Back when I was in junior high, I used to tell people “I’m crazy but I’m not stupid”. I don’t even know why I would say that, considering that my childhood activities were generally about as extreme as caffeine-free diet mountain dew with a Sanka chaser.
The fact is, I really am stupid. Sometimes I just don’t pay attention. Certain things I take very seriously and yet other things I don’t give a second thought to. I’ll pine over every detail on my bike, yet completely disregard the weather in which I plan to be riding in.
When it is 95 degrees and humidity is approaching 50% and Al Kaprielian and company are going nuts and beaming the letters “H-H-H” on your TV, that means STAY INDOORS IDIOT. It does not mean go out and work as hard as humanly possible in the heat. Similarly it is not a good day to go set a PR on the Mt. Kearsarge hillclimb.
This is what you look like when you’ve just spent 25 minutes “warming up” to the point of complete exhaustion. Something doesn’t seem right because instead of feeling ready to go, your heart is beating out of your chest like you overdosed on Pepsi and No-Doze. You should probably eat something but you feel like you’re a jellybean away from puking. So now that you’re ready! You embark on 31 more minutes of maximum possible physical and mental effort climbing a mountain on a bicycle, just heaving yourself over each pedal stroke in the “easiest” gear you have, wanting to fall over and quit approximately once every 20-30 seconds for the next half an hour straight. Since you’re on the verge of puking, you can only wet your mouth with water and then spit it out, even though you’re almost positive that you need to drink. Even though the gate at the bottom of the road was chained and locked, you swear you keep hearing traffic coming behind you. You know it doesn’t make any sense, but you keep looking for it anyway. You beg for a mechanical, but since you’re unbelievably anal about the condition of your equipment, that’s impossible. You’re moving so slow that horseflies and deerflies are swarming you, eating little bits of your arms and neck when they grow bored of avoiding your lethargic swats. You wonder if you might die up here, and if you did, would they rename the mountain after you. But then you figure they probably won’t because you’ll just be some idiot who died of heatstroke. You keep looking down at your computer and now you can’t remember if the trip up is 3 miles or 3.5 miles, even though this is the seventh time you’ve gone up the mountain, and on any other day of the year you know damn well that it’s 3.5 miles to the top. Then 3 miles elapses and you go to a really, really bad place. You can identify every spot where you know you should be picking up the pace and you just…can’t. You just can’t do it. What seems like forever later, you see the final bend, and instead of sprinting, you muster a sad little hop out of the saddle, sit right back down, and stare hopelessly at the finish as you piddle through. Is it the worst you’ve ever felt on a bike? Pretty damn sure it’s #1 or #2.
NOAA has a pretty handy chart that I’ll be using from now on. Stuff in the orange and red are basically ways to kill yourself. This chart would have been really helpful YESTERDAY. Common sense would have been helpful too. The gist is that the combination of heat and humidity inhibits perspiration. When you can’t perspire adequately, you overheat. When you’re working at maximum exertion, you have no real sense of overheating, so left to your own devices you ultimately cook yourself to death.
So I guess my point is, don’t be a jack-off. Pay attention to the weather. Lightning is something we don’t mess around with, and we’re always over-preparing for the cold, yet we’re so sun-deprived here in New England that we think little about what heat exposure can really do to us once we finally get some decent weather. At least me, okay. That’s how I think. You’re probably smarter than I am. But I’m not screwing around with the heat and humidity any more. I don’t like going to the bad place. I like the happy place; the one where Chubbs has his hand back.