Monday, February 11, 2008

I saw my own death on a training ride

Training in February in Ohio in a 25 mph wind merits induction into the Become-Belgian-For-a-Day club. Forget Beech Mountain, Ventoux, Mt. Washington, etc, etc. Planning an interval session on the open farmland roads of Ohio in the wind is about as epic as you can get. Last Saturday, ManRay, and the two Wills joined me for a 2 hour survivor episode that included flooded roads, 25 mph winds gusting to 33, and temperatures nearly 40 degrees! (wind chills below freezing).

But who knew? At 8am the temperature was 37, no wind, and I think I saw the sun come up. I immediately phoned the ManRay waking him from his doughnut induced sleep. The plan was to do a couple sets of 25 minute intervals at LT. That’s “Lactate Threshold” intervals, not “Life Threatening” as it turned out.

We rolled out to sunny skies and the locals tossing rose petals at our feet (maybe it was beef jerky). The road to Waldo was clear, and after 30 minutes warm up, I was feeling strong – some say it was the 25 mph wind at my back. The intervals start, and of course we turned into the wind. My speed slowed from the brisk 24mph to a crawl. Was my brake stuck? Do I need a new chain? Old man winter blows. We invented a new cycling posture with the wind blowing sideways, I rode straight ahead AND leaned as if in a criterium turn while I pushed one break hood and pulled the other to stay upright. At one point there was inquiry if I could maintain the speed of 12mph. The answer was no. I rode at 170bpm and 11mph! Snot froze. Hands numbed, and then we arrived at the road closed by the winter flood waters. At least in New Orleans you got gumbo – all we had was a second hour of trudging back to home base and of course the weather had turned from bad to Belgian. Winds shifted, more riding into the wind and not one fatty to draft behind.

At one point I had to slap a delirious rider to keep him from taking refuge in a drainage ditch and accepting the gentle sleep afforded by hypothermia. Luckily our team is sponsored by a nice bookstore with a fine espresso machine. That was probably the only saving grace and the one beacon calling us back to civilization.

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