A Lesson in Preparedness

The fact that I was never a Girl Scout routinely becomes overwhelmingly apparent whenever I leave my apartment for anything even remotely adventurous (assuming, of course, that the Boy Scout  motto, “Always be prepared” also applies to Girl Scouts…I suppose the fact that I don’t even know is also a pretty good indicator that I never was one). Despite nearly 10 years of working in the outdoor industry and a closet overflowing with gear, I seem to be chronically unprepared for the things I get myself into.

Who knew that bouldering in Rhode Island in February could be so cold? Oh, right...everyone.Lucky for me, Tim brought a down jacket big enough for me to stuff my whole body into.
Who knew that bouldering in Rhode Island in February would be so cold? Oh, right…everyone.
Fortunately, Tim brought a down jacket big enough for me to stuff my whole body into.

During the first year Tim and I were together, we went hiking together numerous times. Before each trip, he’d remind me to pack my rain coat; halfway through each drive up north, I’d realize I had forgotten it. Eventually, Tim just started packing two rain jackets so that he could be chivalrous without sacrificing his own comfort/well-being. (What a guy!) These days, I remember to bring my rain jacket approximately 74% of the time. Baby steps, guys.

The color red may or may not become a theme in this post's photos...
The color red may or may not become a theme in this post’s photos.

When I finally got good enough at snowboarding to tag along with Tim and his friends on their “backcountry” days, it would have been wise to invest in a good, well-fitting pack to carry my snowboard. I never seemed to be able to get my shit together and buy one, though, so I always ended up having to use one of Tim’s, which was way too big for me and therefore really uncomfortable.

I couldn't find a good picture from this trip of me without my shell on, but I swear I'm wearing a red shirt!
I couldn’t find a good picture from this trip of me without my jacket on, but I swear I was wearing a red shirt!

(Side note: It’s no surprise that now that I do actually have my own winter pack, the days I spend carrying my board up the mountain are about a million times more enjoyable.)

As I mentioned in my last post, the EMS Century Ride took place this past Sunday. Somewhat ironically, about two weeks ago I got into a conversation with Tim that went something like this:

Me: “So now that we live somewhere with such good biking, will you keep riding when it gets cold?”

Tim: “I don’t know…maybe.”

Me: “Well, should I buy some cold-weather riding clothes then? Like, tights and warm gloves or something? And maybe a jacket?”

Tim: “Might not be a bad idea.”

Knowing that the century ride was quickly approaching—and knowing that October weather in NH can be anything from 85° and sunny to 25° and blizzarding—I should have looked into buying these things immediately. You know, to have with me on Sunday “just in case.” Naturally, I did no such thing.

I woke up at 5am on Sunday to the sound of rain. Upon checking my phone, I learned that it was also only 46° out. The temptation to ditch the ride, or at least leave with a later group, and crawl back under the covers was tough to overcome. I had packed all of my gear the night before, so I was able to enjoy my cozy bed a little longer than I normally could have. Unfortunately, once I left the warmth of the blankets, I wouldn’t be warm again for approximately 34,684,957 hours (ok, it was really only 10 hours).

When we got to Peterborough, the weather had changed from steady rain to irritating mist. We sat around a while, hoping the weather would continue to improve. When it didn’t, we figured it would be best to just head out and get the ride over with. I almost immediately regretted not swallowing my pride and dropping down to the half-century, but Tim kept trying to convince me that it would get better and I really tried to believe him…until somewhere around mile 20, when I realized that my fingers were so cold, I could no longer shift or brake properly. As much as I knew I would hate myself for it, I decided to call it quits.

Fortunately there was an easy bail-out point right after mile 30. I apologized to Tim for being pathetic, wished him luck (he was pretty miserable too, but is even more stubborn than I am and there was no way he was going to bail), and turned back toward Peterborough. Eleven miles later, I was back at the office rushing to the locker room showers. I knew I was pretty damn cold, but didn’t quite realize the true extent of it until I struggled to slide my feet into my shower flops (my toes were too numb to do it) and peeled off my cold, wet jersey and bibs to see this:

Pretty much my whole body was lobster red. I've spent a lot of time outside doing cold things, but I've never been *that* cold before!
Pretty much my whole body was lobster red.
I’ve spent a lot of time outside doing cold things, but I’ve never been *that* cold before!

I’ve worked at the EMS home office for a year now, and run during my lunch break on a fairly regular basis…but I spent more time in that locker room shower last Sunday than I have during all of my post-lunch-run showers combined (which isn’t actually all that surprising, since I’m pretty sure I can count how many times I’ve showered after lunch on three fingers). The water was as hot as it could go and it still wasn’t enough to warm me up, so after about 25 minutes I decided that I probably just needed to get dry and eat an apple cider donut. (That didn’t warm me up either, but it sure did taste good!)

The moral of the story? I learned that the extent to which I’m willing to suffer through something in order to finish it does, in fact, have a limit. Which I suppose is a good thing to know, since I tend to have a habit of wanting to do things that I mostly have no business doing (like riding a bicycle on a wet, 45° day). I also learned that the next time someone tells me I should invest in some gear that will potentially make me more comfortable, I should do it sooner rather than later. I like to think that if I had just been better prepared with more appropriate attire, I could have finished the 100 miles. It obviously wouldn’t have been the most enjoyable ride, but I could have gotten it done.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see if I actually put this new-found knowledge to good use. (If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on “no,” but there’s a first time for everything, right?)

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