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  1. #1
    Senior Member Grambo's Avatar
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    Help - Cramping Issues Holding Me Back

    Looking for some advice / suggestions. I started racing MTBs just this past year and have encountered the same issue now several times. I just finished my 1st MTB race of the season and once again I had cramping in my quads just above the knees. It was a 3 lap race and 1/2 of the way through the second lap I knew I was running into problems. 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. I actually exceeded my goal for the race (wanted a top ten finish and placed sixth) but I'm now thinking a top 5 finish was within grasp but knots in my quads held me back.

    Please note that I do realize that I'm posting in the road bike racing forum but I frequent this board often and know that the road forum gets many more views than MTB. Also, I know I'm just a hack competing in Cat 2 + 50 but I have a competitive streak and enjoy racing. Just looking for some tips to hopefully get around this hurdle. One other issue is that in MTB racing you really have no other choice but to go out really hard or otherwise risk getting held up when the trail narrows to single-track and passing becomes much more difficult. I rode on the limit for most of the 1st lap and likely built up lots of lactic acid. Just sucked that for the last 1/2 of the race I was in a "trying to hang on / survival mode" even though I felt like I had more to give.

    Suggestions?

  2. #2
    Junior Member alorast's Avatar
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    Do you use any sort of electrolyte drink/add-in? If not it is super cheap and could be the solution to your problem.

    http://new.eletewater.com/
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  3. #3
    Senior Member skinnyguy's Avatar
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    salt. make sure you mix 100mg salt for every 100ml water or electrolyte drink you take in.

  4. #4
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    The scientific case for electrolyte depletion as a general cause of cramps in exercise is extremely weak. That said, some people seem to cramp for idiosyncratic reasons and you might find that electrolytes seem to work for you. Whether it's actually the electrolytes or other changes to habits that do the trick, it's hard to know, but there's not really any harm in trying (other than to your wallet).

    To get down to the basic reality of cramps, 99% of the time, they are due to fitness or fatigue issues. Feeling like you have gas in the tank (i.e. that you've still got plenty of glycogen stores) doesn't mean your muscles aren't fatigued from, say, a long ride in the car to get to your race, or insufficient rest leading up to the event, or something like that. I'm familiar with the feeling you describe, of feeling snappy but getting cramps nonetheless. Despite feeling like you can still go, it really is just another way of your body telling you that it's out of gas. I've been there, and it is frustrating, but it also beats having heavy legs the whole race. In my experience, cramps are often how fatigue manifests for me after making lots of hard efforts. Keep building fitness and endurance, and do everything you can to optimize your preparation for an event, and you should cramp less often. But sometimes it happens. If it happens and you still get 6th, that's not too bad an outcome.

  5. #5
    Pedalphile
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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.

  6. #6
    Ninny globecanvas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grolby View Post
    To get down to the basic reality of cramps, 99% of the time, they are due to fitness or fatigue issues.
    I am no expert but this rings true to me. But, it seems like sometimes it can be possible to ride through cramps. For me at least, the few times I've experienced bad cramps in a race, it doesn't seem to affect my actual power output if I just force my legs to go despite the pain. It's like the cramps are just pain, as opposed to a general systems failure.

  7. #7
    Senior Member jsutkeepspining's Avatar
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    why does it seem like everyone is a cat 2 in mtb? honestly eveyrone i know is a cat 2 in mtb, even if there like a 4 in road and they race alot of road.

    edit: just looked it up, seems like cat 2 = 3/4 on the road and 1 = 1/2 and pro = pro.
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  8. #8
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    Your legs aren't fit enough. You need more base miles. Tapped out, you're going to cramp up.
    Hydrate, get some massages to work out all the acid and knots and do some quality miles

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cretin View Post
    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.
    really? if the billion studies on cramping that have been conducted to date havent conclusively figured it out by now, i'd have a hard time believing that an additional pending study that solves the mystery is legit.

