Sunday, August 26, 2012

End of the heatwave

Tom Fangrow and I rode from Anaheim Stadium to Seal Beach and back and for the first time in a month the temperature didn't go above 90F. It's a fast, flat, fifty mile ride and we took the beach path on the way out. We had the usual issues with idiots, both on and off bikes, who are completely oblivious to their surroundings. One jogger is hopefully slightly less oblivious after she tried to switch to the other side of the trail just as Tom was passing her. Now it's true Tom was riding slightly faster than the 10mph posted speed limit, but the truth is it was the jogger's inattention that caused the problem, not Tom's speed.

The trail users that really tick me off are the cyclists (always male) that ride down the middle of the trail with both hands off the handlebars, no helmet, and with earphones rammed into their ears. I just want to give them a little shove as I pass - that'll get their hands back on the handlebars.

We ate at The Crema, Tom's first time, and I had a fried egg sandwich that redefined the concept.

Picture two slices of grilled sourdough bread containing a fried egg, two strips of apple-smoked bacon, tomato slices, lettuce, and gorgonzola, served with a side of herbed roast potatoes. Every bite transported me to paradise. That hit of gorgonzola was sublime. Fried egg sandwiches are a staple of cheap cafes in England and I've eaten my share but this was the best ever.

We had a great tailwind most of the way back - a 10mph wind makes such a difference. We returned on PCH, which I know Tom prefers. We made good time but passing all those parked cars and trying to see which ones might open a door or pull out in front of you is so stressful. But it doesn't seem to bother Tom half as much as the pedestrians on the bike trail do.

It's strange the way two rational human beings can evaluate risks slightly differently and end up with completely different riding habits.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bicyling and Kayaking

I rode 65 miles with Amber yesterday from the Angel's Stadium to the Long Beach Marina and back to check out an alternative route for the 600k that I host each year. For some reason I was bonking even at the start of the ride which is weird because I had eaten only two hours earlier.

It doesn't really matter whether you think you should be bonking or not - you have to deal with it. SoCal is still in an extended heatwave and the temperature was about 90 when we started and about 85 at the beach so my solution was ice cream.  We sat in the shade to cool our external temperatures and ate ice cream to cool our internal temperatures and get some calories in. I think ice cream is mainly fat and sugar so it's not the ideal endurance food but it really hit the spot anyway.

We continued along the beach path to the Long Beach Marina and ate at Tequila Jacks. Next time I want to try the Yard House. The Marina is such a fun place. As we returned we headed off the beach trail at Belmont Pier and tried riding along 2nd St which has a bike friendly strip marked. It wasn't bike friendly at all with impatient drivers and people pulling out of and into parking spaces making cycling very dangerous. After two blocks we dropped down onto Ocean which is much better. I now have that part of the route figured out.

At Seal Beach we stopped to kayak for an hour. Even though I reapplied sunblock I forgot to cover my head so now I have a very red and sore scalp. Stupid. Those standup boards look like fun, especially when there are groups of what appear to be lingerie models wearing skimpy bikinis. SoCal Rocks!

Once we turned inland the heat really shot up and I just about died on the last ten miles back to the Angel's Stadium. The whirlpool bath when I got home was wonderful.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Surviving the Heat

On Sunday I rode a 200k in blistering heat. That's dangerous, especially if, like me, you don't do heat well. Some people are perfectly happy exercising in extreme heat but I'm not one of them.

So what special precautions do you have to take?

Number 1. Sun block. At least SPF 30 but 50+ is better. Some people don't actually know what SPF means so I'll explain. An SPF of 50 means you can stay out in the sun 50 times longer than if you weren't wearing any sun block. That's assuming you apply it properly and it doesn't wash or rub off.

When you apply sun block be sure to pull your socks down, your shorts up, and open your jersey zipper so you'll be absolutely sure you don't expose unprotected skin if your socks droop or your shorts ride up. The back of the neck, the nose and ears burn easily. Also, if you don't exactly have luxurious hair, get a skull cap so you don't burn your scalp through your helmet slots. Be sure to reapply sun block every 3-4 hours especially if you're active. That may mean you have to carry it, so keeping a small tube with you is a good idea.

