By Christopher Cudworth On the way to work last Friday morning the voice on the other end of the cell phone call said “Oh my God, what’s going on outside?” I envisioned a traffic accident. Maybe a cat fight. Then she spoke up again. “Oh, it’s hailing.”
Hail. Not what you want to hear when you’re driving a car. Hail damage can ruin a new car or even total an old one if you really admit the truth. Hail is the hardass version of snow. It usually pours down out of the sky ahead of a rainstorm backed by a cold front. Sometimes hail piles up but other times it bounces off the ground and melts in a minute or two. You hear the term “golf ball sized hail” and find it hard to imagine. Perhaps this video will help, which shows the giant hail that hit Nocona, Texas in 2009. No kidding? That stuff could knock you out. Dent your car deeply. If you were on your bike, there’d be no way to ride the streets with that sized hail littering the road. Even running would be difficult. Hell, walking might be tough.
Oh hell it’s hail
As a course marshal for a cycling race two years ago, I was standing in an intersection during a CAT 3 criterium in a residential neighborhood when a storm blew in. The riders were about 10 minutes into the race and breaks were starting to form when the skies opened up with rain. Water immediately began pouring downhill toward the intersection where I stood. It washed over my shoes and forced the cyclists to whale their wheels through deep streams. Rooster tails of water flew up behind the rear tires but the racers kept on going. Suddenly a shift of cold wind came along and streaks of hail started to mix with the rain. The hail grew larger and more intense. It bounced loudly off the lid of my baseball cap and even more loudly off the helmets of the riders. Now the streets were rivers and the hail floated along like debris swept away in a tsunami. The requisite EMT gal in her blue jacket and red shoulder patch came along to chase me off the road. “The race is being stopped,” she told me. “Go somewhere safer.” So I went and stood under a tree. I know. That’s not what you do if there is a storm. But I was so wet I was convinced the lightning could not tell me from an animate clump of dirt. So there I stood under a maple tree listening to the hail rip through the fat leaves. The EMT woman shot me a disgusted look. “You’ll get killed there,” she said. But I didn’t. I was invisible, you see. So wet I did not exist apart from nature.
After 5 minutes the storm stopped. Bike riders were pulled over to the side of the course with their expensive rigs held between their legs. They looked like victims of a chain accident on the expressway, perched under trees with their bright kits shining with moisture. Most were picking away grit and leaves from the spokes and sprockets, cables and brakes.
Birds of a feather
As a longtime birder I also could not help notice the resemblance between these cyclists and a flock of birds preening themselves after a spring shower. 20 minutes later the race began again. There was some contention about who should be allowed to start where. A group of four riders had definitely built a lead by that point in the race, 23 minutes into a 40-minute +2 lap event. A race halted is an object of broken beauty. The original momentum and all the cumulative fatigue of the first 23 minutes were now gone. The race organizers attempted to spot the lead riders the same distance they had earned in the first go-round. The rest of the riders stood in a sodden clump at the starting line. In the distance, the dark cloud receding to the south looked smug. It had done its work. My course marshal shift was over however, and I left the race not knowing how it would proceed. The winner that day was the weather.
Velominati Rule #9 Despite the knowledge that the weather will always win, some of us are stubborn and go out to run and ride even on the worst of days. While not a strict believer in everything you find in The Rules on Velominati, Rule #9 holds true. “If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.”