heat exhaustion again

I am extremely light skinned and am incredibly susceptible to heat exhaustion. I had it in 2012 (understandably, but not a severe case). 2013 was pretty okay and 2014 was better..almost perfect. Bailed out last year in Cedar Falls with a temperature that gradually rose to 103 after a few hours after arriving home.The weather was much cooler last year and I was religious about drinking water (with occasional Gatorades mixed in). I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I have tried an abundance of water, Gatorade and pickles (but admit that I couldn’t find a darn pickle last year, though). I don’t drink alcohol or soda.

Being my own worst enemy…IF I ride this year, I am going to pack cold packs and a thermometer (I know, pathetic). If anyone has had a similar experience, please share it. I am no stranger to long distances. The trails here are somewhat shady and I have zero problem on those. There is a lot of sun exposure on the Ankeny to Woodward trail and had a problem there on a mild, windy day. I talked to a doctor about it. He suggested a cool towel, but I think that there has got to be more to it.

21 Replies

jeffreydennis, January 27, 2016 at 8:54 am

I have been down the is road before myself. First, once you you have suffered actual heat exhaustion you will be more susceptible in the future, or so I’ve been told.

if it looks like it will be an ugly day I;
1. take a cooling neck wrap. One of those bandanna things with a gel in it.
2. You need more than water and “a little Gatorade”, I do not use Gatorade, I use Hammer Endurolite capsules. just water ain’t gonna cut it.
3. I might use the sun skins, Pearl Izumi for me. SPF 50 and I will cool them down.
4. My carry one bottle to drink and another to wear, soaking the sun skins and a Halo head wrap.
5. If you feel it coming on, stop!!! find shade and cool off. Neck, arms, legs, ice on my wrists if I can get it.
6. I wear bibs and can pack a plastic baggie with ice on my upper back.

just my $.02. I’m not a doctor but these are things I have done.


Niles, January 27, 2016 at 8:59 am

one wild guess. what is your weight?

Just think with my high school physiology/physics knowledge. Heat exhaustion is because your body surface can’t dispel heat quick enough which might be due to thick layer of fat or low surface/weight ratio. Hope you have worn wicked quick-dry clothing.


RoyBoy, January 27, 2016 at 2:09 pm

My experience is to ride early and put in as many miles as I could until 10:00-11:00 when it started getting really hot. Then I would spend a few hours in the shade in one of the pass through towns until it started cooling off. It’s easier to stay cool in a town with entertainment and readily available refreshments.
Train when it is hot so your body learns how to sweat.
Refrain from alcohol and stay hydrated.


zabo, January 27, 2016 at 11:09 pm

These are all very good suggestions. My weight has been steady over the past ten years, but I need to lose a few. I always start riding before 6:00. I have avoided getting too wet during the ride because I fry like bacon. I’ll purchase the skins, neck wraps and the capsules and see what happens. i did try salt drops for the first time this year, but they didn’t seem to be effective.

I believe that you are correct about being more susceptible. This is the fourth episode for me. Once when I was young, 2012, 2013 and 2015. The last two were totally unexpected since conditions were not that bad. I typically ride 60-80 mile weekend rides with no issues if there is any shade.

Thanks for the information. I feel silly even asking, but the problem seems to be so routine anymore and it is a serious issue since it can kill. Enjoy your training and preparation. I look forward to your future posts. Be safe!


trek2300, January 28, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Your comments regarding 2012 reminded me how flaming hot the ride was that that year.
Keeping the sun off the body is a big issue.
2012 was the first time I wore sun skins. That year, keeping them damp wasn’t a problem and I think they helped with cooling. In my opinion, they aren’t great but they help.
I also recommend headsweats or other type of head covering. Dousing my head with water always cools me down.
Neck coolers also help.
You might consider buying a wide brim attachment for your helmet to keep sun off your face and shoulders. Google dabrim. I do not have one and admit they won’t win any style points but it might help.
Unfortunately, as we get older, we become more susceptible to heat issues. If someone can figure out how to solve that problem, I’ll gladly pass the info along


Brian Wallenburg, January 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm

How much water is an abundance? On a normal day of office work, ideal water intake should be half your body weight in ounces. I weigh 220 lbs. On a hot day, riding many miles in the sun… You can safely do twice that much. That’s two gallons! Seems like a lot but I’ve done it. If your not regularly urinating, you’re definitely not taking in enough and safe to say, you’re overheating.


“Bicycle Bill”, January 30, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Drink before you get thirty; eat before you feel hungry.  And to avoid heatstroke, hydrate ever so much moreso.

