Sunday, September 19, 2010

Get Fast or Die Trying

As the year moves closer and closer to Adventure Race National Championships and the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge all I can think about is my greatest weakness: heat. Checkpoint Tracker nationals (the one we are attending) is held in Moab, Utah. Even in late October, the daily temperature could be high enough for me to get really dehydrated. Luckily, it's only one day. Abu Dhabi is 6 days in intense heat and unforgiving terrain. I love the terrain, but the heat is too much.

IMGP0092As the heaviest member of Team YogaSlackers, when I need to get towed, Jason is not a happy camper. So, it's up to me to get fast and heat-tolerant. I couldn't think of a better way to get better at it than to just do it. Last weekend I decided to go for a monster bike ride in Santa Barbara's beautiful but hot back-country. I have spent many a time back there, curled up in the shade of a toilet or tree suffering through heat exhaustion.

I started the ride late around 10:30, as it was cloudy and cold at my house, and jammed up the first hill on my new 29er Evolve. About 5 or 10 minutes in, the clouds parted and the heat of the sun beat down relentlessly. At the bottom of Little Pine Mountain, I met up with a fellow mountain biker - Doug. As we climbed, he explained that when it's foggy on the front-side, it's extra-hot on the backside. The hot air rising draws in cold and moist air from the ocean. I guess I should have started earlier...

I love riding without a backpack on, so I was trying to do this with two water bottles on my bike. Food goes into a bento box, and an oh-shit bottle of tea goes in my copious wool jersey pockets (thanks Ibex!) - presto, no pack! There are plenty of water spigots along the way, but the middle section of this ride (Little Pine Mountain) takes just under 3 hours on a good day - way too long for just over a liter of water and a half liter of tea.

I knew I wasn't drinking enough, but a 10 minute headstand (my longest ever) in the shade of a water tower kept me centered and my legs feeling good. After a fast, furious, and fun descent down Little Pine (I'm now a total 29er convert - thanks Ellsworth!), I crossed the San Ysidro river. Every bone in my body yearned to lie down in the beautiful water, and let the egg-sized tadpoles clean my battered body.

After ignoring my desires, and starting the final climb, the final signs of heat exhaustion started to creep up on me. Totally dehydrated, I was weak and barely able to keep pedaling, 29er advantage or not. My stomach was in knots and the flies were awful; I had to stop and rest a few times. The final descent was the last straw, the loose dirt and scattered rocks had me flying over the handlebars over and over. Once I reached the bottom, a broken man, I realized I had lost not only my dignity, but also my favorite sunglasses - my Numas, . As tough as they are, they have to remain on your face or on your person! Mine shot out of my shirt during one of my superman moments (I can fly! not...).

I made it home, 9 hours after I began, and immediately weighed myself. I had lost 15 pounds of water - 8% of my overall body weight (at 7% collapse is likely, at 10% you go into a coma). I drank a full liter and a half of water and laid in the fetal position on my floor for about an hour. After a big bag of salt-and-vinegar chips, a few more liters of water and most of the leftovers in the fridge, I was feeling sore but human. My recommendation: read up on dehydration, drink, and listen to your body.

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