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Hitting a 50-mile wall.

Old 03-10-10, 08:51 PM
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Hitting a 50-mile wall.

When riding alone, Iíve always assumed that slowing a little toward the end of a long ride was fairly normal, but now that Iím riding with a club Iíve noticed that for about 50 miles, I am one of the fastest riders in my club, but, at least for the last couple of longer group rides Iíve done, Iím noticing how Iím falling to the back of pack toward the end of the rides. Throughout the winter all of the rides were 30-40 miles long and I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to keep up with just about anyone in the club, I had the second highest power/weight numbers in the club on the computrainer (30-minute time trial).

A few weeks ago, on a long ride, I tried to keep up with the fast guys. I did OK for a while, kept up, took a few pulls, until my legs turned to rubber at 50-miles, and I ended up dropping back to meet with the slower group (which I never found due to a wrong turn). I only had Gatorade and a two Gel packets as fuel. I attributed my fall-off to a combination of being over ambitious, and under fueled. Last weekend I took 4 gels and a few cliff bars to eat along the way in addition to my Gatorade. I didnít take off with the hammer-heads and stayed with the less a aggressive group, watched my heart-rate monitor, and swallowed my pride when people passed me on the hills in order to conserve energy for the end. 50-miles inÖ the same thing happened. I dropped back to help ďencourageĒ some of new members who were on their first club ride and who had been falling behind all day, but the truth is that it took all I had to keep up with them.

Even as I was giving it all I had to keep up, I wasnít out of breath and my heart rate was only in the 150ís, but my quads were on fire and I just couldnít get my legs to produce any significant amount of force. Iím also having some bike-fit issues resulting in discomfort and dumbness that really becomes noticeable around the same time my legs give out. Iím training for a marathon right now, so my training time is split between running and cycling. I usually get a hilly 30-miler, a 1-hour hill repeat ride in during the week in addition to my three weekly runs and my long weekend club ride. Iím thinking about starting to do my hill repeat ride and my shortest run of the week on the same day to free up more time to spend in the saddle and possibly add another 30-miler to each week. Iím having a bike fitting done next week. Is there anything else I can do (training, nutrition) to deal with the fact that Iím hitting this 50-mile wall?
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Old 03-10-10, 10:14 PM
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Eat more. You don't say if you ate all that. The 250 cal./hr. rule. Look on the package. You probably don't need the full 250, but try for it. Anything over 3 hours, 15% protein is a good idea. Toss the Gatorade; switch to Accelerade and some electrolyte tab or cap. Or a Hammer product.

Also ride more. If you want to do 50 mile group rides, you should be riding at least 100 miles/week. 150 would be better if you want to keep up with the hammerheads. Running and riding is tough, because the 2 sports don't really support each other much. Be sure to use a recovery drink after every workout.

When my HR drops even though I'm trying hard it's usually due to exhaustion. AFAIK eating and riding more are your only defenses.
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Old 03-10-10, 11:24 PM
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I consumed 3 gel packs (300 cal), 2 cliff bars (480 cal) and 32 oz of Gatorade (320 cal). 1100 calories in about 4.5 hours. I had a big bowl of oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter for breakfast about an hour before the ride too. Iíve read a lot of conflicting information about whether Sports drinks with protein do or do not help anything. I guess I may as well get some of the single serving packages of Accelerade to see for myself on my next long ride. I will probably combine my short run and my hill ride day in order to open up another day for an additional 30-40 miles of riding which should, including the long weekend club rides, bring me up to around 120 miles/week. Maybe Iíll checkout the triathlon forum for ideas about juggling the running and cycling.
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Old 03-11-10, 12:15 PM
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Good idea to check the tri forum. Doing a brick sounds good. My guess is that it's not nutrition. Just adding protein on a short ride like that is unlikely to increase performance. I don't really notice it during the ride on anything less than 200k. 120 miles sounds good. Let us know if a month of increased mileage doesn't fix the problem.

