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  1. #1
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    Cramping or fatigue or not ready?

    I'm 50 years old, have been riding about 500 miles per year. This year I plan to ride more...have about 500 miles in 2 months. Typically have been taking 10-15 miles rides with a longer ride one time per week (increasing distances each week). Yesterday I tried my first 50 miler. About at the 35 mile mark I experienced either cramping or muscle fatigue in front of my upper leg muscles...especially the right leg. Does anyone have an opinion whether this was cramping or muscle fatigue (which I never experience on shorter rides). I had taken in water/electrolytes/carbs prior to riding and about 40 oz. of fluid during the ride. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Wookie Fred chewybrian's Avatar
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    How fast did you ride for 10-15 miles? How fast for 50?

    How much did you increase distance each week? What was your longest ride prior to 50?

    What electrolytes did you take in before the ride? Did you eat at all during the ride?

    Pure speculation: cramps, from increasing distance too fast, not decreasing speed for the longer ride, or nutrition issues. You might never know, but don't give up. Maybe you just had a bad day.
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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Hydration sounds ok; the amount you consume before the ride doesn't matter that much, it's only the consumption during the ride. Typically you want to aim for about 250 calories and 500-750ml per hour.

    Otherwise, chances are it's some sort of overuse issue.

    • Try not to increase your mileage by more than 10% total for the week.
    • Check your fit.
    • Make sure you are consistently maintaining a high cadence, regardless of incline.

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    I'd also reccomend you visit a massage therapist if that's in the budget. It made a huge difference for me.

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    Recovering mentalist Randochap's Avatar
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    You have simply ramped up your distance too quickly.

    Some long-distance riders ride 500 miles in 2-4 days. They didn't build up to this in a few weeks.

    In your case, you have equalled your whole "base" in 2 months.

    Patience and consistency. An injury, or even mental fatigue can set you back to the beginning.
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  6. #6
    Señor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    The famous quadriceps cramps. Happens to me with some frequency. Usually when I've been pushing myself for 90 minutes on a ride, or on about the 6th steep climb, or when my nutrition is not ideal.

    Whatever the scenario, the common theme is the muscles are being used beyond what they've been conditioned to. It can take discipline to ride within yourself on longer rides. If you are challenging yourself 100% of the time, you'll run into this, and you'll also see your improvement reach a plateau. Ease off for a few days, while your body recovers.
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  7. #7
    Randomhead
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    I started riding seriously again last year about the time I turned 50. I went through a lot of suffering due to over-use issues and nutrition. Even now that I've got a lot more miles in, I've noticed I really hit a barrier at 40 miles. I have to force myself to eat something every 20 miles. When I was younger, I could pretty much ride 50 miles with only water. If I was going 60 miles, it was a one banana ride, 100 miles, 2 banana ride. I figure any ride that takes over an hour should include electrolytes and nutrition. I still haven't figured that out for myself, so I don't know what to advise.

    I probably need more 35 mile rides. OP probably needs more 20-25 mile rides, with a weekly 35 - 50 mile ride. My experience in the past was once I got into shape so that 60 mile rides were easy, I could do any distance. I don't know if that's the case now, because I skipped to 200k rides. They aren't easy.

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Yup, those are your quads. Almost certainly fatigue. One defence is try harder to pedal circles, IOW pedal with your whole leg. If your quads cramp, you can keep pedaling just fine with your hamstrings, at least until they cramp, at which point your quads might be usable again. Another defense is to try to relax your legs while you pedal. This takes some concentration, but it is possible to relax the muscles which are not presently in use, IOW the quads during the pull at the bottom and the backstroke, the hams during the push at the top and then downstroke.

    That first 50 mile ride is going to be tough. I was about your age when I did my first 50 as an adult. I thought I was going to die. (I did a century at 18 on 2 bottles, an orange and a candy bar). Don't worry about it. Next weekend, do a 40, then another 50 the week after, then a 60. Your body will figure it out eventually, and 60 will be plenty for your longest ride this year. If you can consistently ride 100 miles/wk this year, you can do much longer rides next year. Always take what you think will be a spare sports bar in case you have a nutritional crash. Take a whole week off once in a while to rest, maybe every couple of months. Don't force yourself to ride the same distance each week. Make some shorter, some longer, depending on how you feel.

