If I learned one lesson yesterday, it is not too get too carried away with confidence. After some strong rides last week and a couple rest days over the weekend, I thought this was the time to go for higher performance. On the Tuesday ride at Tri-City, I have wanted to hit a 20 mph average. It is the perfect ride for it because there is usually a good crowd with lots of drafting, not a ton of climbing, and some fast downhill stretches. The best I have done is around 19.5 mph. That was on my first ride there, which is very good, but I know I can do better.
The problem was the heat. It was 103 when I parked my car and, according to my Garmin, in the high 90s when the ride started. What makes the Tuesday ride even more challenging in these temperatures is that the first half is pointed directly at the setting sun. There is hardly any shade, so it is just you and the heat. For the first hour, it is impossible to escape the sun. It is like a painful, unwavering high-beam headlight pointed straight at you. Even during the second half of the ride when rolling away from the sun, the heat is still a major factor because not a tree is in sight. While the Tuesday ride is very fast and enjoyable, it is also the most challenging of my weekday rides.
Another problem with this ride is that we have to deal with a few stoplights that can split up the riders. That hurt me this time. I was riding towards the front of the group, but still far enough back to get caught behind a light early on. The red light put some distance between us, but I was eager to ride at their level and decided to try and catch them. Bad move. When the light turned green, I sped past the group I was in and made my way towards the other pack. Remember, these are the fast riders, and I was riding alone. After about two miles of riding at around 25-27 mph with some spikes above 30, I had almost caught them. Right then another paceline of about 7-8 riders passed me. Great. I would just latch onto them and keep my energy level low. At this point I was already a little tired, so when they passed, I couldn’t quite connect. It took a little bit of effort to catch up.
Finally I reached this other paceline and through them, connected with the lead group. My average at that point was around 22 mph, a great start. Only I was starting to exhaust myself from the chase and found myself struggling to keep up. We stayed together for the first ten miles, but the sun was taking a toll. I noticed that my heart rate was far higher than it should be.
After doing pretty well up a hill, I found myself at the head of the pack, pulling. This is where it hit me. Shortly after the ten mile point, with an average of around 21 mph, I had nothing left. My speed dropped to around at 15+ mph and my heart rate increased. The group passed me and I didn’t have the energy to catch up. Other groups passed me as I slugged along at slow speeds, watching my heart rate intently, hoping to reclaim some energy. The Gatorade in my bottles should have helped, but hot liquid just wasn’t satisfying.
When I reached Edmund Highway, a friend of mine from the lead pack was waiting. He must have gotten worried when he didn’t see me up front. I told him I was heat-bonking. He hooked me up with a salt pill and rode with me awhile during the next stretch, pulling me along or pacing behind me, as needed.
After a couple of miles I felt a little better. I was still not 100%, maybe not even 50%, but I was able to go at a reasonable pace. At this point I ran into another friend who was also struggling. We decided to stop at a store at around the 20 mile mark to hydrate. That ice-cold Gatorade felt amazing. I consumed almost 32 ounces in those final 6 miles and felt fine once I hit the parking lot. At ride’s end, my average had dropped to 17 mph.
Lessons learned: Take it easy on hot days and don’t set goals that my body cannot handle.