OTOH, Gatorade doesn't have a good rep among the LD crowd. There are better things. HEED (Hammer Nutrition) is very popular. Try the melon flavor. One of the best LD racers I've ridden with consumes nothing but Accelerade.
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Old 03-11-10, 03:45 PM
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You say you are one of the fastest riders for the 50 miles but then others are faster than you after that? Sounds like you are just blowing your wad early and the others are pacing themselves better. They also probably have better endurance than you, but you have better short-term power. Not much you can do but pace yourself better for longer rides and do more longer rides to improve your endurance.
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Old 03-11-10, 03:56 PM
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If this already came up I apologize for missing it...

It sounds like you're a 'weekend warrior', yes? (no offence, just clarifying). If you're average max rides per week is equal to or less than 1 this might be a big part of the answer to your question. Some of the other advice is great, i.e. take in a small amount of protein, and the proper calories in complex carbs as you go (such as with Hammer Perpetuem and a good gel) but that only helps so much... Much of your energy comes from the glycogen stores in your muscles -- the more you train the more you store... if you ride all the time you're going to have a huge warehouse of glycogen but if you only ride on the weekend your body will never decide that it needs more than a quickie-mart worth of inventory, if you will. At least that's my experience....
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Old 03-11-10, 04:01 PM
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:facepalm:

That's not really how it works
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Old 03-14-10, 05:45 PM
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Further, Faster, Stronger.
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Old 03-15-10, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Caribou2001
If this already came up I apologize for missing it...

It sounds like you're a 'weekend warrior', yes? (no offence, just clarifying). If you're average max rides per week is equal to or less than 1 this might be a big part of the answer to your question.

I usually do 3 rides per week, but sometimes two or four depending on the rest of my life.

From my OP:
ďI usually get a hilly 30-miler, a 1-hour hill repeat ride in during the week in addition to my three weekly runs and my long weekend club ride.Ē
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Old 03-15-10, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by *****3nin.vend3t
Further, Faster, Stronger.
Thanks captain obvious.
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Old 03-15-10, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by umd
Thanks captain obvious.
Keep it short and simple. Just a rule of thumb.
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Old 03-16-10, 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Debusama
From my OP:
“I usually get a hilly 30-miler, a 1-hour hill repeat ride in during the week in addition to my three weekly runs and my long weekend club ride.”
If you want to ride well after 50 miles ... get comfortable doing longer rides, like centuries (100 mile rides). Learn to pace yourself to do a century as fast as is comfortable for you. That will likely mean slowing down a bit during the first 50 miles.
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Old 03-16-10, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by umd
:facepalm:

That's not really how it works
I assume that was directed toward me?

Glycogen is something that nobody else had mentioned in the thread, which is why I brought it up. Is it the main energy source for endurance sport? No. Is it a significant energy source? Yes.

As with most things biological, wasted energy leads to lower levels of 'fitness'. The skeletal muscle tissue synthesizes glycogen while we sleep. It produces only as much as it thinks it needs based on your general level of activity (let's call it a bookmark, or benchmark). I'm making up these numbers, but let's say your average use of glycogen each day from your routine activities is 100g. Then one day out of the month you go and do an endurance sport and ask your body to give you 1000g of glycogen over the course of the event. You will hit a wall, no matter what nutrition regiment you decided to use before/during/after your event.

Now, on the other hand, if you use 1000g of glycogen every 2nd day in your routine, your body will provide the stores that support your needs. If you don't use it your body will (over time) go back to producing less and less until it reaches equilibrium with what you actually use. This is a natural conservation of energy/resources, and yes, the muscles don't "think" it's controlled by a complex feedback system of various chemical pathways that we usually just call 'homoeostasis'.

