Yesterday while driving home from Glenwood Springs I stopped at the Pearl Izumi outlet in Silverthorne to pick up some cold weather riding gear. This included (only) tights and a jacket. I had already bought a hat, but had not needed to use it yet.
Let me give you some background so when I explain what turned out to be a miserable failure it will make a little more sense.
First, I have run in the cold. I have run in CRAZY cold, and been all right. I ran once when it was 5 degrees outside and survived. Second, I put a lot of faith in Pearl Izumi's description of "thermal" and "cold weather essential". And third, I just wanted to get on my bike today because I had the day off and before it snowed.
So when I attempted to open the garage door and it was frozen shut, I ignored this omen and repeatedly hit the opener until it gave way.
I would say the inadequacy of my gear was revealed within 10 minutes. I kept telling myself, oh, you'll warm up with the exercise, just like when you run in the cold. What I did not consider was that I was making my own wind chill factor. So the fact that it was 24, and I was riding about 18 miles an hour, created a wind chill factor (courtesy of the National Weather Service's chart) of approximately 11 degrees.
I am not certain in which order the coldest parts of my body revealed themselves (it may have even been simultaneously), but I am certain it was my chin, my ear lobes, my hands, and my toes. After about 25 minutes my earlobes and chin must have frozen because I stopped noticing them. Or I was too distracted by what was now agony in my toes and fingers. SO COLD. Couldn't shift. Didn't want to. Couldn't brake. Didn't want to. Couldn't turn around to go home because I just bought these stupid tights and jacket and should be warming up by now and didn't want to.
Then I hit a patch of ice on the trail and have what I would like to picture as "a moment of natural grace and balance where my innate athleticism and core strength revealed themselves". My bike slides to the left, my right leg unclips and in an almost ballet-like movement slides across the path until I quickly regain balance, re-clip, all while operatically singing "Fuuuuuck" in a beautiful soprano vibrato.
Decision made - continue riding to the end of the Cherry Creek trail where miraculously an enormous REI is located. They'll have warm things! I brought my credit card! I'll be fine! Only thing on my mind - keep pedaling. Ignore all else. I keep my fingers balled up on the handlebars trying to keep my thumbs from getting frostbite.
I am almost at the REI when another cyclist (one of five others I saw on the entire 30 mile ride) catches up to me and asks, "what kind of gloves are you wearing"?
Me: "Inadequate ones. My hands are freezing".
Him: "Me too!"
Me: "My fingers and toes are so cold, I'm just trying to get to REI to buy shoe covers and warmer gloves. All my cold weather stuff is for running and it doesn't seem to work as well for cycling at all".
Him: Pause. "So, are you on a recovery ride today?"
Me: Pause - is this a compliment (as in I look like I am in good enough shape to do such intensive rides that I occasionally need to take a 'recovery ride') or an insult (as in I'm riding really pretty slowly right now so I must be just 'taking it easy')..."I have the day off so I'm just tooling around since it will snow tomorrow".
Him: "Cool. Do you do triathalons and stuff?"
Me: What? "No, I don't do tris."
There is some other small talk here, something about how great the vents are in cycling shoes when it's hot out but not so much now and how he's ridden other days this week and it hasn't been as cold. I'm not really paying attention. Too cold.
Him: "Well, here's my exit. Stay warm!" He exits the trail.
Strange encounter. No one has ever talked to me on the bike path before. Maybe I am riding really slow and therefore more approachable for conversation. Anyway, I make it to REI. The guy at the front kindly offers to watch my bike as I cleat my way to the cycling department to get some shoe covers. Located, donned, purchased, and pause to warm up.
So as I am stalling before heading out again into the Arctic, the front counter guy says "Maybe you wouldn't be so cold if you weren't riding so fast, Speed Demon". He must've peeked at my Garmin data on my handlebars while watching my bike. I laugh, thinking, what a weird counter-opinion to the other guy on the trail.
Later I come to the only logical conclusion (and really the only deep insight I had this ride): Guys like to talk to girls in tights.
No other real insights or found meaning on this ride. No song lyrics sink in below the surface. I hardly even see the trail or the sights on the way home. All I can think is Cold. Cold cold cold cold. At least now my toes aren't cold. But my ears and my fingers are still cold. I come up with a list of things I wished I had brought with me:
1) glove liners
2) fleecy vest
3) a hot tub
Cold cold wind chill brr. Cold. Hungry. I'm hungry. I'm cold, it's windy, I'm hungry. No, I'm starving. Then for some final bit of cruelty, a head wind. Uphill. Really?
But I bang it out, slowly, on my apparent 'recovery ride', just in time for the temperature to rise above freezing. And for me to have a whole new "wish list" for my next cold ride adventure.