We all knew going into this weekend’s Tour of St. Louis was not going to enjoy the “picnic” conditions that we had in the prior weeks’ races.
The Carondelet Crit went off Saturday morning under conditions that could be described as cool and moist…kind of like the towlettes that you get at BBQ restaurants.
Saturday afternoon it began to drizzle as I made my way to the TT course. No biggie.
As I warmed up the drizzle became a little more steady. The winds became gusts. I circled past Alice during my warm up. “Aren’t you going out?” I asked. “No, I am going to wait for the rain to pass.” This proved to be a VERY ironic statement.
After some bickering between Buddy and another official, I began my time trial. I had a little head wind at first but nothing to freak out about. Then I changed direction. Holy headwinds Bat Man. Insult was added to injury as the rain began to fall with increased intensity. The rain felt as if it were made out of glass. I was really wishing that bikes came with windshields. I put my head down and pedaled and swerved and pedaled.
True to form, I botched the turn around and headed back.
Okay, if anyone reading this is old enough to remember Wile E. Coyote’s Acme jet powered devices, the kick in the rear those stormy winds gave you on the way back could be likened to those jet powered devices.
Wow. If you weren’t feeling like the shit on the way back. I don’t know what to say.
I crossed the finish line and cruised around the parking lot. As I cooled down, I distinctly remember hearing sirens going off. I asked Amy..”Hey aren’t those tornado sirens?”. “Yeah I think so.” was her reply. I looked up and saw a wall of black clouds headed our way. Hard to say if it was focus on the race, or the fact that I had not encountered any severe weather for a while and had forgotten that it existed, or what. Somehow, screaming tornado sirens and a wall of black clouds did seem to trigger any sort of cerebral red flag. I was not alone. Warming up, racing, and cooling down were going on as if it were blue sky. The fact that we were in a large flat area that tends to be attractive to tornadoes with funnel clouds closing in overhead did not seem to alarm anyone.
A blatant example of this is the fact that I was on my way out of the race site when all of this was going down and, upon realizing that there was still some beer to share, I headed back in. Teresa and I cracked open a couple of 1554’s. The wind howled. The sky grew darker. Large veins of lightning lit up the sky. I looked up to see Steph crossing the finish line in gale force winds with lighting flashing in the background. While the rest of the STL population was cowering in their basements, the cycling community was carrying out a time trial.
It was when the winds hit about 40 mph and the hail began to fall that it occured to all of us that it was time to pack up shop. There was a mad scramble to pack up tents. As I headed out of the park, I called my husband Mike. Mike is VERY weather sensitive. “Get under a bridge or in a ditch!” he exclaimed as he answered my call from the basement of our home where he and Hank, our cat, had been bracing themselves for a tornado for close to an hour. “Uh there aren’t any bridges or ditches” I tried to explain.
Anyway, myself and the Nadeaus swam our way down Riverview which was flooded by close to a foot of water in several spots. As I pulled into the driveway, I realized that I had not seen my soft-spoken team mate Alice in all of the mayhem.
As it turned out, Alice, who was hoping to wait out the rain, acutally got caught in the hail storm during her time trial. Ouch.
When I asked Alice on Sunday how it all went on Saturday afternoon. She replied “It sucked.” Alice is a woman of few words but I would guess that this two word answer really summed up the experience of time trialing in a hail storm.
Were we all oblivious, focused, brave, or stupid?
Who knows? Who cares?
It was an epic day. Tornadic has now become the new awesome.
What doesn’t kill you makes for great stories and builds priceless character that makes you stronger.
Long story short.
Don’t be a fair weather racer.
p.s. Nicole Long deserves full credit for coining the term Tornadic Time Trial. Nice job Nicole!