Here's a cool diagram/graph too:
Screenshot.jpg
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Old 03-16-10, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Caribou2001
I assume that was directed toward me?
Yes, but specifically "if you ride all the time you're going to have a huge warehouse of glycogen but if you only ride on the weekend your body will never decide that it needs more than a quickie-mart worth of inventory, if you will. At least that's my experience.... "

The fitter you are, the faster/more easily you can ride without tapping into your glycogen, it isn't that you are storing more of it. Also fitter riders can more easily utilize fat for energy

Edit: maybe I'm wrong, *shrug*

Last edited by umd; 03-16-10 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 03-16-10, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by umd
The fitter you are, the faster/more easily you can ride without tapping into your glycogen, it isn't that you are storing more of it. Also fitter riders can more easily utilize fat for energy

Edit: maybe I'm wrong, *shrug*
Generally, this is close enough to the truth to be useful for the average rider, I'd expect. Did you check-out the graph? It's specifically about endurance sports like cycling... I should clarify that lots of your glycogen stores are also in your liver, and that you don't *only* synthesize glycogen at night when you sleep, BUT it takes you a minimum of 20 hours to replace your glycogen stores even with the best diet.

I also like the graph because it shows where/when/how much you use protein as well, and if you aren't taking in that small amount of protein after 4 hours of endurance activity your body will cannibalize your own muscles for what it needs... this is, obviously, counter-productive if you planed on using that muscle anytime soon

Bottom-line is that if you always hit a wall at 50 miles it's a combined matter of fitness, diet, and strategy as all have said already... I just wanted to toss-in the info about glycogen because when people talk about "hitting the wall" it's usually related to depletion of glycogen.
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Old 03-16-10, 06:54 PM
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Muscles that deplete their glycogen through exercise adapt to store greater amounts of glycogen to support that work. But, trained muscles burn more fat, and at higher intensities than untrained muscles, so they require less glucose to perform the same amount of work. A trained person can work at high intensities for longer periods than an untrained person while using the same amount of glycogen. Obviously, a person attempting an activity for the first time uses up much more glucose per minute than an athlete trained to perform it.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by umd
The fitter you are, the faster/more easily you can ride without tapping into your glycogen, it isn't that you are storing more of it. Also fitter riders can more easily utilize fat for energy

Edit: maybe I'm wrong, *shrug*
Nope, I think that is correct. I haven't read anything about training improving glycogen storage ability, but there's lots of literature showing how training improves fat utilization. A trained athlete can utilize primarily fat for energy at a higher % VO2max than an untrained athlete.

I wouldn't be suprised if there wasn't also an imrovement in glycogen storage capacity too, but perhaps it's smaller. Or no one has studied it.
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Old 03-21-10, 09:06 AM
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There is some interesting discussion happening here. I have upped my weekly mileage for the last few weeks; I also had a fitting done and I changed out some cockpit components to address the numbness issues I was having. I did an 80-mile ride with the club yesterday and had no problem keeping up with the front of the pack throughout the whole ride. Iím sure adding more miles helped, but I doubt I changed my fitness level so drastically in such a short time frame. Here is my theory on what happened based on the glycogen conversation:

After a few hours in the saddle my hands start to go numb, which was the beginning of the end of me because as the bottoms of the hills I was unable to shift gears on time using the numb pieces of meat attached to the ends of my arms, and was therefore getting left behind on every hill. Once I managed to get into the proper gear, I was sprinting to catch up and get back into the slipstream at an intensity level where I was no longer running primarily on fat stores, so I ended up depleting my glycogen levels and effectively bonking out despite having had plenty of fuel along the way. I also switched from Gatorade to Accelerade this week, so that may have made a difference too.
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Old 03-21-10, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Debusama

