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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 05-01-10, 09:19 PM   #1
moose8
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Pain while on first 200k ride

I just did my first 200k ride today as part of the Boston Brevet series. It was very well organized and everyone was very nice. I ended up with some lower back pain while riding, and some odd knee pain that went away as I went on, and existed before the ride. Anyway, with lower back pain, how much of it is avoidable and how much is normal? It wasn't debilitating by any means, but it also wasn't very comfortable. The longer events sound very intimidating to me, but if back pain were removed, it seems doable. Is back pain something that can get fixed, or am I just being wimpy? Up until this, I generally had done 30-40 mile rides, and the back pain never seemed to manifest itself. I have not had a professional fitting, and am kind of confused by the process, since every shop in the boston area seems to have multiple options and be really expensive. Thanks for any advice.
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Old 05-01-10, 11:12 PM   #2
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Some problems will come up during a 125 mile ride that don't show up when you ride 30-40 miles. The length of time in the saddle can aggravate more things.

Lower back pain sounds like it might be a fit issue. You can do some research online about fit, and talk to the bike shops in your area. Let them know you are interested in long distance riding as opposed to shorter races.
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Old 05-02-10, 02:22 AM   #3
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Fit might be an issue, but it also could be just plain old muscle weakness (and I say that politely). You perhaps should look at doing some crunches and dorsal raises to help improve your core strength. You are generally riding in one position for much of the ride, so your back muscles (and the main support ones across the stomach) are likely to fatigue and get sore.

I know that having come back after a year-plus layoff from distance riding that the left side of my back has presented some soreness on the first populaires, but then has improved on the 200 and 300.
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Old 05-02-10, 02:29 AM   #4
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From 30-40 miles to your first 200k.... I'm impressed it was only your back that was hurting!
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Old 05-02-10, 04:04 AM   #5
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I am interested in figuring out a solution for longer rides. I don't hurt on the shorter rides, but I bet if muscle weakness is a possibility, then that is it, since I don't really do anything for my core. I'll try crunches and then maybe go for the 300k in two weeks. I was surprised in fact by how most of my body parts didn't hurt more. But it was certainly exhausting. And I was quite slow (still within the limits though). There were some astoundingly fast bike riders I saw pass me both on the way out and back.

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Old 05-02-10, 04:15 AM   #6
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There is nothing wrong with slow. I am an adherent to the concept that randonnee are meant to be fast tours, not flat-out races.

Of course, a faster ride enables you to take longer breaks or get more sleep on the really long rides. There definitely is a balance between speed, comfort, rehydration and nutrition.
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Old 05-02-10, 06:12 AM   #7
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Stuff like that can be minor and go away by itself, or not, it's hard to say.
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Old 05-02-10, 06:42 AM   #8
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How high (or low) are your handlebars? If they are quite low, you might want to try to raise them so that they are about level with the saddle.

Can you show us a photo of your bicycle ... and in particular with you on your bicycle?

You might also want to have a look over this website:
http://www.cyclemetrics.com/Pages/Fi..._fit_links.htm
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Old 05-02-10, 06:52 AM   #9
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From 30-40 miles to your first 200k.... I'm impressed it was only your back that was hurting!
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Old 05-02-10, 07:28 AM   #10
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+1
Thanks - I think it was because I ride my bike at least 5 days a week all year - my body has gotten used to sitting on a bike or something, even though usually it's a far shorter distance to and from work. Going up pretty much all of the hills I was certainly in pain, but it was a normal pushing yourself pain, whereas the back thing was present from about mile 60 or so if I had to guess. I don't have any pics of the bike and my digital camera isn't working, but I actually have the handlebars up pretty high - I think level with saddle. It's a rocky mountain sherpa 30, which is a fairly heavy but comfortable bike and I ride pretty upright, which I wonder if might have something to do with it, like I need to get more weight on my arms or something.

I'll check out the site listed in the reply above though, and hopefully figure out some improvements.
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Old 05-02-10, 07:36 AM   #11
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Anyway, with lower back pain, how much of it is avoidable and how much is normal?
In theory - you shouldn't exercise at all while in pain. The bigger issue, beyond cycling and any exercise, is whether this could be pain is triggered by spinal related factors.

It is very difficult to determine the true nature and source of back pain. As an over-the-hill mega-mile cyclist and marathoner, (and someone that finally ruptured a herniated disc) I can tell you right now that even professional people have difficulty and are biased by their specialties in predicting the sources of back pain.

If this is the kind of thing that "keeps nagging you" - there's good reason a get someone you trust to take a good look at your back. Riding through the pain, didn't workout for me.......
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Old 05-02-10, 12:59 PM   #12
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Have someone give your Glutes a hard deep massage.
Your lower back pain may just disappear...... mine did.
(felt great too!)

