Friday, July 29, 2011

Beating the Heat

Remember Snowmageddon? *sigh*

Last week the heat index managed to make it up to a staggering 121F.  Today it's at a "mere" 108F. Was I on my bike? You betcha.

How do you survive when it feels like your eyeballs might melt?

-Stay out of the heat if you can. Seriously. Whenever the heat index reaches 110, I opt to stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. Of course there are times when I have to ride my bike (commuting, work), but I keep it short, and I leave myself plenty of time to take frequent breaks. Heat exhaustion/stroke is no joke, and it can creep on you before you know it. I'm usually okay with anything below 110.

-Know where your cooling center/locations are. Whether its an "official" cooling center (like the Reeves Center at 14th & U), or that Starbucks with the amazing air-conditioning, keep in mind places that you can duck into if you get overwhelmed with the heat. Spray parks are good for this too (in my neighborhood there is a spray fountain at 15th & Girard, 14th & Girard and Tivoli Plaza). PLEASE DO NOT OPEN FIRE HYDRANTS! I haven't seen this yet this summer, so that's a good thing.

-Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion/stroke. If you experience nausea, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, get inside ASAP and get cool.  If you have stopped sweating, get chills, or feel confusion, call 911. Folks, please don't play around with these symptoms.

-Wear appropriate clothing. Light, moisture-wicking material is best. There's a reason why cyclists wear lycra. It's not just to show off their sponsors. Anything that will let air circulate on your skin is great. Keep a hand towel in your bag so you can wipe away sweat, and consider wearing a bandana of some kind under your helmet to keep the sweat from dripping in your eyes. Carrying an icepack isn't a bad idea either, although it probably won't last long.

-Hydration. I know everyone keeps saying "hydrate, hydrate & hydrate"--and that's always good advice. I like to keep a bottle of water on my bike, as well as a frozen bottle of homemade vegetable/fruit juice. (I make the juice the night before and stick in the freezer overnight. It thaws throughout the day.) You could also do that with your water bottle as well. And remember--SIP your water, don't gulp it. For longer rides or on days where I am sweating a ton, I will mix up a bottle of half gatorade/half water. Get those electrolytes in! (Coconut water is also good for that, and it doesn't have all that sugar that gatorade has).

If you have a smartphone, you can download the TapIt app that will show you businesses that will allow you to refill your water bottle for free.

However, be mindful of how much water you are drinking. Stay with me while I tell you this story:

Just over 7 years ago, I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was out of college and completely lost as to what my life should be. I thought I knew what I wanted to do (criminal policy wonk), but my experience with actually working in that environment quickly disabused me of that notion (NO MOAR CUBICLES EVERRRRR). I had a good circle of friends at that time, and it was through them that I met someone that would set me on the path I am now.

His name was Jim, and he was a brand new recruit with the Metropolitan Police Department. I didn't know him very well; he was more of a friend of a friend but we corresponded semi-regularly through group emails. Jim was a very good story-teller, and it was through his stories of adventures with MPD that I figured out what I wanted to do. Jim very kindly offered to walk me through the process of joining, and even offered a referral. About a year later, I too was a recruit with MPD--although by this time Jim had long since graduated and went on to become Rookie of the Year at the 1st District.

Did I mention he was amazing? Not only did he manage to make Rookie of the Year, but he was going through law school AT THE SAME TIME. If you know how insanely time-consuming being a rookie on the Metropolitan Police Department at that time was, you would realize what an impossible feat he was accomplishing.

One of the things that Jim really wanted was to become a Mountain Bike Patrol Officer.  At that time, being a Mountain Bike Patrol Officer was a coveted position. Demand was so high that training was very difficult to receive (the training class is only offered so often). Jim begged and begged and begged to get into that training, and finally got in the class.

The class is 40 hours (5 days, 8 hours each) of a variety of classroom & practical exercises including endurance & technical training. It was a training that was well-known for being very tough (the only thing tougher was ERT (aka SWAT) training, really). Not everyone that took the class was able to pass it. Jim really wanted to pass it.