  10. #10
    Ninny globecanvas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jsutkeepspining View Post
    why does it seem like everyone is a cat 2 in mtb? honestly eveyrone i know is a cat 2 in mtb, even if there like a 4 in road and they race alot of road.

    edit: just looked it up, seems like cat 2 = 3/4 on the road and 1 = 1/2 and pro = pro.

    Also you choose your own category in MTB racing.

  11. #11
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    And this cramping only shows up in racing? Or are you able to replicate it with high intensity training? If you can get the same thing to show up in training, it seems like it'd be easy to test whether adding some salt to your drink helps. The first time I read your post, it sounded to me like it was only showing up in races, which said to me that either you're stressing out in the race or tensing up and doing something differently or are just cranking it a lot harder in the race than in training, both of which should be correctable.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  12. #12
    Pedalphile
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
    really? if the billion studies on cramping that have been conducted to date havent conclusively figured it out by now, i'd have a hard time believing that an additional pending study that solves the mystery is legit.
    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.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cretin View Post
    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.
    So this "it" you're talking about isn't science based?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cretin View Post
    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.
    can you share any info on a release timeframe and publication?

  15. #15
    Senior Member wens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cretin View Post
    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.
    Seems like you've chosen a descriptive username.
    Do you think we're gonna make it? / I don't know unless we try \ you could sit here scared to move / or we could take them by surprise

  16. #16
    soon to be gsteinc... rkwaki's Avatar
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    Is it possibly a fit issue?
    "if you ride it the way it's meant to be ridden there's no way any wife is less of a ***** than a bicycle." - gstein

  17. #17
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    you're probably wearing the wrong kind of shirt.

    "When you wear the X-BIONICŪ Effektor™ Running PowershirtŪ you’ll breeze past other runners in the race. Whether competing or training after work, with the prize-winning Effektor™ technology as support you’ll gain strength and fitness."



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  18. #18
    Pedalphile
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    So this "it" you're talking about isn't science based?
    The solution is definitely science-based. Especially compared to current scientific theories on cramping which appear to be mostly driven by trendiness.

    Quote Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
    can you share any info on a release timeframe and publication?
    Maybe never since those who know still race and cramping can knock out up to 60% of your competitors. Even though people spend a lot of money traveling to races and on entry fees (up to $1000 for triathlons) I don't think much profit can be made since it's too simple to copy the idea of doing X or taking Y. So if it were published it would be for the accolades only.

    Quote Originally Posted by wens View Post
    Seems like you've chosen a descriptive username.
    I chose it so I could blend in better here.

  19. #19
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    ^then why even mention it?

  20. #20
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    Sure is mysterious in here.

  21. #21
    Ninny globecanvas's Avatar
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    I have an elegant cure for cramping as well. Unfortunately the proof is slightly too long to write in the margin of this web site.

  22. #22
    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Midol

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cretin View Post
    The solution is definitely science-based. Especially compared to current scientific theories on cramping which appear to be mostly driven by trendiness.



    Maybe never since those who know still race and cramping can knock out up to 60% of your competitors. Even though people spend a lot of money traveling to races and on entry fees (up to $1000 for triathlons) I don't think much profit can be made since it's too simple to copy the idea of doing X or taking Y. So if it were published it would be for the accolades only.



    I chose it so I could blend in better here.
    that's kind of silly since cramping affects athletes in sports where there is real money aplenty (football, soccer, basketball, etc.). the little niche of crampy athletes that we fill is irrelevant in the financial equation.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cretin View Post
    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'll be interested to hear this. I have dealt with cramp issues for some time now, and it isn't related to fitness. I've had great legs at 70 miles of a 100 mile ride, and cramped. I've had great legs at mile 44 of a 45 mile race and cramped.

    To be honest, I'm convinced that for me it's either a fit issue or a repetitive stress injury. The cramps are always on the inside of my left calf. Altering the rate and frequency of my potassium and sodium intake hasn't done anything, but I also don't have the time to squeeze in a fit session. So I deal with them as they happen.

    When people make the argument that cramps are a fitness issue, it's always helpful to remember the elite athletes who have dealt with cramps. Lebron James comes to mind.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Grambo's Avatar
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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. 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.

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