Monday, June 27, 2011

My Endurolytes Experiment... 100 km Later

Since I received a number of suggestions via Twitter and this blog concerning my issue with cramping up on the bike, I thought I’d follow up with a little report on my ride yesterday. After posting a number of theories last week as to why I might be cramping up so much, the general consensus seemed to be that the underlying causes were an imbalance in my electrolytes levels and hydration. One of the answers to my request for help that I received specifically suggested I try a product called Endurolytes.

Endurolytes, if you’re not familiar, are an electrolyte replacement supplement that comes in a capsule form, although I think you can also get it in a drink mix powder form. Anyway, I could only find the capsules at my LBS so I picked up a supply of those. The supposed benefits of Endurolytes is outlined nicely on the product website, and I quote:

Cramping is your body's final warning signal that you're on empty electrolyte wise. However, your performance is deteriorating and you are slowing down long before you feel the slightest twinge of a cramp. To keep your body's muscular, digestive, nervous, and cardiac systems firing on all cylinders you need a consistent supply of all electrolytic minerals, not just sodium and potassium. Plus, in many instances, you require greater volumes of electrolytes than any sports drink or gel can provide. That is why Endurolytes fulfills such a crucial component of your fueling by supplying your body with a perfectly balanced, full-spectrum, rapidly assimilated electrolyte source, allowing you to meet your widely variable electrolyte needs with tremendous precision, hour after hour, no matter what the weather throws at you.

Extra Benefits:
Taking two or more Endurolytes before bed may help prevent night cramps and nighttime muscle twitching.

Usage directions suggest 1-3 capsules before exercise, 1-6 during and 1-3 after. I decided to experiment the low end of the suggested dosage to start and took 1 about a half hour before I started my ride and 2 while I was on the road… 1 at the 50km mark (2 hours) in and 1 at the 75km mark (3 hours in).

I’m happy to report that early test results are positive. I made it well past my normal cramping wall of 50-60km, and actually finished out my ride at 100km even with only minimal cramping. While I didn’t completely lock up like usual though, I did feel like I was riding on the ragged edge of cramping and that if I pushed just a tiny bit harder, I would have indeed felt the full effect of the leg cramps again.

I also made a special effort to hydrate just a bit more with lots of water the day/night before and in the morning before I started. On the ride though, I think my consumption was still a bit low. I had in total about 750ml of water, 750 of Gatorade and a 500ml bottle of Coke (for the liquid carbs). I also stopped at a coffee place and asked for a bottle refill, but couldn’t drink that. I took one mouthful of what tasted more like sewage than water and spit that out immediately.

All in all, I’d have to say that the Endurolytes did their job. Just need to find the optimal dosage and balance with hydration now. The only real problem was that the cramps in my thighs were replaced with straight-up pain. By the time I finished my legs were screaming for mercy and I had to take some Tylenol to settle that down. My left knee has been bothering me a bit this year and that really radiated up into my thigh. I’m chalking the knee problem/pain up to my new bike and new gearing ratio (relative to my old bike) and lack of distance endurance. Could be the set-up too I suppose, but I was measured up at the shop when I bought this one.

Outside of the cramping, other 2 other items of note. I thought my whole experiment might be in jeopardy at only the 10k mark when I rode past a work crew cutting down an old utility pole. As luck and wind direction would have it, I passed just as they had finished chain-sawing off a section of the pole about 30 feet up. As I glanced up, I was hit square in the face with an invisible cloud of sawdust, a piece of which got stuck in my eye, despite my glasses. I spent the next 20 minutes blinking, poking and prodding my eye to try to get it out without much success. I thought I’d have to turn and head for home, but carried on anyway and soon enough it seemed to clear out on its own.

