January 27, 2014

January put up a good fight

This winter in the midwest -- for the whole continent of North America, really -- has been remarkable.  It's difficult to tell if this is just another pattern in a larger cycle which we don't yet understand, or if something is awry with our climate, or if it is something else altogether; but, the whole "polar vortex" and subsequent roller-coaster of extremes in temperature for the region has indeed made for an interesting season so far.  Cold air normally kept north by the Polar jet-stream and strong ridging has instead been repeatedly hurled into the continental U.S., while competing surges of Gulf moisture and warmth from the desert southwest clash in-between.  A couple weeks ago, it had touched nearly 60F - and, hours later, another Canadian airmass overcame the area with strong winds and temperatures dropping on the order of ten degrees an hour.  This has repeated, more or less, every week since mid-December - making it difficult to plan anything outdoorsy, much less a bike ride.  

I set my dates with the organizer, and watched as each one fell victim to poor timing.  Steven W. was able to get lucky and enjoy one of the warm days a couple weeks back, and was even thrown back north along the Border Patrol route with a roaring tailwind, something usually reserved for summertime rides!  MY dates, on the other hand, yielded strong and frigid north winds, and temperatures in the teens for the
HIGH, only days after the unseasonal mild spells -- and, seemingly, always timed to fall on the only days those weeks I could have ridden.  January had started to look rather bleak, and - mentally - I wasn't ready for another "December."

Thankfully, the cards finally came up in my favor... the LAST day I would be able to ride this month, January 26th had come into view, along with the inevitable forecast-watching.  At first, it appeared dismal, with highs in the 20's (F).  Days later, the whole thing would be re-written with highs in the 40's, then back to low temps... finally, it seemed to settle into the 50's!  Fingers crossed, I filled out the cards and printed the cue sheets for myself and two others (Gary and Glen came along!), and tried to ignore the ever-present wind speed forecast.  I couldn't care less about the wind with temperatures like that in store.  

The short version - it's a finish!  January is in the bag, and the streak lives!!
And, how lucky we are, collectively... We three were able to ride in full sunshine across majestic vistas on the Border Patrol route, and the wind - really - wasn't too bad.  We skated along the ragged edge of the next storm system's arrival, and managed to get to the barn before Canada unleashed its latest fury -- which happened only a scant hour after I arrived home.  Calm and 54 when I hit my driveway, and by the time I'd showered it had already dropped to 39F with a strong north wind at 36mph, gusts over 40mph.  THAT would have been sheer torture, had we been any slower.

On that note, this - if nothing else - should put some perspective (even if it's only personal) against the December ride's difficulty.  Not "fast" by any stretch... I'll work on that part again when it's warmer, and when I'm lighter... however, where we barely finished in time on December's 200km with an ET of 13:17, I finished this 217km ride in 11:40.  That's only an hour off my usual summer-time pace for that route, and far, far better than I'd expected, considering I've barely touched the bike since December's epic.  

Numbers and analysis aside, though; it's a finish... and I'm thrilled about that!  As weird as this month has been, I've managed to keep the streak alive.  February is just around the corner, however... and I have a feeling I'll be starting the whole weather-forecast roulette all over again.

Place your bets....

Stay tuned for the usual ride write-up.

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