Our bodies are pretty amazing. The way seemingly random neural connections form behaviors and memories, how our eyes sense and process electromagnetic radiation, how our immune system identifies and attacks intruders… it really is astounding how we function. It’s also kinda crazy how we temperature regulate. Our bodies like a very specific temperature range, around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit give or take a degree if taken orally, and work constantly to keep things in that range. There are the obvious things—when we get hot we sweat, when we get cold we shiver—but then there are the not so obvious, like how our bodies reduce or increase blood flow to certain areas to help radiate heat, or keep important areas warm. It’s all for good reason too, when our body temperatures begin to get out of the comfort range, things start going downhill fast, and can even be fatal. It goes without saying that it’s pretty important to be mindful of exposing ourselves to extreme temperatures.
I personally have experienced what I believe to be hyperthermia once before, during a training ride around the Great Western Loop on a particularly hot day. I was climbing the first hill and was directly exposed to the sun, so it was not only crazy hot—104 degrees—but there was no wind to help keep me cool, and the radiant heat from the sun was just cooking my skin. To make matters worse, the heat had turned the electrolyte mix in my water bottles into something that resembled hot tea, so I had nothing to help cool me down. Not only was I feeling hotter than the fires of Hades, I was starting to feel sick to my stomach, and a headache was quickly making its presence known, both signs of impending heat related doom. Luckily, mercifully, we were supported, so about halfway up the hill a support vehicle was stopped where I was able to take a break, cool down, and refill my water bottles with cold water. It was a scary situation, but I’m happy to say I was able to finish the ride in some extremely brutal conditions.
While I’ve overheated, I had never experienced hypothermia… well, until Saturday, April 2nd, 2016.