Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Feud with Ice Continues

Friday's successful ski was followed up by a less than perfect trail ride on Saturday. SteveG and I headed down to the Great Brook area for a 30-40 miler. Yeah, I know, I refuse to learn. Riding with Steve has put me on the X-ray table twice so far this year. Saturday's ride taunted fate, as Steve claimed fresh legs and I claimed wrecked status from skiing the day before.

To get 40 miles in at Great Brook, one needs to link in every bit of conservation land in Chelmsford. I figured we could start out with the more roadie-ish stuff first, let Steve hammer some of the freshness out of his legs, and then maybe I wouldn't break a leg trying to stay with him on Stone Rowe later in the ride.

We didn't get too far. In Lime Quarry Reservation, Steve flatted. I was a bit horrified by the condition of his tire. There were no less than four places the tube was bulging out the sidewalls. No worries. He brought lots of milk jug tire boots just in case. A new tube and some boots got things rolling again. We zipped through Wright Reservation next, then on to the powerlines. He flatted again over some rocks. This time glueless patches were used on the double pinch flat.

Remounting the wheel, the brake rotor missed going in between the pads and buggered up the pad spacing spring. Turns out this is really easy to do when the pads are worn down to metal so the calipers are all the way out. While fussing with the caliper, the tire started hissing! It seems glueless patches don't hold well when it is cold out. I think we killed better part of an hour before we got rolling again.

Just in Great Brook, the tire went squishy again. That tire was a hopeless cause. Steve hung it up and rode two miles back to the car on a flat tire. Perhaps I obsess over bike maintenance more than some, but riding on a tire with multiple sidewall tears?  I was determined to get three hours of riding in and kept going. I hit Russell Mill next, where 100% of the trails were swept clean of leaves. The ground was frozen hard as pavement. It was marvelous fun, maintaining a solid tempo pace the whole time. There must have been twenty other riders in there. I rode most of the Great Brook trails, finishing with 36 miles in 3.3 hours moving time. No mishaps!

Sunday was a mess. I entertained skiing again, but the rain was already upon us. The roads were salted too, to knock down black ice. So what would suck the least? Cathy was game for a hike. My New England readers know what kind of weather we had Sunday - very high winds and heavy rain. It never let up. It was relatively mild at the house with the temp in the 40's, but it was sure to be colder higher up. Would there be ice? We still don't have crampons.

We drove out to Pack Mondanock. Seeing thick ice on the shoulders of Rt 101 near Wilton pissed me off, as that is how our doomed Cardigan hike started a few weeks ago. But strangely, as we drove up to Miller State Park, the ice disappeared. There was no ice in the parking lot. I was surprised to see one car there. I did not expect to see any.

The wind nearly ripped our Goretex layers away as we put them on. I bet it was raining at one inch per hour. Neither of us had waterproof shoes. We decided to hike up the Marrion Davis Trail to the summit. There was lots of standing water in the trail, but zero mud. The ground was frozen solid but not slippery. I was looking to get some impact by hiking at an aggressive pace. After summiting, I would hike back down and join Cathy for the rest of her climb. We'd then take the paved road back down together.

Cathy nearing the summit

I got in a solid aerobic workout, climbing nearly 1000ft in about 25 minutes. Needless to say, it was raw at the summit and not a place to hang out. After a photo, we started a brisk pace down, I was lightly jogging some of the less steep parts. I wasn't paying attention and hit a patch of ice. It was visible. I still had my trekking poles out and they helped me stay upright.

Rain going sideways at the summit

About halfway down, Cathy and I were jogging along again, when suddenly I experience the sensation of an explosion between the ears. Cathy and I both went down on black ice. I hit the back of my head so hard on the pavement that it bounced my body back up into a seated position. I did not black out. I accelerated on the ice until the crown of the road slid me into the weeds. I bet I went 100ft. It took a while before I could get up. The first thing you think is concussion or bleeding in the brain. A couple of things might have saved me. The impact was more towards the top of my head than base of my skull. I must have crunched my abs, so that my head tipped all the way back before hitting the pavement. Those situps I've been doing are paying off. I also had a pretty dense fleece hat on that no doubt softened the blow. Fortunately, Cathy did not hit her head.

We had no choice after that but to walk in the rough along the road, as in the rain, the black ice was completely undetectable on the asphalt. Impact to the head was not what I had in mind for the descent. Now we were soft-walking it the rest of the way down. Later my right wrist swelled up pretty badly. Sure hope I didn't mess something up in there. I had an ostrich egg sized lump on my head.

Winter needs to decisively settle in. Then it is either skis or studded tires on snow, none of this CX bike or hiking on ice stuff. I'll be lucky if I make it to 2011 intact.

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