The weather forecast here in Illinois this week is not encouraging. Temps are predicted to drop to the low single digits. Winds will be ripping the makeup right off the faces of women commuting through the streets of Chicago.
That’s February for you. I almost forgot about it. Thoughts of spring were so nice when a warm front came through the last day or so it was possible to smell a faint whiff of water on the breeze. Tantalizing. And deceptive.
That sweet breeze! It blew from the east as I ran my square little three-mile run around the high school and back. My middle mile dipped below 8:00 with the wind blowing up my ass like a motivational fan.
How often we’ve deceived ourselves with a wind like that on a bike. Riding along at 22 miles per hour we’ve convinced of our status as talented cyclists. Then we turn around and head back into a wind that we conveniently forgot about and the suffering begins. 12 miles per hour becomes difficult. The interior dialogue goes from hero to goat. “You suck at cycling,” a little voice in your head keeps muttering. On the February breeze you think you hear the clinky sound of frozen laughter. Turns out it’s only ice on the trees.
In winter a wind like that can literally kill you. Work up a sweat going west and then find yourself coming back into a cold lake-driven wind 30 miles west of Chicago? That can put you into hypothermic distress. It’s best to carry an extra layer in the butt pocket of your Pearl Izumi jacket for just those conditions. Just in case.
Flat and cold. Like Illinois.
God Forbid you should get a flat on your road bike tire when it’s 28 degrees outside and the winds are pretending that you’re a polar bear out for a hunt. It doesn’t take long to go from sweating to freezing. That can happen if you forget to respect the month of February.
As a kid I was a paperboy carrying the Chicago Tribune and a bunch of smaller newspapers. I rode my Huffy 3-speed bike all over the town of Elburn, Illinois from 5:30 in the morning till 6:30 every day. Some mornings the temps dipped below -15 degrees and it was best to keep moving. Keep crunching. Get the route done. Don’t think too much. It’s February and it’s cold.
Respect the month
At home I’d warm up by a heater as my mother made hot shredded wheat or eggs. All those mornings built character. I no longer feared the cold. But I did respect it. Yet we forget those lessons. Looking ahead to spring we forget there are 28 days of completely unpredictable weather to fight in the month of February.
Fortunately there are warm gyms in which to lift weights and run on treadmills or ellipticals. Yet I still prefer to go out and ride over dealing with the whole Computrainer thing. Part of that is that my bike fit still sucks despite $800 of adjustments a couple years ago. Proof that money fools a fool, I guess. But we’re dealing with that whole bike fit thing while February is still playing with our hopes here at the Cudworth Clinic. Starting from scratch on the bike fit. There’s riding to do.
My running journal is filling up with consistent efforts again. Honestly it will be March before the rides add up to anything much. I’m still reeling in consciousness from a tricky day 10 years ago when I rode my road bike into sixty degree temps and fog only to see it dramatically drop to 45 degrees with a wet mist that had me shivering at the last stop light before town. I stood there shaking so hard and praying that my body would not fail me before getting home to a warm shower.
I could only think to myself, “Oooops, I forgot about February.” Respect it. Or it might kill you.