A Little Heat Training

A biking buddy I haven’t ridden with for awhile contacted me the other day. He’s been off the bike lately, and wants to get back into it. He suggested we do a few Veloway laps after work. While I knew it would be a hot ride, I readily agreed.

John juggles his young sons, his 29-inch mountain bike and his road bike with his other obligations. He’s ridden rides of decent length before, and last year even did a guest post here about riding the Atlas 4000 kickoff ride under hot conditions.

But he says he’s slowed down quite a bit, and just wanted to turn the cranks in the heat to build up some tolerance for the temperatures he’ll face when he tackles organized rides again next month.

I had my concerns driving home this afternoon. The forecast had called for highs in the 100s most days of this week, and the car thermometer showed 107 at around 3 p.m. After getting my stuff together and setting off to meet John at our agreed-upon ride time of 4:30, I saw that it had dipped — to 106 (41C). One of the official weather stations in Austin recorded a record 109 today. My wife was none too pleased that I was heading out in such conditions.

She forgets, though, that just last weekend she played golf in temperatures almost as high, and had a great round. I slathered on the sunscreen, put lots of ice in the water bottle, and headed out.

The Veloway wasn’t completely deserted, but I saw only a few other bikers rounding the track. While I waited for John, I made sure the bike was parked in the shade, so it wouldn’t be a hot seat when I climbed back on for our laps.

Any shade is good shade.

We set off at an easy pace. John said he’d been averaging about 12 mph lately, and wanted to see if keeping up with me posed any special problems. He monitored his heart rate as we rode, and noted with satisfaction that it was at a reasonable level.

The Veloway is a 3.1-mile circuit, and John said three laps would be plenty for him. Coupled with my ride from home and back again, I would clock about 15 miles. In this weather, I figured that was just right.

The heat wasn’t too bad. Really. Some breeze would have been nice, though. Since we weren’t doing intervals or anything stupid like that, I thought the ride was just the kind of easy day I could always use. I noticed that John was pushing a bit to keep even with me, and once, when I kicked it into high gear, he lagged behind for about half a lap.

John catches and passes me.

After three laps, we pulled into the canopy that offers some shade at the head of the track.  Sweat glistened off both of us, but otherwise, we were fine. That is, until John suggested it was time to head to the parking lot so he could get his bike back on the car rack. I set off to see if any water was left in the coolers at the parking lot entrance (nope), and when I got there, I looked back to see John still under the canopy, staring straight ahead.

“Take the picture already, so I can go refill my water bottle!” The Noob with the borrowed bike.

My average speed for the trip, including the run between the house and the track, was 14.7 mph, just a tad slower than I usually do. If John was adding 2 mph to his typical speeds, and on a day like today, that could really stress him. He’ll be fine if he keeps up his riding this summer, but today was a good reminder to take it easy in extreme conditions. I wonder how some other acquaintances of mine did. They planned a 60-miler late this afternoon!


  1. sam says

    Good timing for this post! I am planning to be in south Texas in a few weeks, and will probably be in Austin for a few days, and was debating renting a bicycle and ride a bit. But I am concerned about the heat! It hit 90+ degrees in NYC this past week, and that was tough!

    Btw, any advice where in Austin I might access a road bike (reasonably)?

    • says

      Most of the big bike stores — Mellow Johnny’s and Bicycle Sports Shop — rent road bikes. Not familiar with their charges. You might be able to check their web sites.
      Bring plenty of water when you ride, and don’t push it.

  2. johnt says

    I hung around for about 20 minutes and was surprised to see 6 or 7 riders ride up to get in their laps. Amazing…

  3. says

    There are too many to choose from. Check with the bike store you rent from. Depending upon whether you want to ride in town or in the country, they should be able to make lots of recommendations, and maybe even supply maps.

  4. aaronwest says

    For me acclimation is a myth. I’ve found that the heat is tough no matter how much I’ve been riding in it. But riding in general helps. Hopefully john will stay in the saddle and keep improving.

  5. says

    Personally, I thrive in the heat, and while that may seem counterintuitive for someone with Nordic traits, it’s not until the “dog days” of summer that I feel I’m “in the zone.” Just this May, fellow CCR’er Hugh Stouffer was giving me flak because I was wearing arm warmers although the temperature was hovering around the mid-Seventies mark. I’d like to ride Thursday after work at the Veloway around 5:30pm if anyone else is interested. Easy pace, of course.

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