Did I Mention The Thunderstorm?

Notice the guy in yellow? And these are people preparing for the Ironman, not riders returning from the ride. “Only in Minnesota,” Gabby, my daughter, said seeing how many people showed up to ride in the rain.

   Since 1967, the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride has usually been held on the last Sunday in April.

 In Minnesota, that can mean just about anything can happen as far as the weather’s concerned.

 Last year the day of the Ironman was sunny and the temperature rose to the 60s in the afternoon.

 This year the weather was actually dangerous.

 So, of course, after not riding the Ironman for several years, my friend Bob Hines and I decided several months ago to try it again.

This time around, we were joined by two other Willmarites, my daughter, Gabby, and her friend, Daven Kokkila.

Bob and Daven planned to ride the 100-mile route (the Ironman is the oldest “century” ride in the state) and Gabby and I were going to ride 60 miles.

As Sunday approached, predictions of rain. high winds and even ice pellets caused us to modify our plans.

As Devan put it, he and Bob decided a metric century was more appropriate for the weather than an American one. So they planned to ride 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) not 100 miles.

Gabby — who didn’t want to get out of the truck — and I agreed to try the 29-mile route.

Daven Kokkila wraps his feet in trash bags. He discovered the hard way while riding the Ironman that plastic grocery store bags are better at keeping his feet dry.

It wasn’t too bad for the first half hour or so after we left Washington County Fairgrounds in Stillwater, where all the routes started and ended. It wasn’t raining and the wind was mostly to our backs.

 Then it started to rain and we turned in a direction that exposed us to the wind. But, in a couple miles, we were on the Gateway State Trail where trees sheltered us a bit. The warmest it got while we were riding was 41 degrees with a northeast wind gusting to 23 mph. Somehow we didn’t notice the snow the National Weather Service reported.

 Did I mention the thunderstorm?

 By the time we reached the only rest stop on the route, we were wet and cold. Then we heard a bus was arriving soon for riders who wanted to call it a day. We talked and decided to take the bus.

 evan was sheltering in the storage area in the back of Bob’s truck when we got back to the fairgrounds.

 After having two flat tires, Devan decided the 29-mile route was good enough.

 I was a shivering mess and just sat in the truck as the heater warmed me up.

Ironman riders take temporary shelter in a tunnel along the Gateway State Trail. A significant portion of the ride’s 29-mile route was on the trail.

As circulation returned to my extremities, I peeled off some of my wet clothes.

 Once I stopped shivering, we drove the truck to a nearby gas station to fill it up.

 That’s when Bob called.

 He was at the Scandia Community Center, a rest station on the 60-mile route about 30 or so miles from the fairgrounds. He said a bus would be by soon and volunteers at the center said they were shutting the route down and he should take the bus back to Stillwater.

I told him to wait and we’d pick him up.

 After getting Bob, we headed for Gabby’s place in St. Paul. Bob said that as he arrived in Scandia, EMTs were loading a rider in an ambulance and when he  entered the center, he saw five more cyclists wrapped in emergency blankets and shivering.

 The rain intensified as we headed for Gabby’s apartment — and hot showers and a hot meal.