A warm rain during a run…that’s a good kind of rain. A cold rain while wrapped up on the couch huddled under blankets…a wonderful kind of rain. A freezing rain with wind while riding in the mountains and still needing to conquer a 10-mile descent with uncontrollable shivering…the worst kind of rain.
Yesterday left me crying on the bike. Yes, quite wimpy actually but I was unbelievably scared. I had no options but to ride my frozen body home in 2 hours of cold rain and the worst part was I had to descend down a river that, at one time, was a canyon. I had checked the weather quite thoroughly that morning and rain wasn’t to come until 3:00pm so I thought I would be fine. I peddled along at a good little pace and conquered one of my favorite climbs in a strong time. I was happy until I took a look around me and saw the low hanging gray clouds moving in.
I had already descended to the other side of the mountain and was 2 hours from home but convinced myself that the rain wasn’t coming just a bit of gray. 10 minutes later there came a huge gust of wind then droplets and I shouted repeatedly No!No!No! Please No! The shouting honestly seemed to ward off the rain for about 15 minutes as it only sprinkled on me. I could handle a sprinkle and pushed the pace hoping that with some speed I could bypass the inevitable. No luck. I was surrounded by ominous skies and soon was riding through a down pour. I had one option and that was to get home as quickly as possible. Once in the Santa Monica Mountains, you are pretty much left to your own defenses. There is no such thing as a coffee shop for shelter or a phone call for a possible lift home…it is you and your bike.
I broke the ride into sections. My goal was to push the flats and climbs as hard as I could possibly go to keep a good forward pace and most importantly, to keep warm and then, come descents, ride my brakes as the roads had become a biker’s worse nightmare – sand, mud, leaf parties, rivers of water. Yikers. I managed to keep myself semi-warm for the first hour but all went to hell when I hit Topanga (my last climb and descent). I was literally soaked to the bone and slowly my muscles began to lock up. Pedaling was difficult and could only manage small chain ring circles. My breathing became stuttered and my body starting to shake. I knew this descent could kill me simply from cold shock but I said just manage to keep your hands tightly around the brake levers and you’ll be fine.
The descent from hell. The rain came even harder and the wind whipped up the canyon. Even though I was descending at blistering 4mph, I felt I was still going to fast. Every turn scared the be geezers out of me and I made a pact with God that if he brought me down this mountain safely then I would never swear again or kill any little bugs or ignore the homeless man who asks me for money two times a day. Of course, I was mumbling every swear known to man as I rolled down the mountain but that’s really besides the point. The point was I was colder than I have ever been in my entire adult life and yes, tears started to stream down my face because I had become absolutely miserable and truly thought I wasn’t going to make it home.
When I finally reached the end of the 50-hour descent, I definitely felt a small victory but still had 30 minutes to get home and that was 30 minutes too long. I could barely peddle. I could barely breathe. I was shaking. I had snot dripping out my nose. Spit drooling out of my mouth. I was a complete disaster. I did laugh a little because it was all so ridiculous. I started counting down from 10 over and over to simply keep my sanity (that’s how bad it was). When I saw my rode and my little home, I was euphorically ecstatic. One last demon awaited and that was to unlock my door. The key was in the keyhole but my hands couldn’t turn it. I almost had another fit of tears because I was so close to warmth but so flippin’ far away. Luckily, I was saved by a young man who turned the key so effortlessly while looking at me as though I was truly insane. I hobbled inside, ripped off my shoes and literally ran directly into the shower with full helmet and clothes (couldn’t manage to get the helmet off). I sat in the hothot shower for 45 minutes and after I got out, I still couldn’t stop shaking. I ended up brewing 3 batches of tea and wrapped myself in five blankets and then smiled because I knew that no race could ever present me with worse conditions…
What doesn’t kill you — makes you stronger.