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  1. #1
    jhc
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    Severe Cramping while racing, What causes and what can be done to prevent this?

    I love posting here, I always get great advice.

    This last w/e I raced in my 1st race of the season and my 1st sport race.
    It was great fun. I cramped real bad in both quads during both laps. Lost about
    20 minutes due to stopping, and lost who knows how many minutes just from the aftermath of the cramps. Anyway, still finished and had fun.

    I know fluids have a lot to do with it, but I also heard lack of calcium and salt causes cramps also. I drank accelerade (had 2 bottles) for the race. Prior to the race, I had a large coffee, plus 12 oz. of water. The days leading to the race, I probably drank 1/2 -3/4 gallon a day.

    Before the race, I did one full pre-race ride (light/moderate pace). Didn't drink during this.
    Is is also not a good idea to do a full lap 90 minutes before the race?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
    jhc

  2. #2
    i worship Mr T
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    check out this thread...

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=18190

    there's a link to some interesting info about how to avoid cramps and some good discussion as well.


    Quote Originally Posted by jhc
    Before the race, I did one full pre-race ride (light/moderate pace). Didn't drink during this.
    Is is also not a good idea to do a full lap 90 minutes before the race?
    it really depends on the course and how long the course is. generally i do my pre-ride the day before the race. especially if the course has a lot of climbing or is a long route (e.g., a 10+ mile trail).

    you certainly didn't do yourself any favors by not drinking during your pre-ride - you probably started your race dehydrated.

    i'd recommend doing your pre-ride the day before and hydrating better the days before and the day of the race. if you don't have to pee at least 3 times in the hour before your race you probably aren't sufficiently hydrated!

    rt
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  3. #3
    jhc
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    Thanks

    Thanks, It was a 7.5 mile lap. next time I think I'll preride a day before. Thanks for the link.


    Quote Originally Posted by *rt*
    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=18190

    there's a link to some interesting info about how to avoid cramps and some good discussion as well.




    it really depends on the course and how long the course is. generally i do my pre-ride the day before the race. especially if the course has a lot of climbing or is a long route (e.g., a 10+ mile trail).

    you certainly didn't do yourself any favors by not drinking during your pre-ride - you probably started your race dehydrated.

    i'd recommend doing your pre-ride the day before and hydrating better the days before and the day of the race. if you don't have to pee at least 3 times in the hour before your race you probably aren't sufficiently hydrated!

    rt

  4. #4
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    Cramping

    I've gone through the same thing. I've had to get off the bike my legs hurt so bad and watch everyone pass me!! That hurt almost as bad as the cramps!! I agree with *rt you need to be more hydrated before the race and 90 min. is way too much time to ride before the race. I race Expert class and my warm up is 30- 40 min. I also use accelerade, BUT, not during races. I have a hard time digesting it without getting stomach cramps when I'm racing. It all comes down to getting enough electrolytes and water, I use a camleback so I drink enough during the race. Also, GU will make you cramp if don't drink enough water with it. If you get the "runs" before a race, like a lot of people do you need remember to replace all those fluids as well. This is what works for me, keep in mind everyone is different.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhc
    This last w/e I raced in my 1st race of the season and my 1st sport race.
    If you don't have chronic cramping problems, I would bet money it's because of what you stated above: "1st race of the season." You are probably not trained for that level of intensity yet.

    Believe me, I speak from experience. Last year I had horrific cramps in my first race of the season. I thought it was because I forgot sports drink that day, but MTBDOC said it was probably just the intensity. This year the same thing happened, although not as bad (and I did have sports drink). BUT, I normally don't cramp during a race, and never as bad as I do in my first race of the season. Moral of the story...train AT INTENSITY before your first race. It's something I'm still learning!

    Bock

  6. #6
    jhc
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    Smile thanks bock.

    bock,
    before this race, i've only been out 3-4 times on the trails. i trained all winter in the gym. i know, i need real saddle time, but in nyc, it's not that easy and with only one bike -stumpy fsr, it's tougher to train. i figured it was a combination of lack of fitness and lack of water.
    but, i'm glad i made the jump to sport. this is my second yr of racing and really didn't want to sandbag and wanted the challenge. it can only get better, i hope. thanks for the advice.
    jhc


    Quote Originally Posted by bock
    If you don't have chronic cramping problems, I would bet money it's because of what you stated above: "1st race of the season." You are probably not trained for that level of intensity yet.

