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  1. #1
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    Defeated by a hill for the first time, and I fell down

    Still pretty new to road cycling (less than a year). I took off for a 20+ mile ride through some pretty hilly terrain this morning. Up until today, I had rode through some pretty tough hills and felt pretty good.

    A third of the way in, I see two other cyclists turn onto the same road as I was riding from a cross road. They didn't see me, but I attempted to catch up to them (half mile ahead). As I pulled closer, I realized we were heading into a pretty steep hill I had never rode. Despite the fact that I had been pounding it a little harder than normal to catch up, I had very little momentum coming into the hill.

    3/4 of the way up I realize these are guys are moving up pretty well as they are pulling away. I also realize I can't seem to keep going, so for the first time in my adult life, I hopped off my bike and started walking.

    By now I had lost them, but after a small walk I made it close to the top. At this point I decided I could jump back on and try and catch back up. As normal, I stepped over, clipped in my right foot and was just about to push off and I got a massive cramp in my left calf. My calf got so tight that I involuntarily fell over the right side of my bike in pain. I was able to pull my toes up and relieve a little bit of the pain, but at this point, it wasn't just my leg that hurt. My pride was pretty bruised as well.

    After a 5 minute rest and some stretching I decided I could get back on, but I didn't know if I should keep going or head back home. My GF was on call, so I decided to push forward knowing I could always call for a ride. I rode the rest of the route with some pain in my left leg, but it seemed to loosen up alright.

    So the question is, what caused me to cramp up?

    Was I dehydrated? It wasn't hot, and I took in a decent amount of water the night before and the morning of.

    Did I just push past my limit trying to catch up to the other cyclists?

    Was my climbing technique incorrect?

    I'm still a bit sore, but for the most part, I'm looking forward to heading out tomorrow if possible.

  2. #2
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    I'm not an expert by any means but from most that i understand majority of the cramping is caused by dehydration and muscles contracting. It sounds like after you took the small break that your muscles got constricted and might have been a good idea to stretch a little before you jumped back on the bike. Plus all that heavy work out trying to catch up the other riders that you where a little dehydrated from the ride and could have benefited from taking on some water during your break. I've learned from my days of doing martial arts and sports activities how important it is to stay hydrated and stretch those muscles and joints. Never hurts to take in some extra water especially if your doing something strenuous like taking on a hilly challenge. Sneaky things about dehydration is that your body doesn't give you too many noticeable signs until you get the big ones like a cramp or nausea.

    I'm still riding on relatively flat terrain. I am trying to work my up on the hills. I do a hilly 1 mile run and try to take it on pretty hard and end doing about 5+ laps before I'm too exhausted to continue.

    Keep cycling away and I bet in no time you'll be able to catch those guys next time and maybe even pass them.

    Enjoy the hills,

    Mark
    Bianchi - Infinito - 2012 - Ultegra 6700 Group w/ Fulcrum Racing Zero wheelset

  3. #3
    Cycling induced anoesis
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    Quote Originally Posted by MyaLover View Post
    Still pretty new to road cycling (less than a year). I took off for a 20+ mile ride through some pretty hilly terrain this morning. Up until today, I had rode through some pretty tough hills and felt pretty good.

    A third of the way in, I see two other cyclists turn onto the same road as I was riding from a cross road. They didn't see me, but I attempted to catch up to them (half mile ahead). As I pulled closer, I realized we were heading into a pretty steep hill I had never rode. Despite the fact that I had been pounding it a little harder than normal to catch up, I had very little momentum coming into the hill.

    3/4 of the way up I realize these are guys are moving up pretty well as they are pulling away. I also realize I can't seem to keep going, so for the first time in my adult life, I hopped off my bike and started walking.

    By now I had lost them, but after a small walk I made it close to the top. At this point I decided I could jump back on and try and catch back up. As normal, I stepped over, clipped in my right foot and was just about to push off and I got a massive cramp in my left calf. My calf got so tight that I involuntarily fell over the right side of my bike in pain. I was able to pull my toes up and relieve a little bit of the pain, but at this point, it wasn't just my leg that hurt. My pride was pretty bruised as well.

