Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Irene's Epic, Wintry Windsor Wanderer 210km!

Speaking of R-12s, I too am striving to achieve the award. My clock started in July.

Congrats to Steve, Michelle, Mike and Bob....I wanna be like you. Being in the R-12 wanna-be club, we get creative and daring about getting out in the colder months.

On Thursday, February 18, one day after Steve and Michelle got their 12th, I decided to go out and ride the Windsor Wanderer 210K counterclockwise. When I got up at 6am and found no snow on the ground and a partly clear day, I thought I should go for it because the forecast was for some flurries in the afternoon and upgraded for more snow thru the weekend. With nothing prepared for a long ride, I quickly ate and threw all my stuff together, dressed for a cold day and got a crack of 8am start. If I didn't get out on Thursday, I'd just have one more week in Feb. to gamble and wait for decent weather and clear roads.

The ride started out at 28 degrees and warmed up into the low 40s for about an hour, then things started going bad. As I headed out from Platteville to make the northward trek to Windsor, the wind before the storm started up. Some nice, long straight stretches going north into the steady 20-30 mph headwinds. Heck, if I weren't out riding today I'd just be at home fretting about when I'd get a chance to ride before the end of the month. By the time I hit the store in Windsor, the storm had moved in, so I grabbed a quick bite to eat and refilled bottles, and headed back out to my anticipated tailwinds. Just as expected, I had a WONDERFUL tailwind along with blizzard conditions. How bad could it be (I was about to find out), anyway? Fifty miles to go, I'll be home in no time with this tailwind. Wheeeee, I was cruising southward in a whiteout. Every time I took a westward turn, the wind and snow would push me into the road, so I'd have to lean into the wind and brace myself to keep upright and stay on the shoulder. I was glad to have ridden a few of the permanents and brevets that go through this territory because a lot of the street signs were starting to get frosted with snow and becoming illegible. With the cloud/snow cover, I had to turn the lights on early, around 4pm.

Stopped under the I-25 bridge to get out of the driving snow and try to get a drink. There was so much frozen mud on the bottle lids that I couldn't (and didn't want to) drink out of them. Upon stopping, I could see that the water was frozen anyway, and the perpetuem was looking like slurpee. So, not being able to eat or drink since Windsor, I was getting tired. Just 20 miles to go, I can do it. Who in their right mind would give up after 110 miles? Just keep moving.

Turned off of the I-25 Frontage road and headed west onto Hwy 52. Good shoulder in the dark, lots-o-snow, and making forward progression when I hear a car slowing, then pulling up next to me. Window down, it's a sheriff's car with a woman's voice asking if I need help. No thanks, I'm good. "OK", she replies and drives off.

Got to the Erie convenience store at Jay and County Line Rd. and decided to stop to use their restroom and try to defrost my bottles and get a drink. I must have looked pretty pitiful because the clerk asked if I was getting anything beside the cup of mocha (from those great self serve machines). When I said no, he said it was on the house and I was welcome to sit down and warm up. Now I'm ready to finish the last 12 miles. When I step outside of the store I see how fierce the blizzard is and thought it was really crazy weather to be out riding in. Now I can see that the bike is covered in frozen ice/mud, the brakes are encased and adding to the friction on the wheels, with derailleurs frozen the bike was stuck in one of the lowest gears, unable to shift anywhere (at least it was in low and not hi), I was unable to clip into the pedals (ice blocks in my cleats)...EVERYTHING was frozen on the bike and it was about 10 pounds heavier (according to my husband). At the finish, I wouldn't be able to turn my tail lights off because they were covered in ice...2.5 days later, they were still on the frozen bike and blinking away in the garage.

Riding down Jay Rd. with 2 inches of snow on the pavement and blinded by the whiteout, I crept along in low gear. The bike headlight started flashing red, warning that the batteries were about to die. Stop at Hwy 287 because there are some good street lights at the corner in an otherwise very dark night. Sort of quick battery pack change and I'm off again. Everything takes so much longer when you're hands are freezing.
Home stretch for sure...can't crank the slight downhills because I'm stuck in a low gear...patience, patience...at least I can pedal the flats and slight rises. Yessss, I'm finally at the edge of Louisville!! Got lost in the neighborhoods before the finish..took a turn too early and added an extra mile or so before arriving back at the start. 135 miles and 12 hours later, I'm done. SWEET finish and a good story out of it.

This was the hardest 200K I've done, so it felt good to complete it. That's how we (randonneurs and randonneuses) are, we want to COMPLETE the ride.

And that's how I got my February ride. Wonder how March will go?

Thanks for reading this epic tale.

Irene Takahashi


  1. WOW! Nice job! I now have a post to reference when I think it's too cold/wet/whatever to ride... dang. those pics are priceless!

  2. The word 'epic' has been overworked and overused -- especially in cycling -- so I am trying to think of an appropriate synonym. I thought, briefly, about something like 'Miss February' but that seemed to have the wrong connotation. The 'Golden Cobble' award seems to have been lost somewhere in Flanders. Then it hit me:


    Now I don't have any direct connection to Jens! and at the risk of offending such a legendary hardman (and at the risk of him snacking on my wheels or legs in a feed zone smackdown), I have to think that this type of perseverance would warm his heart.

    I can almost hear him yelling at all the K-B-K abandons today, telling them that if a solo randonneur from Colorado can finish 200k in the snow then they can put up with a little rain. Or something slightly more colorful.

    All I know is that 95% of my excuses for NOT riding just got thrown out the back like the Lanterne Rouge trying to keep contact as the peloton accelerates in an attempt to reel in one of Jens' breakaways.