    Believe me, I speak from experience. Last year I had horrific cramps in my first race of the season. I thought it was because I forgot sports drink that day, but MTBDOC said it was probably just the intensity. This year the same thing happened, although not as bad (and I did have sports drink). BUT, I normally don't cramp during a race, and never as bad as I do in my first race of the season. Moral of the story...train AT INTENSITY before your first race. It's something I'm still learning!

    Bock

  7. #7
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    it's the fitness...........

    Quote Originally Posted by jhc
    bock,
    before this race, i've only been out 3-4 times on the trails. i trained all winter in the gym. i know, i need real saddle time, but in nyc, it's not that easy and with only one bike -stumpy fsr, it's tougher to train. i figured it was a combination of lack of fitness and lack of water.
    but, i'm glad i made the jump to sport. this is my second yr of racing and really didn't want to sandbag and wanted the challenge. it can only get better, i hope. thanks for the advice.
    jhc



    Muscles get tired because they aren't used to the abuse. They cramp. They cramp a little faster and more severely when I am dehydrated and/or low on salt. Don't get too distracted looking for a magic cure like ecaps or various supplements. Eat properly, train with intensity and stay hydrated (but don't over hydrate) and you'll minimize the joy of cramping experience.

    Pedal, pedal, pedal.

  8. #8
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    I agree with AndrewMcD & Bock

    I have/had cramping issues for years now. Did all the research, tried all the remedies, pills, drinks, ect. Nothing worked. I never would cramp during training rides only during a race. When I moved from Sport to Expert I increased my riding time from generally 2 hour rides to 3.5 hour rides and this has seemed to help a lot more. I notices the longer and more intense I could train, the less my cramping would be.

    Also note that depending on the severity of your cramps during a race...you can still ride and not loose all that much time. As soon as you feel a cramp coming on you need to get down into a very, very easy gear and spin the cramps out. Stress on the muscles will only make them happen....by spinning, you are taking the stress off the muslces. Just keeping them moving to avoid them locking up. Also you are still moving and not waiting on the side of the trail. During a race two years ago (Fair Hill Md) I was in 2nd place with still about 4-5 miles to go. I started cramping with some competition not too far behind. I just spun out the cramps for about 100 yards and once they went away I continued on........started to cramping again and did the same thing. Happened 3 times.......Ended up still finishing 2nd.

    KMan


    Quote Originally Posted by jhc
    I love posting here, I always get great advice.

    This last w/e I raced in my 1st race of the season and my 1st sport race.
    It was great fun. I cramped real bad in both quads during both laps. Lost about
    20 minutes due to stopping, and lost who knows how many minutes just from the aftermath of the cramps. Anyway, still finished and had fun.

    I know fluids have a lot to do with it, but I also heard lack of calcium and salt causes cramps also. I drank accelerade (had 2 bottles) for the race. Prior to the race, I had a large coffee, plus 12 oz. of water. The days leading to the race, I probably drank 1/2 -3/4 gallon a day.

    Before the race, I did one full pre-race ride (light/moderate pace). Didn't drink during this.
    Is is also not a good idea to do a full lap 90 minutes before the race?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
    jhc

  9. #9
    jhc
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    Thanks , Good Advice

    I managed to finish the race, just by spinning in a lower gear. There's nothing more frustrating than having to sit on the side and watch others pass. Than catching up to them and than cramping up again. The consensus here seems like fitness or lack of was the culprit. I will increase my training rides and intensity and see how I do in 2 weeks.
    Thanks everybody.


    Quote Originally Posted by KMan
    I have/had cramping issues for years now. Did all the research, tried all the remedies, pills, drinks, ect. Nothing worked. I never would cramp during training rides only during a race. When I moved from Sport to Expert I increased my riding time from generally 2 hour rides to 3.5 hour rides and this has seemed to help a lot more. I notices the longer and more intense I could train, the less my cramping would be.

