RAGBRAI 2012: One Hot Week of Bicycling!

RAGBRAI 2012: One Hot Week of Bicycling!
The sign says it all. Courtesy of Des Moines Register posted on RAGBRAI.com

Most people don't wake up at 5am every single day of a one-week vacation.

Then again, most people don't wake up in a tent, get dressed, lather up with sunscreen, break camp, and mount their bicycles for a 70-mile ride during the peak of summer weather in the Midwest.  Unless, of course, they're crazy enough to commit themselves to riding RAGBRAI.

Those individuals waking up at 5am every day last week were nearly an hour behind their smarter counterparts who were already clipped in and pedaling at the first sign of daylight.  Whether one chose to rise before or after the sun rose, we each knew that wherever we were when high noon arrived, each minute after would feel like an eternity.  The earlier one rose and the faster one rode, the less one suffered under the Iowa sun.

Epic, point-to-point, week-long rides like RAGBRAI are difficult enough in ideal weather.  Hills, headwinds, crosswinds, rough surfaces, and sharing the road with thousands of other cyclists provide sufficient challenges for the average rider.  Throw in a lack of shade from the sun's direct rays, trapped heat radiating from the blacktop, and mix in high humidity for good measure, and the body's fluid levels drop faster than the Dow Jones after an employment report.

Thank heavens for roadside entrepreneurs, shelter belts, and kids with squirt guns...

Drinking water alone isn't enough to stay properly hydrated.  Drinking too much water can even lead to a more serious medical condition known as hyponatremia or water intoxication.  All-day riders need to take extra care to replenish depleted electrolytes early and often.

I can't stomach sweetened soft drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.  I also have a hard time swallowing naturally sweetened drink mixes when they get the slightest bit warm.  I supplement with electrolyte tablets (brand of choice, Endurolytes by Hammer) and good, old-fashioned remedies like dill pickles, watermelon, and real fruit smoothies.

When the going got tough, the tough got off the road and rehydrated.

Sitting under the shade of a large tree, shoes and helmet off, soaking my socks and cycling cap with water, and sipping a smoothie while the never-ending parade of cyclists continued rolling on by kept me cool enough to cope with back-to-back, record-high temps.

A hot day of bicycling is still better than a cool day at work...


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