Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I lived to tell about it.

So much for the bus. I decided to ride the whole way. My decision was based on a lot of reasons. First, thanks to Fritz, I took a pledge to go car-free one day per week through New American Dream's C3 program. Taking it quite literally, I feel like I must set aside one day to do a full round trip by bike. Next, the bus has its benefits, but remains a boring option compared to the adventures you're about to read below. Finally, I just miss riding my bike in the evening. Sometimes there's no substitute for hammering out the miles.

Geared with 24 ounces of solid ice and 20 ounces of lemon-lime Gatorade, I took to the streets of downtown KC, MO. The sun above mercilessly pressed its intense rays into me from above. The dark asphalt radiated heat from below like hot stones in a campfire, boiling the little strips of tar used to patch cracks and crevices. The humid air blasted out of the south with a 104 degree heat index but it might as well have been 110 or higher. This is what I observed immediately after pulling out of the parking garage. This was going to be an interesting trip. Even as a teenage boy that loved to ride, this kind of weather was often more than enough to keep me indoors, or at least off the bike and lounging in the pool.

The first thing I did was to make absolutely certain that I stayed hydrated. I drank, and drank, and drank some more, but the first 4 miles or so of my trip resulted in absolutely no sweating that I could tell. This is usually a sign that one is dehydrated. I pulled off as I passed under I-35. I hopped off my bike and took a big swig of Gatorade as I dismounted. No sooner did I stop rolling and the sweat factory became evident. My theory is that my sweat was actually evaporating for a change. I hopped on the bike again and pressed onward. Sweat glands remained active. Hooray! I peered downward as I left the comfort of the shade. The glistening droplets of condensation from my water bottle were nowhere to be to be seen. The icy brick that once had complete dominance over the water bottle had become a small, helpless sliver, bobbing to and fro in what was left of the bottle's contents. It was doing little to cool the water, but it would meet its fate soon.

Several miles later, I approached another overpass -- the last of which I encounter on my way home -- and I started to feel kind of crappy. I was drinking as much as I could without feeling sick and bloated, but I know when I've had enough of the heat. I pulled off again, this time setting the bike down. Half crouched, half sitting, I rested on the steeply-angled concrete under the overpass. I shed my helmet, took in the last of my Gatorade, and took pause for a few short minutes. When riding in extreme heat, it's just as important to pay close attention to your body's warning signs. Dehydration is not the only risk. If you're starting to overheat, you should stop exerting yourself. Finding some shade is recommended, even if the only shade is but a smallish tree. If nothing is around, you can even try hiding your body in the shadow of your jersey draped over your bike's frame. Fortunately, I had several feet of concrete to cover myself with, and I kept drinking as I watched motorists whiz by in their climate-controlled death-traps.

Fluids running low, heat index climbing, and traffic congestion brewing, I departed from the safety of my dusky island and out into the stygian chasm between my location and my domicile. With seven miles remaining in my journey and but a precious few swigs of water left, there was no way I'd reach my destination without risking my health. Could I make it home? Almost certainly. Would it suck? Without a doubt. I stopped at Sonic a mile down the road to have my water bottles recharged with ice water. Sweet success!

Just down the road was the entrance to Turkey Creek Trail, and I knew I'd be in the clear once I got to that point. In this heat, there are no people to be found "enjoying" the paths. The rest of the trip was without event. I managed to polish off all the ice water as I approached my apartment complex. I managed to take in almost 90 ounces of fluids over the course of about an hour. If I am going to make this journey again, I am certainly bringing at least an extra one-liter bottle of water, tucked away in my panniers or lunch bag. Bite your tongues about the Camelbak, guys. It's not happening. I'll carry a milk jug of water in my panniers before I strap two liters onto my already drenched back.

Right after I got home, I still felt great. I could have kept riding if I had enough hydration and nutrients to support such an adventure. All in all, I'm very happy that I decided to abstain from the bus today. I might do it more often, once I have a way to carry more water.

An update on the NiteRider situation, too. All I have to do is fax my receipt in, and they'll send me a new bulb even though I'm almost twice beyond their bulb warranty. I followed one of my commenters' advice and called them directly, initially asking about putting a 15 watt bulb in. When the tech support guy heard that my bulb burned out in less than 4 months, he offered a replacement without me even asking. Had he not offered, I would have asked anyways. I'm glad they made the first move, though.

Random Tunage:
Benjamin Bates - On my feet
Johnny Crockett - E for elektro


Red said...

Man, that is just intense, I'm glad I don't have to deal with that kind of heat.

By the way, I am 100% with you on the camelpack. Once you go with a pannier or a rack bag, you never go back, the wind blowing on your back is crucial.

Sirrus Rider said...

As a member of the camelbackers club. All I have to say is it's not that bad to have a camelback on your back. The materials used on newest camel backs wick moisture extremely well so they don't feel hot at all. Also, keep in mind the very first camelback was developed and used in the "Hotter than Hell 100" here in Texas. Where not only are you riding 100 miles the temp is likely to be just as high.

I've found their advertisement true that if you have close access to your water you tend to drink more. In my pre-camel days I would almost never drink at a stoplight. Especially if there was a high amount of traffic. Now that I have one all I have to do is reach down with my lips for the bite valve and drink and I don't have to take my eyes off traffic or the traffic signals or my hands off the handlebars.. One of the things I hated back in my college days of riding was coming to a light, going for my bottle, then before I can drink or put the bottle away, the light would change and I'd be fumbling with getting back under power and hit the bottle case with the bottle. The camel back solves this problem.

Noah said...

See, you just had to, didn't you?

I don't have problems staying hydrated. I often drink at stop lights, but just as often drink when I'm on the move. If the light changes, I never have a problem taking off while holding the bottle in hand for the first few feet. I always keep my "active" bottle in the downtube cage, and can sneak a drink without looking or thinking about it.

Warren T said...

You know, the weird thing is I sweat more in the winter, being all bundled up, than I do in these temperatures. Stick with it and keep your eyes open for those sprinkler systems...

And, yes, I love the fact that extreme temperatures = less traffic on the paths.

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