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Old 05-10-13, 09:05 AM   #26
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Is there any chance it's a mental thing? I'm not trying to imply that you're not cut out to race or are crazy or anything, but, if you have trained at race pace for longer periods in the past with no cramping, the one thing that seems to be missing is the race itself. Maybe you're tensing up a bit more without realizing it and having to work harder against yourself and that's causing some of the problems?
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Old 05-10-13, 09:40 AM   #27
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I do get butterflies right before the start but I would consider this normal. During my training rides at race pace I do not go full throttle right out of the gate and I believe this is the difference. Personally I hate going flat out right from the gun but in MTB XC racing you really have no other choice(the 1st 1/4 mile or so is typically an all out sprint to get ahead of as many riders as possible before the course narrows to singeltrack). As a result I tend to really suffer the first 20 mins. or so but eventually settle in and try to get on the wheel of a rider I know who will be in the top 10 in my class. I'm guessing I'm building up a lot of lactic acid right at the very start of the race which is atypical vs. my hard training rides. I also try to get a good warm up in but inevitably I end up standing around for 40 mins or so at the start waiting for my class / age group to begin so any warm up I've gotten in is diminished.

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Is there any chance it's a mental thing? I'm not trying to imply that you're not cut out to race or are crazy or anything, but, if you have trained at race pace for longer periods in the past with no cramping, the one thing that seems to be missing is the race itself. Maybe you're tensing up a bit more without realizing it and having to work harder against yourself and that's causing some of the problems?
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Old 05-10-13, 10:05 AM   #28
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Sprint and kilo intervals will help with the starts. A strong, consistent warmup routine is essential, as close as possible to the start of the race. Sometimes staging gets in the way but there are ways to minimize that.
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Old 05-10-13, 11:32 AM   #29
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Try out these... pick one




I sweat like a pig, 4 bottles in 50miles @ race pace in 85 F.
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Old 05-10-13, 06:26 PM   #30
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The real cause of cramping has been figured out but not disclosed yet pending publication or due to IP/$$$ issues. Needless to say, neither of the two schools of thought are correct but one is more incorrect than the other and will have a lot of egg on its face.
The most useless post ever. Truly.
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Old 05-11-13, 08:15 PM   #31
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I agree that assuming cramping issues are fitness related is incorrect. In my particular instance I have done numerous significantly longer distance training rides at race pace with no cramping issues. I will try several of the suggestions above but have also concluded that I need to a better job of simulating real race conditions in order to address the issue.
The bolded sentence contradicts your opening statement. If your training does not simulate race conditions and if you are therefore cramping as a result of not training enough for the intense effort of the early stage of the race, it IS a fitness issue. This is pretty much the exact problem I have when I have done well during my base period but slacked on high-intensity intervals in the build phase: in a race with lots of explosive efforts (e.g. covering breaks), I might feel fresh as a daisy, but I get punished with cramps. That's a failure of training. Sorry, I don't want to sound harsh or mean, there isn't really a way to sugarcoat it, and the solution probably is doing some hard work, not dropping some tablets in your water bottle.
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Old 05-12-13, 06:51 AM   #32
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No need to apologize ... not harsh. Agree with your assessment and plan on addressing this weakness through a combination high intensity interval training and electrolyte supplements.

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The bolded sentence contradicts your opening statement. If your training does not simulate race conditions and if you are therefore cramping as a result of not training enough for the intense effort of the early stage of the race, it IS a fitness issue. This is pretty much the exact problem I have when I have done well during my base period but slacked on high-intensity intervals in the build phase: in a race with lots of explosive efforts (e.g. covering breaks), I might feel fresh as a daisy, but I get punished with cramps. That's a failure of training. Sorry, I don't want to sound harsh or mean, there isn't really a way to sugarcoat it, and the solution probably is doing some hard work, not dropping some tablets in your water bottle.
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Old 05-17-13, 03:13 PM   #33
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It will definitely shake up the sports science world. Especially when it becomes apparent how sports scientists missed something relatively simple that elegantly explains everything that neither of the two current schools of thought are able to.

I've lost a lot of faith in sports science.

