Saturday 16th October 2011

After Fridays bonk, I took yesterday off as a rest day.I usually rest on Sundays, but flipped the schedule this week.

I woke up late, and the sun was shining, the sky perfectly clear, and the temperature around 15c – just the kind of weather that inspires you to want to go for a long ride.

So, I had my usual pre-ride meal (if you can call it that) of a whey protein shake with some organic oats and a banana, waited an hour or so and set off.

I deliberately didn’t push hard. I didn’t want to bonk again (though this time I did take extra fuel with me, and also bought some energy gels from a LBS around 17 miles into the ride).
And throughout the ride my energy levels felt good. No real problem there.
However, after around 24 miles, I did start to feel my legs tighten a bit, get a bit heavier, less willing to push on. Tell tale early signs of the potential onset of cramp. This is now becoming a common feeling for me.
The energy gels I’d bought had a very small quantity of electrolytes in them so at around 28 miles I had one, and it seemed to help a little bit but the feelings were still there, and getting worse, albeit perhaps a little more slowly.

I’d intended to take a slightly longer route home but given how I was feeling thought that was probably not the best idea so headed on a more direct route, constantly managing this pre-cramping feeling.

At 32 miles, on a long straight heading back toward my village I happened upon another rider in the distance.
I’m not sure why but I decided to push a little harder to try to catch up.
I did catch up, and as I got closer, noticed it was a casual rider on an old MTB with slicks. Still he was setting a reasonable pace considering his bike. I acknowledged him as I overtook, and carried on, really feeling my legs getting tighter and tighter.

Around a minute later, maybe even less, I heard a clunk of gears from behind me, and was shocked to see the same guy rocket past me. I couldn’t reign him in – he pulled out ahead of me.

I rested in the saddle for a couple of minutes, had a few stretches out of the saddle (during which my right leg nearly locked up!) and prepared for another push, by which time he was maybe 80m to 90m ahead of me and still setting a reasonably quick pace.

I set off hard and, clawed back the distance. As I caught him I pulled along side and commented he was going pretty quick considering his bike.
He said he was on the way to the gym and he rides the 6 or so mile route every day. I didn’t feel so bad then!
We bid each other farewell as I pushed on harder for the last couple of miles home. He was either hurting, or likely just wanted to conserve some energy for the gym, as he didn’t follow.

When I got home it was a struggle just getting off the bike. Legs were very stiff.

I’m getting round to the conclusion that having sufficient energy is not my biggest problem. Far more problematic is my cramping. What I’m learning is that…

a) I’m likely not not sufficiently fueled before these long rides. Unfortunately since I’m still trying to lose weight (maybe 15lb to go) I’m avoiding the type of foods that are proven and typically recommended the night before (big pasta dishes, Chinese etc). I usually only have a small portion of oats, a banana and some whey protein in a shake around 60-90 mins before I set off. Any suggestions here given my weight loss goals?

b) I’m just not conditioned to longer distances yet. I need more, regular time in the saddle on long distance rides.

c) I’m probably not adequately hydrated BEFORE the ride. I drink nowhere near the level of water thats recommended daily for the average person

d) I definitely need to force myself to drink more fluids DURING the ride (today I returned from the 40 miler with one of my two 750ml bottles still completely full). Think I’ll try using time or distance alerts on the Garmin to remind me.

e) AFTER the ride, I’m still not drinking enough. Even now sitting here writing this I’m feeling a bit dehydrated. As soon as its posted I best go down a couple of litres.

f) Since I sweat a lot, replenishing electrolytes is key. When I make my magic powder mix (see: I’m deliberately upping the electrolyte quantity beyond whats found in typical sport drinks.

g) There may be a secret weapon in the form of pickle juice. Have a look at this very interesting forum thread:

Anyway, on the plus side, the route I took today was really nice, not too many busy roads, and Southwold turns out to be much nicer than I expected:

Also, when I saw this road sign to a place called ‘Wangford’, I had to stop, chuckle, then take a pic:

Until next time…..


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