    Also note that depending on the severity of your cramps during a race...you can still ride and not loose all that much time. As soon as you feel a cramp coming on you need to get down into a very, very easy gear and spin the cramps out. Stress on the muscles will only make them happen....by spinning, you are taking the stress off the muslces. Just keeping them moving to avoid them locking up. Also you are still moving and not waiting on the side of the trail. During a race two years ago (Fair Hill Md) I was in 2nd place with still about 4-5 miles to go. I started cramping with some competition not too far behind. I just spun out the cramps for about 100 yards and once they went away I continued on........started to cramping again and did the same thing. Happened 3 times.......Ended up still finishing 2nd.

    KMan

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhc
    I love posting here, I always get great advice.

    This last w/e I raced in my 1st race of the season and my 1st sport race.
    It was great fun. I cramped real bad in both quads during both laps. Lost about
    20 minutes due to stopping, and lost who knows how many minutes just from the aftermath of the cramps. Anyway, still finished and had fun.

    I know fluids have a lot to do with it, but I also heard lack of calcium and salt causes cramps also. I drank accelerade (had 2 bottles) for the race. Prior to the race, I had a large coffee, plus 12 oz. of water. The days leading to the race, I probably drank 1/2 -3/4 gallon a day.

    Before the race, I did one full pre-race ride (light/moderate pace). Didn't drink during this.
    Is is also not a good idea to do a full lap 90 minutes before the race?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
    jhc
    I was the original poster of the thread referenced. I got some e-caps and have been testing them. One a 4 hr ride, I had taken 2 before the ride and one every hour through the 3rd hour. I ran out then, and did't cramp until the very end of the ride at 4hrs. One isolated test, but I am hopeful they will help me.

    I agree with what others are saying about muscle fatigue being a leading contributor, but I've suffered from cramps all the time whether it is early in the season, or at the end of the season where I was riding more than ever. So for me personally there is more going on than just muscle fatigue

    I had been using gatorade and realized that while it has salt in it, it has no magnesium. Some energy drinks may be more specifically geared towards electrolyte replacement than others. Read the ingredients.

    There is cheap alternative to the e-caps called Essential Electrolytes, it is almost identical to the ecaps ($20) but cost $7. I want to try them next.

    After I get more testing done with these Ecaps I will post.

  11. #11
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    Looking forward to hearing your results.............

    Quote Originally Posted by ashwinearl
    I was the original poster of the thread referenced. I got some e-caps and have been testing them. One a 4 hr ride, I had taken 2 before the ride and one every hour through the 3rd hour. I ran out then, and did't cramp until the very end of the ride at 4hrs. One isolated test, but I am hopeful they will help me.

    I agree with what others are saying about muscle fatigue being a leading contributor, but I've suffered from cramps all the time whether it is early in the season, or at the end of the season where I was riding more than ever. So for me personally there is more going on than just muscle fatigue

    I had been using gatorade and realized that while it has salt in it, it has no magnesium. Some energy drinks may be more specifically geared towards electrolyte replacement than others. Read the ingredients.

    There is cheap alternative to the e-caps called Essential Electrolytes, it is almost identical to the ecaps ($20) but cost $7. I want to try them next.

    After I get more testing done with these Ecaps I will post.

    I'll be very interested to hear all about how you do the test and what result you get. So much of what we do is based on anecdotal information that it's always nice when somebody actually does a reasonably rigorous test of a training aid or technique.

  12. #12
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    hydrate!

    I know very little about cramping, but I am a little surprised that so few comments have been made about your level of hydration. While folks might have different opinions about the cause of your cramping, being dehydrated will definitely cause a loss of power, endurance, and ultimately speed. You won't get much oxygen if your blood is like molasses. If you really only drank 12 oz before the race, you weren't even close to hydrated, and the amount you mentioned that you drank the day before likely also left you playing catch-up. No matter how much you drink when you are riding, it's almost impossible to keep up with fluid loss. You can do pretty well, but I think it's much harder than most of us realize.

    So start at least two days before, and keep "clear and copious" in mind every time you pee. Again, I'm not suggesting that this has anything to do with your cramping, but it'll definitely affect your times.

    Oh yeah, I recognize others mentioned this, I just thought it needed some emphasis.

  13. #13
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    Cramps

    Eat a banana, or take a potassium pill. Cramps are a lack of oxygen in the muscle caused by too much lactic acid. Also salt pills are a quick remedy. Salt helps the body retain water. You often hear otherwise, but I went through Boot Camp at Fort Benning Georgia in the middle of summer and the salt content helped keep us hydrated.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewMcD
    I'll be very interested to hear all about how you do the test and what result you get. So much of what we do is based on anecdotal information that it's always nice when somebody actually does a reasonably rigorous test of a training aid or technique.
    Well, I certainly wouldn't consider this to be a rigorous test by any means.

