Ah, 97 degrees in the shade, just the perfect conditions for a nice ride on the 4th of July. Karen was game, so out we went down the Gateway Trail toward St. Paul. Hmmmm, I wonder why there is only one other car in a parking lot near the trail that is usually full? Everyone else at 4th of July parties? No, you fool Tom, everyone else has better sense than to ride when its so hot!
In truth, it was a great ride out. I worked on relaxing my shoulders and keeping all the channels of input firing. Vision, touch and balance, sound...I was trying to relax and just let my body respond quickly to all the stimulus. There are three particular hills on that section of the horse trail that give me trouble. One is moderate grade with a long grassy runout with hidden hills and holes (when you are celebrating beating the hill the runout puts you on your nose), one long incline that alternates grass and single track and a third that has a challenging grade and loose sand under the wheel. I got two of three, and almost made the third, so the relaxation wasn't hurting my success any.
While the ride out was great, the ride back was another story. Did I say it was very hot and sunny? The trail had about 50% shade so there was some relief, but yes, it was hot. I carried a Camelback and made sure to take regular sips, but I was starting to feel a bit tired. At the halfway point (where we took the picture already showing me fairly red in the face) we stopped for a break and I found myself not really wanting to get going again. I decided to take the paved trail to conserve energy, but still only made it about half way back before thinking that my balance was starting to wane. I dismounted and walked the remainder of the trail, not without some struggling. I was fortunate to have Karen along for support.
It turns out that I was suffering from symptoms of heat exhaustion. No only was I physically exhausted, my vision was playing tricks on me as if my brain couldn't process the spots of very bright sunlight. Once home (Karen drove, obviously) I downed sports drinks, applied an ice pack and just sat down in the air conditioning and cooled off. After a shower and a nap I'm feeling way better.
So that was dumb. The lessons learned today were (1) respect the heat when making choices about when and where to ride and (2) keep riding with a partner who can help when things go wrong.