We were all flirting with heat exhaustion. At the 50 mile mark I had made the turn that led to the loop for the 100 mile ride instead of the "safe" 70 mile route that almost everyone else chose. Now my odometer said 85 miles and I estimated I had only 2" of water in my last bottle. The heat index was at least 105, and the two young men who had recently passed me pulled over to sit in the shade of a tree. I pulled up and asked them if they had any idea where the SAG stop was at. They said that they too thought we should have seen it by now. I rode on, hoping it wasn't too much farther. Another 1/2 mile and I saw it. The workers yelled out "thirteen" as I pulled in. That was the number of people still left behind me on the road.
I knew I had to spend some time and cool down, but I also knew time was running out. We had to be done by 4 pm. Of the handful of riders at the SAG, four of us were going for our century ride. And we'd picked one of the hottest days of the year to make the attempt. The next SAG was 10 miles, and it was the lunch stop. After that we had 8 miles to the finish. Several of us quietly confided that we'd been having chills out on the road: a warning that heat exhaustion was nipping at our heels. But so far we had kept it at bay by downing more water and sports drinks.
As I got ready to head out, Joe rode in and announce he was done for. A few miles down the rode, Vince pulled over and signaled a SAG wagon that he needed to be hauled in. I pushed on. The slight breeze was blowing about as fast as my uphill speed. The result was that when I expended the most energy I had absolutely no breeze. The hills and the heat took its toll. I made it to the final SAG. My odometer said 94 miles, but I new I was done. I knew I didn't have another 8 miles in me, even after a full meal. I was satisfied with my ride even though I didn't get a full century. My average speed was 14.5 overall--a record for me.
Today, the day after, I've been thinking about why I made the turn to go for the century even though I knew the risks and the toll the heat would take. I believe there is something in each of us that wants to push the envelope and see if we've got what it takes to be more and do better we ever have before. This drive leads some people to embrace extreme sports and other adrenaline-inducing activities. It breeds entrepreneurs and adventurers and probably some missionaries. Most people find less extreme ways to dare themselves, but I think we all have the need to occasionally get out on the road and see whether we've got what it takes to go where few others choose to go. Even though I didn't make my first century I'm content to have ridden to the edge of my physical limits. I'll be getting in shape for the next time.