Tropical Storm Debbie finally decided to move off today, but not after dumping an insane amount of water on us over the last four days. Torrential rains and high winds are not really cut out for cycling, although a few of my friends were crazy enough to try last Monday prompting Facebook posts about 35 MPH cross winds, and the rain feeling like little sharp needles. I, on the other hand, left the bike hanging on the wall and made a date with the elliptical instead.
I was getting antsy after three days of not riding, continuously checking the weather reports for any sign of a break. It looked as though there would be a possible window on Wednesday morning, at least from the rainfall, so I put up a post on the Caloosa Riders page the night before to see if there was any interest in taking on Debbie. Mel, Diana and Antonio were all willing to give it go, so we made plans to meet up at the Sweetbay Market in the morning.
This morning’s radar images showed a very tight rain-free window to squeeze in the ride. With a little luck, we’d remain dry, but there was going to be no escape from the wind. Sustained winds were in the 21-23 MPH range with gusts over 30 MPH!
I headed out to the Sweetbay Market hoping to find a few more diehard cyclists willing to fight the wind, but as I arrived, I saw no one there. I slowly circled the parking lot waiting to see if anyone at all would arrive. Was I the only one crazy enough to do this? Eventually a lone rider showed up. It was Diana, who apparently had raced over on her bike (7 miles worth of racing) to catch us (technically me) before we headed out. Her husband Antonio had a flat that needed repairs and would be joining us shortly. Mel, on the other hand, was a no show (he later informed me that it was already raining in his neck of the woods, so he elected to sit this one out).
We headed out, not really knowing what to expect, but quickly found the brunt of the wind almost dead on, accompanied by some nasty oblique gusts. I figured Diana and Antonio were warmed up by their 7 mile head start, so I quickly brought the speed up to 20 MPH. Pushing 20 MPH into an even stronger headwind felt like I was on a never ending climb, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the strong gusts would completely blow me off my line forcing me to constantly course correct.
I gave up the lead at about 4 miles in, only to find that I had pulled away from both Diana and Antonio. Once caught up, Diana took the lead and kept us rolling along at around an 18 mile clip. This speed was far easier to maintain than the 20 MPH pace, but the wind still did not make it easy.
We dropped Antonio again. When he caught up he informed us that he was dealing with a tender knee and ankle, which were getting beat up pretty badly by the combined pace and nasty winds. He did his best to stay up with us, but frankly why risk further injury, especially with adverse riding conditions. Both he and Diana elected to turn back and leave the ride for a future date, while I pushed on.
I dropped a into my aero bars, lowered my head, downshifted and started my solo fight against the wind. My speed was literally all over the place as the strong gusts dictated my pace. With no rest from the wind, I was starting to second guess the planned route, eventually opting to ride 30 miles instead of the planned 40.
By the time I arrived at the Miromar midpoint, I was completely soaked through. In fact so much sweat was dripping off my head that I thought it was starting to drizzle. Humidity was at 100%, so even with all the wind, my kit was not wicking at all.
A short recovery orbit around Miromar was all I needed to resume the assault on Debbie’s winds. The wind now would be completely oblique. Still not the most desirable, but it beats a full on head wind. In fact Debbie took a little pity on me as she switched wind directions to a tailwind on many occasions during the return ride, as some very ominous black clouds came racing in from the East.
It was bad enough that Debbie was a blowhard, but now it looked like she was ready to dump on me too, so the race was on. I took advantage of every instance of tailwind, easily hitting speeds over 25 MPH, only to have them drop back down to the high teens when the wind shifted off to the side. I could feel the temperature dropping as the weather front closed in. So I put even more effort into my Debbie inspired intervals.
I reached the Sweetbay Market just as the first raindrops started to fall. Just a couple of miles separated me from my dry home and a soaking…all against the wind! One last drop into the bars and a bunch of pedal stomping got me to my home just as the drops turned into a constant drizzle….I made it!
Overall, the experience of taking on some crazy tropical storm winds was fun, in a warped kind of way. Maintaining speed and course was almost video game like as Debbie constantly tried her best to mess with me. I’m not going to claim victory over Debbie, as she really dictated the ride from the start. In hindsight Debbie turned out to be quite the demanding mistress, making us respond to her every whim. Luckily though I escaped from her clutches before she could get that last blow!
Ride Time: 1:47:20
Stopped Time: 13:28
Distance: 30.10 miles
Average: 16.82 mph
Fastest Speed: 25.91 mph
Ascent: 195 feet
Descent: 233 feet