Friday, July 06, 2007

Thinking about heat

Date: July 6
Mileage: 89.2
July mileage: 91.7
Temperature upon departure: 57

Before leaving for my ride this morning, I put all of my handlebar bag gear in a little pile ... Nutrigrain Bar, Clif Bar, camera, extra wool socks and mittens. "Mittens," Geoff said. "It's July! You don't need mittens."

I pointed out that it was raining from the large bucket outside. "Once I get wet," I said, "my hands and feet are going to be cold. I don't care if its nearly 60."

As I set out into the downpour, I did have to pedal hard early on to generate heat. As I was doing this, I thought about Utah. Geoff told me that the state hit its all-time high yesterday, in St. George, with a 117-degree scorcher. It took me back to a ride I did in July 2002, when Salt Lake hit what was at that time its all-time high, 107. I decided to pedal to my parents' house in Sandy, which was less than 20 miles from my college commune. I set out with what I though was a reasonable amount of water - 64 ounces - and took my normal route along the pavement of 700 East. With visible heat waves wafting off the blacktop, it only took five miles before the soles of my shoes felt like they were resting on hot coals. By seven miles, my legs felt like they were twirling around a rotisserie. By 12 miles, I had sucked down every ounce of the water I was carrying. By 15 miles, I felt like I was about to pass out. By 17 miles, I was fairly sure I had cooked the protein in my brain beyond recovery. I was probably near heat stroke by mile 20. But the feeling was closer to a very toasty grave. I think about that ride sometimes when I am especially cold or soggy. I'm convinced that there are few situations worse than riding a bicycle in Salt Lake City in July. Give me below-0 temperatures any day.

Still, it is funny to go for a July ride and worry about hypothermia. Last summer, when the temperatures warmed up a bit and I let my guard down, I had a few seriously shivery rides. So I am much more cautious this year. It turned out to be all for naught. The sun came out at mile 20, and I found I couldn't stuff enough of my extra layers into my handlebar bag. I actually had my rain pants wrapped around my waist at one point.

I cycled out to the end of the road. It was much harder than the same ride three weeks ago. A front moved in and bumped up the south wind to 15 mph - a headwind I had to fight the entire 45 miles home that was definitely not there as a tailwind for most of the 45 miles out. Also, I think my recovery renaissance has ended. Now that I'm convinced my bad knee can handle these rides, the rest of my body feels comfortable rebelling again. Plus I (ironically) ran out of water. I left with a 24-ounce bottle thinking I would be able to refill it somewhere along the road, but beyond mile 17, there was nothing - no spigots, no stores, no parked trucks with five-gallon jugs in the back. Geoff tells me I should just drink out of one of the hundreds of waterfalls that line the road, but I am not brave enough to do that. At least, not when it's 60 degrees out and I have only 30 miles to ride before a known source of treated water.

Beyond that, though, I had a great ride. I was thrilled to pedal far enough north to hit some sunshine. Although ... I really hate wearing my bike shoes on longer rides. I think if I had any early-warning sharp pains in my knee I'd never notice, because I'm too heavily focused on my throbbing toes. In the future, for 5-hour+ rides, I'll probably just switch over my clipless pedals to the platforms. Good ol' platforms. Then I'd actually be able to do some hiking.

It is beautiful out the road, regardless of weather or other misadventures. I definitely need to toss the clipless pedals, buy another water bottle cage, and spend as much time out there as I can.

My favorite island, with some cool cloud formations in the background. Seriously, how will I ever be able to endure a non-Alaska summer again?