I had a pretty serious cramping problem. Totally cured now.
I'm beating Cretin to it and making it public now. Introducing, exclusively here on this site. For a limited time only...



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Old 05-21-13, 07:59 AM   #34
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I only cramp when I do more than my legs are used to, The way I see it, the muscles can only fire so many times at a given output.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:38 AM   #35
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As mentioned in my original post MTB racing typically involves burning several matches right at the very start of the race in order to avoid getting held up by slower riders. You are much better off going out a little too hard and backing off rather than trying to close the gap down later in the race. I need to practice riding close to my FTP for the 30 mins. right out of the gate and then settling in to a race pace I can maintain for the remainder.
Doing "winning intervals" might help.

They mimic what it takes to win in a break away, but would fit your need as well. Basically you do an all out effort for a minute (The getting away phase), then settle into FTP for 10 minutes (keeping away) followed by 30 seconds all out (the sprint from your breakaway companions FTW).
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Old 05-21-13, 12:28 PM   #36
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It will definitely shake up the sports science world. Especially when it becomes apparent how sports scientists missed something relatively simple that elegantly explains everything that neither of the two current schools of thought are able to.

I've lost a lot of faith in sports science.

I had a pretty serious cramping problem. Totally cured now.
Guys, he's from Boulder, he's obviously talking about a recently legalized, umm, herbal remedy.

Back on topic, I've always suffered from cramps, and I know--at least in my case--it isn't fitness related. I've just always sweated rather profusely, not just on the bike. Over my years, I've had crippling cramps on the soccer field, on the skateboard, on the tennis court, and on the bike. For me, working through it isn't a possibility. It's not so much a pain as it is my muscle contracting and refusing to un-contract. For example, when the cramps hit on the tennis court, my fingers sieze around the racquet handle so tightly that the only way I can let go of my racquet is to literally pry my fingers open with my other hand.

Best I can say is just hydrate, drink a lot more than you think you need to, and bolster your fluid intake with extra salt and electrolyte additives. That's helped me some. And eating bananas, although I hate bananas to the point where I can't eat more than half of one.
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Old 05-21-13, 01:38 PM   #37
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Best I can say is just hydrate, drink a lot more than you think you need to, and bolster your fluid intake with extra salt and electrolyte additives. That's helped me some. And eating bananas, although I hate bananas to the point where I can't eat more than half of one.
There's no support for any of this. Bananas are touted for preventing cramps due to the potassium. Problem is that's there's no evidence that low electrolytes cause cramping.

To the extent, cramps are associated with muscle fatigue, the carbs in the banana may help by giving you an energy source and delaying depletion of muscle gylcogen.

http://runningrules.com/bananas/

The water, salt, electrolyte tablet stuff is all without scientific support that it prevents cramps.

The answer is to train your body to withstand the workload.
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Old 05-21-13, 02:25 PM   #38
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There's no support for any of this. Bananas are touted for preventing cramps due to the potassium. Problem is that's there's no evidence that low electrolytes cause cramping.

To the extent, cramps are associated with muscle fatigue, the carbs in the banana may help by giving you an energy source and delaying depletion of muscle gylcogen.

http://runningrules.com/bananas/

The water, salt, electrolyte tablet stuff is all without scientific support that it prevents cramps.

The answer is to train your body to withstand the workload.
In my experience, it has nothing to do with workload, it has to do with sweat and heat. In December I can do three times the exertion that would have me crippled with cramping in August.

And even if electrolytes don't prevent cramping, in periods of excessive sweating one should still be adding salts/electrolytes to their water in order to prevent a potentially life threatening water/electrolyte imbalance.

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Old 04-14-14, 11:58 AM   #39
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Looking for some advice / suggestions... I had cramping in my quads just above the knees. ... Strange thing is that the cramping does not seem to be fatigue related. I actually felt like I had gas in the tank but just could not put the hammer down knowing that within a minute or two of dialing the throttle up I would begin to cramp.
Suggestions?
I had the same issue. My doctor said take magnesium pills, 250 mg. I take one a day, plus on hard days, race or hard workouts, I'll rub magnesium lotion on my thighs. I may still get a very infrequent cramp after the race/workout at night, but cramps during the effort have gone away. Apparently the lotion is absorbed more quickly and completely so you might want to try that first. The pills also worked better if I took them everyday instead of just before the event.
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Old 04-14-14, 06:44 PM   #40
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Might want to give calcium a try.

