It’s a long, slow road to progress

Today should have been a great ride. I decided to combine two rides I do often into one, and come out with about 35 miles. I did the ride as recently as last week. But today it was agony.

Things started out great. I headed out Mopac, which I’ve mentioned here before. Traffic is generally light on Sunday mornings.

The shoulder on Mopac disappears at several places. The SUV was probably moving at about 65 mph. The bikers ahead were on hybrids, and I was catching them fast.

I felt good as I finished up the Mopac loop, and headed north to pick up Southwest Parkway. Southwest Parkway is also a four-lane divided highway with (usually) generous shoulders. Traffic can be heavy, but it’s a biking favorite, because it’s fairly hilly. I took advantage of the long downhill once I hit the parkway, and reached a speed of 37.8 mph. I detoured through a pleasant residential neighborhood for a few miles, and just before the route rejoined the parkway, I stopped for a break at about 22 miles. The Larabar in my pocket was good, and I finished off one of the water bottles and took a swig from the second. I stretched a bit, walked a bit, and headed out.

I had to go back up the long hill I’d flown down, and I felt as though I lacked energy today. I got up it all right, but didn’t feel the snap to my pedaling that I do on a good day. At the top of the hill, I paused for a picture of some fabulous houses that hug a ridgeline.

These houses are along a private road that dips down into a valley. It’s popular with bikers who really like to hammer hills, because most riders start in the valley and come up along the houses.

By this time, I was getting concerned because my butt was really bothering me. I was wearing my new bibs with a generously-padded bottom, and I’ve liked my saddle since I first got it, but today I couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I was pleased that I could deal with the discomfort well enough to get up the the steepest hill on the route — slowly, but at least smoothly. From this point, it’s only about five miles to home, with some nice fast downhill stretches.

But I think the heat was getting to me. It was about 92°F (33°C) — nothing I haven’t been used to this summer, but not this far into a ride. I was slogging. The going was made worse by the fact that the city is laying new chip seal on a road near home, and it was rough and unfinished.

Just as I turned the corner to head into my own neighborhood, my left thigh cramped up — painfully. I couldn’t turn the crank, and almost had a clipless fall until I could regain control, stop, and dismount. I shook the thigh to loosen it up, while a pair of turkey vultures perched on a light standard across the street hoped I would just collapse already, so they could have lunch!

I didn’t collapse until I got home, though. I gulped down a pint of water and fell into bed. I was baffled why things finished with such difficulty today. This ride wasn’t any farther than I’ve gone a number of times before. It was on familiar roads. I carried adequate water and food, and was pretty good about drinking every 10-15 minutes. My average speed was slower than usual, but only by about a half mile per hour.

I figure the heat must have had something to do with it. It was the only variable that had changed, being hotter today than the last time I rode this route. And I must admit, I probably did push it more than I should have on the Mopac portion of the ride, when it was a bit cooler.

Still, if I’m going to increase my weekly and long ride mileage to get ready for some new biking challenges, I have to figure out why today left me with so little energy. And what’s with the sore butt?


  1. says

    Ouch, sorry to hear you fell into distress. Sounds like you need some Hammer Endurolytes. I know Bicycle Sport Shop-South has some and I believe Jared picked some up from REI.

  2. joel says

    Sounds like hyponatremia – lots of sweating plus water drinking = too little salts/electrolytes in the body. Makes you tired and leads to cramping. My sis-in-law got hit by it during the San Diego marathon a few years back – the same quad cramp you mentioned but both legs. There are any number of ways to deal, just look up electrolyte replacement. One word of advice – if you go the sports drink (Gatorade et al) route, cut it 50% with water, there’s too much sugar in full strength for good hydration.

  3. says

    It might be electrolytes but I am skeptical. It wasn’t like you were out for hours. Read some of what Nancy Clark has to say on this. She is not a big fan of all the over hyped electrolyte replacement stuff. I am not either.

    She has an excellent book out on sports nutrition. It is an excellent book.

    I sometimes use diluted Propel but it is only because when riding all day water gets too boring after awhile.

    Based on what I see when I ride and talk with other cyclists I know I am in the minority on this issue.

  4. says

    Sorry to hear the ride was so tough but glad to hear you made it back home without crashing. The high-heat here in Jacksonville is why I get up to ride at 5:00 am.

    There’s a group of buzzards that like to sit on a light pole and fance along my route as well. I know they’re just waiting for me to fall over someday so they can feast on my pathetic corpse.

  5. says

    Man, that sucks. I don’t know if this’d help you, but I tend to bring a bottle of water and a bottle of something else, these days usually Powerade Zero — I used to bring Powerade Option (RIP). Or Propel, or normal Gatorade if you don’t mind the calories. I sort of drink whichever I feel like at a given moment, and that seems to work better than pure water or pure Powerade for me.

    I also felt a bit lethargic this weekend, but not as bad as you’re describing. The sore butt thing could just be a fluke, I find that happens now and then for no apparent reason, and I’m fine the next ride.

  6. rainycamp says

    Y’know, it’s a funny thing. I had been using Accelerade, and when I ran out last week, didn’t get around to replacing it. While using it it didn’t seem to make that much difference — but I guess it was working without my knowing it. After Sunday’s experience I’ll be hitting the LBS again for some more — or maybe I’ll try Heed this time, since Mike seems to like it so much. Is the taste acceptable? Accelerade has a funky aftertaste, but you get used to it.

  7. says

    I personally don’t think Heed has any after taste. I prefer the orange flavor, it tastes like an orange dreamcicle. Plus for me it doesn’t taste bad when warm or hot. Keep me posted on what you think of Heed.

  8. says

    Sorry to hear you had a tough day. It might be electrolytes and it might just be you had a tough day. Some days, it’s just a little bit harder.

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