  9. #9
    pedo viejo
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    If I'm concerned about cramps, I usually try to (a) spin easier gears and (b) stay on top of my fluid intake.

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    You should be able to tell if it's cramps or fatique. Cramps- the muscle tenses up and doesn't want to let go. Fatique- your legs feel like rubber.

    I've not found a complete solution for cramps. Getting off the bike for a minute or two can fix it. They can randomly come and go.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Answers to questions posted

    How fast did you ride for 10-15 miles? 14-16 mph
    How fast for 50? 13.5 mph

    How much did you increase distance each week? About 10%
    What was your longest ride prior to 50? Had been building distances 20, 25, 27, 30, 32, 35, 37

    What electrolytes did you take in before the ride? About 20 oz. and about 40 oz of water/elect. mix during the ride
    Did you eat at all during the ride? 1 banana during the ride and 1 banana/yogurt prior to starting

    PS: Having just jointed the forum, I'm amazed at the information and support by all....thanks

  12. #12
    It's ALL base... DScott's Avatar
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    If you like lots of info, this is a great resource on cramping: http://www.ultracycling.com/training/cramping.html

    What's particularly cool about this link is the description of the kinds of stretches you can do on the bike to flush out the different kinds of cramps.

  13. #13
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vince868 View Post
    How fast did you ride for 10-15 miles? 14-16 mph
    How fast for 50? 13.5 mph

    How much did you increase distance each week? About 10%
    What was your longest ride prior to 50? Had been building distances 20, 25, 27, 30, 32, 35, 37

    What electrolytes did you take in before the ride? About 20 oz. and about 40 oz of water/elect. mix during the ride
    Did you eat at all during the ride? 1 banana during the ride and 1 banana/yogurt prior to starting

    PS: Having just jointed the forum, I'm amazed at the information and support by all....thanks
    Well, you're sure trying to do it right, aren't you! A couple of things to remember. All the cycling training books and most people will tell you what works for riders who have years of riding in their legs. It's very different for an adult just starting. You may not be able to do what the books think you'll be able to do. It's easy to get frustrated. Relax and unfix your goals. Just see how it goes. They say it takes seven years for beginning riders to fulfill their potential.

    Just like compound interest, that 10% thing will get away from you pronto. Concentrate on riding hills, believe it or not. That will increase your strength and aerobic ability. Seek them out. If you see a hill, ride up it.

    You should continually, though very slowly, be getting stronger. If you notice that you are using a smaller cog than usual to ride up a familiar hill, you need a few days rest, or a few days of taking it really easy. More hard training will just make it worse.

  14. #14
    Fred at large
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    I'm fifty this year. I started riding again when I was 46. I used to ride daily when I was 35. I discovered that what I "used to do" at 35 is darn near impossible at 46. Even after some conditioning.

    When I started I could ride 20 miles 2X/week. No problem. By the end of that first year I could ride 30 miles 3X/week each week every week. Now I can ride 65 miles, take 2 days off, ride off road on a steep hillclimb, take 2 days off and ride 35 miles 3X/week again. it's been 4 years getting to this point and I STILL hate it when the "kids" drop me on a climb at 25 miles without breathing hard while looking back over their shoulder at me.

    My point is that when you're older it takes time to build up the strength and endurance in the muscles. If you are experiencing leg cramps at those distances then you're probably pushing yourself too hard and you haven't built up the strength and endurance required. Since older people don't build strength or muscle as fast, the 10% increase thing doesn't work for us.
    I am Fred, hear me slurp my Grande Mocha.

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  15. #15
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    Some weight lifting or resistance training off the bike is helpful to build strength before you get on the bike, even if it is just wall sits or something like that. This is also good for bone density which can be a problem for cyclists.

  16. #16
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    If the muscles are cramping and not releasing, it is your body telling you that your hydration levels may not be adequate.

    For me, the solution has always been to take in a large dose of fluids, get some electrolytes and ease up on the pace. Doubling / Tripling water intake kept them from coming back after that. Also, you may want to consider carrying Electrolyte tablets or a few packs of TUMS to replenish the electrolyte levels in a hurry.

    Most recently my legs started cramping bad at 80K of a 300K brevet. I was able to ride another 12 hours and finish the ride using this strategy.

  17. #17
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I vote for more rest during the long rides. A good hour rest at the midway mark would have done you a world of good. :-)
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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