The latest in wet weather cycling attire – latex gloves, shower cap, and garbage bag

When I found out that my brother was going to be in Davis for a veterinarian symposium the last weekend in March and was hoping to spend some time with us on Sunday/Monday, it seemed like a great idea to combine the trip to Davis to pick him up with doing the Davis Bike Club’s 300km brevet. What I didn’t know at the time was that the weather gods were going to be waging war on California at the time!! We had what felt like a wetter than normal March in Northern California, and the couple of weeks leading up to the brevet were full of rain, wind, and flooding. In fact I was hoping to have done the Santa Rosa 300km the weekend before, but the combination of the severe storm warnings and the fact that I was on call for work that weekend led me to stay home and ride the stationary trainer instead. So I felt compelled not to wimp out 2 weekends in a row. The forecast was for pretty steady rain all morning and into the afternoon throughout the area, not clearing until late afternoon. It was still rather tempting to bail on the ride, except that it turned out that rather than picking my brother up in Davis that night, I had to take him to Davis Saturday morning since he spent Thursday and Friday nights with us so that he could go to Sausalito on Friday and shadow a vet at the Marine Mammal Center. The trip to Davis was unavoidable, so I committed to doing the brevet.

We got up at 3:45am on Saturday morning which seemed much too early for a sane person to be getting up. We arrived in Davis shortly after 6am where I dropped Carson off at the Starbucks downtown where he was going to hang out until a fellow student from his school was going to pick him up and take him to the symposium. Then I headed over to the Park and Ride where the brevet was to start. I was expecting there to be a very small turnout given the conditions, so I was rather surprised to see what turned out to be 61 riders milling around getting ready in the drizzling rain and wind.

At least it wasn’t raining too heavily – yet…. And there was at least one familiar face at the start – Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell was there with his Bikevan. I checked in, collected my brevet card, and set about getting my bike setup. I knew it was going to be wet and cold, so I had several plans to try and help mitigate that. First, I had packed a camelback backpack with 2 changes of clothes and extra jackets, etc. Having only carried 1 change of clothes on the failed SFR 300k workers ride in February, I decided that having 2 changes would hopefully allow me to get dry/warm later in the ride if the rain did in fact clear off, and still give me another backup in case I got wet/cold again. The forecasted high temperatures were only in the low 40s, so it wasn’t going to be particularly warm out there, and being cold AND wet for upwards of 14 hours seemed like a perfect recipe for misery. The camelback was stuffed pretty much to capacity. To try and keep my core at least partially warm I wore a garbage bag over my jersey and under my jacket/vest. I’ve worn garbage bags in the past and they’ve helped cut the wind/cold, so I have no shame in being a “bag lady”!! But my plastics adornments didn’t end there – Jason had suggested wearing latex gloves under my cycling gloves – he said it would help to keep my hands dry/warm. So I donned a pair of latex gloves. I was feeling quite chilled, so I put my headband on, but since it was raining I thought it might be good to try and keep my head dry in order to stay warmer, so I donned a disposable shower cap over my head/headband and under my helmet. My plastic wardrobe was now complete!

At 7am the ride started and the group headed out on the road. I was quite impressed with the optimism and good cheer that many of the riders were expressing – these randonneuring folks are some tough and hardy folks!! The rain had picked up a little bit, and there was a pretty steady south-east wind. The ride headed south for a bit right at the start, and given the miserable conditions I decided today wasn’t going to be a day where I didn’t allow myself to draft. I stayed with a group for the first 10-15 miles before ending up on my own since my pace was just slightly faster than the group I’d been in once we got a tailwind. It also only took about 15 miles before my feet, legs, and arms were all totally soaked, and it felt like my torso was as well despite the plastic bag (I think water was just draining down through the head and arm holes). My gloves were soaked, but my hands didn’t feel too cold – so apparently the latex gloves were working. And the shower cap over my head was keeping my head fairly warm.

The rain continued but would clear for periods here and there. And the sky looked pretty ominous to the west where we were heading. After climbing over Cardiac hill though the sky cleared a bit. The showers continued throughout the morning though. I rode and chatted with Bryan Kilgore for a while during this section. I know he’s a faster rider than me though, so I told him to feel free to go on ahead at any time. Eventually I made it to the first control in Pope Valley. I was extremely impressed with the volunteers and how well stocked the rest stop was (most brevets don’t provide food – rather you buy your own at a store and save the receipt as proof that you were at the control point). A volunteer made me a half sandwich and I downed a V8 and refilled my water bottles before heading out again. Shortly after I headed out I started getting really sleepy, and I was wishing I’d grabbed a soda at the last rest stop. So when I got to Middletown I stopped at a gas station and bought a Sunkist for a pick-me-up before tackling Cobb Mountain. The last couple of hours the left side of my lower back had been bothering me and getting progressively worse, so I also tried to stretch it out before heading out again. There was a definite chill in the air in Middletown, and you could see snow in the surrounding hills. I headed up Cobb Mountain and the rain eased up. Cobb Mountain is a tough climb – there’s a sustained section of about 11% grade, and some other sections that are about 8-9%. So after riding through the rain and cold all morning, wouldn’t you know it the rain stopped and the sun decided to come out just as I hit the steepest parts of the climb. In all my layers and plastic I suddenly found myself sweltering and sweating profusely, but I didn’t want to stop on the steep grade to take any of my layers off, so I kept on riding. As I entered Cobb there was snow on the ground, and it started raining again and was cold. So when I got to the control I eagerly accepted a cup-o-noodle soup from a volunteer and told everyone how a mile and a half down the mountain it was sunny and warm. When I finally headed back down though, rather than being greeted with sun I was treated to rain pelting me in the face for the steep and fast descent. At least when I got to the bottom I had a tail wind pretty much all the way back to the control in Pope Valley (a welcome change after the headwinds earlier in the day). The rain showers continued, as did the pain in my back. After leaving Pope Valley some of the hills felt steeper than I remembered them from past rides, and the rain got pretty heavy, in fact probably the heaviest it had been all day. But finally when I got to the backside of Cardiac the rain stopped for good, and the last 40 miles or so back to Davis were quite pleasant in terms of the weather. Thankfully the wind had died down, so the return was fairly quick. I was pretty miserable though with my back really bothering me, so when about 10 miles from the finish a group of 4 riders passed me and one of them said “hop on”, I only had to think about it for half a second before I accelerated and joined the draft. The last 10 miles went much faster this way, and we arrived at the finish at 8:20pm, 13:20 after we started.

It turns out that only 5 riders finished in front of us, so we were part of a 5-way tie for 6th place. And 52 out of the 61 riders who started did eventually finish – pretty impressive given the conditions! My ride time was 12:44, so I’d kept the off-the-bike time to a minimum (I tried to keep moving as much as possible since I would get cold when I stopped since I was soaking wet). I’d also carried those 2 sets of clothes all day and not used any of them…. I hadn’t got as cold as I’d feared I would, so I’d never felt a need to – I guess all that latex and plastic had done a good job of keeping me somewhat warm. But better to have been prepared and not need the extra clothes than to have needed them and not had them. The biggest downside of the day was my back pain – I still don’t know what caused it to be so much worse. Anyway, tough rides like that supposedly build character, and if that’s the case, my cup now over-floweth with character!!

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