If anyone out in my little corner of the electronic world was watching yesterday, you might have caught my latest adventure in bicycle lunacy...I put on a little experiment in heat exhaustion and sweat production which will go down semi-officially as "The Hot 100". With a nod to the famous Billboard chart, this actually had nothing at all to do with the pop countdown. Although now that I think about it, my iPod did die about 40 miles out for lack of charging so I guess there's a tenuous music connection there somewhere.
The festivities began when I decided I was due for another Century while I was still on vacation. I'd been wanting to go when I didn't really have to worry much about how long it took or when I had to be back but scheduling conflicts meant that Thursday was the only chunk of time available for such an undertaking. I know my long-distance pace is pretty low so it's likely to be an all day thing once I leave the driveway. I can't get underway at noon and have any hope of returning before dark at my less-than-impressive average speed. These things take time.
So to planning...something I do very little of except in the most vague and general way. But having done this distance thing a few times now, I peeked at the National Weather Service site with a wary eye. Mostly this exercise is to check on whether I should figure on getting wet or not, which then determines if I need to pack extra zip-locks to keep electronics dry but this time it was not rain on the radar. The weather guys made it pretty clear it was going to be unabashedly, miserably, viciously and maybe dangerously hot. Yeah, yeah...it's July people, so noted. In my typically cavalier fashion, I was mostly undeterred by the big red EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING headline at the top of the page. It's going to be warm? Surprise, surprise. Pack an ice bag baby...I'm going.
I was actually more interested in the fact that the wind was predicted to be out of the south at first and then swing to the west with gusts up to 25 mph. 25 mph in the face of a 15 mph rider means you're going backwards so there was some changes forthcoming in my planned general direction of travel. I figured if I headed west at the outset, I might be able to make the turn for home with following seas and a boost from the wind instead of a kick in the teeth when I can least afford it. Score one for the Gipper, that part actually worked out but more on it later.
I got up with Chris and the sun, loaded the frames and pockets with liquids, saddled up and was gone while the shadows were still long and deep in the valley. As predicted, the wind was at my tail at first and miles rolled away easily on fresh legs and cool temps. My semi-planned route was to go almost due west to Hammondsport and then up the west shore of Keuka Lake. From there it was a crapshoot depending on how hot it actually got and how much leg I had left. The one detail I forgot was that to get to Hammondsport from home requires a Cat 2 climb over the ridge between the lakes. With the wind on the bow and a hill under the tires, my speed dropped to about zip.
Eventually though I headed down out of the hills, picked up some speed and only had to dodge one idiot passing across the double line into my lane on the way to a rest stop in a park.
I noticed the temperature was getting a little above the comfort zone when a sip of Gatorade went down hot and a Clif bar came out of the wrapper like melted butter. The world was getting hazy and everything looked like it was dancing.
There goes the alarm bells again.
I looped Keuka Lake and started fantasizing almost continuously about a cold vanilla shake. 20 more miles went behind and out of the heat shimmered a mirage-like vision...an ice cream stand! I pulled in and suddenly realized I was probably in over my head again when I almost couldn't unclip before I fell over. I wobbled into the air-conditioned interior and customers parted like the Red Sea. I probably smelled like my junior high gym locker but didn't care. My goal was something cold and no glares from cool, freshly washed vacationers was going to stop me. A uniformed EMT passing me at the door made a comment about her desire to not meet me professionally along the road later in the day. I agreed wholeheartedly and retired to a corner stool to nurse my core temperature back down within human limits.
Things get a little loopy from there on out. I know I hit a mini-mart and reloaded all my bottles before the climb back over the ridge. The ascent was lengthy but I did catch the wind as I'd originally hoped when I left home. The breeze astern helped push me up the hill but unfortunately, it also created a stationary bubble of super-heated air that surrounded me all the way. I put my leg against the top tube once and damn near got a burn. This cannot be good. My hot Gatorade was disappearing to no avail so I finally took a break and stretched out in the shade of an oak tree by an old cemetery. The symbolism seemed fitting.
Barely 15 miles later, I put in again at an Amish roadside farm stand and begged to use the garden hose I'd spotted coiled next to the building. I let it run till it got icy and then just poured it over my head until I stopped steaming. It felt wonderful. Much refreshed, I pushed another 20 or so. The computer was reading about 80 miles gone at 4 pm and even with the sun now past the zenith, the air was still sizzling. The breeze felt like the exhaust of a blast furnace and smelled like hot metal, burning grass and asphalt. A guy out in his yard yelled something about how stupid I was to be out riding as I passed. Yeah well, thanks for the insight buddy but how about handing me a beer instead?
The descent into Watkins Glen should have felt pretty good but knowing I had one more climb to do sort of took the fun out of it. I stopped in the park at the foot of Seneca Lake and stretched out on a shaded picnic table bench to recharge for the last push. I seriously wondered if I'd be able to get off that bench at all. The climb was all I expected it to be...toasty and steep with the end hidden in the haze and heat wiggles. The mileage turned over 100 about three quarters of the way up and the wind went out of my sails just like that. I trudged on up to the top and sort of fell into the lot of another mini-mart to reload the bottles one more time. I know I looked like the wrath of God. I got some really strange looks as I downed a whole bottle of water in three swallows but couldn't have cared less. The worst was over.
I eventually saddled back up and headed east but knew there wasn't much left. Chris had by now announced her intention to come and get me and to be honest, I was glad of it. I probably could have made it the last few miles if push came to shove but I was about out of heroics for one day. I loaded the Trek in the van and collapsed in the seat with the A/C knob turned all the way around. Another one bites the dust.
I'll never learn.
Score for the day:
108 honest-to-Fahrenheit degrees (at Watkins Glen)
8 or 10 bottles of Gatorade (I lost count)
1 vanilla shake
1 jumbo iced tea
1 orange juice
1 humongous water
And 5 lbs. off my body weight.
I promise I'll make the next one about the Tour de Cure. Really. There's even a connection to this post in it. I'm still on vacation you know.
One thing at a time.