Then with only 5km to go, I geared up on my front derailleur and [SNAP] my derailleur cable let go. Fortunately an easy post ride fix and a short enough distance to go that it didn’t really matter. Just glad it didn’t happen 50km sooner.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cycling and Cramping: My Perrenial Problem

Even though I haven't really been keeping my cycling blog up-to-date, I thought I jump back in with a post about my perrenial problem on the bike: Cramping. This follows my latest ride just yesterday of a little over 88km, the last 30 or so of which I battled excruciating and debilitating legs cramps. I had to dismount no less than 5 times to stretch out and actually considered abandoning my ride (in favour of a call for a pick-up).

Now legs cramps while riding is nothing new for me. In fact, it's been a problem for as long as I can remember. For some reason though, this year so far seems to be a little worse than other years and I just can't seem to get past 50-60km without my legs locking up. Oh and by legs, I mean primarily my thigh muscles.

I thought I'd float a few theories as to why this continues to happen. Feel free to agree or disagree, and offer any thoughts and suggestions you might have. Chances are my cramping is a combination of many, if not all of these (and more).

Theory #1: Lack of Training

Admittedly, endurance, or should I say lack thereof, is probably a factor. It's June 20 and I have yet to pass the 500km mark on the bike for 2011 (497km to be exact). In my most active riding season 2 years ago, I was already over 1000 at this point. On top of that, because of work schedules and other committments, I really only get out once a week on the weekend, so I have no doubt that lack of training and the subsequent lack of endurance are contributing factors.

Theory #2: Electrolyte Imbalance

This is probably THE main reason for my cramping problem but I can't be 100% certain. I've done a fair bit of reading on the subject and even the medical profession, including sports nutritionists, don't seem to be sold on this being the cause of cramping. Study results seem varied and inconclusive. It makes some sense to me though because there does seem to be some tie between electrolyte levels and sweating...and I sweat like there's no tomorrow when exercising. Even in the gym, while others around me look to be largely cool and dry, I am literally dripping wet and soaked from head to toe. Same goes for riding a bike. I have to wear a headband under my helmet at all times to keep blinding sweat out of my eyes. The theory goes that through sweating, I'm losing key electrolytes that are a must for maintaining proper muscle function and for preventing my leg cramps.

Following my ride yesterday, in desparation I threw a request for help and suggestions out to my twitter followers. I got 2 replies, both suggesting electrolytes imbalance. One suggested I consult a sports nutritionist, the other to try Endurolytes, which many people swear by. I'm going to try Endurolytes first and hopefully will be swearing by it myself soon as well...rather than just swearing.

Theory #3: Poor Nutrition/Eating Habits

This is somewhat related to #2 and I'm a bit ashamed of this one, but I have terrible eating habits, particularly when cycling. I try to eat as much as I can before a ride but the simple fact of the matter is that I am not a morning eater. I rarely eat any kind of breakfast and usually have to force myself to eat in the morning before a ride. Yesterday for example, I forced down a bowl of oatmeal and a large pancake that I slathered in Nutello. I would have had a banana too I suppose, but did have any on hand for before or during my ride. On my ride, I had an oatmeal bar and a Powerbar. Not very much, but again I struggle to eat and ride. Before you call me out on that one, I know. Big mistake.

Outside of my exercise diet, I wouldn't say my regular diet is that special either. Too much junk food no doubt. Lots of pasta, tons of red meat, little in the way of greens. Most certainly not a diet deliberately built around cycling nutrition.

Theory #4: New Bike, New Gearing

This theory is dubious, but I thought I'd throw it in there. With the new bike this year (see last post), I am riding a different gearing ratio with the bulk of my riding on the large ring up front. On my old bike, I think I was primarily on the small front ring but I can't seem to find a matching ratio on the small ring this year. I'm thinking that the slightly bigger gear is taxing my legs a bit more than usual and might explain in part why this years' cramping seem a little worse than in years previous.

Theory #5: Hockey

More than any year before, I've been playing a lot of ice hockey which is very strenuous on the thigh muscles. I'm thinking that my thigh muscles may have strengthened a bit due to hockey, but because it perhaps uses a slightly different muscle group, the added hockey muscle is turning out to be a drawback for cycling. That could be a bit out there, but yesterday's cramping also involved the hamstrings on the back of my legs, which has never really happened before.

