Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cycling in the Cold Rain

For 39 years I lived in Maryland and for about 20 of those years was a year-round outdoor cyclist, except in the very worst weather conditions. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I've spent riding (and running) in crappy weather, from high winds to driving snows to cold rainy days...suffering for my 'art'. Of all the crappy weather I mentioned, the worst to me is cold rain.

I love Tucson for its weather...it's one of the reasons I relocated here from Maryland. 300+ sunny days a year with short winters where temps rarely dip under freezing (at night) and precipitation is low. It's truly a great cycling destination as each winter, pro teams and cycling enthusiasts from around the country come here to enjoy the high desert scenery and outdoor lifestyle.

So, today it was 64 degrees, winds in the low teens from the north and overcast with a 20% chance of rain in the afternoon. Not bad... so I got ready for my 30 mile aerobic training ride, wearing knickers, a thermal long sleeve cycling jersey and toe warmers...perfect clothing for a mild day. In looking at the sky, something told me to bring my rain jacket too.. just in case. The drizzle started to pick up as I rolled out of my neighborhood. As I got out to the main road (Oracle Road) and started to head north, the rain started coming down hard and the temperature started to drop precipitously. The winds also started to pick up too, driving the rain and me back as I headed uphill and north into stiffening headwind with occasional gusts. I was wet and cold to the core and started to shiver. Thankfully, I had that rain jacket and a base layer on underneath my jersey. My legs were soaked, but the knickers covered my knees, providing a little bit of needed warmth.

After 1.5 hrs on the road freezing my bootie (my 2 year old's favorite word) off, I made it back home. My fingers were so cold and numb, I had to get my 6 year old to help unzip my jacket and take my gloves off. After defrosting in a hot shower, I found out that the temperature had dropped from the mid-60's to 53 degrees and the winds were gusting to over 20 mph. Being cold and wet on the bike is no fun, don't you agree?! It's amazing how quickly and dramatically weather conditions can change here in the desert at this time of year... wow! It seems to be par for the course here lately as last week at camp climbing Mt. Lemmon, we went from comfortable 60 deg. temps at the base of the mountain to cold winds and temps in the upper 30's (with snow on the ground) at mile marker 17 and above!

My 'coaching moment' here is to remind you to always be prepared for changing weather conditions when there's even a slight chance of it. You're better off overdressing with multiple layers that can be peeled off (and carrying a rain jacket) then under dressing and risking hypothermia, or worse! Also, always have a contingency plan... or choose a route that enables you to get back home quickly if needed. For example, today I should have ridden for 45 min. - one hour and then hopped on the trainer (doing a spinervals of course!) for the balance of the time.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees here... I'll be carrying a wind vest and arm warmers 'just in case'!

- Train Smart,
Coach Troy

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