This Summer, staff member Sam Fox will take on the Tour de Fox Ė a 14,000-mile endurance adventure with the goal of raising $1 million for Parkinsonís research. Sam will bike through all 48 of the continental United States óstopping to climb the highest peak in each along the wayóand is inviting the community to join in. As he prepares for his June 2 launch, Sam shares his thoughts and reflections on training for the road ahead.
In case you havenít heard, itís been a pretty cold winter in the Northeast. Aside from avoiding frostbite on the way to work, this winter has also provided some other challenges from a Tour de Fox preparation standpoint. In fact, todayís post comes inspired by this morningís weather app declaring another single digit temperature here in New York. So, just how different will this summerís Tour de Fox be from this winter of training?
Well, the Tour de Fox was intentionally laid out to take place in the Summer, to avoid cold temperatures and the potential for severe storms (read snow storms) that might close high mountain roads or make climbing certain state high points considerably more dangerous, if not impossible. Beginning in June on the east coast, where the elevations are lower and less snow builds up in the mountains, the Tour will zigzag due west, following the thaw all the way to western Canada. Some of the roads and trails on the route-- like ones in Colorado, Wyoming and Washington-- remain choked with snow, ice, and debris buildup until early July. So really, there isnít much of a choice: Iíll climb and ride when I can, and that means Summer.
But there is a flip side to every coin. Mild temperatures and safe snow levels at high altitude and northern latitudes mean that it will be hot everywhere else. Most places will be fine, and warm weather in the summer isnít anything to write home about, but a few places promise to take the thermometer to the next level. †Check out the Tour de Fox map to see what I mean. My guess is the heat wave will begin in late June in the Deep South. This isnít that pleasant Ďdry heatí that Californians are always talking about. This is tropical-strength sun, more than 90 degrees, and such high humidity every day that Iíll probably feel like Iím swimming rather than riding a bike. On June 30, Iíll be riding from New Orleans, the southernmost point on my route, to Baton Rouge, LA. I wonder how many gallons of water and Gatorade Iíll go through that day.
Iím sure it will be steamy in the Mississippi Valley throughout July, and the high plains of Kansas and Oklahoma arenít strangers to triple digit temperatures in early August, but it will really get serious again in the Southwestern states Ė New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California. In fact, heat is the main reason that some of the events in these areas have been classified as Tour de Fox Xtreme events. For instance, Iíll be running across the Grand Canyon, from the south rim to the north rim, on August 16. At that time of year, temperatures in the canyon are almost always above 100 degrees, and sometimes they are significantly higher than that. Something tells me the terrain and the mileage wonít be my biggest challenges that day.
The hottest region of the Tour culminates in what is, verifiably, the hottest place on Earth Ė Death Valley. On August 19, Iíll bike from Badwater Basinóthe USAís lowest elevation pointó140 miles through a searing and desolate landscape to the base of Mt. Whitney. Average daily temps in Death Valley in late August? †116 degreesÖwith the potential for much hotter; like the time it was a world-record 134 degrees on a day in 1910. I donít care how dry your heat is, California, 134 is 134. And yes, that kind of heat can actually melt your bike tires.
So how do I prepare for weather like this in the midst of a pretty extreme NY winter? Short answer: I canít fully, but weíre getting creative. Iíve had to shift almost all of my physical preparation indoors (Iíd rather ride a stationary bike for hours than risk frostbite in Central Park) and have even resorted to completing parts of my workouts in the steam room at the gym. While imagining the heat of Death Valley in August almost helps warm up my toes after the walk from the Subway to the office each morning, I suppose I should be careful what I wish for. It probably wonít take too many 100-degree days in the desert to start longing for the snow and ice of winter again.
No matter the weather, I will be hitting the road on June 2 and covering more than 14,000 miles over 3 months. I hope I see you somewhere along the way, just donít forget to bring a water bottle, and maybe a portable fan.†