Friday, June 6, 2008

51 km on a flat tire...

I think I set a blogger group record yesterday -- for distance traveled on a flat tire.

I'd been eyeballing the weather network all week and planned to ride the summit of Highwood Pass yesterday. As it turned out, yesterday was chock full of lessons for me.

First of all, I was woefully under-dressed. I had my sleeveless jersey and bike shorts, and it was only a last minute just-in-case urge that made me bring my arm warmers. Thank God!!!

I parked at the Highwood River Inn again and the weather was warm but very cloudy and windy. I was glad I had decided to put on my arm warmers. With the wind, it took me an hour to reach the road barricade, so I had a pretty thorough warm-up!

I climbed and climbed and climbed and eventually saw two riders coming down. We chatted for a bit -- they said it was raining and snowing up top. I jokingly said, "Well,I better get moving so I can keep warm!" Egad.

I was determined to get to the summit no matter what. The weather was deteriorating. The clouds rolled in and I rode through a bit of rain and a bit of snow too. I was pretty frigging cold but just kept moving.

I passed Mist Creek, and then the spot where I turned around last week. I kept chugging away, Storm Creek, Mount Lipsett, Lost Lemon Mine sign, and past the "Entering Peter Lougheed Park." There were BANKS of snow on either side of the road and it was really frigging cold.

It was about this time that for some reason I decided to stop and check my rear tire. As I was climbing, I had turned to look back a couple of times at various wildlife. I noticed that I had a tough time controlling the rear of my bike, but hadn't thought anything of it...

Now, however,I saw to my horror that I indeed had a flat. OK -- here I am going to apologize for my profuse use of profanity. I am making a conscious effort to minimize the amount of swears I use, but not for this story!! I was really scared because I was way the f*%k up in the middle of nowhere and I was FREEZING. My teeth were chattering, my core temperature had fallen and I was scared s$%tless. I have never used a CO2 cartridge before and didn't want to f&*k things up and be stranded. There was NO ONE around at all and it was snowing and freezing.

OK, I decided to go for it. I said a plea to God (Yes I am on of those people who don't think much about religious Brouhaha until the s$#t hits the fan.) and methodically changed my tube. I couldn't find the puncture -- a Kelsey flat -- even though I ran my fingers along the inside of the tube. I even cleaned along the inside of the rim - so I just assumed I had fixed the problem. I used theCO2 and it worked no problemo!! The tire was fully inflated and rock hard.

I put it on and promptly decided to hammer it back home. I had been riding for 3:08 and my teeth were really chattering. I let 'er rip, and then rode the brakes a bit because something didn't feel right. Sure enough, when I stopped and felt the back tire, it was a little softer. I had to pee so bad at this point, but knew I had a limited amount of air to get the f&^k down to a lower elevation where I could get warmer.

I said to myself, "Julie, you can pee now and spend the night right out here in the f&#king cold where you can pee 'til your heart's content -- JUST GO!!" I took off and descended rapidly. But there was no way I could out ride the escaping air. Pretty soon it was flat again and although I was a LOT lower, I was still scared.

There was no way I could walk 50 km back, so I decided to just take it easy and ride slowly back to my car. Have any of you ever ridden on a flat tire? I was terrified of riding around on a flat, but as km after km ticked by I grew more confident and was fricking chugging along like there was no problem. I can tell you the various stages of sounds a flat will make if you keep riding on it:

1. At first there is no sound at all, just a kooshy feeling -- a little wobbly until you get into it.

2. Next a soft hiss occurs every once in a while.

3. Then, the KOOSH begins -- this is quite an alarming sound at first, that only intensifies the farther you go.

I had gone quite a ways back, when I sent another plea to God. I was still very nervous about riding on the flat and was hoping I would see someone, ANYONE to help me out. For a nanosecond I felt the tug of a full-on drama queen meltdown, but surprised myself with an instantaneous rejection of that course of action. There was a time in my life where something like this would have broken me, but here I was scared sh^#tless, but dealing with it, and not bawling about it.

Up ahead I saw a dark shape coming down a hill -- another cyclist!!!! I immediately hopped off my bike and asked the man as he approached if he had another tube. He was riding a mountain bike, and said No, but he did have a patch. He offered to find whatever it was that was inside my tire and then patch my tube.

