I’ve had a lot of different cycling experiences but now I can add one more: racing a tornado. You can see the funnel cloud below, just to the left of the telephone pole.
I was out for a ride with Lauren, Susie and Ken as part of our triathlon camp. We had planned for 100 miles of relatively flat riding near Bear Delaware—an area I know well from my two Diamondman Half-Ironman races. In fact, we started our ride at the Lum’s Pond boat ramp, where we began the swim.
The weather forecast was for rain in the afternoon, but as we started out it was raining very lightly. Better than being toasted. We followed the route of the race and headed out towards Delaware Bay. It was great to be back on these roads which are flat and fast, although the skies were pretty daunting.
As Ken and I turned a corner a cyclist coming the other direction called out ‘Tornado Watch’. Yes, the sky definitely did not look good. We turned around and headed back to the ladies and then put the hammer down to get away from the storm.
There were a number of fishermen by the side of the road who seemed surprisingly non-plussed by the deteriorating weather—except for those whose large beach umbrella was now in the water floating away: the winds were picking up.
I had some reservations about where we were heading: while the tornado was behind us, we could clearly see it moving over towards the water, there was lightening ahead. Still, I was able to play tourist and grab some photos. I figured I’d do one of myself in case we got zapped. At least people would know I was smiling towards the end 🙂
The weather began to deteriorate further, as if that was possible. We were hit by some of the largest rain I’ve seen, which to add insult to injury by turning to hail. At least it was not cold.
I hung back with Susie while Ken was ahead with Lauren. Our target was a very large bridge where we would take shelter. Of course a steel bridge in a lightening storm was not the best place to be, but better than all the other options. Ken said later that there was a huge lightening bolt which was near the bridge which elicited an unprintable response from Lauren. I’m pretty sure Susie did the same at one point.
Susie and I turned off the road to go under the bridge and I noticed that Lauren had just kept cycling. As Ken chased her down I took Susie’s bike and she went under the abutment. Ken retrieved Lauren and joined us—where I managed to convince everyone to turn off their cell phones (quite the achievement…).
We had made it in time because the winds really picked up and would have blown us all over the place had we still been on the road. After a while things calmed down and eventually we decided to head towards the nearest town. Since things were clearing quickly we all cycled back to the cars, eventually deciding to do another 20 miles since the storm was over. What a memorable ride … Ken got the photo of me below, wet but happy.