Actually, just shivering from hypothermia.....
(or he could be pining for the fjords...Lovely Plumage!)
The above badly-stitched panorama is what the conditions were at the start of the Quabbin Reservoir Road Race last saturday. Temperature about 35 degrees, precipitation alternating between sleet and rain. The only thing missing was wind. There was a little gust from time to time, but nothing steady. The picture doesn't quite show it, but this was about as bad as it gets. If this were a cross race, we would all have been licking our chops, since in a cross race you warm up quick, it only lasts an hour, and you're never more than 5 minutes from your car.
This is a 65 mile hilly road race. About 5000 feet of climbing, with some rather rough pavement on the east side of the reservoir. The first three miles of this race is downhill - in 35 degree rain, and at some point your going to be about 90 minutes from your car, with big hills in the way. I've done that a few times in my life. I didn't envy anyone.
Turnout was high considering the conditions, but no one ever accused bike racers of common sense. My team puts on the race, so I lucked into driving a wheel van for the womens field. It was neutral, but one rider asked me to carry her wheels. I told her "I think I'm going to be carrying more passengers than changing wheels today" - she didn't get it, and it turns out I was right.
The first three miles of this race is downhill - in 35 degree rain. I've done that a few times in my life. I didn't envy anyone.
Ten miles into the race I see a group of 4 male riders huddled at the side of the ride like a bunch of asparagus. I pulled off.
"You guys ok?"
"No", one of them managed to shiver out loud.
I was just going to have them sit in my car when a big cargo van from Killing Mountain School pulled up. They were towing a trailer for the bikes, the van probably had seats for 15. The men all hopped in eagerly.
I went ahead and caught the back of the womens field again. About 15 miles in we came across an EMT and fire marshals car at the side of the road. They had a rider in the back of the ambulance under a metal blanket. He wasn't quite coherent. Apparently he had simply fallen down, not really crashed, but just collapsed. Another teammate of mine working the race had pulled up and said he would make sure the kid made it back to the parking lot. I continued back on the course.
I had a radio in my car provided by the emergency crew Mike Norton had hired. They were asking support vehicles with room in their cars to stop by a country store at about the 20 mile point and pick up riders, I was almost there. There was a dozen bikes outside, and a dozen wet racers inside huddling and shivering. An EMT was there triaging who needed to go first. With the extra wheels in my car, I had room for two bikes and two riders. My other teammate had the kid from the earlier ambulance in his car and came along as well. He could fit two more. Other vehicles were on their way. One of the guys I took wasn't thinking clearly and was speaking slowly, but the EMT said he would be OK. The other guy was limping a bit because he couldn't feel one of his feet. I drove them back to the finish, and by this time the lead pro/1/2/3 had finished.
I drove the course backwards, looking for suffering riders - on this day, that was redundant. Since I had started behind the last field at the beginning of the race, I kept going until I passed the last person I remember, a cat 4 woman in a red jersey and black tights. I drove past her another 5 minutes and didn't see anyone else, so I figure she was probably it. The radio didn't report anyone needing a ride anywhere, so I turned around the follow her.
There was a cop at an intersection at the 45 mile point, and she pulled over. I figure she was probably done. Sure enough - she struggled off the bike, shivering slightly, soaking wet to the point she was actually dripping where she stood. I loaded her and the bike and went back after the field. By the time I started catching people again there was maybe 15 miles to go, so I slowed by and asked each person if they were ok, how they felt. I guess at that point it was becoming a matter of pride, since they all kind of gave me a brush off. I had to ask one guy twice, I couldn't tell if he was ignoring me or was mentally on a carribean vacation. He grunted "I'm ok" at me. One other woman, another cat 4, said she couldn't feel her hands or her feet. She was friends with the woman I had picked up, and decided to hop in the car.
The rain had subsided to a mist by now - 4 hour hours later - but the temperature was still 38 according to my car. I dropped the women off at their car, and I noticed my front seat actually had a 1" deep puddle of water in it. Luckily, my car has waterproof seats. I had a blanket in the back, I just tossed it on the seat to soak it up.
There wasn't much revelry at the end of this race. No groups hanging out on the tailgate of the SUV barbecuing tofu burgers, no coolers with exotic local microbrews....just a steady stream of people slowly skulking back to their cars....some just tired, some looking sullen and gaunt, most everyone leaving the bike outside of their vehicles and getting it to start the engine, looking for some respite from the cold, trying to make some sense of their _lack_ of sense. Even the riders who placed seemed annoyed that they had to get out of their warm cars to collect the winnings. The race staff was bailing as soon as the race promoter said they could.
To punctuate the dismal affair, I went looking for a local restaurant to sit and have a burger and a beer. There are two reasonably sized towns on the way back to the Mass Pike from the race, Ware and Palmer. Of the two towns, only Palmer had a legitimate restaurant, and it wasn't open (at 3 PM on a saturday). Ware had a sub shop, and Palmer had a subway - not quite what I was looking for. Between the two towns there were five open chinese joints - in a section of the state where the only chinese residents probably worked in those restaurants. I had to settle for a burger from Wendy's.
It's some thing we all do as bike racers, something we _have_ to do. I understand it, and I've done it. I'll probably do it again to, but no one ever accused me of having common sense either....