And upping the training if that's possible. I always cramp when I'm least prepared for a race. If that's not an option, then I'd give calcium a serious shot for 4-5+ days leading up to the race.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:21 PM   #41
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Old 04-15-14, 12:18 AM   #42
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The water, salt, electrolyte tablet stuff is all without scientific support that it prevents cramps.
.
Incorrect.

There's a boatload of documentation that dehydration is a huge factor in heat related illnesses, of which cramps are one of the symptoms. And electrolyte depletion and dehydration that happens when people get dysentery and other dehydrating illnesses also cause cramping to occur.

Further there's a giant amount of knowledge base about trace minerals and their function in muscle contraction and relaxation.

Tell you what. We both go out in July on your favorite hometown 5 hour ride. You don't drink. I do. Want to bet who gets cramps first?

Extrapolating inconclusive studies about exercise induced cramps to say that fluid and electrolyte replacement won't prevent or at least delay some cramps is a poorly reasoned conclusion if you examine the broad body of science and medicine.

My personal experience, and that of other people I have worked with is that causation is complex and an individualized response. How you replenish matters, what you replenish with matters, fitness matters, and there can be triggers outside those items that can cause cramps.

Example: I can't take any protein during long races. Almost for sure cramps within 10-15 minutes. Spoken to other people with the same issue.

After a bunch of years of experimenting I greatly reduced, but did not completely eliminate what had been a very bad cramping issue. Use the prior paragraph as a cautionary tale when looking for the magic bullet, which is probably more a shotgun shell filled with various pellets that may improve but not remove the problem.

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Old 04-15-14, 06:37 AM   #43
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Obviously not drinking on a 5 hour ride is not going to be a good idea, but that's a rather extreme example. The post I was responding to said drink a lot more than you think you need, and bolster it with extra salt and electrolytes.

There just isn't great data about the cause of cramps, or that taking electrolytes help.

Joe Friel's Blog: Electrolytes and Muscle Cramps

Serum electrolyte concentrations and hydration status are not associated with exercise associated muscle cramping (EAMC) in distance runners

Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007...ramps-part-ii/

And as for the hydration issue, it's possible to overhydrate, thereby reducing serum sodium levels, which has been found to occur in crampers.


all that said, eating and drinking whatever works for you on a long workout is obviously a good idea. Taking a couple of endurolytes or eating a banana probably doesn't hurt.

Pickle juice may actually help (although likely not due to the electrolytes.

So eat what works for you, but I stand by what I said, there really isn't any good data to support low electolytes as a cause of cramps, or takining electrolytes preventing them.
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Old 04-15-14, 07:45 AM   #44
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Use x as a cautionary tale when looking for the magic bullet, which is probably more a shotgun shell filled with various pellets that may improve but not remove the problem.
This seems applicable to so many situations
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Old 04-15-14, 09:16 AM   #45
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I've battled cramps for years also, racing in TX summertimes makes it a problem we all have. I've read every article I can find, tried all sorts of concoctions. Here's my 2 cents.

(1) it seems that not many people are talking about pH. I think that's important in this context. We are talking about the nervous system here, which controls the firing of the muscle. The muscle is not the problem, it's the contractions. For me, once I started reading on food / diet acid / alkalines, and changing my diet based on that school of thought. For me, it has really helped reduce but not eliminate cramps.

(2) there is a physical component. IF there is the slightest thing "off" in your position, or overall fitness, or muscle imbalance, then when the body reaches the breaking point, one muscle will be the first to go. For me, it's always the left sartorious. I have an old knee injury on that side so it makes perfect sense to me, I use the sartorious (unconsciously) more than a cyclist really should, as it helps stabilize my knee.
Funny thing about that - ya know what else messes with my sartorious? Sitting in a desk chair all day.

