Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 14, 2009

I’m not as big a wimp as I make myself out to be!

When it comes to riding my bike, my favorite activity, I am a fair-weather athlete. I hate, hate, hate being cold, so I tend to avoid any situation on a bike that might cause me to get cold. (I also hate excessive heat – but that’s another post).

Here’s why. As long as I can remember, I get colder than almost anyone I’m with – whether skiing, hiking, cycling, camping, standing around at an outdoor concert, or even in bed! My husband Jeff kicks off the covers and begs me to allow him to open a window while I’m shivering under the down comforter. When I get chilled, I start shivering and cannot stop until I really load on the warmth. That can mean hours in some cases.

There’s something called Raynaud’s (funny they call it a “disease” – it’s really just an annoying condition) and I’m sure I have it. They call it “allergic to coldness” – which is a perfect description of me! The coldest I’ve ever been has been riding my bike – after getting chilled from rain or wind, and/or sweating on a climb then having to descend in the cold, my fingers will get so cold they no longer work and I cannot brake effectively. Two fingers on each hand turn a gross, yellow-ish white (as in the photos on the Wikipedia link for Raynauds). Jeff says it looks like a corpse’s hand!  On top of that I shiver and shake so much while trying to descend, that seriously, I cannot hold a straight line. My jaw hurts from chattering, my neck hurts from tensing, even my back is shivering. Ugh – not a fun experience!

Even when I’ve dressed for the occasion, or so I thought. The first time I did the Triple Bypass it was great weather (only a few sprinkles of rain). The second time a few years later, we were caught in a torrential downpour in Keystone after 80-miles with Vail pass still ahead. I had to abandon when I could barely hold the handlebars (and I had full raingear too). I wasn’t sad about it either.

That is why I rarely venture out if it threatens to rain or sleet or be super windy with temps in the 40’s or 50’s – because it can quickly drop to 30’s here in the Rocky Mountains. It’s not just about adding more layers – for me it’s a very thin line. I also have to watch out for overdressing, because I sweat easily and then freeze even more.

So when yesterday’s weather report called for increasing cold and possible rain, I first resigned myself to having to Spin indoors again. But by late afternoon, it warmed up and was sunny and beautiful. Jeff and I were at the tile store finalizing our tile selection for the new house, and when it got to 5 pm I said, “Are we done yet? Because I’m going to go for a ride! It’s gorgeous outside and I’m burning daylight!” 

Hey, one must have one’s priorities!

So I ran home, geared up, and jumped on my bike and rode from 5:30 – 7:36 pm. My  bike computer wasn’t working, so I don’t know the distance, but I felt FANTASTIC. The last half hour I pushed it hard into a headwind to make it back before dark.

Pardon the poor quality photos – they’re from my iPhone. Below is the climb to Cordillera, which finishes on the top right of the hill in the distance. Not too long (maybe 4 miles total), and very gradual where I was taking the photo, but steep for that last mile. I was quite happy with how strong I felt on this climb – my first outdoor climb of the season.

cordillera-climb-from-below1

In the photo below is the 9% section. Descending here in the shade was the only time I was cold.

cordillera-climb

And here is my view from the top. I’m so proud of myself for actually riding with snow around me!

my-climb-april-13-09

Most of the rest of the ride was flat, heading east to Eagle-Vail and back to Edwards.

I came back so thrilled that I was able to ride AND able to stay warm. Temps were in the mid-40’s when I got home, but by that time my internal engine kept me warm. Jeff came home and I was smiling ear to ear and bragged, “See! I am not as big a wimp as I make myself out to be!”

What did I wear? I have to admit, most of the cyclists I saw were wearing far less than me. I had booties on which really helped (no other cyclist I saw had booties). I had leg-warmers of course, and on top, had a first layer polypro liner tank-top, then a regular jersey, then a thicker long-sleeved cycling jersey (over arm-warmers of course) PLUS my windbreaker. But I think the biggest difference was a recent purchase of Cannondale gloves that have a removable lobster-claw “windbreaker” that goes over the long-fingered padded gloves. For the first time ever, my fingers did not get cold. I’ve had many long-fingered gloves, but none have worked this well.

I even brought a neck gaitor for descents just in case, but didn’t need it.

So laugh at me if you want, but now I realize I can ride in the “sorta cold” weather. I am sooo proud of myself for this first little step. 😉  I’ve raised my cold threshold (or rather, lowered the temps I can ride in) but where that line is exactly, I don’t know. Yesterday that threshold was 45 degrees and sunny…but if it threatens to rain/snow, I’m a little worried.

Warm rain I can handle, but the cold Rocky Mountain rain, we’ll have to see about that! But next month we’ll be climbing in the Italian Dolomites for stages 4 and 5 of the Giro (during our Giretto), and it could potentially be quite cold, so I’ve got to get this riding-in-the-cold-thing down.

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