RRRC Polar Bear Road Ride Snow

Polar Bear Metric Century : George

The Saturday morning Polar Bear Metric Century started out, like so often is the case in North Carolina in January, crisp, still, and sunny.  Temps around freezing at or around the 10AM start in the first week of the year are the norm in the Piedmont, so we all figured that: 1) it would warm up, at least a little; 2)the cold weather bibs, tights, booties and jackets would be enough for the early part of the 100K ride, but that we’d be able to take at least something off when it warmed up later into the ride; and 3) that–even in early January–the 62 miles would be…in the words of one of my erstwhile 36Street Racing teammates…a few good base miles.

How’d that work out for ya, Peaches???

As you might guess, not so well. The first 20+ miles were easy enough–hangin’ with the boyz from 36SR and the host Rocky River Road Club (and girlz, a couple of whom can blow past me like rice through a goose) at a healthy 17-18 mph pace into the wind, and in echelon, no less, when the breeze really kicked up. It was fun for me, since the last time I’d echelon-ed and really took a healthy pull at the front of a fast group was, oh, maybe the summer after my freshman year in college. (That was in the summer of 1984; jez’ sayin’…)

That’s about when the wheels came off.  Sometime around when we’d hit–or passed–the Rowan County line, someone remarked that there was some “stuff” coming down out of the pine trees that were now blowing pretty close to the road. Turns out, it wasn’t pine pollen…it was the first snow flurries of a black cloud that we had been looking at for a while. About then, heavy snow started falling in earnest, and it got hard to see, hard to pedal in the wind that was blowing the snow sideways; and, well, hard to want to keep going. By that point, I’d gotten dropped by the group on a hill. (That’s not hard to have happen…I’m one of the world’s worst climbers. That is to say, I can do it, but once I get to the top my aerobic ability to continue is nil, so I’d rather spin at a slow speed going up than die once I get to the top.) I caught up to a couple folks–kids, really–after the snow squall stopped, and who were also crawling along, and we made it in to the 2nd rest stop at a little country church where we could warm up,
rest up, fuel up and rehydrate.

The second half of the ride was “interesting;” on the one hand, it wasn’t snowing any more. But on the other, the wind REALLY kicked into high gear, and we–by ‘we’ I’m talking about a couple groups of riders that I hooked up with–really struggled with the wind and the cold. (Oh…and did I mention that there are a LOT of hills in the piedmont??? Well, there are.) But as we got closer to more familiar roads, and passed the last rest stop without more than regrouping, I knew I had at least finished.

Coming into Davidson was nice…it was sunny, maybe a degree or two warmer, and I knew where I was, since we had to pass my neighborhood to get back to the start/finish. So let me just say this: 62 miles isn’t that far. I’ve done more, plenty of times. But the conditions were, in truth, about as brutal as I’ve done on a bike. I’ve been colder. I’ve commuted in snow. I’ve used up all my reserves of energy in a triathlon or five. But those 62 miles were about as difficult as I’ve done in a loooooooong time. I wasn’t in the best of condition; and since it’s been so cold, wet, busy lately, I hadn’t been much on the road bike in a while. (On top of that, I did a saddle adjustment at the check-in…dummy.)

But hey, I finished; as did most of the 325 or so riders who started. Check out DavidsonNews.Net for a brief story on it, and some photos. I’d say that even though it wasn’t as temperature-cold as last year’s PBMC, it was every bit as hard as last year’s, and probably harder given the wind and snow. It was a mental game–as much as the mental game of finishing that last lap of a Cat 4 CX race is when you’re about to get lapped, or as much as the last few miles of a triathlon are when you’ve hit the wall and
there’s no one out there on the course to cheer you on. And, by finishing it, you get to bank the mental strength you’ll need later in the year to successfully compete in or overcome some other challenge.

Grueling, it was. But I, for one, can’t wait till next year.

Photo Credit : @dwuori