Stop the Press! TUSB is a Farce!

Well, sort of.

Put on your smoking jacket, my friends, pull out your pipe, sit in your favorite leather reading chair, slide your feet into your comfy slippers, and get ready for a good few minutes of reading. This one is a doozy!

As recently discussed, there are certain scenarios in which all rules of style are thrown out the window for the sake of survival. In other words, there’s no sense in trying to look ridiculously good by maintaining the King of Style’s rules if you’re being killed by frostbite anyway. Although the King of Style often reinvents the wheels with his (my) revolutionary rules pertaining to style, I think the rule of survival-over-style is fairly obvious.

But as you perhaps have noticed, the title of this particular blog entry doesn’t mention KoS. We’re merely back to Toughening Up Sissy Boy… or TUSB to those in the know. Hypothetically speaking, if there were a conversation on this topic, it would go down in the following manner:

Blog: “Hey Teddy, Toughen Up Sissy Boy!”
Teddy: “Hey Blog, screw you. I just had one of the top three worst experiences on a bike in my life. In fact, top three worst experiences ever!”

And that brings me to the subtitle of this blog entry: I.J.H.O.o.t.T.T.W.E.o.a.B.i.M.L. Allow me to extrapolate.

I have five hours of training assigned to me today. There is a bit of climbing to be done, a touch of big gear/force work, but basically it’s an endurance ride. Today marks the third day I’ve been in Spain; day one was drizzly but suitable for three hours, yesterday was overcast but dry all day so I enjoyed four hours of riding, and today was… just… plain… horrible. But I didn’t realize it until I was already out on the roads. Moreover, I didn’t realize it until I was nearly halfway into my ride. And by then it was merely Darwinism – only the strong survive.

I knew rain (and even rumor of snow according to my Irish neighbor, Dan) was in the forecast for today, so I was pretty excited to wake up to dry ground. About a half hour before I headed out the door whilst still noshing the last of my plain oatmeal (Mmmm) it had started drizzling, and then by the time I truly rolled out it was definitely a noteworthy rain falling down.

I was wearing virtually all of my cold-weather gear. I figured this would be more than enough to keep my body temp up since it’s basically the exact same thing I wear when riding in the WTF-harsh conditions of New Hampshire in the winter.

It’s raining. Check.
I’m wearing all the clothes I should need. Check.
I’m mentally ready for a cold and wet ride. Check.

The kicker? It’s 37 degrees Farenheit (3 Celsius) here in Spain! (…you know I’m being completely serious because I opted for bold, underline, and italics.)

I had a nice loop planned out that included some climbing up an easy grade. It’s 20km of really tame climbing, so speeds are fairly high plus you don’t get any windchill since you’re protected by sinuous curves throughout the ascent. Pedal, pedal, pedal, I’m now 1:15 into my ride, I’m at about 1500 feet above sea-level, and I notice it’s snowing on me. Crud. More importantly however, I’m at snowline, so the ground is covered, the trees are snow-encrusted, and the roads are getting slick. Therefore, rather than continuing and risking sliding out, I flip it about 8km shy of the summit (where I was planning on rolling down the other side to complete the loop).

The advantage of this road being ridden in the wet is that – like a fine woman or bottle of wine, it’s very curvaceous. Therefore you can’t get going too fast on the descent either and therefore you don’t get too cold from windchills. Right? WRONG. By this time, it’s merely fifteen minutes later and my fingers are starting to get chilly and a bit painfully tingly. I do that thing where you treat your arms like really out of tune and hyper-fast pendulums and whip them around aggressively to get more blood into my hands. You know the motion, right? Right. By the time I’m at the foot of the climb, I’m forced to do this every five minutes in order to avoid heinously frigid digits.

I consider a few alternative routes home while on the aforementioned descent, so as to add a bit of extra mileage and to avoid the glut of traffic I experienced while rolling out of town. But I soon realized that I was really freezing cold and no matter what route I picked, this five hour ride was going to be anything but five hours.

I opted for a route that took me a bit shy of three hours total, but around hour two, I reached the cruel irony where I could no longer feel my fingers at all, yet they’re horrifically painful. Think: fingers-down-the-garbage-disposal painful. Plus I have lost all finger dexterity, so braking is extremely difficult and shifting is impossible. Nice, last hour on a virtual fixie!

Long story short, with tears streaming down my face in pain, I made it home. By now, the temperature shown on banks and other buildings around town reads 2 Celsius. It’s still pouring down rain and my mood is even lower than the temperature. Once in the shower the real tears start streaming and – I kid you not – I am crying. Alone, in the shower, cold as a human ice cube, I am crying. You want real? That’s real.

Freezing cold and snow works fine. Warm and wet works fine. Cool and wet, although less desirable, still works fine. Cold and dry works fine. Warm and dry works extra fine. See, there are two variables – temperature and precipitation – to consider. There are two that don’t work so finely unless you’re racing and your body temp is somehow warmed up by the adrenaline: cold and rain.

Lesson learned: invest in a trainer or else just do three hours of jumping jacks and sit-ups on days like today.


  1. Doc Roddy

    Ouch, Ted. I think you have ably demonstrated that being wet and having cold air passed over you at 25mph sucks the heat out so fast. You did the right thing but not going on the slidy stuff! Check my world out!

  2. Steve

    I see a Giro Victory in your future Andy Hampsten.

  3. Douglas

    I will ride in the sow. I will ride in cold rain. But that zone between 32 and 40 degrees with precipitation is no mans land, exempt from TUSB and HTFU. Trainer time!

