Christmas is over and I think I may finally be caught up on sleep. It's kind of sad, really, I don't even have that much 'work' to do on Christmas compared to most and their playing Santa or being heavily involved in the cooking of elaborate meals (I cooked precisely nothing) and yet over that span of days I was exhausted. Christmas showed up quick and almost unexpectedly as the lack of snow doesn't make it look all that much like Christmas.
Saturday was Christmas Eve, but also for me it meant long ride day. The fact that there has been no snow means that the roads have remained dry and clear. I have always preferred outdoor riding to the trainer in almost any circumstances, although admittedly my bike had been on the trainer for a couple of weeks in spite of a few rideable days. Once I moved it in I didn't feel like moving it back out again and I was temporarily enjoying the lack of extra laundry - one cold bike ride can often involve wearing what would amount to an entire load of laundry by itself - and the mindlessness of riding on the trainer.
However, I wasn't having fun trying to pick out what to watch and pedaling and only thinking about how much more time I had left to ride. So for some reason I decided that on Christmas Eve I would do my long ride outside. Part of it was just the fact that I'm not sure I'd ever been able to ride outside, and I always feel like I'm actually doing something riding outside as opposed to the trainer. As the day approached, it was apparent that it was going to be really cold on Saturday. It's been sort of warm lately, so this was kind of a shock. By cold I mean low 20's. But I did not let that deter me, and just for good measure, on Friday night I had everything laid out and ready to go to ride outside - bike ready to go, bottles mixed, nutrition in the jacket pocket, several layers of clothes ready to go. After all of that, I figured I wouldn't chicken out the next day if only because I'd have to put in the extra effort of setting myself up to ride inside.
Saturday started very early for me. I set my alarm for 4:55 not to work out, but to drive a friend to the airport. The airport is very close but he always seems to have the 6am flight when flying home for holidays or whatever, so it's a pretty early start. I was home before 5:30. I have to confess that at this point I did my "transition" run before I went off to ride. I will ride in the cold, but I will not ride in the dark. I had a forty minute run to do and I thought it might be better to get it done then instead of just sitting around until 7:00 when it was finally light enough to ride. I know, I know, it was backwards but I also thought there was a strong chance I'd be so cold after riding that I wouldn't be able to handle going back outside to run, so better to just get it done.
As I ran and noticed how cold it was I contemplated moving inside, but once I warmed up I decided it wasn't that cold and maybe it wouldn't be so bad. It was quite peaceful running so early in the morning on Christmas eve in the dark with no cars and many houses all lit up. Upon my return the temperature check was 21 degrees and it was kind of windy, but I was determined to go outside to ride. So a quick change and I hit the road at exactly 7:00 to an amazing sunrise.
What does one wear to ride when it's that cold? Lots. Let's see, there were two pairs of ski socks, which only fit because my dad left behind an almost-new pair of bike shoes that are normally too big for my feet, but work quite well with two pairs of socks, shoe covers, bike shorts for the padding, a pair of long underwear bottoms underneath insulated Pearl Izumi tights that normally keep me perfectly warm when it's in the 30's. Up top I had two Craft winter base layers, a thick and well insulated cycling jacket, heavy-duty gloves that I also inherited from my father, and that I had actually gotten him for Christmas a few years ago, a balaclava that covered my head, ears, neck and the lower part of my face, plus a Craft windproof hat on top of that. I probably should've weighed the amount of clothing I had on, because I think it might have been like twenty more pounds. I typically wear less layers when I go skiing.
And off I went. I was nervous at first, sort of wondering if I'd want to turn back soon or if I should stick close to home in case I needed to come back sooner instead of going on the long loop I had planned. But I decided not to give myself the option, so I rode the route as planned. My fingers got cold immediately, but after a few times pulling my fingers out of the finger slots and balling my hands in fists inside the gloves that problem went away. My toes started to get cold almost immediately and if you've been skiing you know that once the toes are cold, they will stay cold until you stop and take your boots/shoes off and warm them up. So after spending some time futilely wiggling my toes around to try and warm them up, I resigned myself to the fact that I'd just have numb toes for the next four or so hours.
I just had to keep riding, though. I rode past a ski area with the snow guns blasting and people enjoying their Christmas Eve ski. And somehow I survived the ride although, full disclosure: I stopped 8 minutes early. I was finished my loop and decided that I was probably better off stopping. Once inside I started peeling off some initial layers and found some ice formed on my jacket and balaclava. It had "warmed up" to 25 degrees while I was out. I can't tell you how glad I was not to have to run. I microwaved my bottles to turn them back to liquid and promptly drank the entire contents along with my Endurox. Then it took me another twenty minutes to get all of those layers off before taking a nice, hot shower. After that I put on a whole lot of clothes, shivered for a while and promptly got back into bed so I could warm up and take a serious, much-needed nap. I'm not sure I'd do that again if given the choice, but I was sure glad when it was over.
I could hardly stay awake that night when Mom had her annual Christmas eve gathering. It's pretty casual, paper plates and all the same relatives mostly that we'd see the next day. Christmas itself wasn't anything hugely exciting, but it was nice. We always convene at my sister's so it's fun to see my niece and nephew being all excited about Christmas because it's not really that fun when there are no kids around. The last thing I did before going to my grandmother's was go for a little run, which was much warmer than the day before. I didn't know where I was going to run yet but decided to take a little detour running up to the cemetery to say hi to Dad.
Nana's house was nice, as always. I believe that was the 55th Christmas at that house, and of course I've been there every Christmas I've ever had. It was probably the same exact meal as every other time, but why mess with a good thing? We don't get fancy. And that was that. Now just back to the same old stuff and getting my training done without having to worry about holiday gatherings. It's been an interesting year for sure, and I'll recap that later. For now I'll just say I'm really, really glad that I am not about to hop in the car and drive to Arizona. I mean, I'm excited for heading south later, but going so soon after Christmas is not fun!