Riding a hundred miles in a broiler

Yesterday was an absolute scorcher. The “feels like” temperature was as hot at 111ยฐ with 100% humidity. We’ve definitely entered the dog days of summer in Houston.  However, despite the discomfort, my training must continue. The wisest way to train is to do it indoors. Nope. I’m not interested in doing that. Being outside is an important part of working out for me. I love the air, the smells, and the changes in scenery. When I’m training outside and I enter a moment of discomfort or prolonged suffering and want to quit, I often find a sense of peace and a connection to deeper energy that I use to keep pushing myself. I don’t feel those things on a treadmill or a bike trainer.

Also, Ironman races are held outside. In the weather. Whatever that may be (exceptions are made for extreme situations, of course). I have to learn how to prepare, pace, fuel, and manage my body in different conditions. So, training in the intense heat and humidity is both useful and a little dangerous. The danger of heat exhaustion or dehydration is very real.

During my recent 80, 90 & 100 mile rides, I encountered and had to endure… severe muscle fatigue and dehydration. Muscle fatigue can be linked to dehydration, but my legs muscles simply became exhausted. Since I sweat like I’m imitating a sprinkler, riding for hours in intense heat is my yellow brick road to dehydration.

Increasing my cycling stamina is primarily a function of time on the bike. Improvement comes with time and effort. Dehydration, on the other hand, can be managed with planning and attention. I anticipated my thighs cramping towards the end of the ride which would hurt intensely, but I’d still be able to finish. I was concerned that I haven’t been able to stave off dehydration, so I decided to focus on preventing it this time.

The Goal

My goal was to manage my effort for the entire ride and stay hydrated so that I could finish feeling strong instead of being completely exhausted. I’m perfectly content riding alone, but I enjoy having a training partner or two. Fortunately, Cruz is always happy to do long rides with me. In addition, I don’t feel the normal pressure to go hard all the time when we ride together. She’s just happy to ride for hours, fast or slow it doesn’t seem to matter…just don’t make a bunch of rest stops. She likes riding, not stopping.

So…minimize rest stops… that’s doable.

I loaded three water bottles with my Infinite bike fuel, stuffed my jersey pockets with extra powder, a protein bar a peanut butter sandwich, and extra shammy cream. We planned stops for refueling at 25, 45, and  75 miles. All I had to do was not overheat in between rest stops. To do that, my strategy was to manage my power and then cool down with ice and cold drinks when we stopped.

Oh, and take some awesome pictures along the way!

Mission accomplished

  • I didn’t get dehydrated … I did get a slight headache around mile 90.
  • No muscle cramps. My legs stayed happy the whole trip.
  • No need for extra stops….well, 1 extra stop to get some cold water at mile 92, but it was quick.
  • Maintained my power output well. I only went out of zone 1 on bridges and inclines. I didn’t like going slower, but I stuck to the plan…even in headwinds.
  • When we saw opportunities for great photos, we took them. Sometimes we even stopped and posed for beautiful backgrounds. Taking in the moments of beauty are also part of the joy of long rides.
  • I felt very strong at the end of the ride. My body is adapting well.

I could feel the change in this ride. The consistent effort is making a difference in what my mind and body are able to do.

AS we rolled into the parking lot, we were greeted by Khon Truong, one of the Pearland Triathlon Racing Club members. Kohn wanted to make sure that we had adequate protein and carbs to help our bodies begin the recovery process. He made chicken potstickers with fried rice and brought a cooler full of beer, sparkling water and regular water.  His gesture of kindness and concern was very moving. He is an example of what being a part of a racing club was all about. Caring for and supporting each other.

Today was absolutely worth the effort. I’m grateful for all of the pieces that fell in line to create such a great day.