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Old 05-02-10, 10:19 PM   #13
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+1
+2. I did my first 200K yesterday too--not an official event, since I had signed up for the Berkshire Brevets 200K last weekend but had to cancel due to a stupid knee injury. So yesterday, after my knee recovered, I did a solo 200K, just to prove to myself that I could do it. My back was fairly sore by the end. But my previous training ride had been 102 miles. I'm really impressed that you did 200K after such (relatively) short training rides.
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Old 05-03-10, 06:03 AM   #14
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[QUOTE= I'm really impressed that you did 200K after such (relatively) short training rides.[/QUOTE]

Thanks - I did do the 100k a couple weeks before that, which until Saturday, was the furthest I had ever gone on a bike at one time. I can see how this gets addictive, because I'm already forgetting about any discomfort and thinking about doing the next one. Back felt fine by the next day, too, which makes me think it probably was nothing serious/too bad.
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Old 05-03-10, 07:38 AM   #15
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I find that stopping after about an hour (or whenever the fancy strikes earlyish in a ride) and stretching my hamstrings does wonders for my lower back. It only takes a minute or two. Of course this might not work at all for others but assuming bike fit is in order etc it can't hurt to try a little stretching after you've been riding for a bit.
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Old 05-03-10, 09:58 PM   #16
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In my experience hamstrings are indeed often responsible for low back discomfort while riding. Gentle stretches can help, as can ensuring that your saddle is not too far back.

I am kind of against "professional" fittings. They can do some good, but they can also be useless, depending upon who is doing them -- and the catch-22 is that if you don't know much about bike fit, you don't know how to select a fitter. I agree that you should do your homework, peruse the internet for basic bike fit advice (it is not, contrary to the opions of some folks trying to justify spending $$$, rocket science) and make sure you've got your bike reasonably well set up.
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Old 05-03-10, 10:22 PM   #17
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Sounds like you are getting into some long rides, cool. One thing I learned that comes in handy on the longer rides is Ibuprofen. It could be 150 miles, could be 200 miles, depending on the climbing, those are like 12 hour rides riding solo, no drafting. When my butt starts to hurt about 9 or 10 hrs into the ride, I do the Ibuprofen, makes the rest of the ride much more enjoyable, and really helps with the post ride recovery.
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Old 05-03-10, 11:03 PM   #18
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Agree about the many theories of bike fit. You have to find what suits you. I have a friend who's struggled with back pain for years. He went to the best bike fitter in my area, who moved his saddle forward, dropped his bars, and lengthened his stem by a bunch. Back pain gone. Just gone. But that may not be you.

I've found that, for me, fit is relatively unimportant. I can ride anything that's close. I do have back pain from time to time. For me, the best medicine is bike riding and rest. Make sure you recover. Bike riding is a very gentle back strengthening exercise. I've also found the standard back floor exercises of value:
http://www.nismat.org/orthocor/programs/lowback.html

Pilates is also good, but I think no better than the above.

I have also used gym equipment: cable row with back articulation, back extension machine, squats, straight legged deadlifts are all good. See:
www.exrx.net
But gently! Back exercise is not like benches where you do it until you're wasted. The back is very complicated and needs careful nurturing.

Ibuprofen is definitely something to take with, but not use until/unless you have to.
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Old 05-03-10, 11:32 PM   #19
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I have lower back pain due to muscle weakness. It has gotten better over this year and last. I have found that walking in cleated shoes is just the right thing to fix it, at least until I tire out the muscles again. Found this by accident since there are any number of bridges between Pennsylvania and New Jersey that require cyclists to walk. The little bridge troll runs out and beats you senseless if you try to ride.

I can make my lower back hurt by riding hard up a mountain so it's not really distance related for me.
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Old 05-04-10, 01:26 AM   #20
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Agreed on the problems that hamstring shortening can cause. There are some who say that stretching is a pointless exercise in sport, but I have found that touch-toe types of stretches, along with those for the sides of the torso, the shoulders, forearms and neck really do help.

A good place to do them is under the shower, assuming you have enough room to do the bend-over stretches, because the hot/warm water helps to relax the muscles. Usual caveats... don't bounce, or overstretch, and try to hold the stretch for around five seconds or longer so the muscles do relax.

There is another thought that has just crossed my mind. Machka and I both believe that thigh muscle pain and cramps sometimes are due to tight fitting gripper bands on the shorts. But it could also be that a tight-ish waistband can cause something similar. I know that on PBP 2003, I finished with a really odd numb patch just above the top of one of my buttocks. I could only think the shorts were the reason. Shifting the waistband from time to time might help.