  4. Nicole

    That sounds like a solid Jens Factor 5 or HC. Just reading this post feels like a JF 2 or 3, so I’m glad you made it home safely with all digits mostly intact.

  5. Rica620

    It warms my heart, quite seriously, to see that even pros admit to this kind of winter pain. Mind you, I got to that point a HELL of a lot earlier into a ride this past weekend than you did, but… to know that it’s not that I’m genetically a wuss is nice to hear.

  6. slowdad

    I trust it was tougher than the conditions here…

    I’m glad that it’s ok to cry… As a man who’s had frostbite “down there” I know of pain.

  7. John O

    That is pretty epic, I must say.

    The other day I experienced a similar bout with TUSB. I’ve been progressively riding in colder and colder temps in an attempt to, well, “toughen up”. With the gear I currently have, I’m able to do a full 3-4 hour ride in mid-high 30s (F) at the lowest. At this temp, my feet still get pretty painfully cold, but I never realized how much more painful it could actually get…

    After successfully riding an hour and a half or so in the mid 20s, I thought I might try giving about 10 degrees a shot. I picked an out-and-back route that’s only about 1:15. The first half wasn’t so bad, the lightly falling snow was quite peaceful and pretty. But the halfway point is a giant, steep downhill where I’m pretty sure the wind peirced my soul and I was never able to recover. My hands and feet suddenly became a completely and unbearably painful cold. With 40 min left to ride, the pain was all that occupied my mind no matter what I tried. Much to my surprise, I was able to get my hands back to the “very-painful-but-tolerable” kind of cold, but my feet got even worse.

    Finally when I got home, I practically tore off my shoe covers, shoes and socks to get my feet warmed back up asap. As I soon discovered, the only thing more painful than my feet being that cold was them warming up after being that cold. Wow what a horrendous pain. I’ve never felt more pain and discomfort from anything cycling related than that. I finally just wrapped a blanket around them, buried my face in a pillow, and writhed on the floor in my room for 10 min while I just waited it out. Finally the pain subsided, I stopped uncontrollably rocking back and forth, and I lived.

    But it sucked. REAL bad. I’m pretty sure all the TUSB in the world can’t help me there.

    And this makes me wonder…was it really painful for you too when you warmed your feet back up?

    • Susan Luhrs

      Get some chemical toe warmers and put them in your shoes. You can stick them to the top of the toe box in the shoe and they really make a difference. The chemical hand warmers rock, too. I used these this past cross season during all the rain and mud with temps in that nasty mid 30s in New England while working the pit.

  8. Syringa

    I did one of these rides a couple of years ago out of West Yellowstone Montana. The last 14 miles, I couldn’t shift or brake and got caught up in a Buffalo Jam. I was riding between the big scary animals and the big scary trucks on a shoulder with rumble strips. I started crying right then. The worst ride of my life. And I don’t get paid to this 🙂

  9. Iamnottedking

    dude, GO RAVENS! Your fingers are good enough to type all that, it must have not been too bad.

  10. Roland Rat

    You should come and spend a winter in the UK, if you don’t TUSB you spend winter (and autumn.) (and spring.) on your turbo. Fortunately summer is mild and wet.

    • Susan Luhrs

      Roland, your weather seems not too different than its been here in New England. As Ted is from New Hampshire, I am sure he is all too familiar with those sorts of conditions. No sissies here, though some of us would rather use the trainer, awful that it is, instead of freezing our butts off.

  11. Tod

    Give my blog a read on last year’s Leaville 100 with Lance and tell me how this stacks up to your ride today.

  12. Steve Jacques

    Awesome read Ted! I once balled my eyes out at the top of an Ice Climb. My hands were so F’in cold, it’s when they started to unthaw, the pain really set in and the tears started streaming down my cheeks.
    Safe riding and travels! BTW- TUSB!

  13. CTodd

    What part of Spain are you in? If you’re near Madrid hit me up and I’l go ride with you…

  14. andrew

    Although you’ve stated how much you hate indoor trainers, I’m glad to hear you give them a place in the cycling world. Mid 30s and raining is the story of every guy trying to train in Portland,or right now–we all feel your pain. Hang in there man!

  15. David Bender

    Man that reminds of a the crit I rode a few years ago in March in Connecticut. It was 35 and a driving windblown rain. (I still have no idea why they ran the race). I’d never been so cold before. Worst 40 minutes of my racing life. Hands and feet just blocks of ice and I sat in front of the fireplace for an hour to warm up. Showering would have been too painful.
    To this day I don’t ride outside if it’s raining and under 45.
    But as they say Ted…HTFU.

  16. alison

    Ted…you amaze. If my new iantk tshirt wasn’t black, I would get out a sharpie and add “as tough as”. [btw – your t-shirt is excellent, how could I have doubted you?] Good luck this season – you inspire us (and I apparently need inspiring, since I am letting the 40F temps in FL halt all riding & running – shame on me). On the plus side, it might snow in Orlando. Crazy as it may sound, that would be wtf-cool. In the meantime, I need to HTFU. seriously.

  17. Chas_F

    Wow!!! Glad Iamnottedking!!!

  18. Jeremy

    Have you ever tried non-powdered surgical gloves under your winter riding gloves??? I can ride fairly comfortably in -12 degree Celsius weather with the wind chill and the surgical gloves keep the wind chill at bay. Just a thought.


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