This weekend it rained in San Diego. I'm talking torrential downpour, God opening up the skies and really dumping on us kind of monsoon. Or, as people in other parts of the country call it, "rain". We're in an El Nino year, and it's been raining a lot lately. I've always been careful with my bikes not to get them wet. I was concerned about what water does to carbon fiber, and I don't want all the expensive intricate metal bits to rust. Then I saw how professionals clean their bikes with a hose, and got over it. So Saturday I took Jiminy out for his first real taste of water.
The conventional wisdom with cycling is that you plan your big weekend ride for Saturday. That way, if there's bad weather you can push your ride to Sunday and get a second chance at good weather. Worst case you ride in bad weather on Sunday, which you would have done anyway. I like this plan, though to be honest "bad weather" in SD is pretty damn rare. I've had to cancel my weekend ride exactly once in 3 years - and I've ridden in cold or wet possibly three times. All three of those incidents were crappy weather Saturdays, followed by crappy Sundays. So the conventional wisdom has never paid off for me. It would have this weekend, Saturday being in the 50's and rainy with Sunday being sunny and gorgeous - but I had given up on conventional wisdom (and lost confidence in the local meteorologists) and went for my long bike ride on a rainy Saturday.
In the process I answered a lot of questions, some of which I had been wondering about for a long time - others which I never anticipated every wanting to know. Things like:
Q: Is my nice new Pearl Izumi jacket waterproof?
A: No, no it is not. I was soaked to the bone before I even made it to the coast. Thankfully I put my phone in a ziplock. I wish I had done the same with my food.
Q: can you hydroplane on a bike?
A: Yes you can, though I don't recommend it. Turns out bikes are very light and at relatively low speeds (30 MPH) will hydroplane nicely in about 1/4 inch of water. The front wheel will go first, which is quite concerning since that's your only way to steer. Forget about braking, your rims and brake pads are so wet it would take a mile before they would grip at all.
Q: Will a late model Toyota Prius hydroplane across a bike lane?
A: Yes it will. In fact they don't seem to have any compunction about doing so. It did not make me feel any better knowing that they probably don't have the greatest brakes.
Q: Will the residents of Oceanside (or O-Side if you're a huge d-bag) sit in a boat parked in their driveway in a rainstorm wearing life jackets and drinking boxed wine?
A: I think we all know the answer to this one.
Q: Is there an angle at which you can hold your pedals such that the spray off of your front wheel will funnel directly into your shoe?
A: Turns out yes! If you place your foot just past the vertical on the downstroke (about 7 o'clock) you'll get a nice solid stream right down ankle and into your shoe. Cold wet feet for 5 hours makes you strong. and cold. and wet.
Q: Can the s#@t hole streets of Leucadia possibly get any worse than they are normally?
A: I previously would not have believed it, but yes they can - just add water! Not only are the pot hole ridden roads sans-bike lanes, they also have zero drainage. The entire right lane was under about 3 inches of water (it only rained 1/2 an inch in the area) forcing cars to go around, and forcing me into the second lane of traffic. The only thing worse than riding directly in traffic is riding directly in traffic along with SoCal drivers on wet roads. Russian Roulette has better odds.
Q: Can it rain saltwater?
A: Turns out yes, kind of. I noticed in Torrey Pines that the rainwater tasted like salt. At first I thought it was picking up salt off my skin as it ran into my mouth, but it turns out that is not the case. The very strong winds actually blow the ocean water into the air and create a salty mist. Good times.
Q: Is it possible to tell what town your in by the taste of the streets?
A: Maybe. The water kicked up all sorts of nasty crap off the roads and onto the mouthpieces of my water bottles. Not surprisingly Del Mar and Solana Beach have very similar tasting roads, sandy with a tinge of salt. The route through Camp Pendleton was much more mud and gravel flavored. Who needs GPS navigation?
Q: How long does it take to dry out on a bike? Does the air rushing over you speed up the process?
A: As any triathlete will tell you, being on a bike will dry out your clothes pretty quickly. However, this drying effect is completely negated by the cars crashing through puddles in the road and spraying you.
Q: Can you get dehydrated while simultaneously being soaking wet for 5 hours?
A: Yes. It turns out osmosis is a horrible hydration strategy during a workout, and you probably should drink more than 32 oz. of fluid on a 80 mile bike ride. Failure to do so will result in a headache that rivals the worst champagne bender you've ever been on.
Q: How long can you ride alone before going crazy and begin singing John Mayer songs to yourself?
A: About 3 hours before you get a song stuck in your head. Four and half hours before you start singing aloud because there's not a single soul outdoors in the entire county. Who Says I Can't Get Stoned?
Q: What am I willing to do to be successful at my events this year?
A: Apparently there's no end to my stupidity. I left KT at home alone for a whole day to go out and nearly kill myself on a marginally useful workout, which was completely miserable.
To those of you who wisely rode indoors on Saturday, or delayed your ride until the weather cleared on Sunday - you were right. I was wrong. It was dangerous and stupid, and lots of fun :)
"The spirit of Ironman is about not quitting - at any speed, that is a lesson worth learning."
Gordo Byrn, from his blog 8/28/2009