Cold Weather Mountain Biking

She found me sitting on the floor of the bathroom, naked except for a small handtowel wrapped around my feet. I was shivering, breathing heavily, and trying to massage some warmth back into my feet while trying to steady my heartbeat.

"You didn't do a very good job washing", she says in reference to my dirty face. I snuck a glance in the mirror and sure enough, it looked as if Jackson Pollock created a dirt and grime masterpiece across my noggin. "What are you doing?" she inquires.

I got back from my wet, cold, training ride ten minutes earlier and despite wearing 2mm thick neoprene socks, my feet were soaked to the bone and seemed to be in an early state of frostbite. Robert and I rode just over 28 miles of trail and were out in the rain and cold (temps in the forties) for nearly two and a half hours and although I knew my feet were painfully cold, I had no idea how bad it was until I got in the shower.

Once in the shower, the normal tingly sensation of hot water against cold skin quickly gave way to an incredible pain. Moments later, I felt my heartrate quickening and I started to hyperventilate. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I was breathing heavily, getting scared, and had to get out of the shower. I pulled on the shower door to no avail for several moments before realizing it opens outward. I turned the water off, exited the shower and took a seat on the bathroom floor.

While trying to massage the pain away I thought of two things. First, as I sat there with my bare ass on the floor of our master bath, I was thankful that we hadn't yet ripped out the carpeting and installed tile in the bathroom. Secondly, being a bit of an armchair mountaineer, I thought of all the stories of frostbite that I had read over the years. The pain, the discoloration, the "burned" appearance of the skin, and even the amputations. As my heartrate slowed and my breathing became more regular I was able to relax and stop worrying that something horrible was happening. My feet were cold, possibly near frostbite, and now they're warming. Slowly.

My mistake was trying to warm them too suddenly with the hot shower. I should have put on slippers and socks and walked around the house for a little while, perhaps with a cup of cocoa or tea, and let them thaw a bit. I had no idea how cold they were, but even now, fully dressed, sitting here writing about this nearly an hour later, a flex of my foot yields a pain that feels like icicle daggers are piercing through my Achilles tendon. It does not tickle.

Post-ride frostbite scare aside, the ride was good. Our group of four was down to two as the self-described "weather weenies" opted out. Robert, who I never met before but lives just blocks from me, and I descended off Snoqualmie Ridge to the falls, rode Millpond road for a mile to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail (which stretches from outside Seattle to Idaho) and then pedaled up to Rattlesnake Lake. WIth fishing season over, and the rain coming down, the lake was relatively vacant except for a few dog walkers. After a few minutes of enjoying the view, we turned around and headed back down. Robert was on his wife's bike since his doesn't have fenders so I got a bit ahead on the descent back along the SVT. At one point I rounded a bend at about 22 mph and almost ran straight into a pair of black-tailed deer. They were two does and they were really large. Bigger than the deer I see in the neighborhoods, and larger than those I saw on Orcas Island last week. The near-deer collision withstanding, the ride was relatively uneventful. The climb back onto the Ridge was a good way to finish off the ride and make us feel like we earned those 28 miles.

After writing this earlier today, we headed over to the Vietnamese restaurant for a big bowl of piping-hot pho soup and then headed over to the bike shop, where I promptly purchased winter shoe covers for my bike shoes and a front fender.

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