As you regular readers know, yesterday was our last training ride before the event, and I was supposed to do 80 miles. It didn't happen. I stopped long, long, LONG before that and did not get near 80 miles in. And I will not do so before the 100 miles event.
Now, calm down. It's okay. I WILL BE OKAY.
See, I did the first 25 miles and it was lovely. Then a little rest stop, ate half a banana and half a peanut butter sandwich, refilled water and headed out with Coaches Anne and Tom, two of my favorite people to ride with. (Well, no offense to Anne, but I tend to feel a little anxious when I ride with her. You remember from school, how it is with a really great teacher? You want to do your best and make them proud, and really really really hope you do everything right, etc. That's how I feel with Anne, because she just makes me want to be awesome. Awesomer. Anyway, it makes me a little less relaxed, but I still get happy when I can ride with her.) I don't know how far we got - just a few miles and everything was fine. Until all of the sudden it just felt like all the blood left my head and I got dizzy. Not like the world was spinning, but just lightheaded.
So I said so and we pulled over. Tom pushed a salty snack in my hand, and they made me sit in the shade and take my helmet off. Ten or 15 minutes of resting, Tom said - which seemed excessive to me, I mean you really don't want to stop at all and even at the rest stops it's best to keep 10 minutes as your upper limit, break-wise. (Because you don't want your muscles to cool off, see.) And then he said after that, we'd see how I felt and if I was dizzy again, end of ride. Internally, of course, I was like WHAT?! Call for SAG, isn't that a bit drastic? What the hell, it's just a little weirdness and I can just hydrate and push through, why are they all serious and stuff? But I just silently sucked on my electrolyte drink and then I realized that taking the helmet off felt like -- I don't know the word. Like heaven. Like I'd been suffering hellishly and not known it until that second. Because the temp had risen. And the sun was like this:
Or really, more like this:
Then Tom and Anne started throwing around terms like "heat exhaustion" and how even the hint of possible heat stroke meant the end of a ride, no way was I allowed to go on. And that's when I recognized the mild swaying sensation I was experiencing in my head. It feels like the buzz you get after a drink or two, when you know you should cut yourself off or risk embarrassing drunken shenanigans. Except I hadn't been drinking, of course, and the only time that wooziness happens without alcohol is when I have a flu or when I've been laying in the sun too long.
Anyway. It was like 85 degrees - which may sound no big deal, but we have not had that kind of heat, it's all been in the 60s, so I am not remotely acclimated. And though it was a mostly shady course, it just wasn't shady enough. I am rather severely over-sensitive to heat, too, as a rule. I always say that anything above 72 is just another chance for me to complain about the heat, and anything above 80 is sweltering. (I don't mind 85 when I'm laying under an umbrella at the beach. Key word = laying. Not exercising.) So after a bit, I felt better, got on the bike, immediately heard a weird noise, then we realized I had a flat. We sat in the shade and fixed it and, in just that little bit of exertion involved it turning my bike over and putting the wheel back into place, the wooziness returned.
So I said: nope. Let's take me back and call it a day. Riding that shortcut back - like maybe 1.5 miles - there was no doubt I did the right thing. The heat was making me ill, just in that little distance. I know as well as the coaches that extreme heat is NOT something to screw around with. It's just not. I actually know my limit on this one, and I refused to push it. So that was that. I maybe got 30 or 35 miles in. Which sounds just pathetic when you consider it was supposed to be 80, but is a perfectly respectable distance for a Saturday ride. The kicker was that Coach Tom, a real mensch, bought me an Italian ice at this fabulous sweet shop on the way back. He insisted it wasn't ice cream - which is true - so I was allowed to have it. It was exactly what the doctor ordered, too. After I ate about half of it, I began to feel normal again.
Okay, so about that first 25 miles, when I was riding mostly alone and it was cooler and a really enjoyable ride. Huh, you know - I ran out of water in my Cambak like before I even got to 20 miles, so clearly I need to be mindful of this on hot days, maybe make a point to drink even MORE water before I get on the bike at all. Usually, I have a big glass, like at least 24 ounces, before we get going, but obviously that doesn't cut it in the heat. Anyway, we were in Barrington. Remember those hills there? Well there was the double decker one, like a hill on top of a hill. Here's the thing: either the part of the course I went over didn't include that (except I'm pretty sure it's the exact route we did before) or that thing just shrank sometime in the last month. I mean, there were hills - and some were really not enjoyable - but there was nothing that nearly killed me. And last time, that thing near killed me.
And remember Serendipity? This one:
Well I turned the corner and saw the sign that said "Serendipity" on it. I pointed at it and began to curse it. (Side note to Mom: don't read this, because I am foul-mouthed and I don't want you to have to recite this out loud to Aunt Aileen.) It's like that hill just pisses me off, so I was all "Fuck you, Serendipity. You hear me, FUCK YOU, bring it ON, bitch, I fucking DARE you."
And then I went up the hill. Which now looks more like this to me:
It's not easy, but I was never for a second in danger of not doing it. It's not like I enjoyed it, or I'd want to do it because yay rah so much fun - but it was just a little sweaty effort and voilà. It's steep but short, so no biggie. Up and over, as they say.
That's probably why I'm not freaked about doing Tahoe even though the most I've ever done is like 63 miles. The hills of Barrington made it clear to me that my body (and brain, because they tell me that cycling is about 95% mental) has really adapted and improved so much even in just the last few weeks. I can't say for sure that I can do 100 miles in Tahoe, but I CAN say that I can confidently try it and not be utterly astonished if I make it without collapsing in the middle of a climb.
I'm just glad Tahoe is not a sweltering hot place. The (reported) temps there seem to suit me perfectly: cold in the morning, cool in the 50-60s through most of the day, and maybe getting into the upper 70s at some point. Perfect conditions for an enjoyable ride. Now that I have some actual skills on the bike, and I have my nutrition, hydration, stretching, and leg cramp management down pat, all I need is decent conditions and I stand a chance.
After I stopped riding, I hung out at the SAG tent with various teammates as we waited for others to finish their mileage. I figured since it's usually me who's the last to roll in, it'd be nice to do the cheering for all the others, for a change. It was really nice, to sit and talk with friends. The team is really such a great bunch of people, and the only thing I regret about being a weak rider is that I don't really get to spend hours riding with all of them, and talking and hanging out on the bike together. So it was nice to do that for a while. In the shade.
So that's it. I'll ride to work all next week and then I have to send my bike off to Tahoe. It comes back a few days after I do, and I find I'm entirely flustered at the idea of nearly 2 full weeks without a bike to ride. I'll have to ride the train again, horror of horrors! Hmmm or maybe I'll go ahead and shop for a permanent city bike? I mean really - that is WAY too long to go without a ride. I have bike needs! I need bike!
Now I am off to take some ibuprofen, in the hopes of eradicating this (no doubt heat-induced) massive headache that set in on my way home last night and won't go away.