Sunday, June 22, 2008

Riding my bike to the beach…

I get these ideas in my head. And I really should let them stop at ideas.

For instance, I needed to see how long it would take me to ride my bike to work. I’d like to commute a couple of days each week by bike. You know, save gas, burn calories, make the world a better place, etc. So, that was the plan for yesterday. But then, I got this idea: Since it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to actually go to work, I could keep going from there and ride all the way to the beach. Yeah, the beach. Now there’s a swell idea.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stop at the idea phase.

I woke up at 5:15am… took my bike out at 6:10am, rode it on down to the Santa Ana River Trail, watched my new cyclocomputer (fancy name for speedometer, odometer, clock, etc.) inform me that I was jugging along at a nice 15-20 miles/hour, listened to my iPod and… before I knew it, I’d made it to work. One hour. That’s how long the commute was. Not bad at all, considering that in my car it takes about half an hour. Great. So, things looked good for commuting by bike.

And, yet, I still had to keep going. I had to keep riding to get to the beach. On, I went – and, wouldn’t you know it, half an hour later I was standing on the shores of the mighty Pacific. I even took a picture to show I was there. Beautiful. Majestic.

… and hot. It was getting warmer all the time. Even then, shortly after 7:30am, the day was turning into a scorcher.

The joke was on me, of course. Turned out that yesterday was one of the hottest days we’d had in quite some time. 101˚ or so. Perfect bike riding weather. Mind you, I didn’t know that then. Here’s what I did know. I’d forgotten to pack my second bottle of water. I’d forgotten my sunscreen. I’d forgotten that I’d have to ride all the way back home.

Ugh. For such a smart guy, I can be something of an idiot sometimes.

So, I turned around and headed back. I hadn’t had breakfast, yet, so I pulled up to a Carl’s and ordered a BBQ’ed chicken sandwich (for protein, to keep my strength through the long ride back) and a Cap’n Crunch shake (for… cause I’m 9). I don’t often do the fast food thing so this was my little treat to myself. And even as I ate, I could feel the hot sun beating down.

It was already taking longer to get back then it took to get there, and I’d only made it as far as MacArthur. Some miles later, my butt started getting sore. I’m usually fairly good at distributing my weight between my hands and my butt, but as I grew more tired that went right out the window. My speed dropped to 10-15 miles/hour. I shifted into an easier gear.

There were, surprisingly, a lot of people out on the trail. Teams of bikers, the guys who truck along far faster than I can go, numbered well over two dozen. Single riders and small groups were too many to count. More and more, they passed me, and my speed kept dropping.

As I neared Anaheim Stadium, I came to a park along the trail. By this time, it was past 9am and the heat was incredible. Every bit of shade was occupied by a biker and his vehicle, panting and exhausted. I pulled my bike up to the water fountain and drank greedily of the last drops in my bottle. Then, I filled it up… with nice, warm water… ick. I was sore all over and could feel myself crashing. I’d sweat so much my entire shirt was darkened by it. But I knew I couldn’t stop – there was no shade and I wouldn’t let myself call anyone for help. I got back on my bike, focused on moving my feet, and kept going.

My speed barely hovered at 10mph and yet, as I neared my street, I came on a couple people going even slower. The sun was melting us on the hot tar. But I was soon off the trail and back on familiar streets. I pulled up to my house and checked my odometer.

I’d gone 37 miles. More than twice as long as my last ride. It was the longest bike ride of my life.

Today, my body’s feeling better while my sinuses and throat feel baked from breathing the hot, dry air. And I have a tan that starts at the end of my short shirtsleeve and ends at the top of my biking glove. And my sunglasses made my face look slightly like a raccoon.

I gotta try that again sometime!

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