Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Lesson

Yesterday I had intentions of a solid 4.5 hours of training with a few good climbing efforts. The morning began with a little bit of sun and cloud mixture, but all in all everything looked ok. I headed off into the mountains neglecting to take into account the more numerous clouds in that direction. I began my climb up into the mountains and everything was fine until I was about 15km up. That is when the weather took a turn.

What started as a nice day with good temps and favorable conditions, quickly turned into a 10+ degree celsius drop in temperature and the beginnings of a very miserable next couple hours. With 5km to go to the top and the weather being only spotty, I continued on. It was definitely against my better judgement considering I didn't have a rain jacket, and I knew if I got wet in these temperatures, I was going to be freezing. I did not turn around though hoping that the rain/snow/hail/sleet was only temporary and spotty. At first it was, so I continued on. When I got to the top, I descended down another road about 6km to where I was going to begin my first interval. All was good, the interval going fine, legs doing ok until about 1 km from the top and the storm cloud I thought had been moving across the valley away from me actually came to me! The weather took a turn for absolute misery. It was big hail/snow balls/flakes coming down like a heavy spring rain.

I finished my interval at the top and had to decide which way to go down. In hindsight, I realize I definitely chose wrongly. I went down the mountain in the same direction the storm was travelling, which meant I was in the storm longer than I needed to be. Needless to say, I was soaked and frozen by the time I was a few km down the descent and needed refuge. I made it another 15km down the descent wanting nothing more than a blanket, fire and hot drink before deciding I had to bail out in the only town along the way. I stopped at a cafe and ordered a coffee and hot sandwich. My hands were completely frozen and burning, but holding the warm drink in between my hands never felt so good. Eventually I stopped shivering and knew I was going to live, but there was no way I was going back out with wet clothes to finish another 10km of descending. I ordered another coffee and hoped that my clothes would begin to dry a bit from my own body heat.

During this time in the cafe, I was scheming how I could get home. I thought if I could get down the last 10km I could catch the bus home. I knew a taxi was possible but too expensive. I also thought of having Lisa bring me clothes with the moped. I even messaged a few friends with a car, but nothing really made sense. Finally a miracle happened. One of the old ladies who worked/owned the cafe asked if I was cold and felt my clothing (I must have not looked so happy). Then she asked if I wanted her to start a fire. I happily agreed and took my coffee over to sit by the fire for the next 45 minutes hoping I could get warm and dry out. After finding some warmth, burning/melting my glove in the fire and drying out a little, I decided I could brave the outside again and had to get home. The sun was poking out every so often now, and the rain had stopped, so I was going to be ok.

The fire was able to turn my frown upside down!
I hopped on the bicicleta and began to pedal as fast as I could to try and generate body heat and get the engine firing again. I made it down the descent and decided I was going to try and make this ride still count a little. I took a longer route home and tried to do another one of my efforts on a small climb. My riding was suffering though because I felt like my head and body were detached from one another. I don't know if the lady at the cafe had given me two caffeinated coffees instead of the decaf I asked for, but I felt like I was in a different world. I did eventually make it home though and was greeted at that point by the Telefonica technician installing our new internet. Thankfully Lisa had that taken care of, and he was all finished; I said hi, thanks and bye.

Normally after an epic adventure like this, a person might sit home and sip tea or soak in the warmth of dry clothes, but Lisa and I had planned to go to Banyoles to watch the finish of Volta Catalunya and there was no backing down! I showered, put on some warm clothes, and we rode the moped to Banyoles. We got there in time to see three of the four finishing circuits and watch Petacchi take home the sprint victory. After the race, we walked to the team bus. Lisa stopped to talk with a few girlfriends (significant others of riders who were racing) while I went to the bus to talk with the directors. After that we enjoyed a "xocolat" and pastry before we headed home. A nice hot bowl of soup to warm the soul and time to relax before bed. I was glad to lay my head on the pillow last night and put the day behind me.


DaveR said...

Great story. I got hit by a storm climbing Sapillo in October during the Vuelta de los Muertos (hillsboro - Silver city). I felt a tingle in my finger and then lightening and thunder concomitantly striking. I never rode so fast off of Wild Horse Mesa in my life. You now have an EPIC ride and story to tell. Thanks for sharing. Dave

Big Cahunico said...

I rode in a headwind one time...does that count?

Great story Matthew! You seem to learn a LOT of lessons! ;)