2011 Quabbin Reservoir Classic Road Race

Today’s Quabbin Reservoir Classic Road Race in Ware, Massachusetts, was a serious misadventure. All week, the weather forecasters were predicting cold rain for today, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted how miserable the weather conditions would actually be. Unlike 2010, when I rode the two-lap 200km course, this year, there was only a one-lap 100km option. This classic course makes one complete loop of the beautiful Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts. The sad part is that it has been several years since I’ve seen the Quabbin in sunshine.

It was 36 degrees Fahrenheit and raining at the 9:00 A.M. start. It had snowed earlier in the morning and the ground at higher elevations was white. It seemed surreal. After such a heinously long winter, we can’t escape the clutches of Mother Nature. The spring weather has been ridiculous. Every day, it is cold and windy. Some days, it is cold, wet, and windy! Today was one of those days. It was freezing and I was frozen.

I raced with the Masters 35+ field and was joined by three brave teammates: Arlen Zane Wenzel, Michael Wonderly, and Wayne Prescott. We shivered on the start line prior to the neutral 5km descent from the Quabbin Tower to Route 9. We were ice cold and soaked before the race even started. I was definitely psyched out. Normally, I’m a touch cookie in these conditions and I thrive in foul weather, but today wasn’t a day to remember.

By the 20km mark, I couldn’t feel my hands. My right one was especially bad. To quote Arlen, “My hands were like clubs.” My feet were OK, but my hands were frozen and my core was really chilled. I was probably underdressed, but once you are soaked through, it doesn’t matter what you are wearing. I was in the small second main group and had a decision to make. I could attempt to ride for three-plus hours, complete the loop, be miserable, and risk hypothermia, which was impending. Or, I could bail out, turn back, only ride two-plus hours, be miserable, and risk hypothermia. Regretfully, I struggled with the decision for another 11 kilometres before deciding to turn back. We were going down a big hill and I realized that I couldn’t feel my handlebars, which was a bit disconcerting. I dropped off the back of the group, happy to leave their rooster-tails behind, and made a u-turn. I had swallowed enough water and road grime for the day.

I passed several of the other groups on my way back, but rode on my own until I got to civilization. I decided to press on, made the turn onto Route 9, but then realized I needed to warm up. I didn’t have confidence that I could make it, so I returned to the McDonald’s in Belchertown. I had not been in a McDonald’s in more than 10 years. I spent 45 minutes in the bathroom repeatedly depressing the on/off button on a World Dryer Corporation hand dryer. It was an older model, but similar to their Model RA, which I got to know pretty well after depressing the on button more than 125 times. I lost count.

I was joined by another rider, who yielded to a similar fate. He wasn’t shivering as badly, but we kept each other motivated…in the bathroom. We warmed up as best as we could, calculated that we had 17 kilometers, including the final climb, to go. He decided to make a run for it and I decided to join him, thinking that having someone near me would be the safest choice. We warmed up one last time and then rushed outside, hopped on our bikes, and started riding.

I turned back after only one kilometer. I told him I was too cold and needed to get warmer. I returned to the McDonald’s bathroom and pushed the button on the hand dryer another 50 times. I apologized to everyone who came into the men’s room and was eventually joined by another rider. He wasn’t as cold and had succumbed to a puncture. He was offering $20 to any patron who would give him a ride back to the start line. After “quitting,” I was motivated to at least return to the start on my bike. I gained confidence and decided to give it another go.

This time, it worked. I pedaled like mad and covered the final distance on my own. I finished with 62 kilometers in just over two hours of riding and an hour of warming. It was an ugly day. In comparing notes with Arlen Zane, we agreed it was one of the worst weather races we have ever done. I won’t say it was the worst because I’ve raced in snow many times. In 1995, I did a road race in Ithaca, New York in April that was pretty bad. In 1994, I did a road race in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania that was seriously wet and cold. I’ve run and hiked in worse conditions. Needless to say, this is up there with the worst of them.

One final thanks to the Belchertown McDonald’s and the World Dryer Corporation. You were there for me today when I needed you!

Back at the parking lot, I changed and got warmed up in the car. I drove home shaking my head and asking, “What was I thinking?”

2 Responses to “2011 Quabbin Reservoir Classic Road Race”

  1. 1 goldstar78i 23 April 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I raced in CAT5. Only had shorts, underarmor, jersey, rain slicker and gloves.

    Good choice on turning back. I regretted not doing that!

    By mile 50 I knew that things were going very bad, my legs were shutting down, stopped feeling my hands and feet a while before that.

    In Quabbin, I could no longer shift into my big ring. I was seeing a sort of tunnel vision with white edges and motion blur as I crossed the finish (on the tail end of the what was left of the main field)

    By far the coldest I have ever been. Never so glad to get off the bike.

    Just finishing was enough. I had no thoughts of placing high after that mile 50 mark.

  2. 2 Wayne 23 April 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Scott…glad to hear you made it back OK. You were chasing with us and then…you were gone. I kind of thought you had soldiered on and would eventually finish but sounds like you made the right/safe choice. Like Arlen, my core temp was OK so I wasn’t too worried about finishing.

    Your comment about the race in Ithaca made me nod my head knowingly. We lived there for 6 years when Heather was in grad school. I will never forget the YMCA Triathlon, that I helped promoted (and raced in) for several years had snow one year (1990?) and we had to cancel the bike leg and make it a swim-run duathlon. The race was the first weekend of May! And yes…if that’s confusing…the swim was indoors at the Y…

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