Friday, December 08, 2006

Rain ride, noon to dusk

Date: Dec. 7
Total mileage: 40.0
December mileage: 95.0
Temperature upon departure: 37

I left my house a little after noon today and rode until it was dark enough to necessitate the use of red blinky. That isn't as long as you'd think. It's well shy of 3 p.m. these days.

Of course, I didn't see the sun actually set because it rained, continuously, over the entire ride. This picture that I posted today is an old picture. There was no semblance of sunset or sunrise today, and those beautiful piles of snow are quickly becoming a memory amid the sagging snowmen and smoke-colored slush streaming down the streets. The clouds hung low enough that thick fog enveloped the tips of even the shallowest hills. And I tried everything - and I mean everything I have in my clothing arsenal, shy of a plastic garbage bag - to stay dry, and I still got soaked. First I felt the rain dripping down my waterproof pants. It cascaded over the gators I had cinched as tight as they'd go. Then it began to pool on my neoprene booties, where icy water slowly but surely soaked through to my shoes, and then my wool socks, and then my liner socks, then right to the curled pink prunes that were once my toes. When I came home, I had to wring out my long johns and fleece liner just to go in the house. My "water resistant" coat is still dripping.

I guess it's just been a while since I've had to deal with this much rain. And of course I fiercely miss the crispy cold. But it really wasn't a bad ride. In fact, I enjoyed it. Squinting against the continuous spash of rain only further obscured the gray-washed landscape. I was in my own little world out beyond the traffic flow, absent-mindedly spinning to the South Austin Jug Band and rubber-necking the moaning torrents of imprisoned creeks struggling to break free from their half-frozen shells. The slush piles provided plenty of quick, snap-back-to-reality action.

And - most importantly - I stayed warm. Despite that fact that it was 37 out, and raining, with windchill, and I had been completely soaked for the better part of two hours. I think this is proof of just how well my body is adjusting to the cold. I couldn't have stayed out in weather like that for more than an hour this past August without breaking into pre-hypothermic shivers, even though it was generally in the 50s and I rarely got soaked through. But now, in December - with basically the same clothes on, no less - I feel fine. Isn't it strange how bodies adjust like that? A few weeks in the 10s and 20s, and suddenly that wet 37 is downright balmy.

I have heard this before but I'm really starting to believe it's true - if you want to be comfortable riding in cold conditions, you just have to do it. It will hurt the first couple of times, no matter how carefully you dress. But soon, you'll figure out which layers work best in which conditions, and dressing will become second nature. And then, and even more wonderful thing will happen: Those cold temperatures will start to feel completely normal.

How else could those people in Interior Alaska and the Yukon do it? I've always wondered that. -30 degrees? Everyday? Now I'm starting to understand.

It's all about acclimatization.