    My goals are to once a week, try and simulate race conditions in the heat, and eat/drink the same way I would in a race. A lot of the pre-race preparation will not be done such as the face stuffing starting on Friday.

    (Hammer Gel ever 1/2 hour , water in camel bak, bottle of Enurox R4-light dillution for the last hour, or some other recovery style drink to help get me through 3hrs. Am not using a basic energy drink like Accelerade, Gatorade, etc, because the gels will work that)

    I might try and NOT drink as much prior to a simulation ride as I would for a real race, to make conditions more in-line with a cramping situation.

    The plan is to take 2 of the Enduro caps prior to riding, then 1 every hour for the duration of the ride. Ride hard, the entire time, just like a race. And see if I can make myself cramp. From past experience it seems to happen after 2-3hrs of hard riding.

    Some of these simulation rides will also be done on the 2nd and 3rd day of a Morris Style Block which I'm hoping will aggravate muscle fatigue and put me closer to cramping conditions.

    I am 135 lbs so 1/hour seems like a good starting point.

    The last ride like this I did was a very hard road ride. I cramped 4hrs into it. (though I had ran out of Enduro caps at hour 3, so who knows if one more cap would have kept me from cramping) The one really interesting thing was that this was the first time that I'd cramped in the front of my quads and NOT in the inner thigh. My speculation is that this ride had a ton of super steep road climbing which was all quad work in the saddle. I much prefer these quad cramps to the inner thigh ones. I could still ride through them much better than the inner thigh ones.


    So we shall see if any conclusive results can be drawn. But hell, if it works like a placebo I could care less. These cramps have been turned fun races into hell and demoralized me for years. So taking a proactive stance and trying to do something about it is at least making me feel better in my head.

    I'll post more in a few weeks.

  15. #15
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    For me cramps happen from two factors: ride duration & hydration.
    I got mean cramps at my 12 hour race after my bottle cage came loose (no more elecolytic liquids) and my CamelBak dried out at the start of the lap. After the 6-7 hours of riding and the inability to rehydrate, climbs became potential triggers for cramps.

    Rehydrate! thats my only advice.

    Respect, jonowee

  16. #16
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    But don't OVER hydrate!

    Quote Originally Posted by Iktome
    So start at least two days before, and keep "clear and copious" in mind every time you pee. Again, I'm not suggesting that this has anything to do with your cramping, but it'll definitely affect your times.
    You're right that proper hydration is essential for performance, BUT, I believe your advice goes a little too far. If you over-hydrate, you are flushing out all the electrolytes from your body, and this will negatively affect your performance.

    Urine should not be absolutely clear. It should be a light straw color when you are properly hydrated. If you find yourself frequently peeing in a "clear and copious" way, you are likely over hydrated.

    Just thought it should be noted!

    Bock

  17. #17
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    don't overreact

    The problems associated with "over-hydration" generally occur when the individual is exercising over long periods in hot weather. The lost electrolytes occur in the sweat. The problem with drinking plain water is that you don't replace those electrolytes. There is no consensus that you leach minerals out of your body with excess water consumption, and intuitively it doesn't make sense. That's not to say it isn't possible. But if you are hydrating before a race, it's unlikely that you'll have any problem with low electrolyte levels, assuming you eat a decent diet otherwise. You only run into that problem when you sweat heavily over a long period. If you read about any of the "over-hydration" cases, they have two things in common -- long, sweaty exercise, and water only. Don't overreact to this.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iktome
    If you read about any of the "over-hydration" cases, they have two things in common -- long, sweaty exercise, and water only. Don't overreact to this.
    You're referring to hyponatremia, a life-threatening medical condition. I was thinking of a less serious situation, where a person's electrolyte balance is out of whack, but only to the point where it decreases athletic performance.


