On days like this the dew is heavy on the grass when I walk out to pick up the Post at the end of the driveway. The rising sun shines through a watery haze evaporating from last night’s thunderstorm; the air is a golden glow. Though the air is in the mid-60°s, two of the three summer H words are in place: Hazy and Humid. Now all that we need to do is wait several hours for Hot to arrive. The first act of the sun is benign. it dries off the streets, grass, roofs, leaves, and other damp surfaces, and as the air warms its capacity to hold water increases and the relative humidity (percent of maximum water content in the air) lowers perceptibly. This is the time to pump up the tires, fill the hydration pack with water and ice cubes, select the right sunglasses, and take off. Bet the heat, beat the perspiration.
Sweat runs in my family. It runs off the end of my nose as it ran off the end of my father’s nose. Dad had a sun hat that was white and had a visor all around it. The front section of that visor was transparent green plastic, rather like an old-time accountant’s eyeshade. I remember how quickly he’d be dripping when he was working outdoors in the south-facing backyard at Venner Road, painting the house, mowing the lawn, working the Victory Garden. I never thought much about it myself, but as I grew older and especially as I succumbed to male pattern baldness in my 20s, I recognized that perspiration was apt to roll off my brow in rivulets too.
Today is not hot by the standards of a Washington D.C. summer. When I rode this morning it was about 79°, and now it’s “approximately” (as they say) 82.2° according to the indoor/outdoor thermometer. But I knew what to expect on my morning ride. I took a shorter 19.6 mile route today, but a hilly one (about 1070 vertical feet of ascending), and climbing hills demands intense energy output. Before I had gone 8 or 9 miles my sweatband was soaked and ineffective, my nose and chin were dripping, my sunglasses were covered with salty liquid, and I was being very careful to keep my fluids topped off by using my water pack. I stopped to rest at about the 12 mile mark, and needed to mop off my head, face, neck, and arms, as well as clean my sunglasses. I always carry a big bandana to use for this mopping up.
Part of the rest-stop routine is wringing out my sweatband, to buy a little more absorbance on the way home. But over the last several miles the front of my helmet was dripping like a faucet, and so was my nose. Soaking wet on returning, my clothes had kept me cool on the way. On days like this I have to keep a towel handy for about a half hour after I get back, until my body is convinced my core temperature is OK. I also have to make sure all the lost liquid is replaced.
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.