The Heat is On

By: Justin Felisko August 30, 2014@ 01:00:00 PM

Jesse Byrne steps in to save Mike Lee on Friday in Thackerville, Okla. Photo by Andy Watson /


THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Jesse Byrne tossed his empty Aquafina water bottle into his gear bag with 30 minutes remaining until the start of the WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational on Friday. It was his fifth bottle of the day in preparation for the next two-and-a-half hours that he would spend fighting bulls amidst warm temperatures and rising humidity.

Even though Friday night provided a rarity for the Built Ford Tough Series event in Thackerville with relatively cooler temperatures (82 degrees, 65 percent humidity) than normal, the Dickies Bullfighters were preparing for a long night in a historically hot-and-humid environment that has played host to the PBR’s top tour since 2011.

“That first time I came, I knew it was going to be hot, but I didn’t really know what to expect,” Byrne said. “It definitely sets in once you get out there and get through the first 10-to-15 bulls. Normally, inside at a typical venue, we would be able to catch our breath and get back to the starting point, basically. Here, you never really catch up. It is just a grind the whole way through.”

The legs begin to feel stiff, muscles start to tense and when it is really humid, one’s lungs can feel heavy. Luckily, on Friday night, the humidity stayed low until the final two sections when it crept up to 86 percent.

According to, August is the warmest month of the year for the Oklahoma resort town, which is located just across the north border of Texas, with an average temperature of 94 degrees. Once you factor in the humidity, however, it can easily feel like temperatures are in the triple digits.

“You just have to kind of make an adjustment to what you are doing out there,” Byrne said. “Sometimes a guy can really get caught up in the moment being really aggressive and maybe doing more than need be. Here, you have to conserve your energy and pick your spots.”

Newsom is accustomed to working outside his home in Paoli, Oklahoma, and getting things done before heading to a BFTS event. He made sure on Friday to finish his tasks in the early morning before heading inside to the comforts of his home. He also estimated he had about 10 glasses of water over the course of the day.

“Your legs get heavy there at the end and your muscles get tired,” Newsom said. “You have to conserve what you can and gut it out at the end.”

During the bull riding, many of the riders can take some time to get out of the warm weather and relax in the air-conditioned locker room tent.

The bull fighters, meanwhile, don’t receive much time for that luxury once the event is underway.

Gorham had about three bottles of a water-based sports drink on Thursday night before having another couple on Friday. Like Byrne, Gorham said the key is being aware of the scenarios inside the arena and picking your moments to conserve energy.

“At a normal event, your motor is running and you are moving along all the time,” he said. “Even when I am not fighting bulls, I move around a lot, talk a lot to people and am just kind of going. Here, after that rider is out of the way, I just chill and try to stay as calm as I can and move around as little as I can and keep the core temperature down.

“If you exert too much energy, come the 30th bull rider, your legs are done.”

In terms of being in the right place at the right time, that is not really an issue. Instead, Gorham said the bigger problem that arises is when trying to escape a wreck after freeing a rider from harm’s way.

“You want to do things and you can’t move as fast,” Gorham said. “Getting to a wreck is not a big deal, because you are reading things, but when you need to get out of a wreck, that is when it comes into effect. You can be a little slower and still get away with it.”

Newsom, Byrne and Gorham will be back at it tonight at 8 p.m. CT when the WinStar World Casino and Resort Invitational wraps up with Round 2 and the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. According to the Weather Channel, temperatures are projected to be around 87 degrees with 53 percent humidity.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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