This morning started with a short ride to a hosted breakfast at U Mass Memorial’s Worcester EMS. We then quickly hit the road for our longest scheduled day: over 100 miles.
The day started with open roads and rolling hills but our route profile promised some challenging climbs as we veered steadily away from the coastline.
Two hours in and the temperatures are rising as we enter Charlton. Once there we were greeted by members of the Charlton Fire Department. As usual, the hospitality we receive is outstanding. Between the heat, hills, and the drive of a long day and a tight schedule, I’m starting to have a little trouble staying cool. A damp towel and large fan complements of the Charlton crew help considerably.
This being my first real bicycle tour I was surprised how quickly the lack of my normal routine separated me from everyday events and dates. It wasn’t until we passed rows of American flags that I remembered we were approaching the Memorial Day weekend.
I was also surprised how soon this temporary nomadic lifestyle became normal to me. After the second or third day, it seem perfectly natural to wake up, ride my bike all day long, and lay my head in a new place every night.
Another well needed rest stop was provided by Holland Fire Rescue. I know these stops must have been at least a minor inconvenience for the squads, especially when we would get there behind schedule, but we were always greeted by cheerful people and friendly faces.
The road continues to stretch out before us and the temperature is still rising. It was very tempting to jump of the bike for a quick swim but the road keeps calling and we keep riding.
Crossing into Connecticut, we arrive for a belated lunch at the Hazardville Fire Department. It’s a welcome rest before this afternoon’s section which include a couple of significant climbs.
Departing Hazardville, we quickly return to the rhythm of the ride. Unfortunately, the day would soon end for me.
A few hours after we left and during a steep hill climb at mile 78, my skin starting feeling dry and tacky. I had been hydrating well all day but also sweating considerably and the combination of heat and exertion had finally caught up with me.
I foolishly pushed on, downing my remaining water in an attempt to restart my body’s cooling systems but it was too late.
Half way up the hill I was unable to continue and dismounted with the intention of walking to the top. As my feet left the pedals and hit the ground, I suddenly felt weak, dizzy, nauseous, and began to have chills. I had graduated from a decreasingly manageable case of heat exhaustion to heat stroke. My body was no longer able to cool itself.
I still had enough mental capacity to realize what was happening and quickly sat down under the shade of a tree. Fortunately, one of our “Wingmen” (volunteer support personnel) was following in a SAG vehicle and stopped to check on me.
Now one of the advantages to an EMS bike ride is that almost everyone involved is an emergency medical provider of one sort or another. Despite (or perhaps due to) the fact that I was now having difficulty answering questions among other things, it was quickly determined that I needed assistance and was moved to an ambulance that was acting as our sweep vehicle as well as a medical resource.
One of our riders who was a physician and medical director was able to start an IV which, along with water and cold packs, slowly brought me back to normal. Another rider had to receive the same treatment and many more exercised greater wisdom than I and stopped prior to this point. Still many others completed the course without any serious problems. I was later told that the temperature as read by one rider’s cycle computer was 104ºF.