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Sunday, July 23, 2017

One Hot Ride

"God, it was hot.  Forget about frying 
an egg on the sidewalk; this kind of heat
would fry the egg inside the chicken."
Rachel Caine 

Sometimes there is a very fine line being doing something stupid and doing something brave, and today was one of those days.  A club century is scheduled and the "feel like" temperature is predicted to be between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.   As I prepare, I remember those days I have ridden when sweat has sat on my skin unable to evaporate and where thirst clenched my being with longing for something cold and wet.  Briefly I think of the first day of the Tennessee 1000K.  Along the route, one of the volunteers appeared at the side of the ride with an ice cold Sprite.  Ambrosia.  Reviving.  I could have drank at least five, I feel sure, but I was concerned that I would appear greedy so I had one and moved on.  A mistake, one I recovered from, but nevertheless, a mistake.  I would have ridden better and more safety with more cold fluids in my gut.  

I try to add my extra water bottle carrier to the back of my bicycle seat, but I am unsuccessful.  My husband was always my mechanic, and while I can do some things, I just can't figure this one out.  I think I have it tightly attached, but then find I have too much sideways movement.  I give up and will depend upon my ability to drink little and ride far.  It is very, very rare for me to drink two water bottles in 25 miles, and I know there will be three stops on the ride because that is how the TMD rides are set up.  I also stick some Hammer Gel Enduralytes in my bag, something I rarely use, and eventually even down two. 

I am surprised when I arrive and find that there are lots of riders, even some who are known for being unable to tolerate heat.  Again, stupid or brave?  You and they should be the judge.  I have determined that I will ride, but I will ride my own ride.  I will not let myself be drawn into the mad rush at the start where everyone tries to get as many miles in as possible during the cool of morning, and 80 degree morning on this particular morning.  I do not believe that the result justifies the effort. More effort, even at cooler temperatures, means more sweating.  And when it is that hot, it is nigh impossible to stay hydrated  no matter how conscientious you are. Yet again, I think I am glad I am not the ride captain.  I have captained a ride in high heat over a difficult course and thought I might not get one rider in.  I don't want to repeat that experience.   Yes,  you can take the attitude that they are adults, know what the weather is supposed to be, and make the decision, but still I would feel responsible if they had issues from the heat.   This is one area I am sexist in.  Men, at least most men I have talked to, don't seem to feel the same sense of culpability.  

The ride starts and we head over the bridge into Indiana.  Many of the roads in the first half of the ride are roads I know. Despite the heat, summer has had enough rain that she remains green.  The corn and soybeans look promising for a bumper crop. I ride for a bit with David  D., and I remind him that today would not be a good day to get lost.  For some reason, my GPS is not picking up the route correctly, and eventually I give up reloading it and decide to just trust the cue sheet.  

I ride the first part of the ride with Jason.  It is good to talk with him.  With the work I do, it is always refreshing to hear from him, to know that there are good people in the world, people who have a good sense of right and wrong and what is important and valuable.  But I know I am slowing him way down, and in a short while I tell him I am going to drop back further.  

For some reason, today I do not feel much like company after that.  I want to concentrate on riding smartly, drinking regularly, not overdoing, maintaining a steady pace.  I don't know if it is physical or mental, just that it is how I feel.  I am not down, at least not until we ride past my mother-in-law's home and I see the for sale sign in the yard.  It was little more than a shack, but it was her home, and her love made it beautiful.  She is long gone, but how well I remember the way the coffee smelled when I walked through, the front door.  I remember the kindness of her smile and how there was always the smell of something baking for she ran the kitchen at the sale barn.  I remember the sound of her laughter, and her saying, "Ah swan" over things, a term I had never heard until I met her and one whose meaning I still don't really know.  I loved her, and I hope she knew it. 

I think of how on Christmas Eve, I would send the children there with their father to take presents, and while they were gone Santa would come, because I hated it when we had Christmas in the morning and they had no chance to play with things before leaving to be with my mother.  So I began having it Christmas Eve and allowed them to play until they fell asleep, exhausted, prey to sweet dreams and laughter, smelling sweetly of childhood, and then they could sleep some more on the way to West Chester.

And then I am back on the bike climbing Liberty Knob, the heat making each breath feel futile and meaningless, as if the heat has sucked all the oxygen out of the air.  I slow my pace a bit, my heart rate slows, and the climb is behind me.   Before you know it, I am at the lunch stop.  With the heat, I am satisfied with my pace.  I am not a Subway fan, but I stop there nevertheless because I know I get as many refills on my drink as I want.  When I go to the restroom and see the yellow brightness of my urine, I  know I made the ride choice. 

Nancy says that the conditions are better than expected, and she is right.  While it is hot, it has been overcast and there has been a head wind that will become a tail wind but has served to evaporate some of the sweat, cooling the skin.  Still, I dread the climb I know is coming.  It is not steep, but it is long, and the hill is completely exposed.  Again, I ride at a steady pace, not pushing or fighting, just putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it the climb is behind me.  My imagination had made it much worse than what it actually was.  I feel badly for a moment that I did not wait for John.  We rode this route together last year.  But I stick to my plan to ride at my own pace. 

I run into Steve Rice and Dave King at the last store stop.  Steve always struggles in the heat, particularly when it first gets hot, but Dave looks bad as well, his shorts almost white with salt deposits.  Dave and I end up finishing the ride together, along with someone named Chris who I just met on this ride. Somewhere along the way we have lost Steve.  Dave stops under the bridge and obviously is feeling unwell.  After a few minutes, we head onward toward the end.  Both Chris and I offer to transport him  home because he rode to the ride, and I know he is feeling really badly when he accepts.  I give him a bottle of water I have in my car in a cooler, and Chris takes him home. 
I feel better seeing Steve on his bike on River Road as I leave.  I was not overly worried, but I felt better knowing for sure he was basically alright.  The temperature gage on my Garmin showed it as being over 107 degrees. 

Again, fools or brave riders?  I don't know the answer to that.  I am glad that I rode, but I can't say that it was a "fun" ride.  But any day on the bike, is I suppose, a good day, if for no other reason that it means you are healthy enough to be there.  Hopefully everyone else got in safe.  But my, it was hot. 

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