In the week preceding our adventure I reserved a hotel room, pored over maps, made cue sheets, cooked enough food to supply a platoon of hungry marines and obsessively checked the weather. Which looked surprisingly mild for this time of year - no precipitation, with temperatures all north of freezing for the weekend. I planned accordingly.
That last bit will be important later.
There were six of us for the trip: me (Mike), longtime teammate Ian, new(ish) recruits Preston, Hughes and Liam, and BU racer Dave. We met before sunup on Friday, packed into 2 cars and drove to West Yarmouth.
In a rainstorm.
Refusing to let Mother Nature pee on our pain-parade, we checked in to our 15x15 habitation cube, liberally applied chamois cream to our still-intact underparts and rolled out - under cloudy, but rain-free skies. The roads were still wet, but it was quite warm. So besides the wheel spray (no one had thought to bring fenders) plastering us with road grit, spirits were high. We figured a little Belgian toothpaste never hurt anyone.
Day 1: Wind
That first day we cruised out toward Truro like champs. We capitalized on a steady (and unbeknown to us, increasing) tailwind and fresh legs to approach 30 mile and hour cruising speeds on the mostly-abandoned rail trail. We had "Bed Sprints" at overpasses and town lines (2 beds and 6 dudes made for hotly-contested events) and energetic pacelines. The first 45 miles felt like the Cape had given us superpowers.
Unfortunately for us, what the Cape giveth, a 40 mile an hour headwind on the return journey taketh away.
At first, it was just a bit harder. Traveling mostly south through Truro, we were hit with a steady front-crosswind. We took turns at the front, rotating through frequently and still cheerfully talking amongst ourselves. The bike path was a bit more sheltered, but the wind was head-on. Preston established that he was somewhat more in shape than the rest of us by playing tugboat for much of the way.
Coming off the rail trail, we were hit with the most vicious blast of wattage-destroying wind I have ever experienced. According to Ians power tap, we were pushing threshold wattage at 12 miles an hour. Occasionally, the wind would shift suddenly, tossing one of us (usually Ian, our lankiest teammate) onto the sidewalk. I had to piss so bad it hurt, but I was sure the added urine-weight was the only thing keeping me from getting picked up and tossed into the ocean.
Never had a ride gone from "enjoyable" to "survival" so quickly.
Eventually, we all made it back. I jumped into the room while the others were still filtering in, hoping to warm up some food for the guys. I got the Tupperware in the microwave, turned it on, started getting our plates out and... blew a fuse. Awesome. I ran down to the desk and talked to the girl at the counter. She got the fuse reset, I plugged the microwave into a different outlet (the one that had a hairdryer attached) and tried again. Same result. Back down to the desk, sheepishly explaining that I was not in fact here to test her patience, but just wanted to heat up food for the six guys sharing the single room I had rented.
She was surprisingly accommodating, offering up the staff microwave to heat the 2 gallons of chicken tikka I had prepared.
Warm-ish chicken and rice stuffed into faces made bright red by wind-blasted sand, we got "comfortable". Preston informed us that the average wind speed was 40mph, with gusts over 70.
Day 2: Getting it right.
We were up early, ate our oatmeal and made sandwiches for the ride. It would be slightly colder today, but much less windy. Dressed appropriately, we struck out on the same path as the day before. We figured that we would want to go inland on the last day - which weather reports made colder and colder by the hour - because we could cut the ride short if temperature dictated.
Saturdays ride was glorious. We followed the rail trail to its conclusion, but instead of wandering aimlessly through the back roads and "transfer stations" (Capespeak for "dump") we followed the marked bike route. There was some wind, but after yesterdays jet-engine hellblast it was eminently tolerable. The scenery was fantastic - riding along the abandoned beaches, rows of empty houses and rolling dunes was a needed change from the familiar sights of the Dover loop.
Idyllic surroundings aside, we were approaching 12 hours of in 2 days - something some of us were more used to than others. Ian and I had just resumed training after taking some time off after a busy cross season, but have several seasons of racing to fall back on. Preston has been training for a run at collegiate nationals since October and has amassed an impressive collection of watts this winter. Dave (until recently a rower) and Liam (a mountainbiker) had never done anything like this before. AND were both on unfamiliar bikes.
Clearly a recipe for success.
Liam made it about 45 miles and needed to pack it in due to back pain. He gamely hung on, but putting in literally hundreds of miles in an entirely new position was only going to do permanent damage. Dave was on a bike he just purchased and had fitted, so it was a bit less taxing. Still, it took him some time to settle in and find a comfortable rhythm.
I would also point out that I (Mr. Experienced Bike Racer) was riding on a Brand New Saddle. Do not ever do this. Ever. For the love of whatever God you pray to. There is simply not enough Bag Balm on this earth to repair the damage.
We got back to the hotel and set about preparing dinner. I had grilled ham and cheese along with orzo and sweet potato salad on the menu, but didnt want to bother the guy behind the desk to heat everything up. So we melted the butter, cinnamon and brown sugar in the coffee pot and poured it over the lukewarm mixture of orzo, sweet potato and goat cheese - it actually worked (really!).
I should at this point say something about the state of the room. Actually, I give you this:
Yeah, six guys in a 15x15 box. The toilet was literally sweating.
Day 3: Necessity Is The Mother Of Repurposed Hand Towels
So with the high temperature on Sunday going to be somewhere between "Witches Teat" and "Welldiggers Arse", we each got to find out exactly which ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL piece of cold weather gear we left behind. In my case, it was a heavier outer shell. In Liams case, however:
Yes. We made covers out of a hand towel and taped him into his shoes.
It was cold. Really cold. And snowing. No one at any point said anything about snow. We rode out to the end of the rail trail, but the roads were so bad that we decided to just do a few laps on the path to get the necessary time in. Here I am with icicles hanging from my beard:
Sometime after this was taken, Dave and Liam took shelter in a convenience store. It would seem that our insulation attempt was an almost complete failure.
We DID make it back though! After thoroughly cleaning the room (the table with the bags of Heed had piles of white powder all over it. This looked... bad) we went over to the Cape Cod Golden Buffet and proceeded to hurt ourselves in ways that made riding 300 miles in 3 days seem like a pleasant alternative to deep-fried intestinal pummeling.
All in all, a great trip!