It's been a cold weekly, locally. Not cold for most of the US, but cold for here.
That's why I decided to pack an entire Camelbak full of warm clothes for the descent back down a 7mi climb in the dark at 7pm. I knew it'd be really cold at the top.
When we parked in the lot before 5 it was in mid-50s. I could see snow up near the peak of the local mountain. Dark clouds hung around the peak, swarming its tip from view. It wasn't raining. I wasn't sure if there would be snow up on my traverse, but I vowed to turn around once pushing was the only option. I'm not training for the Iditarod Trail Invitational, afterall.
The steed ready
We set out in the waning sunlight
Up the start
I pulled away briefly and Justin said, "Have a good training ride, see you later." Less than a minute later, my HR climbing, he passed me back and I said, "See you later, have a good training ride." He led the rest of the climb. I told myself it was because he was fresh after more than 1.5 weeks off.
I didn't feel good. I had some GI discomfort, and for the life of me I couldn't get my lower back to stop screaming in agony - I haven't worn a Camelbak in a month, and while it wasn't heavy, it was more weight than my back was used to carrying around. Not to mention I haven't done many long extended climbs. This 6.5miler would be a doozy.
I wasn't sure how my core and legs could be so warm, and my hands and feet so cold. I pressed on. I concentrated on telling myself I was having a good workout, staying around tempo, climbing, enjoying what little daylight was left on this cold February evening.
Looking back at the way up
Light was fading fast
I struggled some more, but despite everything else, my legs were not sore. They turned over the pedals and my heart pumped steadily, sometimes climbing, sometimes descending, following the contours of the trail.
We turned on our lights.
The city lights to the east were strong and bright. About 4.5 miles or so up we began to see patches of snow on the sides of the trail.
Then it became more pronounced
We came to a false peak, where around the corner you begin to descend. My hands were close to numb. I wasn't sure about the descent.
The peak in the distance
We were less than 2 miles away, so I braved the freezing hands with my normal daily gloves and shivered in muted pain. We climbed through thicker snow. Justin slid here and there. I kept expecting the gate just around the corner.
The downed trees from January were clear, and the snow was thicker (but only a few inches deep, and mostly frozen on top). The photos didn't do justice to the sparkling snow. You can hear it crunching beneath the tires
Eventually the reflectors on the gate lit up and we stopped for a quick break to winter-gear up.
I tried to warm my hands.
I used my half functioning hands to find my mini thermometer
It was cold. We turned around and began out 6.5mi descent. My hands were immediately numb and sore. My feet were cold. My face, head, arms, core, and legs were warm enough.
My hands got worse. The short climb near the beginning did nothing for the cold that held fast in my hands and feet. We went slow, trying to minimize the wind chill, but the numbness got worse.
There were times I couldn’t concentrate on the trail at all since my hands and feet hurt so much. I looked down over the lights and thought of the people all warm and cozy in their homes with the heater running and warm food in their bellies. My hands felt like I was running scalding water over them. We stopped to try to warm up, and it didn't make a dent, so downward we continued.
We were getting closer to the flats, and once the grade necessitated any pedaling I realized my legs hung like dead planks of wood from my torso and would barely turn over the cranks. We hopped a few sandbag walls, crossed a street and were back in the land of the living.
It wasn't as cold down there (low 50s), but our limbs were cold through and through. I stood outside in half my clothes, no gloves, and tried not to scream in agony as feeling came back into my fingers. The truck was warm, but never warm enough. I got changed into dry clothes and home awaited.
I actually warmed up pretty nicely with re-baked yellow sweet potatoes and spiced up turkey chili. I was exhausted by the time I went to bed, but had problems getting to sleep.
At least today is an easy spin this evening. More hills tomorrow, and I will daydream now of dry roads.