Monday, March 29, 2010

The Singular Benefit of Racing in the Rain

Judging from the way the “confirmed riders” page on looked on Friday I’m almost certain somewhere in the fine print of the USA Cycling upgrade guidelines it says something like this: To upgrade from a 5 to a 4, racers must complete 10 road races or finish well enough to accumulate the necessary upgrade points or learn not to pre-register for road races till the day pre-registration closes.

With rain looming in the forecast, Friday afternoon, before Sunday’s Ohio Valley road race, there were five times as many Cat 5’s pre-registered as compared to those in the 1/2/3’s.  As a public service to those new to road racing and those old dogs that can’t learn new tricks, The Best Bike Blog Ever offers a crash course in Meteorology for Bike Races 101.  Normally this education takes 10 races to master, coincidently the same amount of races necessary to upgrade to Cat 4, but we will drop it on you in one easy to follow eight lesson online course.

It will always be beautiful riding weather the day before your race.  In fact, the crappier the weather looks for race day, the weather the day before will be conversely more spectacular.  You’ll get emails and texts and Facebook will light up with news of all your non-racing bike friends going on spectacular epic rides the day before your race.  In response, you’ll curse yourself the second these words leave your lips, “I’m saving my guns for Sunday.”

Meteorologists could more accurately predict the Final Four out of a field of 64 teams than to forecast the weather for the 10 square mile area and two and a half hour window of your race a week in advance.  Weather forecasts are usually for a large metropolitan area, a hundred square miles or more and over the period of 8 hours, not for the intersection of Black Barn Road and Boondock Ferry Drive Sunday between Noon and Two.  Just like the Elite 8, the forecast is completely unreliable until the hour before the online pre-registration closes, and even then you may still be left guessing.  Baylor say what?

Know who you’re getting your weather from.  There are meteorologists who work at The Weather Channel and the local TV stations.  There are also weather “Forecasters,” usually locally famous disk jockeys from 25 years ago, who got hired to do the weather mainly because they have good personalities and people recognize their name as someone trustworthy.  Your mother may have relied on them on the wacky morning zoo for snow day information when you took the bus to school, but they never went to college to study meteorology and are only still working in broadcasting for the health insurance. 

Most people only go outside to get the paper on Sunday (usually only for the coupons) or the 45 seconds it takes to walk from the car to work or the store.  The usual forecast for any given day sounds like this, “Partly Sunny, high of 65 with a chance of rain.  A cycling forecast would sound like this, “a low pressure system is moving in overnight, the high for the day of 65 degrees will be recorded at 6am, where the sun will peak out for exactly 23 minutes before the rain comes in and sends the temperature plummeting to 43 degrees with a 17mph wind at noon.”  That would be backed up with an hourly breakdown of temperature, futurecast radar, rain chance, rain type, wind conditions, clothing recommendations and tire choice.  This would be followed by a complete historical analysis of the same race in year’s past.  There’s a reason, the TV stations dedicate only 5 minutes to a weeklong forecast.  A proper cycling forecast for the two and a half hour race window in Nowheresville, Yourstate USA would take three times that amount and more brain and computer power than at Google headquarters. 


Registering for a bike race is not the same as committing to a bike ride.  You’re committed to paying the entry fee and a whole series of events such as: figuring out what time you have to leave the house in order to get lost and still make it to the venue in time to register, find the decrepit port-a-poddy and fixing the bib number you pinned upside down; cleaning/lubing your drive train and checking your tires for imbedded sharp rocks; ransacking your pantry for hidden Gu’s and Pop Tarts; disappointing your spouse by going to bed before the rented movie is over; and telling your friends riding on the glorious day before your race that you’re, “saving your guns.”  If the race is on Sunday, you certainly can’t spend Saturday doing anything physical like vacuuming the house or cutting the grass.  Therefore you are now committed to scrubbing toilets, and trimming the bushes on Thursday after work.  Thursday night no doubt will be a beautiful night to ride.

We all know that riding in the rain sucks monkey butt and racing in the rain sucks the blue baboon kind of monkey butt.  Never forget this.  When you skip a race because of rain, no doubt you’ll hear how the race hit a “weather window” or it was only “sprinkles.”  The truth is when your heart rate is at 92 percent and your body is completely numb from soaked Lycra, Hurricane Katrina would feel like sprinkles too.  Secondly, Hurricane Katrina had a weather window too.  It was called the “eye.”  When you hear the post race “you missed a good race it barely rained” hype just nod your head the same way you acknowledge the babbling dirty guy begging for change downtown and move on.  They both are insane.

What’s your time worth?  Most day of registration penalties are an extra $10.  If you sign up early to save $10 and then it rains, you’ll spend at least 2 hours cleaning the road grit off your bike, another hour getting the wet-funk smell out of your car’s upholstery, 15 minutes stuffing the Sunday paper into your shoes, 20 extra minutes in the shower till the shivers subside and an extra $4.95 at the nearest post-race convenience store on crappy coffee and eternally rolling hotdogs.  If you have a job that pays more than a newspaper route, the $10 day of registration penalty is a gamble with odds in your favor.

There is only one thing that racing in the rain does for you; it makes you never want to race in the rain ever again. 


JMott said...

Gigantic Cat 5 fields and rain create good odds for a crash as well. I think avoiding road rash might be lesson #9 on that list.

Amanda said...

so did you race on Sunday? I worked registration and couldn't help but think those that were registering day-of were...mildly retarded. But that's just me.

The Rogue Racer said...

Your lack of fitness at this time of year is a better reason than rain to miss the race. The $10 day of late fee is silly. The promoter should just make the price the same, but if you register day of the race, it should take 2 hours of standing in line and only one semi-retarded person helping you when you get to the table.

Judi said...

holla at mitchell saturday. im working registration. and racing.

Joe Biker said...

will do Judi. man there's been a liberal use of the "r" word on the comments. Mott, I've seen more crashes on dry pavement than wet and wet crashes hurt far less. Rogue: that's how it used to be...and it was effective!

Gumby said...

Great race, great weather window, and it hardly sprinkled at all ;-) @JMott Gigantic and generally well-behaved Cat 5 field; the lite winds might have helped sort out the hard-core squirrels....

old roadie said...

OMG- I'm racing this weekend, I'm off tomorrow-So- I'm not doing my usual training ride so I can rest up a little- My wife thinks a little house cleaning would be a great idea! Cleaning the bathroom versus a beautiful day on the road....but I preregistered!!