Like so many things long-distance, many solutions depend on trial and error and experimentation.
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Old 05-04-10, 05:07 AM   #21
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In theory - you shouldn't exercise at all while in pain. The bigger issue, beyond cycling and any exercise, is whether this could be pain is triggered by spinal related factors.

It is very difficult to determine the true nature and source of back pain. As an over-the-hill mega-mile cyclist and marathoner, (and someone that finally ruptured a herniated disc) I can tell you right now that even professional people have difficulty and are biased by their specialties in predicting the sources of back pain.

If this is the kind of thing that "keeps nagging you" - there's good reason a get someone you trust to take a good look at your back. Riding through the pain, didn't workout for me.......
Yes, it's difficult, and docs will send you for tests. That's a good thing, because the results help narrow down the guesswork.

My wife is the poster child for ignoring back pain - in her '30s she acquired a limp, and finally huge painful leg spasms and pelvic numbness - clinic doctor rushed her into emergency back surgery for a double laminectomy.

Don't.

There are some pretty decent and gentle exercises for back pain on the Mayo Clinic site, as well as a very good discussion on the sources and treatments for back pain. I find they help as morning or evening stretches. Here's the link:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/back-pain/LB00001_D

There are also several exercise routines for core improvement, when on the site search for "core exercises" and you'll get this one among others: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/core-strength/SM00047

With any of these routines, be sensitive to how it feels. Pain is a sign of a problem, not a spiritual challenge.

Finally if you have decent medical you can get your doc to get you a diagnosis. Surgery is rarely done, so don't fret that. Mrs. Road Fan only needed it because of extreme severity, and it helped a lot. Ultimately if you have spinal problems, after they are treated you'll need to maintain a suitable exercise routine, probably for a long time.

I'm not a doctor, but I have a lengthy family experience with back pain.
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Old 05-04-10, 11:33 AM   #22
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Unfortunately, in today's tightened health climate, you can't get a diagnosis for the source of back pain from a doctor unless you can't move your legs or have lost feeling in them. Ask me how I know. Well, I'll moderate that statement. If you'll pay the whole cost out of pocket, you can do anything you want. This is America, after all.

RC's theory that you shouldn't exercise at all while in pain is old theory. New practice is to start with gentle exercise and watch closely for a change. Less pain = you can do more, more pain = you should do less. Increased pain during movement = stop. Couch rest is no longer recommended.
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Old 05-04-10, 05:50 PM   #23
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I've found that, for me, fit is relatively unimportant. I can ride anything that's close.
In my experience, this is true for most experienced cyclists. Back in the day, the pro racers did not each have an individual back-up bike on the team car, with the exception of the top riders on each team. If a lower level rider needed a spare during a race, he got a generic bike of approximately the right size, with the saddle height adjusted "on the fly". IOW, he'd spend the rest of the race on a bike that didn't fit him. The interesting bit is that it would often be nearly impossible to tell that it was not his bike, because the way a good rider sits on a bike is much more important than a few mm of stem extension or whatever.
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Old 05-05-10, 12:38 AM   #24
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NSAIDS, Non Steroidal Anti Inflammitory Drugs, Asperin, Ibuprofen, Aleve.

You do not train to do 12 hour events by doing 12 hour training rides, if you do you are training for something else, and your bike better fit. Your neck, your arse, your wrists and more are going to complain, not going to hurt me at all if you want to be the good Christian Scientist. I have one STP, three Ramrods (one was the 196 miler) and one Ashland Alpine Triple Challenge under my belt back when they offered a 150 miler, in case you are curious.

Many Triathletes do the NSAIDS before the event even begins. I am not them and not doing their event, can't judge that, but not for me.
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Old 05-05-10, 09:08 AM   #25
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In my experience, this is true for most experienced cyclists. Back in the day, the pro racers did not each have an individual back-up bike on the team car, with the exception of the top riders on each team. If a lower level rider needed a spare during a race, he got a generic bike of approximately the right size, with the saddle height adjusted "on the fly". IOW, he'd spend the rest of the race on a bike that didn't fit him. The interesting bit is that it would often be nearly impossible to tell that it was not his bike, because the way a good rider sits on a bike is much more important than a few mm of stem extension or whatever.
Most racers are in their twenties. Back when I was in my twenties, bike fit didn't matter so much and I could ride anything that was within an inch of being right in any given direction. But the decades have taken their toll and bike fit is more critical, particularly at typical rando distances.

So what I'd say is that for a fairly broad range of bikes that one might consider for a brevet, the bike itself almost doesn't matter as long as the critical dimensions are correct for you (i.e., the triangle made by your hands, feet, and sit-bones).
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