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Racing the Rain -- It's Officially Spring In DC(12 posts)

Racing the Rain -- It's Officially Spring In DCGregory Taylor
May 8, 2003 7:55 AM
After what seemed to be an interminable winter, I think that I can safely pronouce it to be Springtime in the Nation's Capitol. We had our first decent evening thunderstorm roll through yesterday. The DC area gets a lot of those, being the normal ending for a hot, humid day down here in what qualifies as the Southern part of the USA.

For us bike commuters, the frequent evening thunderstorms usually occur right at the end of the working day. Sometimes you just have to wait the storms out, and ride home a bit later. But for us impatient types, who hate to wait, we check the weather radar to see if there is enough of a window to try and sneak in a ride home.

This, in turn, gives rise to what I like to call the "Weather.Com Workout" -- launching on a commute home that compels you to haul butt in order to avoid potentially dangerous weather. The quest is this: can you time your departure from work so that you don't tick off the boss and still make it home before the rain hits? This can be a tricky balance.

Take yesterday, for example. Around 5 pm or so I cranked up the computer to get the local radar picture...hmmm, storm cells tickling Loudon county. I've got about a 90 minute window to work with here. Just then the Boss wants to have a quick end of the day "meeting" to discuss, well, I don't know what he wants to discuss. Crap. About 45 very antsy minutes later, I'm out the door, down the street, and scanning the skies. Cloudy, feels like rain. Gotta haul butt if I'm going to make it home before the storm hits. Got about 45 minutes to get out of DC and travel the 15 miles or so back to Chateau Velo.

Ahhh! But I am in luck! Wheeling past the Washington Monument, who do I meet up with but RBR's own Hopi4, a good riding buddy, wheelman of note, and all-around swell guy. He's headed my direction, so we can make some time by working together.

And we do make time. Swapping pulls while carrying on a running conversation, we hit Alexandria ahead of the impending atmospheric excitement. Hopi4 turns off south of Alexandria as the first few drops of rain begin to fall. I've got a couple more miles to go, so I put it into time trial mode. The sky is getting pitch black, the wind is picking up, and I figure that I've got about 10 minutes before things get unpleasant.

It's gonna be close.

I'm happy to report that yours truly was standing in the kitchen of Chateu Velo, panting like a dog and grinning like a loon, when the storm finally hit our neighborhood. Heavy rain, close lightening hits, strong winds. Only an idiot would go out in that kind of weather! Margin for error: about 3 minutes.
Inclement conditions are the perfect motivatorIFTreedog
May 8, 2003 8:08 AM
Race conditions don't even compare, and no training partner in the world is as strong a motivator. Great post.

...and now here's my pitch...I am going to be in Reston for 11 days on business and will bring my road bike...can you point me in the direction of some organized, fast group rides weekday afternoons and expecially sat/sun mornings? I don't know the area except for the road to the office, and I've checked a couple of rec'd websites (bikepptc and restonbikeclub).

I'm staying in Dulles-Herndon on Sunrise Valley Drive, if that helps.

very big motivator here in North Carolinaabicirider
May 8, 2003 8:55 AM
I call out running the storms my bolt sprint intervals, it unfortunatley is a very common occurence here in NC, usally I make it but there has been a few scary situations where I havent and have been caught with lightning the whole nine yards right on me.
On a sad note last year here in NC a guy was doing a weekday group ride they caught caught in a storm on the road lightning hit a tree the tree feel on him and killed him very sad.
Be Safe Out On The Roads!!!!!!!!
Ray Still
Mooresville, NC
North Carolina thunderstorm storiesBeaver
May 8, 2003 10:56 AM
Yep, sometimes the storms pop up before you know it. I've been caught quite a few times. This one is my favorite.