After a few hours in the saddle my hands start to go numb, which was the beginning of the end of me because as the bottoms of the hills I was unable to shift gears on time using the numb pieces of meat attached to the ends of my arms, and was therefore getting left behind on every hill. .
Wow, If your hands were getting so numb that you couldn't shift effectively, I'd say you had bigger problems than getting dropped. That sounds dangerous. Glad to hear things are going better.
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Old 03-22-10, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Debusama
After a few hours in the saddle my hands start to go numb, which was the beginning of the end of me because as the bottoms of the hills I was unable to shift gears on time using the numb pieces of meat attached to the ends of my arms, and was therefore getting left behind on every hill. Once I managed to get into the proper gear, I was sprinting to catch up and get back into the slipstream at an intensity level where I was no longer running primarily on fat stores, so I ended up depleting my glycogen levels and effectively bonking out despite having had plenty of fuel along the way. I also switched from Gatorade to Accelerade this week, so that may have made a difference too.
Ummm ... do you have full-fingered gloves?
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Old 03-22-10, 07:00 AM
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I have the same issue - except my "wall" is at ~35miles.

for the first 30-35 miles i am fine - one of the faster riders in the group - especially climbing.

then, at ~35 it's like someone threw a switch - my legs are jello - I'm still ok on flats (not fast, but hanging), but on climbs, there is just no power left... just as the OP says, my heart rate stays low, and I feel fine, it's just that my legs can't produce any power, for more than a few seconds.

Note that on a slower ride, this doesn't really happen - it only happens when I've been going fast for the first 35.

I am eating a bit during the ride - chocolate and gel cubes...,

I just figure I need to do more long fast rides.

I should probably note that i'm 51yrs old, and am pretty new at this - less than 1 year of group riding. i'm 5'10, 160lbs, so i am not really carrying much extra weight.

edit- i am making this sound like it happens all the time, it doesn't. but it did happen on sunday. i did a 35 mile ride on saturday, and a 40 mile ride on sunday, i was a bit jello-like for the last 5 on sunday.

Last edited by jgf310; 03-22-10 at 07:09 AM.
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Old 03-22-10, 10:43 PM
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If you start running out of gas at 60-90 minutes trying eating more 60 minutes before you ride and start drinking a sport drink prior to starting your ride. Then continue to eat and drink based upon what you expect to be doing 20 minutes in the future. Eat before you have a chance to feel hungry and drink before you are ever thirsty. Try tanking up with a gel chased with water 5-10 minutes before you start a big climb, eat 1/2 of an energy bar that has some protein after the summit. Keep sipping on some endurance drink and water in between. I am 57 and this is what keeps me feeling good on long rides.

I always wonder how people ride longer distances without consuming more water. On cool days I carry a 72oz camelbak pack, one 24oz water bottles, and one 16oz energy drink bottle. When it gets warmer I add another 24oz water bottle. When I go out and ride 60 miles I usually drink it all. I will reduce the load for supported rides but I always have a 72oz camelbak and a 24oz bottle.

I just got a new Camelbak XLP model pack. This the 3rd Camelbak pack model I have used and it is the best one so far for road riding; it is compact, light weight, and has some useful storage.

https://www.camelbak.com/en/sports-re.../2010-xlp.aspx
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Old 03-22-10, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by jmess
I always wonder how people ride longer distances without consuming more water.
Everyone is different.
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Old 03-23-10, 04:25 AM
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I guess the thing i am still wondering about is this:

is there a physiological difference between becoming generally fatigued after say 35-40 miles, and having specific muscles refuse to produce power?...

the later is what happened to me. I was not tired generally, in fact I felt pretty well. I did not feel hungry or thirsty, and was fine mentally as well. It was odd, because often your body sends signals that you are going too hard or too long, but I wasn't getting those, and each time I tried to apply the power, I was a bit surprised to find my that my leg muscles couldn't deliver what they had delivered earlier.

It seemed like the OP was describing the same thing.

I guess what we want to know, is: is it as simple as just riding harder and longer? I suspect that it is that simple. I don't really have the feeling that it's about eating or drinking. I believe that if it were about eating or drinking, I would have had a sense of general fatigue, which I did not have.
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Old 03-29-10, 05:47 AM
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burning quads? doesn't that mean you should down shift and spin a little faster?
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