For the past three years I’ve been an escort rider for the MS Blues Marathon and it’s usually a lot of fun. This year, though, someone forgot to pay the heating bill. When we picked up the runners at mile 9, it was about 20 degrees. I’ve never ridden my bike in 20 degree weather. Hell, I have trouble riding it in 70 degree weather, but since I volunteered myself and a friend, I couldn’t back out. Well, I could have, but my friend promised to repeatedly kick me in nads if I did and that’s really something I try and avoid.
My hands and feet were numb before we even got on the bikes. Our plan was to suit up at the pickup point and get warmed up before heading out. This was partially successful since the “warmed up” part never happened. Since it’s hard to dress while wearing gloves, my hands were exposed for the 30 minutes or so it took to get ready. And they got so cold they were getting stiff…and not in a good way. We had enough chemical hand and feet warmers to start a small fire, but the damn things wouldn’t fit in my gloves or shoes. And I was out of time.
I’ll take a second here to mention something about marathoners…they’re nuts. Why would you pay $90 to run in 20 degree weather for 26.2 miles? If your answer doesn’t have the words “hoardes of loose, naked women” in it then stop, because I’m not interested.
My group was escorting the Top 3 Male runners and by mile 9, these guys were hoofing it. We had to stomp on the pedals at first to get in front and from then on it was all pedaling. At one point, I saw a guy run…and barf…and run some more…and barf some more…and run some more. I gotta give that dude credit. Barfing while still is a bitch so I can only imagine what barfing while in motion must feel like.
It was about this point that I realized I was slowly getting feeling back into my hands. My guess is that my core was warming up so the body could afford to push some blood out to my hands. My hands have since sworn total allegiance to my core and have promised to punch me in the nads should I ever think of doing this again. Within about 10 minutes, the only part that was still cold were my toes.
In case you’re wondering, I was wearing neoprene leg warmers, tights, bib shorts, a long sleeve, wool/thermax shirt I use for hunting, a long sleeve cycling jersey, a cycling jacket, and a windproof vest provided by the marathon. I had a Turtle Fur Shellaclava (this thing ROCKED!) under my helmet, two pairs of gloves, and a pair of wool socks and toe covers for my shoes.
Now let’s skip ahead to mile 23 when I quit. The previous miles consisted of a frozen water bottle, rock hard Clif Bloks, and Hammer Gel that I couldn’t reach. Although I didn’t know how long I’d been riding, I did know that I could no longer feel the front half of both feet. When I tried to wiggle my toes, I couldn’t tell if they were moving. It was at this point that my brain said, “Fuck it, y’all. We’re done.” And true to it’s word, we were.
I’ll be honest, Dear Reader, and admit that my feet have never, ever been that cold. It was like pedaling blocks of ice. All I could picture were red and black stumps that used to be toes rolling around in the ends of my socks.
I was wise enough to stop at a portable toilet occupied by a Salvation Army Emergency Services worker who promised to send someone to pick me up. The easy part was being picked up. The hard part was explaining to my friend that I punked out 3 miles from the end. She was a good sport about it and plans to use it to her advantage for a VERY LONG TIME. I can’t argue with her…because she threatens to kick me in the nads.
For the record, it took until the next morning for my feet to feel completely normal again.