It was a super hot August in 2005. I was nearing the end of my time as a recruit in the academy. Jim was starting his training class for Mountain Bike certification.

Jim posted this entry in his blog:

So today was my first of five days in mountain bike school.

It hurt.

It was hard.

It was full of rain, mud, scapes, crashes, bumps, brusies, sun burn, and pain.

And it was a damn lot of fun.

The first thing we did was the usual administrative nonsense (sign this, write that, read this, agree to A B and C etc.), then we learned how to work and do basic maintence on our Smith and Wesson bikes. Then we went riding. We tackled small hills (and at the begining, before I figured out how the gears work, I couldnt do even small hills), then long rides, then hills again. Hills suck, but the long rides were fun. I believe I drank over 7 liters of water all told... and I was still wanting for more towards the last half of the ride (Monica you thought the 3 liter camelback was to big!)

After my intial gear working issues I def kept pace with the group. They tell you when you start the class that its all mental... and it is. I refuse to fail, and so far I've been doing well. Will power and gel pads. I'm not sure when gel pads became the rage, but I found shorts with gel pads and gloves with gel pads, both of which def helped with my overall post-class comfort.

Tommorrow: Big hills.
(bold emphasis is mine)

The next day I was in the middle of learning Defensive Tactics when an instructor came into the gym and informed us that an officer had fallen ill during a training class and was in ICU. He had fallen into a coma. I didn't know at the time that it was Jim.

According to people in the class, Jim had started feeling ill half-way through a ride. Jim being Jim, he decided to tough it out. Figuring he was dehydrated, he kept drinking more water.

Another officer in the class had an accident and blew out his knee. An ambulance had been called to take him to the hospital. While the paramedics were dealing with him, Jim started to have convulsions. The paramedics acted quickly and got him to the hospital, but it was too late. Jim had already slipped into a coma. A few days later he was gone.

What happened? Jim had suffered from hyponatremia. You can read the specifics about it by following the link, but basically it is a condition where the sodium levels are too low in the blood stream causing the cells of the body (including the brain) to swell.  This can occur where a person drinks too much water and dilutes the sodium in their body. This is what happened to Jim.

Why am I telling you this story? Jim was a pretty tough guy. But once this condition set in, it got him. It can happen *so quickly*. Please, please don't play around with heat illness, guys. No one is going to think you are wimp for not doing that 25 mile bike ride on a day with a 120 heat index. You are not going to gain 15lbs because you didn't run 5K during your lunch hour. Be smart. Use common sense. If you start to feel ill, STOP.

If you want to hear how Jim's death had a positive aspect, read this story. Fate is sometimes kind. I take comfort in the fact that Jim died doing something he was passionate about; an opportunity very few of us will ever have.

On a side note: Jim's was the very first line-of-duty death where I knew the fallen officer personally. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last. His funeral was amazing & devastating at the same time. I know deep in my heart that he would have done amazing things for this city. He may be gone, but he's never forgotten.

If you must ride/run, do it in the early hours while it is still (relatively) cool. That's what I did last week. It was great.

Do you guys have any tips for beating the heat? Don't forget about your bikes---the heat gets to them too. Poor Betty's tassles were melting a bit after being left outside all day last week. Oops.

**** I managed to participate in BicycleSPACE's I Street Social Ride last Thursday and it was awesome! They do it every Thursday night, so join in!

****I have a blog on the 15th St. cycletrack brewing, but I haven't been able to finish it.

***** I'm trying to incorporate more early-morning rides. I've been mostly focusing on Hains Point, but I think I might try some trails as well.

***I visited some friends at their house on Kent Island last weekend. Their house is literally on the bike/ped trail that goes all around the island. How lucky is that?

***As always, twitter is usually the best place to get updates as to what I'm doing/where I'm riding. Follow me! girlonabikedc

***Also, keep in mind that the sentencing hearing has been moved to September!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy Fourth, er, Seventh?

