Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ride of the Damned - A Story in Two Parts, this being Part Two

This a tale of two rides, the first ride being in yesterday's post and the second ride being contained herewith. As I told you yesterday, they were the worst of rides and the worser of rides. Saturday's ride was started with hope and zest, the way a dewy marriage does, and ended in bitter recriminations and despair, the way . . . never mind.

Anyway, if you read yesterday's post with an eye for detail and attention, and did some extensive "Map-My-Ride-of-the-Damned" work, you would see that we rode about 50+ miles in something under 3 hours (I've stopped using a cycling computer or heart rate monitor, so I'm not sure). For me, this included some periods of hard work, a useless pseudo-time trail and breaking wind for most of the last hour (What, did Craig Hummer just write that last sentence?). Suffice it to say, it was a hard ride and I was feeling it in my legs the rest of Saturday. Nonetheless, I had made a plan to ride on Sunday, and since the time was adjusted so I could make it, I had an obligation to be there.

Sunday morning was wet. Wetter than had been forecast. While I had breakfast with the family, I couldn't help but notice the rain which didn't seem to be lessening as the morning wore on. As I drove in from the Spokane Valley, I called Rider 1 to see if he was having second thoughts. His answer was obvious and correct, any ride is better than no ride. He followed up with, "If it keeps raining, we'll just ride for a little while."

The four of us that actually showed up for the ride must have been the most optimistic people on this planet. I drove through 12 miles of rain storms to get to the meeting spot. M.K. checked the doppler and saw nothing but rain. Rider 2 showed up in shorts (not tights, no knee warmers, despite being 40° and raining) and a jersey with no rain coat. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we all assumed that by some miracle or other divine intervention, the rain would stop and we would be glad to have gone for a ride.

It was not to be. As Rider 2 pointed out, it was one of those rare, rare days when you wished you hadn't gone for a ride.

Mostly out of pity for my spent legs and waning fortitude, we decided to head through downtown and get on the Centennial Trail. We decided to go "for a while" and see how we felt. I can tell you how I felt: cold, wet and miserable. But then it got worse. Seriously.

You've heard people say things like, "I couldn't have been any wetter," but it's usually hyperbole. In this case, it was literally and absolutely true. We could have jumped into a swimming pool with our bikes, swum around for 10-15 minutes just to be sure that everything absorbed as much water as possible, gotten out and gone for a ride and we would have been just as exactly and completely wet as we were after this ride.

Two Wheel Transit doesn't carry an inventory of winter riding shoes, but they ordered in a pair of Northwave Celsius GTX shoes for me. I love these shoes. They are great and do exactly what you would expect from a winter riding shoe in cold weather. I discovered today, however, that there is one downside to a shoe that provides this much protection and this much of an enclosure. If you are unfortunate enough to have a massive amount of water run down your legs, it will eventually fill up these shoes and their protective enclosure from cold air turns them into tiny traveling bathtubs for your feet. To their credit, when I removed the shoes I could see steam rising out them, so they did their work to the best of their ability, but they are winter shoes, not spd-compatible galoshes.

I can also tell you when the shoes hit their total water carrying capacity. At one point on the ride, Rider 1 made a joke about Rider 2 being the only one without fenders. He said, "One of these things is not like the other." He could have been talking about me instead. I was with three fitter, faster riders and it was crystal clear.

Our ride took us into the Spokane Valley towards Idaho. We decided to ride out for 45 minutes and then turn around. I took short or non-existent pulls and was looking for shelter whenever possible. As we made our way home along Upriver Drive, we were strung out somewhat in an echelon. The echelon was due to the wind and rain coming up from tires even with fenders. Despite the misery of three of us, Quicksilver was pulling at the front with dreams of Belgian riding dancing in his head. I was on the back end and closer to the curb trying to maintain just enough visibility to not be a danger to myself and I was trying to "just hang on for a few minutes more." That is the period of time where one part of your brain is saying, "nope, had enough" and the other part is saying, "just a little bit longer." If it weren't for the battle in my head, I would have had nothing else to think about except the pain and misery I was enduring. So I had that going for me.

I had hopes that if we made it back to Avista, we would slow down, so I was digging into my tiny coin purse of courage to keep on M.K's wheel. What I didn't see was that there were a number of long puddles in my line that the other three were staying either out of or in the shallow portion. As I hit the deeper portion of the puddle, it dropped my speed just enough that I was gapped and that was all she wrote. The rubber band had snapped. I had given all I had to give and my legs were naught but cold, tight impediments to my cycling. To add insult to injury, the increase in water spit across my shins, drained down my legs and filled up the bathtubs connected to my pedals.

Being with riders who believe in sticking together and getting the weakest guy home safely, they slowed down and limped me home. At one point we transitioned off the Centennial Trail into the University District. Knowing that I was holding everyone up, I picked up the pace the best I could and led the way. It was just then that I realized I was on my own personal Ride of the Damned. The only reason I was in front was because I was the weak link. They were soft pedaling behind me and chatting as I had a look of grim determination on my face. I was with the others, but completely alone. There was little dignity to be maintained, no redemption possible and the hope for salvation was found only in Rider 1's wise wife's affirmation upon our return, "Fortitudine Vincimus". By Endurance We Shall Conquer. Not today, but these days add up and eventually it all seems worthwhile. Eventually we shall rejoice in the memories and be thankful for the increased endurance when it appears to us.

Here endeth the stories of the Damned.
Rider 3


  1. "Little coin purse of courage" You, sir are much more than a mere pitiful cyclist. Much much more.