By Jonny Volk
Take it from an IBA member, EMT-B and MSF RiderCoach who nearly did everything right and nearly lost his life because of it. The “ruining” of my summer vacation ride out to the BMW MOA Rally in Redmond, OR, was due not to mechanical failure, crashing, or anything else other dehydration that sidelined me for 3 days in the hospital causing me to have nothing short of the best week of my life…
Wait, is there a typo there? Not at all. Although my personality certainly has a tendency to focus on the positive lessons learned from a bad experience, rather than the negativity of the experience itself, here’s a case where I can pass along some important lessons I learned that I hope each reader can take to heart, especially those of you that crave long days in the saddle.
1. Change your thinking about dehydration by staying ahead of it. It can be one of those things that can sneak up and sideline you, perhaps permanently, when you least expect it. Any doubts? Please continue reading.
2. Know thy enemy: Medically speaking, the moment you feel thirsty, you are already in the early stages of dehydration. Here’s what you should:
a. Do not ignore your thirst. It’s your body’s way of politely saying “I need water now”
b. If your thirst subsides before you rehydrate, that’s your body’s way of saying, “Never mind, I’ll find it myself.” – that means taking it from less vital systems (like your arms and legs) and moving them to more vital systems…without your permission! It’s called “compensated hypovolemic shock.”
3. If you think for one moment that planting your butt on a seat and twisting your wrist for 18 hours doesn’t require above average physical conditioning, you are absolutely 100% mistaken. The muscles you use are ones you don’t even know you’re using, making constant micro-adjustments to keep you on the road for so many hours straight. Ever feel sore a day or two after that first long ride of the season? Now you know why.
4. We tend to worry more about dehydration more when it’s 90 degrees out and super humid, rather than in cooler and dryer weather. Dehydration in cold weather is every bit as dangerous as it is in warm, if not more so because one of the ways your body uses to tell you you need to replenish your fluids (excessive sweating) is gone.
5. Learn as much as you can about your destination’s weather as you can and take it into account. When I did my unofficial Chicago-Omaha(ish)-Chicago1K, I never went more than 600′ above sea level. My trip to Redmond brought me through an area of the country many people referred to as the “high desert.”
So, the moral of the story is that dehydration can sneak up on you when you least expect it, but really it’s more than that. It’s about pushing the boundaries and knowing your limits. Had I thought just a little bit more about my destination and what I was getting myself into, I might not have had this problem at all, but then again if that were the case I never would have had an occasion to share my story.