Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling - Cramps for the first time
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06-13-10, 05:49 AM
I have an odd problem that has just developed during this year of training. I'm 57 and have completed numerous centuries over the years. This year, for the first time, my legs are cramping during training rides. During the first training ride of 45 miles I cramped at about mile 40. Two weeks later during a 60 mile training ride, I cramped at the 45th mile. I starting taking Hammer's Eletrolyte during the second ride but it didn't seem to help. For both rides, I stayed well hydrated because I didn't feel thirsty. I've signed up to ride the Tour De Cure in Reston on Sunday so I'm wondering if I should participate.
I'd sure appreciate any help.
I struggle with some cramping too, and I've found what helps is to eat something salty before the ride ... breakfast for me is a bowl of oriental noodles ... and I also take a couple electrolyte tablets with breakfast. Then during the ride I try to eat salty foods and take more electrolyte tablets as the ride progresses.
06-13-10, 08:13 AM
wutz in the electrolyte? I think the 3 things should be sodium; potassium and magnesium. when i go on long rides I salt my water; take a full potassium supplement pill, and a 1/2 pill of magnesium. I also soak in a hot bath after the ride with a generous amount of epsom salt. I understand your muscles absorb the magnesium through the skin tissue. too much magnesium can cause loose stools, so caution with dosage. are you getting enough rest and massage between rides? overtraining?
06-13-10, 08:18 AM
It's hard to say exactly what may be causing your cramping, but I'd lean toward hydration and electrolytes as a first solution.
I assume that you're in or around the Virginia/Maryland area (since you are riding in Reston)... and you have to account for the brutal weather. In this kind of southern heat and humidity, you can burn through some minerals and salts at an alarming rate. When the weather gets nasty... our heat index was 110F here yesterday... I go into full hydration safety mode for rides even as short as an hour. The Heed goes into my bottles and the Endurolyte capsules go into my pockets.
I also carefully measure how much I'm drinking along the way because I've found that most people totally lose track of what they're actually drinking. You perception of how much is enough can be way off of how much you're really drinking. Absence of thirst is a lousy indicator of hydration levels.
Also keep in mind that everyone needs different amounts of electrolytes. A bottle of Heed has the equivalent of 1.5 Endurolyte capsules in it, and on top of that I usually take 2 capsules an hour. I have a riding buddy who requires as many as 4 or 5 caps an hour to stay cramp free on those hot days.
06-13-10, 11:42 AM
One other electrolyte that shouldn't be overlooked is calcium. I've found that plain 'ol Tums (your grandparents' antacid of choice) is a great way to get calcium on long rides without the possible stomach upset of drinking milk. I've added Tums to my usual electrolyte solutions, which are:
- Balanced meals with a decent amount of salt (though nothing crazy), protein, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium.
- Good hydration for the week heading into the event/ride.
Morning of ride:
- Breakfast with granola, yogurt, small bowl of oatmeal, a poached egg, coffee, juice and 3-4 Endurolyte tablets.
30 minutes before ride:
- a small bottle of water
- a pre-even energy drink with a decent amount of sugars, B vitamins and electrolytes
On the bike:
- One bottle has HEED (24 oz. bottle)
- The other bottle (24 oz. insulated bottle) has a strong "slurry" of HEED, Perpetuem, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of Lipton iced tea mix (for flavor). This stuff is thick and rich, and is very heat-sensitive, so it is mixed with ice to keep it cool (thus the insulated bottle). This gets sipped throughout the day, and is high in caloric and electrolyte content.
I'll carry pre-mixed slurry powder and will top off the slurry bottle as needed with ice and more mix. I also carry HEED powder to top that off as needed.
I will carry some energy gel with me (my fave these days is GU's Roctane in blueberry, with Honey Stinger's plain a close second), as well as a granola bar and some Clif Shot Blocks in margarita flavor (lots of salt in those). I also carry a small ziploc bag with Endurolytes and Tums, taking them as needed. I usually take the Tums after the 60 mile/3 hour mark, one tablet every 90 minutes, as needed.
I'll also pick up bananas, PB&J or coconut water (really great source of potassium and sugars - more potassium in an 8 oz. serving than in a whole banana - and very light on the system) if they're available on the route.
And drink water, for sure, but not without some electrolytes coming in as well. Otherwise, hyponetremia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyponatremia) is a legitimate concern.
Another thing to take: a tube sock or double-layered women's nylon stockings. Why? You can stuff 'em with ice and put this down the back of your jersey. It cools your core and is remarkable in preventing cramp on the hottest of days (akin to getting an ice water dousing, which helped me a great deal at Mountains of Misery - my write-up of which is here (http://www.randomduck.com/2010/06/02/cycling-log-30-may-2010-mountains-of-misery/)).
06-13-10, 01:49 PM
Unfortunately, the cause of cramps is unknown. It's a rather difficult thing to study, since it's very difficult to induce a genuine exercise cramp in a consistent, and therefore testable, manner. As such, most of the "remedies" are not based on actual science -- just guess-work -- and are largely panaceas. Wanna try some snake-oil? :D
However, research has indicated that it is most likely not a result of dehydration, or the loss of potassium or sodium: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/phys-ed-can-pickle-juice-stop-muscle-cramps/
The Hammer's may be beneficial in other ways, but it isn't going to prevent or resolve cramps.
By the way, that NYT article recommends stretching; just be aware that static stretches actually weaken your muscles for up to 30 minutes and don't keep your muscles loose for very long. Dynamic stretches may be a better way to deal with a cramp. Or if you feel the need to do static stretches to work out a cramp, keep in mind you're weakening your muscles in the process, and take it easy for a little while after stretching.
My best guess, which is probably as good as anyone else's ;), is just to train intelligently. Although you've done a lot of cycling, it's always possible that you are just overdoing it without realizing it. Your body may be telling you to slow down a little bit. So you may want to dial it back a little bit, take a little extra recovery time, or if you haven't done so already, ease into some interval training.
06-15-10, 07:06 AM
Yeah, you're a year older and out of shape, at least compared with previous conditioning. Just keep at it. Do the hydration and electrolyte thing, but most importantly, get more mileage in, including some hard hill riding. They'll go away. Happens to me almost every season. Roll around in the ditch a couple of times, halfway up a hard hill, get back on and keep going. In early season, I usually get them about 5 minutes after a hard hill sprint, so watch out for that kind of thing.
06-25-10, 05:54 PM
+1 to everything songfta says in post #5. My current regimen is very similar (except the ice in the panty-hose). If I'm going to be on the bike for longer than 2 hours, I begin popping the Endurolytes after the first 1/2 hour (usually 2-3 at a time). I suffered ride-ending cramps on all of my "long" rides for 2-3 months leading up to my first century. During the century, I was introduced to TUMS just as I was beginning to cramp. They stopped them and allowed me to continue. In the few weeks leading up to the event, I also started using a foam roller for myofascial release in all my leg muscles. I've been using the roller every day ever since.
06-25-10, 05:57 PM
Roll around in the ditch a couple of times, halfway up a hard hill, get back on and keep going.
Yep, I've been there before. I'm glad I got all my cramping out of the way. Rolling around on the side of the road incapacitated is not somewhere you want to be during the summer when all the rattlesnakes are out in force!
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