I was mountain biking out in Umstead Park one summer day and a thunderstorm came out of nowhere. I checked the radar before I left and it was clear. So there I am 5 miles from my car and about 1/2 mile from the nearest shelter. Well I high tail it to the shelter and find it demolished from the last hurricane. Great, the only other shelter is another mile away. Now it's raining so hard I can't see and have to take off my glasses and squint through the rain. Thunder and lightning all around. After getting throughly soaked, I make it to the shelter and sit there for about 45 mintues waiting for the storm to pass.

I find it amazing how NC thunderstorms just come out of nowhere. NC in the summertime is no time to depend on the Weather Channel to predict storms or storm movement. I've got more thunderstorm stories than you can shake a stick at! But most of them involve being on the water.
Reston bike club has some fast riders.Fredrico
May 8, 2003 10:03 AM
About 50 show up for their Tues. and Thurs. rides, starting at 6:00 PM. They meet at far off places on weekends which are hard to ride to. I've recently hooked up on their Thurs. ride, and they's fast, brothuh. This one meets in the parking lot in front of The Tortilla Factory and Bestway Supermarket, north side of Elden Street, one block east of the W&OD bikepath crossing in Herndon.

Y'all come on oveh, hear? Gotta be some of us goin' ridin' Saturday and Sunday.
I'm East and a couple of levels of traffic hell from HerndonGregory Taylor
May 8, 2003 1:03 PM
Your best bet sounds like the Reston Bike Club ride. From your location, Alexandria is geographcially inconvenient, so hooking up with Team Lardbutt for a Sunday ride is probably not in the cards, although you would be more than welcome. (I don't know if we qualify as "fast", and we sure ain't organized. How about "Half Fast?" We've been called that a bunch. However, we do know where the good restaurants are.)

If you get stuck for a weekday ride, the W&OD isn't bad for a solo training effort. Go west toward Purcellville.
May 8, 2003 3:39 PM
I got the Tortilla Factory address off a google's less than 4 miles from my hotel....and I guess the WOD trail is just as close. Sweet. Super. Thanks.
We don't have the lightning here, but....Sharkman
May 8, 2003 9:32 AM
We do have plenty of heavy rain to try and outrun. I am just getting started commuting by bike, and have a 24 mile each way ride.

Really liked your post, great stuff, and motivating to me to keep working at the commuting thing. Started with two days this week and am trying to work my way up to four, which equates to 200 miles a week, just in commuting.

If I keep riding on the weekends, may get to where I average 300 a week.

Again, great post
Well I failed!Rich_Racer
May 8, 2003 9:44 AM
Even in San Diego it rains sometimes! I thought I would be able to miss it but 6 miles from home I was hit by a torrential downpour! Got totally soaked and had to spend half an hour cleaning my bike. Still cloudy and threatening today. This isn't what I moved here for - come on San Diego - sort it out!!


I lost the race yesterday. . .ms
May 8, 2003 9:46 AM
I am an occasional (2-3 times per week in daylight savings time) and fair weather commuter. Yesterday, I rode and did not think that I would hit rain in the evening. I was one mile into my nearly 15 mile ride home when light rain began falling, then the rain became heavier. No lightening or strong winds, but lots of water. The rain stopped at about mile 12, but I was fully drenched. Although I was not panting like a dog when I got home, I did beat my usual commuting time by about 5 minutes. Given that I was not able to take the one long descent on my ride home as fast as I usually do because the rain was fairly heavy and the road was slick, the rain motivated me, too -- even if my motivation was just to get out of the rain rather than to beat it.
Funny thing Gregoryboyd2
May 8, 2003 12:58 PM
I was in the same boat yesterday (in Baltimore), but I managed to get out early enough for comfort. I am all too famaliar with running before those afternoon storms.

I also find it very helpful to start a 45 minute loop 30 minutes before dinner and swear to my wife I will be home in time to feed the kids. I find some of my fastest rides are because of that!
Bailed myself on Wednesday.djg
May 9, 2003 6:36 AM
Raining hard and getting dark mix badly with my mistrust of my competitors (the folks in the big heavy cars who try to kill me).

So yesterday I had the how-the-heck-do-I-ride-two-bikes-home conundrum.