I hope you had a fun & peaceful 4th of July. America, (heck) yeah, and all that. This will be a bulleted post because yet again I've procrastinated on posting and don't feel like fleshing out a month's worth of stuff :-)

-First and foremost I wanted to let those of you that are attending the sentencing hearing for my little incident that (as I suspected it would) it has been postponed to September 14th.  This is why I didn't want to post too much detail so far in advance, because I had a feeling the date/time might change. It might yet again, who knows. I'll keep you guys updated though. It's perfectly fine, and it doesn't mean anything is wrong, so don't panic ;-)

-I had a fantastic time riding with the Mt. Pleasant Cruiser Bike group back on the Solstice (June 21st) and also found out about another nifty bike group: The Chain Gang (warning: it looks their website hasn't been updated in awhile-they do have a pretty active presence on Facebook though). They also do monthly rides. Of course, I forgot my stupid camera again, so have no pictures to post. It was a fun ride at twilight, with a fantastic lightning show once it got dark. We looped down around the monuments and shouted "Woo!" and "Summer!" at random people & tourists who were probably slightly bewildered and bemused at the strange group of cyclists wearing bikinis & swimsuits (or just clothes, in my case. (Guys, we rode by my Boss (that's Boss with a capital B) at one point, and I would have died if I had worn a bikini...) Definitely check these guys out when you get the chance.

-The Bike House is having a fundraiser on July 16th from 8pm-1am at 1232 Euclid St. NW #2. $10 gets you in and they will have beer! Oh, and other bikey stuff. Please do consider at least making a donation even if you can't stay for the party. They do good stuff. They need to keep doing good stuff, and they need your help to do it.

-I missed the ANC meeting yesterday, but luckily the vote was tabled anyway. If you, like myself, find it highly annoying that the bike lane in the 1600-1700 blocks of Columbia Road just kinda disappears, consider attending the ANC 1C zoning meeting (I know, zzzzzz) to show that there is plenty of community support for these bike lanes. It's currently scheduled for August 1st at 7pm at the Kalorama Recreation Center. Personally, I think its important that these bike lanes are in place to connect to the lanes/sharrows in the rest of Adams Morgan. As it stands, riding in the 1700 block of Columbia is a stressful exercise in dodging loading trucks, double-parkers, jay-walking pedestrians & u-turning vehicles, and all I want to do is get my FroYo, yo.

-If you are a twitterer, you may have noticed some hysteria concern over DDOT's appearance of backtracking on the L & M cycletracks. (I don't think they have backtracked, so much as they've kinda stalled). I don't bike in that area very much, so I don't have much to say on a personal perspective other than I think more bike infrastructure is better than less. As usual, WABA has a much more knowledgeable and informed opinion than I do. Is this a sign of a "bike backlash"? I don't think so. As long as bike lanes aren't being *removed*, I will refrain from weeping openly. I would love to see more lanes installed (You're welcome, Chicago), but I also understand that there is another side to the pendulum and I think this is simply a calming down rather than the "full steam ahead" attitude we enjoyed with Mr. Klein (again, you're welcome Chicago).

-However, then there is this. (Linked to via another blog because it seems the League of American Bicyclists' website is down...) I don't know how safe streets (and sidewalks) are not in the federal interest, but I guess thats why I will never run for Congress (well, that. And also those embarrassing kegger photos from college). A link to contact your reps in Congress is embedded in that link. Please contact them.

As you may have noticed, its a little hot outside. By a little hot, I mean it's effing blazing with 10,000%  humidity. How do you guys stay cool in the heat?

-I take frequent breaks in air-conditioned establishments when needed.
-I take advantage of the various spray-fountains/parks around the neighborhood
-I stay hydrated. If you have a smartphone, you can download the TapIt app to locate businesses that are willing to refill your water bottle. Very handy.
-Baby wipes.
-A bandana or headband to keep sweat from dripping in my eyes :-(
-It's a scientific fact that FroYo is zero calories when the heat index reaches 100*.
-I think about Alaska and the North Pole a alot.