Number 2. Hydration. Drink as much as a large water bottle every hour when it gets really hot. That's double what you would normally drink. Try to keep your water cool so it's palatable. Know where the opportunities are to get water and use them. On Sunday's ride I rode to an Amtrak station (no luck) and then into a park (found a new source of water) while looking for water in Corona. If you don't stay well hydrated you will get a headache, then heat exhaustion, then a trip to the emergency room. If you're not peeing at least once every 2 hours or if it's very dark you are dehydrated.

Number 3. Electrolytes. Gatoraid is fine for normal riding but it doesn't have a good sugar/electrolyte ration when it gets hot. Too much sugar. You can get extra electrolytes from fancy supplements such as Endurolytes which work well but seem overpriced. You can also just nip into a fast food restaurant and order up some fries and a Coke (works great). Grapes, bananas, grape juice and apple juice are all great sources of potassium which is probably what you body needs the most. If the juice is too sweet, just water it down a bit. Signs of electrolyte imbalance are cramping and loss of coordination.

Number 4. Back off. You can avoid heat exhaustion by simply backing off the effort. If you need to, rest in shade for a few minutes to dump some of that extra heat. Don't be afraid to call someone to come and pick you up. I remember a 70 mile club ride many years ago when the tempurature got up to 115F on the way home. It took us over two hours to finish the last 10 miles but everyone got home eventually. People were sharing water, sunblock, and good advice.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stupid ride

It happens. Even though I've been riding for twenty years, I still do stupid rides. I don't know why. Yesterday was a prime example. My wife and daughter were in Las Vegas to see the Phantom of the Opera so I decided it would be the perfect weekend to do my monthly 200k brevet. In the summer I normally ride brevets at night to avoid the worst of the heat but I always have to deal with a strong headwind so yesterday I decided to start the ride at 6:00am. How hot can it get, I asked myself?

Q. How hot can it get?
A. How stupid are you?

Heading from San Bernardino to Newport Beach was great. It was cool and I had almost no headwind. I broke my personal best by covering the first 63 miles in 3:52 elapsed. I love the panini at the Corner Market and Deli in Newport Beach but when I tried to order there were some kids ordering half a dozen of them so it was obvious I would have to wait at least ten minutes before I could even place my order. No problem, I went next door to Newport Burgers where they have fantastic Ahi Tuna burgers but as I parked my bike in the bike rack a group of eight people snuck in front of me. Crap - another long wait. I decided to eat a Clif bar and started riding back - rookie mistake.

There's a Circle K about 17 miles up the bike path so I stopped there and grabbed a sandwich and one of the wonderful apple pies that comes in greaseproof paper. It was starting to warm up (about 80F) so I took my time and enjoyed it. Less than 50 miles to go. Twenty miles later is the first sustained climb of the ride up Palisades. I had to stop in the entrance way to some office buildings to cool down. The computer on my bike said 85F but it felt much hotter climbing in the sun. Hydration was becoming a problem, partly because the water in my bottles was so hot it was unpalatable.

At mile 110 there's a park with water and restrooms. I stopped there for another 15 minutes and lay down in a spot of shade that was still soaked from the sprinklers. I didn't care that it was covered in ants. I replaced my hot water with some from a drinking fountain that was merely tepid.

Five miles later I was riding on the flat at 10-12 mph with a tailwind, barely able to turn the pedals over. I stopped again under a bridge to try to lose some heat. I ate the last of my trailmix and drank more tepid water. It took another ten minutes before I felt I could ride again. The last seven miles were brutal. The highest temp my computer registered in the shade was 99F although I suspect it snuck up to 100F while I wasn't looking. Of course, there's no shade on the trail and my computer registered a high of 115F in the sun. Even pouring the warm water from my bottles over my head didn't seem to help much.

There were a couple of things that prevented me from suffering from heat stroke, a very serious condition. It was a dry heat (yes, it makes a difference) and there was enough of a breeze to evaporate my sweat efficiently. As long as I kept drinking I would probably be OK. Thank goodness there are a lot of drinking fountains along the route. I never even got a headache which is one of the first signs of dehydration. I didn't cramp, either, which is a big surprise.

A. Pretty stupid.