I was tempted but at the same time scared to take his offer -- what if he couldn't find it either? At least my tire was on now and I was able to ride it. He told me it was another 11 km to the road barricade. He was only going up a little further (Trout Ponds) and then would sit around and take some pictures. I asked if I could get a ride with him back to my car which was still a hell of a way away. He seemed a bit reluctant, and I told him, well, just take your time, it's your day too -- if I can find someone else to give me a ride I'll take it.

It's strange, but it was after this encounter that I grew much more confident riding on my flat. I upped my speed and was moving along quite nicely -- but only as fast as I felt I could control the bike. Pretty soon,I reached the barricade and thought, "F%@k it!!, I'm just going to bike to my car."

From the barricade to my car, my poor bike started a whole other orchestra of sounds. Believe it or not, the flat tire became even flatter!!! I had been lucky before without appreciating it, because now when I stopped to check it, it was COMPLETELY flat. Not an ounce of air in there at all.

No more kooshing noises for me. Now, the tube, held in place by the presta valve only, started to bunch up along the inside of the tire and make this horrible thwocking sound: THWOCK, THWOCK, THWOCK. It was so LOUD!!!

I didn't really have to pedal at all -- the wind was pushing me back just fine, and I didn't want to go any faster what with all the thwocking noises going on. I was getting closer and closer to my car when the bike began it's final round of noises. This time, it was like a jackhammer was hitting me sideways every time the tire made a complete rotation

THWOCK and hang on for dear life as the bike gets hammered from the left, and repeat. I was white-knuckling it.

FINALLY I made it back to my car -- I was only gone a total of 5:38 but the adrenaline and fear had worn me out. Fear is a great motivator, eh?

I am skipping my swim today and am going hiking with Charmaine instead. Later on this afternoon, I'm bringing my bike into Gord's for him to take a look at it. He was the first one I phoned when I got back!! He told me that once that happened to him only on his mountain bike, and three mountain ranges over. He stuffed his tire with grass to make it home. LOL!!!

I am just so frigging glad I made it out of there okay!! After I phoned Gord, I had this deep urge to call Susi -- for some reason I wanted to call her and tell her all about my day!! LOL!! Well, you're off the hook this time Susi, but next time, I'm picking up the telephone!! LOL!!!


Susi said...

oh julie - i can completely relate to your fear out there! i'm so glad you are ok! a big big warm hug to you.

now time to wag finger... i wish you had called!! in fact, i really really, really wish you had a damn cell phone so you could have called me for a rescue pick up! although, logistically i guess it might take me a bit to get to you - but still! maybe just get one for times like these? you never have to use it any other time, i promise.

i guess we can chalk this up to a learning experience and a mental strength challenge?! i'm so thankful you have a 'never quit' spirit and that you were able to keep going!

oh, and boo to the cyclist that didn't help you out more!

i will give many many thank you's to the universe that you are safe!!

Keith said...

Holy crap!!!

I'm glad you're ok, and it was just a learning experience, but, HOLY CRAP!

You don't need any of us to tell you that could have gone sideways very, very, badly.

(note to self, plan trips in remote areas VERY carefully!)

This is two of your blogs now that have been major lessons for me in what could go wrong.

runningman said...

Also glad you're ok Julie, that's a long way to ride on a flat. I've also had to ride home on a flat rim, I know what you mean by the thock noise every rotation. I think it's the valve part sticking through on the inside of the tube.

Jenna said...

Holy SHite!!! Julie! Now that I have been up there and not nearly as remote as you. And since I know and understand how quickly the weather can turn on you. How bad cold feels. AND you were alone! But holy guts galore girl. Stopping wasn't an option. to waste time is to get colder. So, next time, and extra layer, especially up there, and a spare tube or even a tire boot in the old bag might help you out.... we have all learned some lessons. No mreo now though!!

Kelly B. said... guts no glory!! But seriously...scary times! Thank goodness you got back safe and sound.

Shannon Keith Wicks said...

Wow, I am really glad you made it OK. I know that feeling...but you know what? You kept your cool and wits about you. That speaks volumes and carries over to other aspects of your life.

I truly do appreciate that about people and admire it.