intact.  Sure, it was no Arrowhead 135... and if you'd like to read some truly epic tales of wintertime suffering, check it out.... but, I'll take our finish.

We three, in my mind, conquered a tough one... and I mean *JUST*.... we BARELY made the cutoffs, and I didn't know just how closely until this morning upon going over the cards and receipts.  It's probably better none of us knew during the ride itself.  Sure, none of us are wicked-fast riders to start with, but, therein lay an indication of the conditions:  cold joints and muscles, aching respiratory systems, frozen faces, glazed eyes, delirium, cold-induced drowsiness, constant mental arguments against continuing, rougher-than-I-remember pavement amplified by hard, unyielding tires, icy roads, frozen bottles halting hydration, temperatures bottoming at 12F (-11C), almost no sun, and a roaring, unforgiving northwest Arctic wind at nearly 20mph sustained with higher gusts, resulting in static wind-chills of -5F, and probably more like -15F cycling through the air.  For thirteen hours.  At the end, far too committed to consider quitting and throwing away all that suffering for no reward, the ride degraded to nearly constant clock-watching panic; yet, no extra push to do anything about it.  Every stoplight through town - which we seemed to catch every last one of them on red - all I heard in my head was "tick....tick.....tick....TICK....."  How fast are we going?  How many miles are left?  What time is it?    

This, in itself, is almost post-enough for the likes of such a ride.  What else can be said, really?  We finished.  I have no complaints.  I credit my riding partners, Steven and Glen:  without them I would not have started, and without their tireless pulls, I wouldn't have finished.  Heck, Glen and I, having met up early, were convinced that none of it was necessary - and I was already okay with ending my streak, right there in that dark parking lot, without so much as a pedal turned.  Steven showed up with a smile, a confident air, and the right attitude... and, so, Glen and I mounted up.  Crap.  LOL.  BUT, the feeling of confidence and satisfaction I feel at this writing makes it all worth it.  I am hearing all of the occasional chatter in the office today about how miserable yesterday had been, having enjoyed near-60F temps the day before (no kidding, in December!) before a monster cold-air mass arrived overnight (so markedly that the initial wind gusts shook the house and woke me up, as cold Canadian air dumped into the area).

I am proud of what we-three accomplished... knowing also that we're also probably a touch lucky, too.  One flat tire, one miss-step, one or two more trains or red lights.... crud, ANYthing.... I don't want to think about that.  Not only would we have not finished with credit, it's a fair bet that hypothermia would have come knocking in the event of any roadside repair.  The old Survivorman mantra for winter... "if you sweat, you die" so true... but, finding that balancing act with clothing when exercising???  There's almost no way.  One must choose between being dry, but cold ALL the time; or comfortable and at least a LITTLE damp.  It's safe to say, for me personally, I was comfortable - but dangerously damp most of the time.  I actually brought along matches, a flint striker just in case, a field knife, some light kindling (some scrap woodshavings, dryer lint, and cottonballs mixed with petroleum jelly) and a small folding camp windblock, and had every intention of starting a small fire if needed.  Overkill?  Perhaps.. especially since it never came to that:  but it only weighs too much or takes up too much room until you NEED IT...and really:  that whole kit is no larger than a cellphone... but, there is no sense standing on the roadside, shivering, waiting for the Calvary to show up, arguing with oneself about whether or not it's "bad enough yet" to take action.  Yesterday, it would have been bad.  Just like a TV show, yeah...disclaimer: seriously:  this is just a dumb cycling blog, and I'm not an expert... if you have the choice, stay home.

We three, no matter what Glen and I were talking about in the parking lot, didn't know how to quit.  Odds stacked, we all three stood up on the pedals and fought for it.  This is rando... sure, we should have picked a better day, sure we could be faster with more training, sure we could manage our control time better.  Whatever.  We took what we were handed and produced a finish.  Cheers, gents.  Bigtime.

Next month, if it isn't at LEAST above freezing, it's over.  LOL.

I'm going to go sit in front of the fireplace some more.  Whoof.

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