Getting Hot

We’ve had a real break so far this summer. It wasn’t until last week that we had our first 100 degree (38C) days of the season. We had enough rain in June that the grass in my yard is uniformly green.

These conditions are markedly different from the summers we’ve had around here in recent years. The worst was the summer of 2011, when we hit 100 nearly every day for three months straight.

The problem is, the severe drought conditions that began that year have never abated. We’re still in extreme to exceptional drought conditions. But riding has been great.

We decided to add some miles to our usual B ride, and go south to 5-Mile Dam. That’s a county park on the north edge of San Marcos, about 28 miles south of Austin. We knew the heat would be a challenge, although we weren’t expecting another 100 degree day, but things looked promising as we started off at about 8 a.m. The sky was overcast. A slight breeze cooled things a bit.

I set an easy pace, figuring we’d need to save something for the trip back. But by the time we reached 5-Mile Dam park, things were heating up. I wanted to get a picture of the dam on the Blanco River. We rode up to the spot in the road where we could see the dam, and I was shocked.

While Austin had some decent rains the previous week, the Hill Country got nearly nothing. The Blanco was dry. I’ve never seen the dam in this situation before.

Five-Mile Dam. I'm used to seeing water here, if not pouring over the dam, at least flowing. Dry is an understatement. (Click pix to enlarge.)
Five-Mile Dam. I’m used to seeing water here, if not pouring over the dam, at least flowing. Dry is an understatement. (Click pix to enlarge.)
Looking back upstream. Water is ponding in some spots, and a few people are even trying for fish. Still quite picturesque.
Looking back upstream. Water is ponding in some spots, and a few people are even trying for fish. Still quite picturesque.

But the pavilion at the park was still serving up cold, cold water from its fountains, and we refilled our water bottles, grateful for the break.

I figured to take an easy pace on the return, since the day was warming rapidly. What I hadn’t considered was that the pavement radiated the heat back in our faces — and with a tailwind coming back, we were much warmer than we would normally be.

The heat took all the starch out of me. I trailed by an increasing margin, and only stop lights and passing trains were able to let me catch up. Our rest stops became more frequent — every five miles or so — always under the shade of a spreading tree. It was slow going.

Clearly, our mild summer has been great for biking, but not so great for conditioning. It looks like our mild weather is over for the time being, and our typical summertime heat is settling in for the long haul. I can see I’ve got some hot riding ahead.

It’s Too Hot to Bike

My teaching schedule during this second summer session has been to my liking. I teach two courses, at 8 and 10 a.m. Most of the time, I’m back in my car and on the road for home around noon. That leaves plenty of time to grab a quick lunch and get in some biking.

But lately, that plan has had to be scrapped.

sweaty-cyclist-cartoonWhen I got home today, the temperature was in the upper 90s (36C), and the heat index was already over 100. I had my lunch as usual, but instead of riding, I settled in for some reading, and later got a haircut. Yeah, I’m an exciting guy.

But the thermometer in the car read 101 on the way to the barber shop. Yech. Since moving to Central Texas in 2000, I’ve adjusted to the extreme conditions we have to put up with during the summer. Teeing off at 2 p.m. for a golf tournament in 102 degree heat was nonsense, but I did it. And since taking up biking, I’ve ridden many times in 100 degree weather.

It’s just that now, the prospect doesn’t much interest me any more. When I do ride in super-hot conditions, I spend a lot less time than I like on the bike. My rides are seldom more than an hour. That’s when I normally start to feel normal on the bike. The shorter rides are just unsatisfying.

I suppose I could use what I know will be a shorter ride to work on intervals — but that would just make me hotter, faster. I think I’ll be treating the remaining summer days the way my Northern friends treat their winters: As a time to do something other than ride. Hm, maybe I could set up a trainer indoors and ride that whenever the heat index passes 100. After all, I have no use for an indoor trainer in January — I’m too busy riding outside.

Meanwhile, the forecast for the next 10 days shows no chance of rain, and a high of at least 100 degrees every day.

Slick Streets – And Not From Rain

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I got home from work early Wednesday, and made ready to knock out some quick miles on the bike. It was a hot one — 98 degrees (37C) at 3:30. I dressed in my loosest, lightest weight jersey, some old lightweight bike shorts, and filled my water bottle with ice.

When I reached the Veloway, I was the only one on the three-mile track. Not a car in the parking lot. Not another bike to be seen.

I decided this was not a day to do fast laps. Just maintaining a steady cruising speed would be a challenge this day.

After three laps, I decided to head home. That would give me a 15-mile ride — just about one hour on the bike. Plenty for these conditions. I crossed the gravel parking lot and pointed the bike up LaCrosse.

About a mile from the Veloway, I turn off LaCrosse onto Escarpment to make the last stretch home. Would the stoplight be green or red today? It’s usually red. Today, it was red again, but the cross traffic had a left turn arrow, and that meant I could go ahead and make my right turn without interfering with any cars.

I turned — slid — and the next thing I knew, I was on my stomach in the intersection, with my bike clattering over me. WTF?

The drivers around me just kept going. I got to my feet quickly, and picked up my bike and carried it to the curb. I had some road rash on my right shin, and blood trickled down into my sock. I felt a tingle on my right hip where it had hit the pavement. The shorts were still in one piece.

A glance at the intersection showed me the problem. Some oil had thinned out under the bright, hot sun, and spread a small slick right in the intersection. I must have hit that slick just as I applied power to the pedals to turn the corner. Although I could see the slick clearly now, when I walked over to where I had been when I slid, it wasn’t obvious at all. The sun didn’t reflect off its surface from this angle.

My right shifter was bent inwards, and I couldn’t pull it back to its normal position on the handlebar. I would have to ride the last two miles home with my right hand at a funny angle. I could get out an Allen wrench and adjust it later.

And as I was preparing to get back on the bike, I noticed one other casualty. My bike computer, lying in the intersection. I would have to get it, but now cars were turning across my path. I had to wait. I did — and I watched as one car made its right turn, right over the computer. On my way home from work Friday, I’ll stop at Wal-Mart and get a replacement. It’s only $12.

Now that we’re in the hot part of summer, take care on the roads. Rain won’t be a problem, but oil slicks can be.