    After a 5 minute rest and some stretching I decided I could get back on, but I didn't know if I should keep going or head back home. My GF was on call, so I decided to push forward knowing I could always call for a ride. I rode the rest of the route with some pain in my left leg, but it seemed to loosen up alright.

    So the question is, what caused me to cramp up?

    Was I dehydrated? It wasn't hot, and I took in a decent amount of water the night before and the morning of.

    Did I just push past my limit trying to catch up to the other cyclists?

    Was my climbing technique incorrect?

    I'm still a bit sore, but for the most part, I'm looking forward to heading out tomorrow if possible.
    I suspect a combination of things caused your cramp, but primarily lacking electrolyte replenishment (notice I didn't say drinking enough water) and the vigorous effort.

    It's doesn't have to be hot out to lose electrolytes along with fluid, so it's important to drink Gatorade (or similar) during the ride. You mentioned drinking (water) the night before and morning of, but not during, so that would matter as well.

    Here's a link to give you a better understanding of what electrolytes consist of. From there, you can search out drinks/ foods that replenish them.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolyte

    This next link explains muscle cramps and some causes (pg. 1 and 2). I think you'll recognize some of them.
    http://www.medicinenet.com/muscle_cramps/article.htm

  4. #4
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    It is possible that it was dehydration/low electrolytes, but considering the information in your post it seems unlikely (short ride in temperate weather and you were hydrated).

    Most likely it was simply that you stressed your muscles too much.






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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ352 View Post
    I suspect a combination of things caused your cramp, but primarily lacking electrolyte replenishment (notice I didn't say drinking enough water) and the vigorous effort.

    It's doesn't have to be hot out to lose electrolytes along with fluid, so it's important to drink Gatorade (or similar) during the ride. You mentioned drinking (water) the night before and morning of, but not during, so that would matter as well.

    Here's a link to give you a better understanding of what electrolytes consist of. From there, you can search out drinks/ foods that replenish them.
    Electrolyte - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    This next link explains muscle cramps and some causes (pg. 1 and 2). I think you'll recognize some of them.
    Muscle Cramps Causes, Cramping Prevention, Treatment Information - MedicineNet
    Agree completely with this "diagnosis". I used to get brutal leg cramps in several sports - not just cycling, and I drink a lot of water. I started ensuring electrolytes were maintained, and they are now pretty rare.

    You can try "eload" tablets, or similar. Easy to use, and small to take with you.

  6. #6
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    The first or second time I tried to do one of my local training crits, I had to bail out because my calf cramped badly and I was afraid I might fall or something. Which is bad enough, but I'd have caused a crash doing it in a pack. Took me until my third visit to hang with the pack for the whole race. I haven't been back in a while, it's not terribly convenient, but I think I'm a ways away from being able to see the front on a prime or finishing lap.

    If I ride at redline long enough, I tend to have problems with that. "Pounding a little harder than normal to catch up" and then trying to climb something steeper than you're accustomed to are a pretty good way to get very anaerobic indeed. Since you didn't bonk, the other thing that happens is that your body has trouble clearing waste products from your muscles. Hence, cramping.

    It won't do you any harm to try an electrolyte drink. I like half-strength Gatorade. Mostly because I can buy the powder at my local grocery store, and mix it to whatever strength. People have some other recipes, but I find that the powder form is cheap, lasts a while, and works fine for me. You can also consider something without sugar. Part of why I like half-strength is that full-strength messes with my stomach when I'm riding at moderate effort. A hard enough effort and even half-strength is a problem. I always ride with two water bottles. One is plain water, so I'm not forced to drink Gatorade if I don't want to.

    As you get stronger, this problem will be mitigated. However, it still comes up for very strong riders at times. There's always someone stronger, and there's always a more difficult hill, so when you chase those stronger riders up that harder hill, the problem can easily come back.

    Sometimes I think pedaling technique can contribute too. If you pedal toes-down or, worse yet, ankle on purpose, and you're tense, for me at least it's a combination that makes my calves crazy.

