Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sweat the small stuff

I think it's important for girls to be confident. Believe in yourself and... everybody's hot.
Paris Hilton 

A gorgeous morning along the Sacramento River. The temperature outside feels like mid 70's. Only one problem: it's 5:30am.

Under normal circumstances no one in their right mind would go for a ride today. But it's the San Francisco Randonneurs DART event, a team ride from Sacramento to Berkeley (200K). Each team has a different route but all routes lead to T-Rex Barbeque in Berkeley. They're expecting us for dinner. We said we'd be there.

We have our route, conditioning and equipment, and four experienced riders.

In other words, everything in our favor except weather. Today in Sacramento it's supposed to reach 108 degrees. We signed up for one kind of ride and that got switched out for something completely different.

A trainer at my gym asked pointedly "is it safe to be riding out there in 110-degree heat?" That was yesterday.

Fair question. As long as you know what you're doing, it can be safe. Enjoyable, probably not. But safe, yeah. There are things you can do to survive heat like this. I've got them all lined up.

After the accident I started having a lot of random trouble with electrolytes. My feet would swell up and not just on hot days. Muscles would cramp. This year it seems to be better.

The body works nonstop on balancing your Na, K, Mg. When it's working well you don't feel a thing. When it's not working well, there are little tiny signs then suddenly you can't go on. It seems to be a crap shoot. No margin for error.

So what's a committed randonneur to do? For the core temperature, a Camelbak. The sleeve spent last night in Deb's freezer and became a giant ice cube! During the ride it will melt, for ice-cold water at key moments.

For front-loading electrolytes, the beverage of choice is Spicy Hot V-8. How do you know if you need to front-load? In a mini-mart at 8am, if the bottle looks appealing you should probably indulge. 975 Mg potassium, 720 Mg sodium. The stuff works like an IV. Pills can do the job, but slower. They're in my back pocket too.

After 30 miles on the flats, still feeling good. Ten miles up the road are 40 miles of hills and heat. Everyone is thinking about that. After the hills we point the bikes toward the bay. Near the Delta it should be cooler. How much cooler? Well the high in Berkeley today is 69 degrees. That's right, 69. We're riding towards cool.

Now if we can just get there...

When it's damn hot you can still feel a hot spot, a local place where it's even hotter. There's one of those near Lake Solano, still in the flats. Everyone feels it. The Waterford is radiating heat. We stop at the county park and everyone puts their head under the hose. This is not the time to focus on average speed or other vanities! Slightly refreshed, up we go toward Monticello Dam and the hill known as Cardiac.

It's almost the solstice and the sun is high over the hills. Maybe hours ago the road was in the shade but it's not now. Some of the pitches feel OK while others are roasting. What happens is the sides of the hills facing south act as reflectors, sending heat back toward the road. There's a tailwind, too, which normally would be welcome. It means we climb faster but without a cooling breeze.

At Moskowite services consist of a water spigot in front of the community church. The store has been closed for over 2 years; we use the building for shade. Everyone fills bottles, then dunks their head again. Peg is quiet; she's the one with the thermometer. She asks where's the next stop, the next store? 20 miles and one more climb: Wildcat Grade. As it turns out the hill is not too steep and mostly shaded by oaks. Halle-freaking-lujia!

There's the turn to Wooden Valley, the one we've been waiting for. South toward the Delta, downhill and in theory, cooler. Deb thinks it will be a blast furnace and she is right on.

Time to leverage all we've got and hammer toward Rockville. Fast we go into a giant hair dryer on High. Sometimes you don't want to but you do it anyway.

We're in search of something locals call the Delta Breeze. And lo, a mile outside Rockville the air has a little whiff of cool. Hopefully there will be more to come!

In the Valley Cafe the waitress sets down glasses of ice water and says "you can just feel the heat coming off you guys!" Don't know what she's talking about... According to Peg it was 112 degrees back there.

Deb has a cold beer, Peg has a cold turkey sandwich, Kitty has breakfast, I have a salad with chicken. The ordering goes something like this: Do you have a walk-in freezer here? Could you put that Cold Turkey Sandwich in the freezer for a few minutes? How much ICE is in the Iced Tea?

While the food is disappearing another DART team rolls into town. Chaos ensues... Deb and Kitty go meet and greet. Meanwhile I introduce myself to a border collie named Miss Pearl, then  hit Tower Market along with Peg for ice and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

For reasons I do not fully understand Deb takes this opportunity to paint Ken's toes blue!

Full and happy, this is pretty much what Rockville has to offer. The team regroups and hits the road.

We are close to the Delta but not there yet. No big hills but still some toasty rollers. Another stop for shade. Another dunk in the sprinklers. More electrolytes.

Then, on the Benicia Bridge, over a large body of
water with a strong breeze. Cool! Mile 90.

So, no need to break out the ice socks. We can save that last trick for another day.

By some miracle at the Subway in Martinez everyone is still cracking jokes. Kitty and I are sharing a sandwich. While it's being made Kitty has to keep saying "with extra salt. With more salt. More salt, please..." The sandwich maker doesn't believe us.

You know what? That sandwich tastes completely normal. Normal and delicious.

At the top of the last climb in Tilden Park, it's freezing and foggy and blowing.

We're totally OK with that...


  1. For fans of true crime, here's a photo of what Moscowite Corners looked like during the heyday of the automobile:
    It's on this site because the Zodiac killer attacked a couple near here:
    (I'm not making this up)

  2. AND more photos here!

  3. That was not just "another Dart team." That was Wild Bill's Brew Crew! Which quickly became Wild Bill's Blue Toenails Crew.

    1. True! You guys are the best! (well, second-best)