The dogs days of summer have hit the Washington, DC, area. The combination of the temperature and humidity makes the heat feel quite intense when you are in the open areas. I have still been riding my bike regularly. I start earlier in the day if I can, and ride through the hottest parts of the day. It is usually not too bad under the trees, although I have gotten the strangest pattern of tans on different parts of my body because of my exposure (enough said!).
But the ride last Friday was particularly brutal. I had decided to go further out on the W&OD trail in Virginia. The ride started off easily enough with my crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge into Rosslyn in Arlington early enough in the morning. I stopped on the bridge to watch the planes on their way into National Airport.
I rode the short distance on the Mt. Vernon trail along the river towards National Airport, passing the Arlington Memorial Bridge along the way.
I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures of aircraft coming in for landing at the airport.
After I passed National airport, I had to turn off on to the Four Mile Run trail and ride a few miles to the start of the W&OD. Things became more difficult once I got on the W&OD. There was minimal tree cover over the trail and the sun was beating directly down from on high. The asphalt that formed the surface of the trail was also increasing the intensity of the heat. As I rode out of Arlington, and past Falls Church, Dunn Loring, Vienna, Reston, and finally into Herndon, tackling the numerous ups and downs of the trail, and with the rhythm of the ride being constantly interrupted at the many busy road crossings, my energy levels dropped. Two bottles of water (one with and the other without dissolved electrolytes) were being consumed quickly. I managed to find a section of the trail with a little bit of shade just outside of Herndon, had my lunch to try to build up my energy level once again, and started on my way back home.
It was now getting to noon-time and the heat was really slowing me down. The number of other people I was seeing on the trail was dropping. Have you heard the song about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun? Since I am not an Englishman, I must be a creature of the other sort!
I determined that I could not do the ride all the way to the turnoff for the Custis Trail in one stretch without a break as I had originally planned. Back at Vienna I plonked my tired self on a bench outside the old station building where there was a little bit of shade and tried to recover. I was fortunate to also find a water fountain to replenish my drinking supply.
I got back on the bike and did make it to my next stop, which was the start of the Custis Trail, without incident. I parked myself under the shade of the trees in the park and re-energized myself with a fruit and more water. All of my appetite had vanished at that point because of the heat. I was gulping down the water. The mixture with the electrolytes was gone, but I was able to refill the water bottles.
The ride from that point onward was easier because of the shade of the trees that covered the trail. Once I got back on the towpath I stopped at Fletchers Cove to get a bottle of Gatorade, something that was not a part of my original plan. That bottle did not last too long either. I made it back successfully, and the recovery process that evening was actually very good, although I decided that I was going the spend the next day, which was also going to be super hot, indoors! I am hoping for better conditions during our ride from Pittsburgh.