    Quote Originally Posted by Iktome
    There is no consensus that you leach minerals out of your body with excess water consumption, and intuitively it doesn't make sense. That's not to say it isn't possible.
    Hmm, I admit that I posted my previous message without being very informed (sorry). However, I just found this quote from Lewis Maharam, MD, for WebMD.
    (http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/h...ponatremia.htm)

    "Those who drink lots of fluids in the days before the race and also stop at every drinking station along the course are...at special risk [for hyponatremia]."

    Seems like he's saying that drinking lots of water before the race can be harmful. Anyone else want to comment?

    Bock

  19. #19
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    overhydration

    I agree that overhydration can be a problem, but that is what the salt tablets are for. Salt serves a dual purpose; it helps retain water while at the same time puts sodium in your system. Sodium is in all sports drinks and I am willing to bet it is big ingredient in the electrolyte drinks. Banana's and Sodium pills. Postassium contains basic amino acids which assist in getting oxygen to the muscle and stops the production of lactic acid. Sodium replaces the vitals lost when sweating and aids in hydration. Simple

  20. #20
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    minor correction

    Quote Originally Posted by tallboy
    Postassium contains basic amino acids which assist in getting oxygen to the muscle and stops the production of lactic acid.
    Potassium contains abosolutely nothing in the way of amino acids. It is an element (K) that your body uses primarily to mediate muscle contraction. It is an ion, commonly referred to as a salt or electrolyte in this arena.

    It would be useful for everyone to read a bit on this "overhydration" issue. Major "overhydration," hyponatremia, is very rare and usually only occurs in ultra-long distance athletes competing in hot, humid weather. The major salt loss occurs through sweat, and it is the salt loss that causes the problem. Electrolyte replacement drinks have their place, but don't use this as an excuse to reduce water intake.

    There are of course gradations to salt loss, and performance likely decreases as a person moves farther away from the ideal electrolyte balance. But most of us, unless the race is very hot and long, shouldn't reach that point. If you're worried, eat a pretzl.

  21. #21
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    Cramps, potassium, lactic acid etc...

    There's a lot of information in this thread that is a bit overwhelming and not quite accurate and I wanted to just lay out some of the basics about these terms.
    1)Cramps- These can happen for a number of different reasons, and involve a spinal reflex arc along with muscle receptors. A cramp is a muscle spasm. The involved part should be tense, quivering in many cases. Exercise associated muscle cramps (actual medical term for them) can be reduced by primarily stretching (warming up) and making sure you have enough carbohydrates and electrolytes both before and during your event.
    2)Electrolytes- These are the minerals in your bloodstream. Of these low potassium is the one most closely associated with muscle cramping (although not the mediator of it...which is Calcium). Lack of magnesium and calcium can also lead to muscle cramps but this is much less common. When you sweat you lose a lot of electrolytes through your skin along with water. It is very important that when rehydrating you replace these minerals. Just replacing these losses with water will dilute the existing minerals resulting in hyponatremia (low sodium). In minor cases this can also cause muscle cramps along with nausea, vomiting and lethergy. Severe hyponatremia causes autonomic instability, seizures, coma and death (marathoners die from this). If you do long rides in hot climates this is important stuff.
    3)Lactic acid- There are two ways cells like muscles make energy a)aerobic metabolism-in which you use oxygen and glucose and produce carbon dioxide as waste b)anaerobic metabolism which metabolizes glucose without oxygen and produces lactic acid. When you are really cooking, sprinting for that matter, you exceed you bodies capacity to provide your cells with enough oxygen(your VO2 max). Even though you sucking in as much as you can (breathing) and pumping it around as fast as the pump (heart) will work, you can't provide enough, and thats where anaerobic metabolism comes in. Your natural turbo boost. You're able to provide energy at a cost. Run that daddy too long and you blow the engine. You'll build up lactic acid and it will hurt like a MF, and your pH will plumit. Not really cramps physiologically but incapacitating and difficult to discern from cramps.
    4)Fuel- One thing we didn't address is where the fuel is coming from. If you have ever done biochemistry you'll know there is not a quick answer that doesn't involve a lot of arrows and circles. Basically though if you are not providing your muscles with fuel, it's going to produce fatigue, pain, and they are going to burn whatever they can, like the protein in your muscles. This has nasty metabolites which among other things will give your kidneys a swift kick in the arse. You have to be going long for this to happen, but even in moderate distances providing yourself with simple sugars and carbohydrates is a good thing.
    Cytomax+Power Gel=speed and no cramps

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