My first year of biking I was unstoppable. I had discovered a sport I was good at and could do for long periods of time without noticing I was exercising. It was just like the summer I shot hoops every day in my parents’ driveway and lost a bunch of weight without even realizing it. I loved it so much I was determined not to let the cold slow me down, and bundled up in the most ridiculous layers just to keep riding. Nothing short of ice on the trail kept me inside in those days.
That was four years ago, and now the novelty has worn off. I don’t like the cold, in fact I have to wear socks at work when the temperature dips below 70. Now unfortunately I have very strict criteria in place for riding: never below 60, never with more than 30% chance rain (by my handy Android app), and never when it’s overcast and gloomy because that makes me want to snuggle under a blanket regardless of the actual temperature.
I have now broken all my rules for Gerry, once unexpectedly and once with complete foreknowledge.
The first was in the mountains, on my beloved Shinglemill trail, which Gerry had yet to enjoy properly. We had barely started when we got caught in a sun shower, which wasn’t bad at first before the thunder began. There are few things as unsettling as biking a treeless mountain trail fully aware that you’re the tallest thing for a few miles around when the lightning starts. “No one ever gets killed by lightning up here,” Gerry scoffed, which was a baldfaced lie; just the week before two hikers in two separate incidents had died from lightning strikes.
We turned around but were still forced to take shelter under the only outcropping of rock that would fit us both and our bikes. Which wasn’t nearly as fun as actually riding, so the day was a huge bust (we have since returned and redeemed ourselves with a perfectly satisfying day with no precipitation and no grueling praying-for-death uphill climbs).
At least it was warm that time.
Which brings us to yesterday, a day I had promised to Gerry after putting him off for a few weekends (due to circumstances beyond my control). The forecast looked grim indeed, but I knew not grim enough to put him off (which I normally appreciate, don’t get me wrong. We all need someone who kicks us in the ass from time to time. I just didn’t appreciate it as much on this particular day). According to Android, we’d have a high of 55 and 60% chance of rain all day, both well outside my self-imposed parameters. But Gerry is a master of persuasion.
It started badly when he texted that he’d arrive at 10:30. I had no sooner finished a leisurely breakfast at 9:55 when he texted to announce that he was here.
One of Gerry’s few faults is his maddening impatience, and I’m saying this as an incredibly impatient person. It was nice of him to overlook the ferret poop I hadn’t had time to clean (Malcolm is very old and damn near totally blind, which means the middle of the floor is as good a place to go as any), but that gave him time to dance around criticizing everything from how I add air to my tires to what I was thinking of wearing.
One of my favorite jackets is actually just a liner, an Army-issue flight jacket liner. There aren’t any pockets, but it’s very lightweight and very insulating. It was a constant companion that first year and buffered against wind and rain very effectively. As I pulled it from the closet, Gerry said “trust me, you won’t need that. It’s like 55 out there, and you’ll be sweating.” I won’t go into everything wrong with this statement, just let it serve as very obvious foreshadowing. I will point out that, as often as Gerry says “trust me” only for me to later learn that my trust was misplaced, if he were a movie character this would be his running joke.
I settled for a zip-up hoodie instead. I had also worn my Adidas Sambas hoping they’d warm my feet more than my eminently light and breathable barefoot running shoes I normally wear. This will become important later.
Gerry, being a manly man, wore the same outfit he has worn on every single ride this season, with the addition of a thin windbreaker as his only concession to the chill.
We took off, and my hopes were high that today might be one of those Colorado days where it looks kind of crappy but nothing actually ever happens. Gerry joked that it looked like the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island, with the same nervous half-laugh no doubt heard on the SS Minnow. Have you had enough foreshadowing yet?
The first rain hit at exactly mile seven, where we waited at a traffic light with four other brave (or idiotic) souls, two of which were a couple in full racing kits who asked directions to the reservoir, which was actually our starting and ending point. They admitted they had absolutely no idea where they were going. Who takes off riding around the city with no idea of the route? I wouldn’t, which is why I ride with Ger, who knows all the trails.
We led them through the first of many little jogs the trail takes, and they immediately passed us…which was fine until the next jog, which they missed so Gerry fretted about them getting lost. He got over it quickly though when we realized the brief little shower was over and it was dry and sunny again. I mentally patted myself on the back for coming out and surviving it. I started rethinking my restrictive criteria and looking forward to maybe another month of biking now that I was a bad ass again.
Enough foreshadowing. At about mile fourteen, the real rain started. Started and continued the rest of the way home, not a downpour, but steady enough and cold enough to thoroughly soak our clothes and have me praying for my trusty jacket liner; hell, I was praying for my full face ski balaclava, which Gerry would have most certainly vetoed (Gerry makes me religious, for the wrong reasons). So rainy I had to remove my glasses because I couldn’t see through them. So rainy my feet kept slipping off the pedals because Sambas have terrible traction. And speaking of Sambas, they’re evidently only half waterproof, and it’s the wrong half–great at letting water in, sucky at letting it out. My socks were squelching in there, and that’s when my real misery set in. I cannot abide cold wet feet, especially if they’re inside shoes with the expectation of protection.
Oh, and our route was mostly flat, so the promised sweat that would warm me up never came, or was quickly nullified by the ten-degree windchill that’s an occupational hazard of the sport. I never even touched my full water bottle; evidently H2O is just as good applied externally as internally.
I told Gerry for the second time, “This is my love for you.” Because I can’t think of anyone else, not even Tery, I would be out there for.
I didn’t take any pictures of the ride, because yet again I found myself biking with Ger and feeling nothing but panicked desperation to get home again.
We heard the first thunder at about mile eighteen, but we were almost done at that point. Our little lost couple had caught up to us a few times, the woman even said “Maybe we should just follow you guys,” but then they’d keep passing us until we left them behind for good. For all I know they’re still riding around out there looking for the next jog in the path.
Haven’t been this happy to get home after a ride since that disastrous first Shinglemill attempt. I told Gerry I was officially pronouncing it the final ride of the season, barring a last minute heat wave (or Indian summer, which I’m told is racist). We’ll see. I immediately took a long, hot shower (after Tery, who had been out in the same conditions running a half marathon. I don’t mean to be a one-upper, but running, hiking, whatever other outdoor sport doesn’t have the windchill factor like biking. Except maybe hangliding, but who does that in the rain?)
After my shower I curled up in bed with my cat and the new Doctor Who on my tablet, the REAL way a rainy Sunday is meant to be spent.
More photographic evidence: