Cheetah for dinner.

In one legendary experiment, Harvard biologists stuck a rectal thermometer into a cheetah, put the cat on a treadmill, and found that it refused to move once its temperature hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit, even though it was loping well below its top speed. (from Born to Run)

We humans are an interesting species. We are physically outmatched by nearly every species on the planet.  We are comparatively delicate, slow and weak.  A fat dog who sleeps all day in a basket can get on the track and win the 100m in the Olympics.

There’s one thing we do very well, however.  We can run for a long time in a lot of heat.  In fact,  there is growing consensus among scientists that our endurance and prolific ability to sweat were the attributes that bought us the time to grow large brains and get out of the jungle.  Few, if any, animals sweat as well as we do.  Survive the claws and you too can have cheetah for dinner (or Cheetos, as the case may be for many Americans).

I mention this theory as a segue into the insanity that happened yesterday.  I decided to ride my bicycle to Princton and back.  It was about 60 miles of riding, meaning 3-4 hours in the sun, in the middle of the day, with a heat index well over a sane level.  I was not the only masochistic buffoon looking to retrace my evolutionary past yesterday.

In fact, there were a whole lot of us cyclists outside in the nasty heat.  The rest of the east coast was sending out heat advisories and complaining about the walk from the AC’d car to the AC’d grocery store.  Meanwhile, back in carbonland, cyclists are outside trying to one-up eachother in a twisted game of “I’m tougher than you.”

Have Sunday, will train.

I knew my ride would be a sufferfest and I knew I could have done a shorter route at a cooler time of day. I went through 7 bottles of water and didn’t even have to pee when I got home.  The experience was not epic (a term I prefer to use sparingly), but it was very primal.   The brain shuts down.  The digestion shuts down.  The body enters preservation mode.  If mountaineers climb Everst “because it’s there,” cyclists do irrational rides “because we can.”

We no longer have to chase antelope for 3 hours to get dinner, but the mechanisms are still in place.  It feels right to use these mechanisms.  It’s not just about the “you-have-no-idea” smirk you give a co-worker when they ask if it’s “hot enough for ya” outside.  It’s about shedding the modern concept of the body as a passive vessel for the brain.

It’s about shedding the modern concept of the body as a passive vessel for the brain.

I totally made that part up.  It’s really about beating the other suckers at bicycle racing.

See you on the road, suckers.

~ by wcuk on June 9, 2008.

2 Responses to “Cheetah for dinner.”

  1. FIRST!!!

  2. I’m not sure how any living being would be willing to run with a rectal thermometer in them.

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