Today, it was time for the annual Season of Mists audax event from Hebden Bridge. Season of Mists 2009 went pretty well, but I knew that there would be problems this year because my fitness is well down and my weight is well up. What I hadn’t anticipated was that my lack of fitness didn’t really get a chance to let me down…!
When I woke up at 06:30, I discovered to my horror that forecasts of good weather had been wildly optimistic. It was raining. Heavily! So heavily in fact, that my immediate reaction was to turn the light off and go back to sleep.
I couldn’t do it. I had arranged to meet fellow CycleChat forum members Alun, zacklaws and battered at event HQ, Salem community centre, Hebden Bridge. They were coming miles to do the ride. The least I could do is join them.
For once, I hadn’t entered by post so I decided to walk down to the start and ‘enter on the line’ if the lads had in fact turned up. If they hadn’t, I could always go back to that nice warm bed. Unfortunately, they were all there!
I filled in the entry forms, and came home to change into my cycling kit. I couldn’t decide what to wear. It was raining hard enough that full winter cycling kit would have been appropriate. The trouble was, it was too mild. Normally, it is very cold in the valley at that time of year, and at that time of day. I know from experience that I overheat when wearing my waterproof clothing, except when conditions are cold. To supplement my shorts, base layer, and jersey, I took a chance on armwarmers, lightweight legwarmers, and a gilet with a lightweight shower-resistant jacket over the top of it. Perhaps the effort of climbing lots of tough hills would keep me warm enough, even if I got a little wet?
Alun and battered were a little slow getting ready, so we ended up setting off about 15 minutes after the other riders. The four of us turned up the 10% climb of the Heptonstall Road and it was immediately obvious that zack was much fitter than the rest of us. He told me that he’d done 1,000 miles in the 4 weeks leading up to today’s event. I’d done only 200 miles in the 9 weeks since the start of August!
Zack waited in the village for us. We regrouped, and then we carried on. I was already concerned about my back which was aching on that first climb, and there were much worse ones to come…
I discovered where battered got his forum name from. Apparently he’d had a car pull out on him from a side road and had gone straight through the window or windscreen into the car. He received major injuries which he is only just recovering from. He sounds lucky not to have been even more badly injured, or even killed!
Zack was off up the road every time it went uphill and would then have to wait. It had become clear to me that this wasn’t fair on him. Conditions were dreadful, and showed no signs of easing off. I could see him getting hypothermia if he had to hang about in the rain for us every few miles. I rode up to him and suggested that he should go on at his own pace and we’d see him another time. And then there were 3!
The rain was really starting to get me down. I don’t mind showers. I don’t even mind heavy rain for a short time, but when it is relentless, it is just so sapping. We couldn’t see where we going. My cycling glasses were covered in big rain drops and kept steaming up. When I lowered them onto the end of my nose and peered over the top of them, I was getting blinded by the rain.
We were riding at a very pedestrian pace. Even at that stage, I could see it taking us nearly 8 hours to get round, and we were likely to slow down as we got tired and the big hills started to stack up. I dreaded the thought of getting a puncture at the top of one of those hills, and having to fix it with cold, wet hands. I started to ask myself why I was doing the ride in those conditions. I hatched a cunning plan…
I rode down to the end if the Long Causeway and waited for my companions to catch up. We had a decision to make. We could…
- Stick to our guns, and fight our way round the event route.
- Turn off for Worsthorne and do the shorter Mellow Fruitfulness route.
- Abandon the ride! We could turn left, head down to the A646 and ride back to Hebden Bridge on the valley road!
My companions didn’t need much persuading – we were going home! But first, a pee stop where I took a picture to show what the conditions were like. This was only mid-morning but just look how dull it was. Actually, that picture doesn’t do justice to the foulness of the conditions – ugh!
We headed down to the A646 and followed it back to event HQ in Hebden Bridge.
The river was getting very high and riders coming in after us told us that it had by then flooded the road. The flood warning siren was sounding in Hebden Bridge itself. From the upper floor HQ, we watched the river water level rising. Whole trees had been washed into the river and smashed into several pieces – it was quite spectacular!
We hung around for a while, trying to warm up, chatting, and attacking the post-ride catering, for once before the fast riders got back.
I think we did the right thing. We gave it a go, but it wasn’t for us today. Big respect to those riders who went ahead and did the whole route!
PS The local news later reported that a retaining wall had been washed away in Todmorden. That wall had stood for over 100 years, and it was gone after a few hours of torrential rain. Half of one poor woman’s garden had gone with it, and the occupants of the entire terrace were evacuated for the night in case the foundations of the buildings had been compromised.
It’s all down to Global Warming, I tell you!