3.9 degrees

Today was a scorching hot 38°C with relentless sun and a stiff wind from the West. I’d set off in the morning on a 115km bike ride taking in a 2000m mountain pass but not anticipating anything like this temperature or the accompanying dehydration. Despite drinking about two litres of water I still lost 2.5kg by the end.

Recent modifications to the bike made the cycling even harder because of the time taken for the muscles to adapt to a different mechanical action. The pedal crank arms had been reduced by half a centimetre and the saddle lowered by two centimetres. Less leverage on the cranks necessitates using a lower gear but also facilitates higher cadence due to the circle being shorter. Getting this geometry right for your leg length just makes you more efficient overall once you are used to it. I’m now on 165mm cranks instead of the industry standard 170/175mm.

The outcome was that despite an enjoyable climb and high heart rate for two and a half hours the legs died from Beaufort onwards about half way through the ride. Deep pain in the thighs just means the muscles are not used to it and that cramps are imminent – so you need to back off a bit and nurse things along carefully. I had one stop at about 90k just to refill the two water bottles and by then the wind was no longer in my face but the legs were mush. The heat was really strong and uncomfortable contributing to a headache as well as muscle pain so arriving home was a great relief. After drinking and recovering a bit Christiane offered to take me to the river above Bourg (from the Cormet de Roselend) to swim in the cold water and she would drive because I absolutely could not concentrate well enough to drive.

The river in contrast to the air is very low in temperature at around 3.9°C with the water flowing from glaciers. It seriously shocks the system to go into it let alone to try to swim in it and I didn’t think in that state I would even have to fortitude to even get into the water.

Prior to the cold water swimming I felt totally trashed by the cycling. Immediately after – with only a few minutes actually in the water – the headache was completely gone and normal energy levels returned and it stayed that way both for the rest of the evening and the next day (today – as of writing).

Usually the day after a hard workout my HRV (Heart Rate Variability) is low and related stress levels read very high because the body cannot distinguish between physical and emotional stress. This morning – as well as feeling good the HRV was high and stress levels very low. The long hard workout tends to suppress the sympathetic autonomic nervous system and leave you feeling very tired and flattened – this ramping down HRV significantly. (High HRV is healthy – a very steady linear heart rate means that it is unresponsive). It appears that the significant full bodied cold exposure practically reset the sympathetic autonomic nervous system on the spot by boosting adrenaline and probably a bunch of other hormones or nerve actions. The result was both unexpected and amazing. Not only was my head clear for driving but energy levels were immediately normal once again. Sleeping at night was only very lightly disturbed but otherwise normal whereas in such situations it would normally be difficult to settle down and sleep.


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