After several days of 90+ degrees, the end of the week called for much cooler temperatures. I've never been good at physical performance in heat. I have a friend who thrives in it: he ONLY exercises at peak heat and loves to sweat. Like, he'll go out at 3pm for a long-run in the dead of summer. I have an uncle who lives (by choice) in Phoenix, Arizona where it's currently 115-degrees. He floods his yard to keep it alive, has a pool for his dogs, and only really goes outdoors before sunrise and after sunset. I don't get it. I mean, I love summer: I love the long days and the ability to be outside so much, but I think my ideal temperature is 67. In extreme heat (especially combined with any humidity) I generally suck at running or anything else. I get dizzy and dehydrated even if I've been hydrating better than usual. It takes me a long time to recover. On Thursday for instance, my "tempo run" which was supposed to be "on" for 10 minutes, "off" for 10 minutes, times three...totally fell apart. And it wasn't even THAT hot out yet.
But yesterday, Friday, everything shifted. I was scheduled for a 45-mile ride, and had been wanting to try a big (for me) climb. I was mostly stoked that I wouldn't be fretting about sweating to death. What I didn't think about, was the opposite.
My ride took me from around 5K feet (in Boulder) to almost 10K feet (Ward, CO). As I started the ride, it was dark but only misting a bit. I had a feeling it would burn off, but I wore a light jacket, just to be "safe." As I rode, conditions got more and more foggy. I had the option to bow out of the biggest part of the climb, but I was pretty set on it. I made the turn. When I was 3 or 4 miles from the summit, I couldn't see farther than 15-meters in front of my bike. No one else was on the road. I saw warning signs for bears. I said (out loud) "Not today, bears."
When I reached the summit--marked by an epic old general store where I bought Gummy bears and Chapstick--a kid on the street said, "Well that was ballsy of you!" I felt good about it. I had climbed over 4,500 feet in 20 miles, and despite the conditions, it was a hell of an adventure. Things had only just begun, though. It was 35-degrees and I was about to go downhill.
As soon as I turned around for the 20-mile decent, I realized I was going to freeze. My hands instantly went numb. Without the light jacket I had brought, I may have died. Or, at least had to ask a stranger to drive me back to town. No cell service. I stopped once to warm up, but I think that made things worse. I started feeling a little delirious--like the first time I hiked above 14K feet. I decided I just had to get all the way down and then worry about it.
By the time I was back in Boulder, I was mostly fine. I shivered and chattered the entire way down--to the point that I thought I might lose control of my bike. But I made it. After a long, hot shower at the rec center, I was able to laugh at my mistake. Plan ahead, folks! One day it will be 95-degrees, and the next--depending on altitude--it could be 35. I feel like I've learned this one before; but, lesson re-learned!