(3) it's not just "the ride" that causes the cramp. It's your whole life. Desk chairs, long drives, diet, sleep, posture habits, core imbalances, bike position, crank length, cleat position, they can any or all contribute.

(4) experiment. you are a sample size of 1. read and try things. I settled on a homemade mix that works for me, and I do carry and have successfully used mustard packs.
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Old 04-15-14, 10:29 AM   #46
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Just drink. Often. Before your body asks for it.
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Old 04-15-14, 11:06 AM   #47
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(4) experiment. you are a sample size of 1. read and try things. I settled on a homemade mix that works for me, and I do carry and have successfully used mustard packs.
I very very rarely cramp. Only in a few events, two in races with extended solo and two-man breaks in the heat, and a double century in the heat at like mile 150. I also eat a ****ton of mustard and pickles, and splash all my salads and veggies with red or white vinegar. I wonder if they are related, but when I first read about the pickle thing, I made the connection.

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So eat what works for you, but I stand by what I said, there really isn't any good data to support low electolytes as a cause of cramps, or takining electrolytes preventing them.
Agreed. There is a necessary failure to disassociate the chemistry changes which occur under extreme effort and the extreme efforts needed to induce cramping.

Whatever the cause, everyone should research and tinker with their own strategies to figure out what works because cramps do suck pretty hard.
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Old 05-01-14, 04:44 PM   #48
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I recently figured out why I've been cramping and I must admit, it took me almost a DECADE to figure this out (mainly due to my stubbornness.) What was causing me to cramp at the exact same area as you was I was always riding in the anaerobic heart rate zone. I've recently stopped riding in that zone and keeping my heart rate under 80 percent of max, which puts me in the aerobic heart rate zone and that seems to have solved my cramping issue. I went through all sorts of suggestions, many of which are being mentioned here, such as, better hydration, getting in more sodium, stretching, warmups and none of that worked for me. Just a week ago, I slapped on my HRM which I hadn't been really using and decided I wanted to try riding in the fat burning to aerobic heart rate zone (50-80% of max HR) and noticed I didn't cramp at all after nearly 40 miles. I, without fail, would always cramp at mile 20, this time, i did nearly double that and had no cramps. You might want to monitor your heart rate and see if that helps you out. PM me with your results if you try this. I'd like to know if it helps.
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Old 05-01-14, 05:02 PM   #49
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oh, and I realize you're racing when you cramp and i understand that it'll probably be difficult if not impossible to lower your HR during a race, which probably means you need more base miles, as someone here has already mentioned....
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Old 05-01-14, 05:07 PM   #50
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From my limited sample size of 1 (myself), I have concluded that there are a number of causes that can lead to cramps and just as many or more solutions.

I've experienced calf related cramps that were in part related to having forward positioned cleats. It's possible that I could have further trained my calves to overcome these. But, moving my cleats back solved the issue with a slight effect on my really high cadence abilities, that I rarely if ever use anyhow.

I've experienced very puzzling early on set cramps that felt fatigue related. But, they came on too early in some rides and weren't at all managable like previous fatigue related cramps have been. Stopping and massaging my legs would also result in a very quick almost complete recovery, only to repeat the cycle once on the bike again. It seems to have been the elastic in a couple pair of new shorts I had. I cut the bar tacking that held the ends together on the inside of my thighs, providing a half inch or so more slack and less constriction and the problem seemed to vanish. That one took some really puzzling over before I linked rides I was suffering the issue on with the new shorts.

As a result of involunaty leg twitchy in the night I started taking a magnesium supplement in order to allow my wife to get uninterrupted sleep. Not only have my nigh spasm decreased, but so has my propability of suffering post or during workout cramps. It's only a sample of one, but, this definately has a noticable effect for me.

And, if I simply go too hard for too long, I can still get fatigue cramps. The solution for these seems to be more base and endurance work. Sometimes I can power through them and keep going, but, my performance is certainly reduced. Other times there seems to be no way to do that, the muscles quit firing correctly and there's nothing I can do to create sufficient power to elevate my heart rate, regardless of ignoring the pain or not. They simply "won't go". At some point, "Shut Up Legs! Do What I Tell You!" stops working.
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