Theory #6: Age

I'm turning 46 this year and, according to some of my reading, cramping is more prevalent as you age. A possible contributor, but that doesn't really explain all the guys in there 50s and 60s who seems to ride longer, faster, and harder than I do and seem to have no issues with cramps.

Theory #7: Hydration

This one undoubtedly should be higher on the list, but I just thought of it. Once again, studies seem inconclusive that there is a definitive correlation between cramping and hydration, but I'm guessing it has something to do with it, especially for someone who sweats as profusely as I do. I don't think I'm underhydrating, but you can be the judge of that. Over 88km yesterday, I consumed 5 bottles of liquids (2 water, 3 Gatorade). That seems like a sufficient amount to me, although my timing could be off. The first 2 (water) were over the first 65km, the final 3 (Gatorade) over than last 23km. Come to think of it, that's a horrible consumption schedule.

That's about all I can come up with for now. If you have any other viable theories, or would like to comment on mine, feel free.

By the way, if you want to follow me on Twitter for a combination of cycling updates and other nonsense, please do. My handle is @delliott13.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My New Ride

After much debate, I finally decided to bite the bullet and upgrade my bike this year to a full carbon frame and I'm happy to debut it here in my first blog post in 14 months. I've been thinking off and on about getting a new bike for the last year or so, but I've always been caught up in the need vs. want debate. With a solid bike, my 2005 Trek 1000 that has served me well for the last 6 years, it always seemed as if need, or the lack there of, always won out over want. Nevermind the cost and at my age, the consideration that I might not get my money's worth out of a new bike.

I first ran across this bike at the Toronto Bike Show back in February, and was torn at the time between this one and a very nice Specialized S-Works. In the end, I didn't buy either at the show, but a few weeks back, after my first ride of the season, my want for the first time started to outweigh my need. After a little research, I found my new bike on sale at a great price at Racer Sportif on Queen West and couldn't resist. So without further ado, here it is. My brand new..

2010 Scott CR-1 Comp

For a look at the full details of this bike, click here.

Having passed on a new bike at the show, what I did buy were a couple of new bottle cages. Unfortunately, I bought them at the time to match the colour scheme of my Trek which is Blue/Black/Silver. The cages don't go so well with the Scott colour scheme but they'll do for now. Maybe a couple of black or yellow cages will be my first purchase next spring.

Now, if it would only stop raining.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Horrible Start Continues

So much for wanting to get 750km on the trainer by April 1st. That's not gonna happen I'm afraid. On top of it being boring which makes it difficult to motivate myself to do, we had a house guest for the last 2 weeks who took over my basement where the bike is. I've also been extremely busy at work, and by the time I get home all I can think about is crashing on the couch. So it look like my first goal of 2010is a fail.

I did get my first road ride in this past weekend though. The weather was very nice so I decided to go for a short and easy paced 20k just to get the feel of the bike again... and avoid a heart attack from overdoing it first time out. I actually thought I had gotten off to an even earlier start than last year, until I discovered after I looked up my stats from '09 that my first ride of the season was February 28th. Other than the exact date, I remember that ride vividly. It was also 20k and I was so cold when I got home that it took me a good hour to thaw out. This year was much better in that regard. At least 3 degrees warmer and no bone shattering chill on my return.

Anyway, for now I've decided to set an early goal of at least matching my mileage from '09 in 2010, which was 2111km. Actually, I've rounded it up to an even 2200km for now. Hopefully, things work out better than my trainer program.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Horrible Start

What can I say? I'm off to a horrible start to my 2010 season. Being January, the cycling around Toronto, at least for me, is pretty much non-existent but I had hoped to put in some good mileage on the trainer in the basement. So far though, for the month of January, I've managed only a meager 53 km. Between the new job and other distractions, I'm not finding myself in the saddle very often. And boy do I need to be there. I helped my daughter tack up her horse at her riding lesson just the other day, and by the time I was finished wrestling with the beast's hooves, I was totally winded. Worse still, I'm a good 7-8 pounds heavier than my best mid-season weight last year.

