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Tip of the Week

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Tip of the Week

Postby natellerandi » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:59 am

Alleviating Cramping - beyond Endurolytes.

Cramping in the latter stages of races had been my Achilles heel. Generous doses of Endurolytes helped the symptoms, but I became more interested in the root cause of the cramping. It would be great if I could reduce my dependency on Endurolytes rather than being forced to carry upwards of 20-30 of them in my jersey pockets in long training rides and races. The cramping couldn't just be due to low electrolytes, was my thinking. Because, for example, if you sit there and curl your toes under, your arch will eventually cramp up. That's not due to electrolyte loss.

This year, my cramping has virtually disappeared. The rare time that I do start to cramp, it's minimal and does not progress to something worse. In fact, in most of these recent cases, the cramps go away never to return. But, even if the cramps don't go away, my power output isn't really hampered so I am able to soldier on and remain focused on racing hard. So, what have I done differently?

It turned out to be a perfect storm kinda thing. In tandem, I upped the amount of fluids and the calories I intake. I found my natural limits were higher than what I had been doing previously. So, instead of 16-20oz and 200-ish calories per hour, I bumped that to 24-28oz and 250-300cal per hour. Percentage-wise, a big uptick, but a critical one for me.

I also take in a Hammer Gel single serving 30min before every ride, except recovery rides. Especially when I ride first thing in the morning and cannot eat a meal beforehand. It's only 100cal, but it spares muscle glycogen, which seems to be part of the cramping equation as well.

Finally, I changed my training up a little bit. I added a "hardening" ride most weeks, where I climb 3 canyons in rapid succession, each one averaging 8% or greater grade (with some pitches exceeding 20%) and lasting 30-33 minutes each. Total climbing time of 90min or more, greater than 9,000ft of vertical, done at just below threshold, with 8-15 min between climbs (the recovery being the time it takes to descend and get to the next ascent). This ride is affectionately known locally as The Big 3. The first time I did this ride, I fell apart half-way up the 2nd ascent. Each subsequent attempt got stronger and now I attack this ride pretty aggressively. By forcing myself to cope with the rigors of this ride, I am convinced my muscles are better able to cope with the stressors of racing and, thus, don't cramp up as I fatigue in the latter stages of a race.

All of these things add up and, together, have made a marked difference in my overall race performances and experiences. For the first time in a long time, I'm not toeing the start line and wondering when I'm going to start cramping up in the race. Instead, I'm confident that I am doing everything necessary to avoid this scenario and that if I do start cramping, the effects will be minimal rather than catastrophic (from a performance perspective).

Hopefully those dealing with cramping will find some nuggets of info here, and you can determine a way to alleviate yourself from cramping, too.

Happy Training,
Nate Llerandi
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Re: Tip of the Week

Postby 5happyravens » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:19 pm

In short would you boil it down to eat and drink more? What happens if, in a race situation you forget or get behind in the intake? Are you cramping again? I'm VERY interested because you described my plight to a tee. Steve suggested I had a supplement of cal/mag and that has almost alleviated the cramping issue.
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