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Hydration And Cold Weather Cycling, Running or Cardio in General


April 2013

I’m out for a 35 mile ride, it’s below freezing and I’ve got one H2O bottle on board. Twenty miles in I reach down and take a swig – I chuckle to myself as a thin layer of ice crunches when I squeeze… That’s the last time I touch it until I get home. I pull my phone out of my back pocket to hit the stop button on my fitness tracking app and it tells me I only needed to drink 10 ounces on that trip.  Above 60 degrees that’s a two bottle trip.

I’ve run a below zero half marathon without a drop.  Above 55 degrees I carry a bottle of water for anything more than seven miles.

So one of my riding friends was out on Sunday… Temps in the mid 40’s, for a 2-1/2 to 3 hour ride. Almost home, having not touched his single H2O bottle once, he’s having a great time. It’s cold but at least the sun is shining.  In fact, my post for the day was entitled: Great Day For A Ride.

41 miles in, 5 to go he passes out, while pedaling. He goes down hard, cracks his helmet, smacks and bruises his face, scrapes the hell out of his left arm, hip, leg and bike.  Thankfully a couple of motorists stop and help him.  They call an ambulance which takes him to the hospital.  The doctors are concerned because of his age and the fact that he passed out on the bike so they run a battery of tests and keep him overnight for observation.  On Monday I found out that he’d gone down and that initial reports were not good, that he had some problem with a name that I can’t pronounce that caused the fall.  My worry, of course, was that his riding days were done unless he got a trike recumbent or something and/or limited himself to short rides.  Trying to do that, for me, would be a fate worse than death.  For him?  Even worse.

At dinner that night, as a family we prayed for my friend, and I added a little extra:  “Please let it be something simple that won’t limit his riding”.

Folks, I put some ass into that prayer.  I meant it with everything I had.  So I see him yesterday evening…

Dehydration.  He didn’t drink enough and that made him pass out.

Folks, I’ll never look at cold weather hydration so nonchalantly again.  He’s lucky.

Now, all of you non-helmet wearing folks out there…  Imagine the damage if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.  He cracked his helmet on the pavement.  Your head has, roughly, the resiliency of a watermelon.  Think on that a minute…

Helmets seem a little cooler now, don’t they?

The Specialized Propero II is an excellent choice BTW – I love mine, very breezy (I have an Echelon for the MTB).

UPDATE:  Please scroll down to the comments section, especially to fatguy2triguy‘s comment which is eerily like my friends, there’s a lot of first-hand experience in there.


  1. kruzmeister says:

    Glad your friend is okay. I have noticed the difference in my performance since I’ve been drinking more, thirsty or not, during my rides and runs. I’ve actually started setting my Garmin to beep at me every 20 mins to remind me to hydrate. On the roadie it’s a bit harder cause my bidon cages are so tight I can hardly get my bottles out, but I’ve bought an aero drink bottle, so that should solve the problem. This post is a good reminder for all of us. Thanks for posting!

  2. The cool weather can certainly lull us into thinking that we do not need water as we are not sweating. I learned my lesson the hard way this winter while on a long run. I did not passout but if I kept pushing, I certainly could have. Hydration prior to and during a hard workout is a must.

  3. Mark says:

    Wow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve biked with minimal water in the cold up here – especially on snow with the fat bike. Often I’ve used less than a single 28 oz. bottle for a 2 hr++ ride (frozen by the half way point, of course). I’ve never heard of anyone passing out like that from dehydration but I’m going to take it a little more seriously from now on.

  4. saltyvelo says:

    kitchen timer. reminds me to sip every 10-15 mins. Plus, I intake most my calories through liquids, so it keeps me from feeling hungry.

    glad your buddy is OK.

  5. Sandra says:

    Holy moly. That’s a great lesson, glad it wasn’t anything major. Well, this was pretty major–we often overlook it though. So glad it worked out. I am guilty of not drinking enough, too.

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