Monday, May 28, 2012

Still Learning

I feel relatively good today for having had such a rough night, but I'm going to stay in this refuge until I've more completely recovered. You'd think I'd have learned more about my limitations by now, but that other important lesson about trusting life to give me what I need is too well logged. It's just that sometimes what I need is another lesson about my human frailty. In short, a 56-year-old shouldn't try to do 80 miles in southern heat and humidity on the first day of a long ride.

Better planning could have prevented my bonk. I could have been traveling lighter, but I packed with an eye to getting everything home from Georgia, rather than only carrying exactly what I need.There are certain things you always need on a bike ride. Sunscreen, Desatin, Aloe Vera, Arnica (used a lot of that on my crampy legs last night. But the most important thing I forgot was salty tang. The best way I've found to replace the elements we sweat out is to mix a couple teaspoons of Morton's Lite Salt into powdered drink mix with plenty of vitamin C. For every three bottles of pure water I drink, I'll have one of salty tang. The sugars feed my muscles, while vitamin C and electrolytes replace sweat, especially the all important Potassium, the key to preventing cramps.

So I'm happy to report that the first forty miles of the Silver Comet Trail from Atlanta to Rockmart are a sweet way to spend a Georgia morning. There's a Subway sandwich shop just off trail at about 20 miles. They still charge less for a veggie sandwich if you add an egg. I got a footlong, ate half there and the other half just before Rockmart. I probably should have stayed away from the coffee and drunk more water.

The trail between Rockmart and Dallas is not rails-to-trails. It's near the railroad tracks, crossing frequently at odd angles. I saw one cyclist go down (ALWAYS SQUARE OFF) but he wasn't hurt. The trail is not railroad grade. In fact there's one short surprise hill that is at best 18% grade. Several of the road crossings are very poorly designed. I do not understand why trails install stop signs for bikes, rather than using yield signs and insuring good visibility.

This fifteen mile segment of the Silver Comet doesn't have greenbelt on both sides like the rest of the trail. In fact, a big chunk of it is right alongside a busy highway, which also appears better graded than the trail. The trail surface is concrete, rather than smooth asphalt, the rest of the way to the border. At least Dallas to the border is rails-to-trails again.

Crossing into Alabama was delightful. Although the asphalt trail is narrow, there's shady mowed grass on both sides. I was not feeling great, but I could push through by stretching and shaking out cramps. I kept telling myself that if I made my eighty miles, I'd miraculously find a bath and bed. It was true, but I could have imagined a smoother transition.

About a mile before Piedmont, I felt whoosy. I parked the bike, lay on the grass, and lost my lunch. Note to self - take time to chew more thoroughly. I cleaned up, cooled down, drank a lot of water, and an Emergence- C. After a brief rest, I decided to roll into town, but I had to stop a couple times for my head to clear. I was spinning in a low gear to avoid cramping.

Looking about town, wondering where I might find a motel, I pulled into the shade and rested my head on my handlebars. I remember a dreamlike sensation of gratitude that I was wearing my helmet. As I lay there, my legs still straddling my bike, I knew my blood sugar had  bottomed. I slowly dug the honey packets out of my bag and sucked some energy into my system.

Three guys stopped to check on me. One went and got me a Poweraid and I got my head back only to experience the worst series of leg cramps I've ever been through. One of the guys got his pick-up and carried my bike - remarking at the weight - and I to the motel. My cramping gut blew out all the sugar water, but lying in the tub and slathering on arnica helped my legs.

I knew I had to get potassium. The motel attendant had a container of Morton's Lite Salt that had been left in a room. I sprinkled some into a glass of Sunny D and began feeling better, while she poured a couple teaspoonfuls into bag and pointed me to a store where I could get Tang. Next to the store is a Mexican restaurant where the nursing student waiting tables concurred with my therapy of plain rice and beans.

The spicy beans didn't settle well. Pepto Bismol only briefly relieved the acid in my esophogas. After hours of hiccuping (no, Yaney, holding my breath didn't work), they came back up violently. Hopefully I got some potassium out before they blew. Anyway, I slept like a baby till my alarm woke me before dawn. This morning's bananas and cashews seem to be settling better. And now I've got salty tang.

So, as much as I've looked forward to riding the Katy Trail, the Cowboy Trail, and the George Mickelson Trail, I think I'll grab AMTRAK in Memphis. After cheating across some of the more hostile hot country, I may still ride to Corvallis from Whitefish. Hopefully, I can convince some of my family to join me.