The website says that Gran Fondo means "Big Ride" in Italian. This morning, it was one big WET ride.
I lived in sense of semi-denial all day yesterday...thinking/hoping/believing that it wouldn't REALLY rain ALL MORNING. I mean, it really doesn't rain that much here. The weather Gods were messing with me too...when I woke up at 5 am, the sidewalks were dry.
However, by the time Mik and I left at the butt-crack of dawn, it was raining.
O'Dark Thirty...and it was raining
The ride (The Gran Fondo series are advertised as "mass participation riding events" and not races) started in the "Little Italy" neighborhood of San Diego. We parked at the office building where Walter works. Which was covered and dry.
Mik and I before the race. I went back and forth about wearing the clear sunglasses...I am SO GLAD I DID!
The street as we left the parking garage. Yes, it was raining still.
We headed a couple of blocks up the street (Walter's parking garage was the PERFECT location as it was only a few blocks away from the start...and did I mention it was covered and dry?)
As we headed to the start, it really started POURING, so we joined some other clever people who had taken cover under the awning of a restaurant called Indigo Grill (figure since I used their awning, I should give them a shout out).
About this point, I checked my phone and my office-partner, Tate, was calling me. He was also doing the ride (and was talking about backing out), so I suggested he come wait with use under the awning. Once he got there, Mik and I shamed him into riding with us. His text message to his wife was something like "Alice is riding." He knows he'd never hear the end of it if he'd wussed out.
Tate, not looking especially thrilled about the ride...I'm just sayin'
The ride had a wave start, which began about 7am, by about 7:30 or so, the downpour had slowed to more of a misting, so we headed out to the street. Of course, I dropped my glasses on the ground near the porta potty, so I had to look for them...it clearly was my weekend to have sunglass issues.
Race start...absolutely amazing that so many people showed up. They must have started 15 waves at least!
At 7:52, we were off. I quickly decided that I needed to have the glasses on as it had started to rain again.
The wave start was an excellent way to begin. It was never crowded. One of my biggest concerns about riding in the rain had less to do with the rain, and more to do with riding around 3000 other people in the rain, but since we left in groups of about 200, we were pretty spread out. Although the rain had started up again, it wasn't too bad, and pretty soon we were at the foot of the Coronado Bridge. You don't often get to ride a bike over the bridge, and to be honest, this was pretty much the whole reason to do this event.
Top of the Coronado Bridge...I'm sure that's the Strand in the distance...even further would be Tijuana...on a clear day.
Mik and I...we are shiny but not because we are sweaty.
That's Tate in the distance...and also Coronado. You may have to trust me on that.
The climb up the bridge was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. In fact, I know that I passed a lot of people. On the other hand, the ride down was scary. First, it was a pretty steep descent, which was WET. Second, The bridge has a bunch of metal dividers that help the bridge sway in high winds and (probably) in the event of an earthquake, but they must be hell on bicycle tires as there were lots of bikers on the side of the bridge dealing with flats. Although to be honest, this was the scene throughout the entire ride. LOTS of flats today. Luckily, none of them happened to any of us. Fixing a flat in the rain must really suck.
As we headed into Coronado, we were definitely on familiar ground as we have run and even ridden on the island plenty of times...although to be honest, at about this point I started to notice how incredibly wet my feet were. Everyone once in awhile while pedaling, I could just feel the water squishing underneath my foot. NOT COMFORTABLE.
Eventually, despite the wind and the rain, we got to the aid station in Imperial Beach. One side note about the aid station. There was a HUGE difference between this cycling aid station and the running aid stations I'm used to. At a really deluxe running aid station, you might find an energy beverage, and maybe a Gu. The Nike Women's 1/2 is notable because at Mile 11, they offer you a Ghiradelli's Chocolate.
This aid station was DELUXE and then some one had donut holes, cookies, drinks, Gu, PB&J sandwiches and Lord knows what else. I don't know if this is because it was an ITALIAN BIKE RIDE (and being 1/2 Italian, I know the importance that food has at any event) or if this is true of all cycling event aid stations, but if it is, I am SO DOING MORE OF THIS...I MEAN THEY HAD THOUSANDS OF FROSTED DONUT HOLES. We ended up stopping for about 10 minutes, partially because we were soaking wet and cold, and partially because we were waiting for Mik to eat 5 donut holes and 3 cookies (I ate only 2 donut holes, but that's because I didn't want to be burping up donuts for the last 15 miles). Tate told me he got his money's worth.
I took a couple of pix at the aid station on my iPhone, but none of them saved...I think I was trying to take them and post them as updates on Facebook, but it wouldn't upload and I didn't save the pix. ((SIGH)). Needless to say, they weren't fabulous pictures of us. We were soaking wet; so were our bikes.
The rest of the ride could be summed up as follows:
- Seeing more cyclists with flat tires.
- Complaining more about the rain...it let up a few times, but it NEVER EFFING STOPPED
- At the aid station, something happened to my brakes, and I kept having to reach down to adjust them because they were rubbing against the tire (very frustrating...like it's not difficult enough just riding in the rain, I had to battle breaks too).
- Deciding that the interesting, squiggly street repair/patch work around the Chula Vista Harbor looked like abstract art.
- Getting REALLY annoyed by the rain
- Getting separated from Tate and Mik at a light, then pedaling like hell to catch up with them.
- Almost wiping out when my back tire went into a divot I didn't see
- Two people wiping out on the railroad tracks
- Catching up with Tate and Mik at the Convention Center
- Finishing together
And we're done...VERY COOL finisher medal
We made an on-the-spot decision to hang out at the expo and get some pasta, but didn't stay very long because we were wet, cold, and (most importantly) we THOUGHT we were promised Prosecco but discovered that Prosecco was offered ONLY in the VIP area (and even though Tate tried to tell the guy that we FELT important), we were left (alas) without.
In any event, the pasta was quite good, but I was really too cold and wet to enjoy it (and I was pissed about the Prosecco...let's be honest here.)
So, we said goodbye to Tate, and Mik and I rode back to the parking garage which was covered and dry, where we:
- Of all silly things, almost crashed and fell going UP the parking lot ramp.
- Hope there was no closed circuit camera since we stripped down out of our wet clothes and into dry ones for the ride home...or if there is a closed circuit camera, Mik and I hope that someone enjoyed the show (you're welcome), because after all, what is hotter than two women in their 40s, soaking wet and cold, changing out of soggy bike clothes into warm, dry clothes in a public parking garage.
So, now I'm all warm and snuggly on the sofa and ready to watch the Academy Awards...oh yeah, those papers I was whining about grading earlier in the week? They're in my briefcase and are VERY dry.