If you notice that you are not able to sweat you are already in deep doo-doo.



zabo, January 31, 2016 at 2:06 am

I don’t think that it was the amount that I was drinking. I think that it was electrolyte balance. My water intake was way up, but I used powdered Gatorade for the first time and cut back a little on advice from an article that I had read. I had also eaten every pickle that I could find in 2014, but I didn’t see any last year.

I think that I am going to bring ice packs, a thermometer, more (and better quality) electrolyte drinks, and an umbrella this year. It sounds ridiculous, but this is dangerous stuff. I also brought a really small solo tent and left another at home that would have offered much better sun protection.

I think that I have a lot of pre-trip planning and experimentation to do this year.

Thanks for all of your advice.


Cameron Cranston, February 22, 2016 at 10:39 pm

Great advice from all comments. I can vouch for the more susceptible. I made 20 years in the Army without a heat injury. First case of heat exhaustion was in 2005. Now I have to be careful. Watch out for the warning signs. For me its a headache. If you’re thirsty, its too late. If you’ve stopped sweating, its way too late. You should be urinating a lot. If you aren’t, its too late. You have to force, and I mean force liquids. I use Skratch labs powder. Alternate one bottle of water and one bottle of sports drink. A cold gelpak in the top of the helmet helps too.


Giuseppina Maher, October 11, 2016 at 4:45 am

great advice.


Stuntz, February 5, 2017 at 10:50 pm

Excellent counsel from all sources.
Another variable to watch is diet. I’m not an expert, but after I got heat exhaustion in 2012 after doing +100 into Webster City, I did quite a bit of research and talked to medical people. Net-net certain foods require more hydration to digest. The night before I had a fried pork steak and pork happens to be one of those dense foods requiring a lot of energy and liquid to digest. Best to stick with easier to digest protein sources and carb replenishment. Best of luck!


mootsman, February 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Take any heat stress seriously as some think it can in turn cause heart damage. Although some link the damage to dehydration from the heat and some from the heart tissue itself becoming over heated.

I’m sensitive to heat also but because I generate so much heat internally during exercise in addition to the air temp.

As far as dehydration consider these for prevention:
1) Stay away from eating items that interfere with absorbing fluids. I had trouble especially with proteins and dairy in my stomach mixing with readily absorbed liquids. Once mixed your system thinks the fluid needs to be digested instead of absorbed. You can tell when this happens by feeling all that fluid sloshing around in your stomach instead of getting absorbed.
2) Make sure to include enough electrolytes as water flushes out your existing electrolytes which make if difficult for your system to manage its water level. You’ll tend to sweat water out too quickly if you get electrolyte depleted..
3) Take long breaks in the shade. I drink the non-dairy fruit smoothies which help my energy supply without compromising my ability to absorb fluids.
4) If the idea of chips sounds good its because you sweated out a lot of 2 key electrolytes, sodium and chloride (NACL, salt). Give in but chew those chips to a paste before swallowing. Potato chips also have a lot of potassium.
5) Keep your pace slower if you are getting too hot to stop generating too much of your own heat internally.


Dan Justis, March 4, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for the information!


Zigy Kaluzny, March 9, 2017 at 3:10 pm

The above recs are all fine; I would add this from living (and running) in Texas for 20 years: the more you exercise in the heat (and, yes, it’s in short supply now in March) the more efficiently your body’s AC will function. My experience was that running almost every day in Texas’ summer heat resulted in my not minding the heat so much, but when I had to stop running due to knee injuries, it become unbearable.

Now living in CO and riding in our dry (14%) summer heat (90+), I drink at least one bike bottle of water and one of Skratch mixture the night before I ride, as well as one on the drive out to my ride roads. In heat, if you’re not passing “straw (pale) yellow” urine every couple of hours, you’re not drinking enough; and once dehydrated, it takes a couple of hours for your body to truly rehydrate (which is not the same as not being thirsty). I don’t touch Gatorade; no hydration there.

And yes, avoid heavy foods. You want easily-digested protein sources, not pork chops! Do a google search on the former to see what’s best.


TomBleck, March 9, 2017 at 5:42 pm

You may need to make sure that you can sweat first.
You will lose water two ways most just in the breath and with more exertion you will lose even more you lose heat this way also. Humans regulate body temp mostly by evaporation from the skin never wear cotton always something that wicks and dries.
1 – 1.5 Lt of water per hour is a good starting point for hydration and check by monitoring the urine output 16-30 second stream and clear if you don’t take a multivitamin. Ice in a one qt. baggy makes a good ice pack add put it in a bib or in the center pocket of your top and it will cool your core and when you need rest rest in the shade.


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