Sun, 26 Apr 2009
When it became clear that the mercury would cross 80 degrees for the first time in 2009, I concocted this seemingly brilliant plan to do a gran tourisimo on the bike, ending up at Doug's traditional G&T party.
I'd start the day a by first riding to Lulu's in New Hope, meeting TJ for huevos rancheros. Then I'd cross the bridge and ride north, up the big Del, make a left at the "Forks of the Delaware". I'd follow the Lehigh westward to Emmaus, hooking up with Gary at a most excellent South Mountain Cycles and Coffee Bar. Together, we'd spin down to Doug's. Enjoy the G&T's till the last dog was hung. I'd camp the night at Doug's, and ride home the next day.
That was the plan. It almost worked out.
I set out for New Hope at around 8:30 AM. It was 48 degrees, and based on what 48 degrees felt like last week, I was wearing tights and long sleeves. But before the first climb was through, 48 degrees had never felt so warm. The sun was already beating down. I unbuttoned my shirt, rolled up the sleeves, and took a sip of water.
After breakfast at Lulu's, I lost the tights. My shirt was already stained with salt. I had two glasses of ice water at Lulu's, but in retrospect maybe I should have had more.
The ride up from Lambertville to Milford was uneventful. The miles glided by. I felt pretty good with a full belly and about 30 miles in my legs. I had been averaging over 14 mph, but in Milford, after picking up some water and Gatorade at the petro mart, I ran into a stiff headwind that knocked my speed down to 11-12 mph. Still, I was in good spirits. The weather was really glorious.
My unraveling began in Riegelsville. As I rolled onto the old River Road, I passed a group of about 20 cyclists congregated near the 1904 Roebling bridge. I waived casually. A couple of them darted after me. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize now that I should have used every ounce of strength and guile left over from my racing days to roll the speed up and loose those guys. The investment of effort would have paid handsomely.
Instead, one of the guys caught me after about a mile and started asking me questions. Where was I going? What was in my panniers? Did I do a lot of touring? What's the best way to train for a century?
The questions went on and on. This guy just wouldn't stop asking them. I tried silence. I tried rudeness. I even tried answering. Nothing worked. He rode alongside, fast or slow, constantly grilling me, and this started to put me into a serious mental funk.
At one point he asked what my route would be into Emmaus. I said I was thinking of following the south side of the Lehigh, below Bethlehem and Allentown, but above South Mountain. He asked why I didn't just take the canal towpath. It was a straight, flat shot. Did I like riding hills?
No. I didn't. And when we reached Easton, I was feeling pretty drained. Avoiding the moderate climbs to Saucon Gap seemed like a good idea. I'd never been on the towpath.
After a water and Gatorade stop at the Wawa next to Condoms Galore, I began riding up the north side of the Lehigh, looking for the towpath. A towpath shouldn't be hard to find. It would be next to the river.
Well, I couldn't find it. Despite asking locals for directions, despite finding myriad bike paths, despite never losing sight of the river, I couldn't find the bloody towpath. Before long, I was trapped on a windy, hilly, 6 foot wide strip of macadam heading due north; like many ill conceived bike paths, this one went no place useful and had no access to any side streets. But having already invested over 5 miles of riding seeking the towpath route, I couldn't simply turn back. I had to follow the damn path to see where it led. North of Bethlehem was where it led. By the time I found an exit to a side street, I was 15 un-planned miles north and east of Saucon Gap.
Another water stop -- this time supplemented by a can of iced coffee -- and I steered southwest, straight into the sun, straight into the wind. I was starting to wilt. Maybe it was the mental strain of route finding, maybe it was the heat, dehydration, sunburn, or maybe I was just tired from the 75 miles I had in my legs, or all of the above. Whatever the reason, getting back to the Lehigh river seemed to take forever. I crossed the New Street bridge into Fountain Hill. There was some sort of festival going on, but I didn't feel festive. I stopped at a Wawa for water and 'aid. I called Gary, telling him that I was six miles from Emmaus and that he shouldn't wait for me. He said they were drinking beer. Waiting wasn't a problem.
When I got to the shop, I did my best to clean up, hydrate, and steel myself to ride on, but I was already thinking that something was wrong. I didn't feel right. Sure I was sore and tired, but I was starting to feel some chills. Not good. By the time Gary and I got to the first major climb out of Macungie, I was toast. My heart rate and breathing weren't coming down in between efforts. I was starting to get seriously dizzy. This was Heat Exhaustion -- soon to be Heat Stroke. No question. I had no business riding a bike.
Anyway, I did what I had to do. I found a good place to stop, got off the road, and lay down on my sleeping pad. Gary called Doug on his cell, reporting that I was "spent". Without hesitation, Doug drove Gary's truck down to where I was -- maybe 10 miles north of the final destination -- and I sagged in. Gary rode the rest of the way to Doug's. When we passed him in the truck, Gary was almost there.
The moral of the story: drink heavily. I knew this fact, of course, but for some reason I forgot it. The distance -- about 95 miles -- was shorter than I had ridden twice previously this year, and on much easier terrain, but the heat pwned me. The heat pwned me.
Why does Doug have his 80 degree party on such warm days?
|© 2009 C.T. Nadovich