It was supposed to be the first race of the year. Rolling green hills, punchy climbs, and sunshine. Instead it rained all weekend. As a team we decided it wasn't worth the drive, the danger, the misery. The racing world seems to agree, it appears only one guy finished the race in our field that day...
But while torrential rain may not be racing weather, it can still be riding weather. Not in that it is pleasant, but in that it is possible. So that's what Paul, Taylor, their friend and I set out to do on California's rainiest day in years.
As I drove down to Portola Valley where we were meeting to ride, my wipers could hardly move quick enough to keep the windshield clear. I drove by two crashes, and couldn't believe I didn't hydroplane across the lake that had become the freeway. But hell, we had decided we would ride, so there was no backing out!
I got to our normal meeting spot before Paul and Taylor, so set off on a little loop. I figured I'd go crazy waiting in the car, raindrops pounding from each and every direction. The first minute was the worst - but once you're wet, you're wet. 30 minutes later I sought shelter to finish out my wait; gloves soaked, shoes soaked, everything soaked.
Paul and Taylor arrive with the exclamation that this is totally mental. They've just come in from England. They had visited a month before and ridden under a week of sunny skies, and had hoped for more. This time though, they had the bad fortune to bring their English tempest with them...
I was hoping they'd want to back out, but seeing as they'd traveled about 6,000 miles to get there - not a chance. So we geared up, Paul lent me some fantastic rainproof Sportful knee-warmers, and off we went.
Sunday morning in Portola Valley is usually mecca for the nouveau cyclists and racer boys alike. That day, it was just us, call us the diehards, the crazies or the passionates. However you spell it, it was pretty extreme.
Roads that I ride a few times a week were brand new, complete with stream crossings, fallen branches and debris, and a grey rain layer so thick there was no seeing off into the distance. Each meter was the distance.
When its cold and wet, there's only two things to do: ride in the trees and climb. We headed straight for Old La Honda, and at Paul and my grinding pace, were warm in seconds. There was never any chance of being dry however - the rain was so hard the thick coastal redwoods couldn't even keep it out.
We were fortunate to be in California - as hard as the rain was it was 60 degrees out. The last time I'd ridden in such rain I was in Tacoma and nearly got hypothermia. Needless to say, my state of mind ventured between being stoked about pushing the boundaries, and being worried about the downfalls of humanities pitiful resistance to the elements.
Luckily, we were geared up. There's a cycling saying that there is no bad weather, just bad gear. I'd expand upon that and say there is no bad weather, just bad attitudes. Motivation and good gear can cancel out just about any weather.
When we stopped thinking about how much it would suck to be in the rain, and how hardcore it was to be out regardless of the rain - the ride got awesome. The elements were extreme enough to add a sense of exploration to familiar roads. We weren't on the frontier geographically, but of our ability to cope. It is not every day you can make your home roads epic, but a blinding rainstorm sure can.
I'm glad I didn't race that day, that would have been super dangerous. But I'm glad I didn't stay inside either. That would have been dangerous in a different way, quelling the thirst for challenge, optimism and the endless search for the epic.