So I really need to start getting serious. To do that, I've decided to set a distance goal for trainer. I've set a mark of 750km by April 1, a very achieveable goal I think, afterall, I'm not one for setting unrealistic goals. It's about 10 weeks to the beginning of April and I figure if I can average 75km a week, I'll be right there. For me that's about 3-4 rides a week as I usually do 20 or 25 km on the trainer before boredom overwhelms me. Technically, I've got 10 weeks to do 700, since I'm 50 km in already, but a little headstart never hurt anybody.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Happy New Year everyone! Like 2009, I've decided to keep a blog journal of my year in cycling once again for 2010. I suspect it will get off to a fairly slow start though. Toronto is in the grip of winter for the next few months at least, so I don't expect to get much if any road mileage in for a little while. Instead, I'm confined to my trainer in the basement and hope to get some much needed kilometers in on that until the spring. I decided I had better start with the trainer sooner rather than later as it seems I've put back on a little weight over the Christmas season. Whereas I was about 172lbs at the end of my 2009 season, I weighed in on New Years Day back at the 180lb mark. My first goal is to try to drop some of that again.

I haven't set a goal for mileage on the trainer. I'm just going to ride as much as I can to stay in shape and hopefully trim some of that excess weight. I also haven't set a goal for my road mileage for the 2010 season as its a bit early for me to think about that. I have to see how much time my new job might allow me for cycling and so on. I figure I have until April to set that goal so stay tuned. You can also follow my progress on the trainer and on the road with my little meters over on the right there.

That's all for now. Here's wishing everyone a safe and crash-free 2010 cycling season. As a fellow blogger puts it, "Keep the rubber side down".

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

I didn't think I'd make it. With less than 100km to go to my goal back in mid-September, I came down with a nasty head cold that turned into a lung infection. That was followed by no less than a month of feeling know and the worst cough I've ever had in my life. By the time it cleared up to a point where I felt like I could ride more than 5km, it was late October and the weather had turned past the point where I enjoy riding. It was of course cold and wet, and with a bazillion leaves on the roads, more slippery than I dare to risk. I could have gotten the last 100 in with small rides here and there I suppose, but honestly, I'm just not a fan of cold weather riding.

So going into November, it looked pretty bleak for me to reach my goal of 2100km. Then, out of nowhere, we were hit with this past weekend. The weather was absolutely amazing and perfect for riding. Saturday was sunny and 16*C and yesterday was even nicer. While Saturday was a little breezy, there was almost no wind to speak of on Sunday and the temps got as high as 18*C. What they call Indian Summer I believe if that isn't a politically incorrect term these days.

On Saturday, I set out to do 30k and ended up doing 44, mostly because I felt really good. I wasn't in tip-top shape after the long layoff, but I was surprised that I was in as good a shape as I was. That left me with 50k to go and a great forecast for Sunday.

The weather on Sunday morning didn't disappoint, so I took advantage to try for the last bit of mileage that I needed. I felt OK at the start, but didn't have much after about 30k or so. The layoff combined with lack of recovery from Saturday didn't leave much in my legs. Still I managed to finish out a slow 61k, only averaging 24 kmh, to push me over the top and hit 2111km for 2009... exactly double my mileage of 2008 with 3 extra kilometers to spare.

Believe it or not, today is supposed to be even nicer still, but I think I'll pass on a ride. My legs need a rest day and my mission of 2100 for the year has been accomplished. Barring another stretch of great weather, I think it's time to hang the bike up for the winter and start planning for 2010!

Cheers to all who've followed my blog and tweets and gave me words of encouragement in your comments. I hope you found it somewhat entertaining and worth the time to read.