    The training crit. I alluded to earlier has a punchy little climb in it. Weird, but there you go. It's sort of like racing hill repeats, because the entire course is maybe a mile. I noticed that if I stayed in the saddle and pushed out more watts for the climb, it was harder on my calves than if I got out of the saddle. On the other hand, getting out of the saddle was harder on my aerobic system. So I alternated. On an extended climb, I highly recommend alternating. Riding rolling hills, where they're short enough to do entirely one way or the other, I usually spin up the first part and then either just keep spinning over the top or get out of the saddle and punch it a little. Depends what I'm looking for from the ride. I'm more efficient as a spinner, and I'm more of a mountain biker anyway, so I generally emphasize spinning over standing climbing techniques. It never hurts to have more tools in the box, though.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the feedback everyone. The more I read the more excited I am to get back out there and try again.

  8. #8
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    In addition to what has been said - over stressed muscles (most likely I think), electrolyte replacement (I also mix 1/2 water), etc. I'll add that things like sodium and potassium can contribute to cramping. Sounds like a pretty harsh cramp though so I would take it very easy over the next couple days if you go out riding.
    I ride mostly in the honorable pursuit of being kissed on both cheeks at the same time by one blond and one brunette. But not redheads, they scare me.

  9. #9
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    Your cramping issue doesn't sound as serious as mine, but I will share what I learned anyway. I struggled with cramping calves for a long time before I was able to fix it. And I got a lot of the same information posted above, which is all helpful. Enough water, electrolytes etc. Two things helped me. I started taking a supplement of calcium and magnesium. But that only took the edge off. What finally fixed the problem for me was when I started working with a new trainer who informed me it was due to a weak muscle in the front of my leg, running up my shin bone. Sorry, I wish I knew the name of this muscle, but I don't. Essentially, I had a really strong calf muscle but the complimentary muscle was so weak, it couldn't fight it. I now do regular exercises to strengthen it, and have not had any more issues.

  10. #10
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    It's pretty much been said so far but I'm going to chime in. I've been riding now for a little over a year and a half. In the beginning I took it slow trying to build my strength up and I remember that first twenty mile ride very well. There wasn't any climbing to speak of and all went relatively well. As time went on like many of us I was working hard to increase my strength, speed, distance etc. I will never forget the first time I cramped up. I thought I was going to scream for my life. It hurt like nothing I had ever felt in my legs. I immediately starting researching the cramping and asked some questions here as well.

    What's worked well for me is having a steady flow of fluid (18 to 24oz per hour), electrolyte supplements (endurolytes capsules or heed mixed with my water), both are hammer products and a steady flow of food/calories. Sometimes I almost feel like I'm forcing myself to take in food on rides but I know I have too. If Iím going to be out for two hours I mix the heed in my bottles. If Iím going to be out for three to five hours, I mix a different supplement in my bottles and take two endurolytes capsules per hour and two one hour before starting. I also supplement calcium, mag, potassium on a daily basis.

    Light stretching prior to riding and medium stretching after has helped as well.

    It seems like the combination of hydration, electrolytes, consistent calorie intake and stretching has done the trick. This is not to say you didn't just over tax your muscles that day as you were pushing hard to catch other riders. I have had that happen as well.

    Hope this helps and keep rolling
    2013 Lynskey R230. Campagnolo Chorus 11 group-set. Campagnolo Neutron Ultra wheel-set. Easton EC90 aero handlebars on 3T team stem. Specialized Romin Expert 155mm saddle. Look Keo Carbon Blade pedals. Garmin Edge 800. Lizard skin tape.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LauraM View Post
    What finally fixed the problem for me was when I started working with a new trainer who informed me it was due to a weak muscle in the front of my leg, running up my shin bone. Sorry, I wish I knew the name of this muscle, but I don't. Essentially, I had a really strong calf muscle but the complimentary muscle was so weak, it couldn't fight it. I now do regular exercises to strengthen it, and have not had any more issues.
    Interesting, thanks. I have intermittent problems with cramping quads, I'll look into weakeness of the complEmentary (sorry, couldn't resist) muscles as a possible cause.



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  12. #12
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    I know the electrolyte theory behind cramping is pretty popular but has anyone checked out the science of sport articles about it? They state cramping is from working a muscle more than it has worked in the past and that all the studies that link cramping to electrolytes are paid for by Gatorade Sports Science Institute. I'm just a newbie but thought the articles were interesting(I can't post links yet):
    Google sportsscientists go to "Featured Series" and go to the first one under muscle cramps.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by D&MsDad View Post
    complEmentary (sorry, couldn't resist)


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