"Heat? What heat?"
In essence, that's what I said to my wife yesterday before setting out on my long weekly ride. I thought I'd stretch my limits a little and ride to a nearby town I'd not visited before. Only 25 miles or so of rolling hills each way. Piece of cake, right?
Temps were just above 90 degrees at the time I set out, but there was good cloud cover for shade and I was in no hurry. As luck would have it, the cloud cover disappeared about 20 minutes into the ride. Bad omen?
Still, I made it to the town as planned, and stopped at the railroad museum there for a snack and stretching.
The trouble started just after that. First it was the headwind, which kicked up about a half mile from the museum. Then the realization my “drinks” were warm/hot, and I was really low on both water and Gatorade at that point. Soon I felt really tired. And hot. Really hot.
Rather than stop I figured I'd just catch my second wind like usual and ride through it. I now realize I was borderline hyperthermic. Had I any sense about me I would have stopped and gotten something ice cold to drink, to help bring down my core temperature.
Instead, I suffered through another 45 minutes getting back to another small town, where I rolled up to the Hardee's drive through and ordered an ice-cold Coke, thinking the cold liquid would bring down my internal temp, while the sugar and caffeine would give me a boost of energt. The blast of cold air from the drive-up window was quite refreshing. I should have gone inside where it was really cool.
Clearly I was not thinking straight. I was fixated on getting home. So I took a few swigs of Coke then set out for home, gulping more as I went along. I got progressively slower and slower as I neared home. The Coke fix did not work after all. Everything ached. My feet were on fire, my butt was raw, there was pain in the small of my back and I was getting a headache. Still I was determined not to dismount until in my own driveway, which I did, no doubt teetering on the verge of heat stroke.
In the aviation world they call this syndrome "get-home-itis" and this mindset is responsible for many poor (and fatal) in-flight decisions.
Aside from traffic dangers, cycling is not as inherently risky as flying, but there are similarities in the decision making process when it comes to preparation and execution (route planning, equipment for repairs, etc.)
Moral of the story? Be careful when it's hot! I certainly will do a better "pre-flight" inventory before setting out into the unknown, even to a town that's "only" 25 miles distant.