My alarm rang at 8am on Saturday morning. George lay sleeping, snuggled into the fleece sheets. The cold air woke me completely as I put on my bathrobe and trudged out of the bedroom.
I looked out the window and saw a light coating of snow on the yard. It was still coming down. The streets were wet.
I had hill repeats today. Three hours of hill repeats.
I went online and checked the radar on the Weather Channel. I picked a town that had the least amount of snow last night, the lowest chance of snow today, and better hills than South Jersey. I was willing to drive up to 2 hours away.
I chose Westminster, MD.
As I kissed George goodbye, I wondered if I was crazy for venturing out into this frozen, wintery mess… to drive across state lines… to spend the entire day driving…biking…and then driving again…
I really wanted to just stay home. I felt like being cozy and having a lazy day.
But I'd signed up for this. I'm training and I'm going to see this season through.
The sky lightened as I entered Maryland. The snow stopped falling and the highway dried up. But then, as I approached the town of Westminster, it began to snow again.
I parked in a YMCA parking lot and suited up. I used all my warmest gear. I set up my garmin and programmed my starting location on my phone.
I turned out of the YMCA's driveway and began my ride. As soon as I came to a smaller cross street, I turned onto it. Much better… way less cars.
The snow was falling lightly, but as I rode my bike through it, the frozen flakes stung my face. The wind blew in gusts, making it hard to see. In no time, my glasses were covered in drops. The snow was melting as soon as it would hit them.
I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I was wet. I could feel the water from the road surface hitting the underside of my legs and my butt as I went down hills. I quickly learned to stagger my feet and coast on the long down hills to keep them higher above the road, but within 15 minutes my feet were wet.
Over the course of the next hour, I got myself through it by saying, “You’ve gone 35 minutes. If you turned back now, you’d have an hour and ten minutes. That’s about a third of the ride. That’s not bad. You can do a little more.”
Normally, I’d have been a little more adventurous with my route. I would have made many turns, aimlessly trying new roads, not really caring where I ended up until way later in the ride.
Today, I was hyper vigilant about not getting lost. I didn’t want to find myself far from the car if I hit my breaking point. I knew that cold wet hands or feet could end a ride. One flat tire that I’d have to change on the side of the snowy road... I’d end up so cold that I’d quit.
But I was warm... So far...
And the hills! The glorious hills!
After spending so much time in Zone 2 doing easy paced rides, it was so good to push hard and climb hills. Mike told me to allow my heart rate to range between mid Zone 3 to high Zone 4. Amazingly, that’s right where it wanted to go naturally. I didn’t have to try to maintain it. I just rode up those hills, pushed hard, and let the chips fall where they may.
The hills were 100 to 300 feet in elevation. I got mostly 7-10% grades, but I got a bunch of 15%+ grades. I loved it. The burn from climbing helped keep me warm.
Even when my feet finally went numb at the 2 hour mark, I didn’t really mind.
The sky turned dark and ominous when I had 45 minutes to go. I descended down into a ravine and the shadows got darker. All the cars coming toward me had their head lights on and I began to get nervous about visibility. Just as I decided to turn around and go back, it started to snow hard.
The wind picked up and blew the snow into my face. There was a feeling in the air like a storm was coming. I quickly calculated and realized that I would be pretty close to my goal even if I headed straight back to the car. I climbed the hill out of the ravine and turned right. Amazingly, the snow stopped. I must have been right on the edge of the storm.
Those last ten minutes were tough though. I came out of the ravine, left the forest area, and then rode my bike along the open fields. The wind was coming at me from the side. It was so strong that I worried it would knock me over. I got scared of what could happen if I hit a patch of ice. I slowed down on the descents, just in case.
When I got back into the parking lot of the YMCA, I thanked God for my safety. I hit two hours and 48 minutes and I was happy with that.
Check out my poor feet!