For those that have been following my training blog for a while you may remember last March when I completed Reading Half marathon after driving there through a blizzard and running in sub zero temperatures that left my muscles froze for a week. Also the fact I was born on a Caribbean island and my early years were spent under blue skies and tropical warmth where a nappy was the only attire I required its not surprising I find it hard to adapt to the colder UK climate than most.
Well yesterday I had the cycling equivalent. The alarm broke the early morning silence and I was up before our four dogs which is very unusual. I coaxed the dogs outside for a toilet stop and the ground was covered in a thick frost, my breath as thick as milkshake. Do I go and ride or head back to bed ? “No – come on remember your ironman resolution – follow the training plan whatever the weather”.
All my kit was laid out and ready from the night before so I got dressed in my warmest longest full bid winter cycling tights, UnderArmour Coldgear tops (note plural), my funky Pirate jacket, Buff, Smartwool socks, Thermal skully and the thickest gloves I own. I also wanted to see how my new Garmin Touring Edge would perform especially in the cold.
Porridge and tea pre warmed me, then the car heater and heated seats were cranked to the max. On the drive there the outside temperature continued to drop from 0 to minus 3c. I said well I may as well get there, thinking I’ll see how the roads are ?, will the temp get above zero?, how many others will brave it and turn up ? I can always ask how long the direction signs will sat up and wait for the frost to clear then head out, or go out and if really bad head back after a few hundred meters then go home and ride later in the day. See plan A, B, C, D, and to about S all sorted in my head.
Anyway I was so glad I stuck to my resolution of following the training plan whatever the weather as the organisers Performance Cycles, had predicted the cold temps and iffy road conditions so they rerouted us along the roads which had been gritted & clear, a detour to avoid floods added 3 miles and a flatter route for safety. Then steadily the temperatures rise as sun came out, the weather stayed dry with no rain just clouded up and the temp dropped a little after rising to a heady 4c. I met up with a few other Pirates and chatted with many other riders for company on route & over coffee & cake at the end.
My fingers froze for the first couple of miles then the warmed with the exertion, the Buff was pulled up above nose level at times as the tail end of the North American ice storm blew over us. These icy blasts went right through you and made my water bottle contents into a Slush Puppy and my gels into popsicles. My right foot got cold as it took the brunt of the wind but it thawed out quickly when back in the cafe.
Today was more about a safe, steady and social ride to get miles done in the saddle. There was one section of slush under a road bridge but the rest of the ride was clear. I have a new route logged on the Garmin which I can adapt in training and use again, had great company along the way and completed Week 2 of my ironman training. The Gatorskins offered for grip than I had from my old tyres on the first sportive, my SKS Raceblades kept me and my fellow riders clan and dry.
Although as I sit here and type I can still feel the icy effects of that wind that penetrated my muscles and I again realise how much energy the cold can take out of you. My average speed was well down, on these lanes in summer I zip around and manage 50 miles in well under 3 hours, yesterday 48miles took me 3 hours 19. OK it was very cold, windy at times and I was on my heavier winter bike with winter tyres, mudguards and I’m carrying some winter weight gain myself, but hopefully as I shed the weight from me and the bike I will fly again in summer and these winter rides all count as solid strength training. As I had mudguards I was mostly riding at the front taking the wind and giving my companions a clean ride behind me.
However I hope that I don’t get too many more sub zero rides as my muscles really don’t like it. Off for another bubble bath to thaw out again.