Sunday, October 18, 2009

Steady Rollin'

First, a few pics, since formatting pics with blogger is a giant pain in the ass. I only have these four because my camera kept getting wet and fingers went numb.

This is one of the rest areas. This one was on the GW parkway. They had a nice selection of slightly damp pastries, which you can see one rider enjoying. Or regurgitating. Hard to tell.

This is a view off the GW parkway. Normally its gorgeous. Today it was just soggy.

My warrior bike.

The registration area. Everyone is bundled up and excited. And dry. That will soon change.

It was a very cold, rainy morning when I woke up at 6am yesterday, which is pretty much what I expected. I don't own any fancy rain-gear. My commute is only a little over a mile so I'm never in the rain for more than 15 minutes or so. I don't mind getting a little wet, especially since I change into dry clothes when I get to work anyway. My usual outfit is a few layers plus a sweatjacket when its cold/wet. This is what I wore yesterday. Big mistake.

This is what I wore:
Base layer: Underarmor long-sleeve shirt, cycling tights, wool socks.
Next: blue jean capri's, t-shirt, another pair of socks.
Top: Doc Marten boots, sweat jacket, scarf, hat (w/ear flaps), helmet, gloves.

When I rode to the registration area I was nice & warm, if a little damp. It was a gray, dreary day and it kept many people away. There was still a good number of riders though. I saw all kinds of bikes: tandems, recumbents, trikes. No tall bikes though. I got my t-shirt & bib. This is the only part that was a little disappointing. Usually at races/events, sponsors have a good amount of free stuff to give away. There was nothing here. Not even some coffee/donuts, or any food at all. There were a few booths, but they just offered some bike maintenance help (air, lube, etc). I know that this event had to cost alot for the sponsors (they shut down quite a few major arteries in DC for 4 hours, and that required ALOT of police officers on OT), but it still would have been nice to get something besides a t-shirt that I paid for.

The kick off started off on time. And since there weren't so many riders, there wasn't much of a wait.

We started off by going around the Capitol building, then to the White House, and then over to Mass Ave to ride up Embassy row. It was right around here that we had our first taste of the hills they had planned in the route. We ended up taking some small back street, and it was a pretty steep climb. I actually had to stop and walk part of it because by this time my jeans were soaked and I couldn't bend my knees that well. I was still warm though. I got to the top of that hill, turned the corner and....another hill. Rode up that one, and then was directed by the volunteers that the rest stop would be to the right....up another hill. ACK. What kind of cruel joke was that? But I got to the top and was greeted by water, bananas & soggy fortune cookies. I happily gulped down a banana, and got on the bike again.

I want to take a moment and tell you how impressed I was with the volunteers. They had the hardest job of all. They had to stand out there on the course, in freezing rain, and BE CHEERFUL. And they were. I couldn't have done it. They must have been miserable, but they didn't let it show. And they were out there for hours. Just standing. We at least were moving, so we kept the warm blood moving. I was highly impressed.

Anyway, the course went back towards G-town and the Key Bridge. Pretty views of the Potomac and Rossyln in the background. Or it would have been if it weren't so dreary & gray. We got onto the GW Parkway, and that's when the cold started to kick in, especially in my feet. Doc Martens are supposed to be waterproof. They lie. Then again, *everything* was soaked. My bag was soaked, my socks were soaked, I was convinced my iphone had croaked by now (I use the mapmyride app on my iphone to record the course). My gloves were soaked. My hair had started to freeze.

The GW Parkway is beautiful in the fall. Unfortunately, the weather made what would have been a pleasant, scenic ride into a cold, hard slog. All I could think of was to keep wiggling my toes in my boots, and how nice it will be to sink into a nice warm bath at home.

We rode up to Ft. Marcy, and turned around and came back. Then it was off to the Iwo Jima (hurry hurry hurry, cold cold cold), the Air Force Memorial (nice, I've never seen this before. Wish I wasn't so cold so I could take a moment to appreciate it), and then by the Pentagon to head down 395 to Crystal City, our final destination.

I was never so happy to see a Finish Line in my life (except when I ran the Marine Corps marathon. Now that was an exercise in misery!). I was so cold & numb by now. They had a whole festival set-up, which was a pity because most of the riders just wanted to huddle inside the restaurants & coffee shops. There was barely anyone outside to enjoy everything they had set up. They had the traveling bicycle museum, a DJ, and lots of vendors (selling more crap. Can't I just get a free decal or something???). I dropped by bike off with the bike valet (a great service that WABA puts on), and wandered into the shops looking for someplace to warm up. I found a Carribou coffee and settled in with a hot chai tea latte. Heaven. I slowly peeled as many soaked layers off as I could to see if I could get them to dry at least a little before I headed back home.

My original plan to get back home was to bike it. I could take the Mt. Vernon trail back. If it had been a nice day, I would have. But I was just too cold. I decided to metro back. Luckily the station was only a few blocks away.

Anyway, I sat in Carribou coffee and thought about what I would have done differently. First, I probably would have skipped the ride if I didn't have any appropriate rain/cold gear. If I had a decent rain jacket/pants, I probably would have enjoyed it much more. So I either need to invest in some rain gear or skip riding for long periods in the rain. Second, I would have brought a change of dry clothes with me, especially socks and gloves. My messenger bag turned out to NOT be waterproof, by the way. I should have wrapped everything in plastic. Oh well.

Other than that, it was a blast.

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