Monday, February 25, 2008

Carnival City Bike Race – 100km

Phedra-fueled jumpiness with a decent dose of sleep deprivation = a quirky performance

The first miracle was arriving in time for this race. Although I got instructions from Alex, I went to see the sights in Germiston on the way. There was a MOER of a traffic jam winding in a great arc, so I arrived at Carnival City at about 7am, and my group, BL started at 7:18. I had to find the registration tent, collect my number, attach it to my shirt, get back, get ready and get to the start. Somehow I did all this with about 4 minutes to spare.

I had no idea what to expect from this race. Inconsistent training means I have no idea where I’m at… 2 weeks on 2 weeks off…it just meant there was a giant question mark hanging over my helmet on Sunday. The 24th would also be the first time in weeks that I’d be seeing my Heart Rate (I had to order a new one since the old one’s battery had gone poegaai).

Boredom Sets In

The first 10km were helluva boring. Just sitting in the bunch, speeding along, nothing happening. Because I was so sleep deprived, I found this very very tedious. I was already asking myself: “How are you going to feel I’ve 50km?” That’s as far as I’ve gone in training; I haven’t exceeded that since Christmas. I had a Phedra-fueled jumpiness with a decent dose of sleep deprivation. This, and the fact that gravity attracted me downhill faster than anyone else, got me into the habit of breaking the boring all-in-a-day’s-work mindset of the riders. No one was saying anything, no one was doing anything, it was just so BORING! So I made a series of hops off the front, nothing spectacular, using the momentum to hop over small hills. Once someone came with me, but on such a flat course the bunch was always going to be biting at our heels. At 1 hour we had covered just under 40km. We hit 50km at about 1hr 17:30.

I suppose I did some good marketing (during the first 75% of the race) for NVDL. Some of the spurts were just plane fun. At around 60km – disaster. On one of my solo forays I was just waiting for the bunch to reel me in on a long drag when both calves suddenly pinched hard. I pedaled through it, but it was something of a shock, and it took about a kilometer for the tightness to finally loosen. A rider must have seen me wincing, because he said: “Standard Bank, how’re you doing?” I told him my fluids weren’t doing the job and he very kindly offered me one of his quarter filled water bottles. It really did the trick. The cramps went away completely. For about 10 minutes.


From here on out I began to feel a bit of strain in terms of my endurance capacity. I was fishing for the slip, and at one point I realized it was not on the right of the rider in front of me, so I moved over to the left. Just then I felt a right hand shove hard and plum against my upper thigh – HARD – and as I glanced back, saw an oldish rider go down.OOooof. Looked eina. He must have gotten a shock when he pushed and realized something as heavy (and immovable) as a menhir was riding a bicycle. Not quite sure where the shove came from. Was it reflex or something else?

Oddly enough, I drifted off the front (believing the calf cramp to be a one-off), and then later, moving nicely up a long drag my quads suddenly tightened. I’m not sure I’ve ever had these muscles pull in about 15 years of cycling. I drank water and stretched, but now I was concerned. 20km to go and it seemed like if I started pushing on an uphill, even if my muscles weren’t tired, they were hungry for electrolytes that weren’t there. I rode conservatively the next 10 km and with about 3km to go started revving towards the front.

Lock and (CANNOT)Load

On probably the second last climb, my upper Quads locked – not tightened – locked, so that for a few desperate moments I was unable to move my legs at all. I was basically standing and rocking my upper body, but my legs had locked, the ropes in the muscles in a vicious spasm, so tight I couldn’t do anything. I really thought I was going to fall over in a few seconds. The second miracle was that – remarkably – I managed to squeeze out a single pedal stroke, despite this painful vicelike muscle lock in both legs. But as soon as I’d leverage the grip, as soon as I bent my leg a snake would seize it up and it would tighten again. Strangely, this was happening with far less pain than when this usually happens. Then another pedal stroke. I pedaled in the lightest gear, in a lot of pain, for about 300 metres… I’d experienced a muscle strain at the end of Race for Victory that had me sore and limping for a few days. That was based on not being strong enough for that long brutal climb at the end. This was different. I felt a series of severe but recoverable spasms, but not a bruising strain associated with a cramp.

The severity of this last muscle lock meant I had to drift entirely to the right hand side of the road so that cars and bikes could get around me. So I lost the bunch. I slowed down a lot now. I was limping in at 11km/h. Once again, as the road leveled off, I felt the lock gradually unlock. I got through 100km in 2h:43 and took 6 minutes to do the last 2km.
Not the nicest way to end the race, cramping in the last 3km, but if someone offered me 2:49 for 102km at the start of the race – cramps and all – I would have taken it.


Now the question: why did you cramp? My reasoning is as follows. I left home already quite thirsty and over the past few days have restricted my meals. I believe I started the race not sufficiently hydrated, and I was using a new fluid mixture for the first time, not the usual magic stuff (GU2O). This is a bit of a wild card, but I suspect Phedra cut may have had something to do with it too. Phedra makes me jumpy, why not my muscles too? Alex says that I cramped because of my aggressive (foolhardy?) riding. That my muscles were just tired (because I haven’t been training much.) It’s true, I haven’t, but I don’t agree, simply because it wasn’t a case of my legs being tired. They didn’t feel tired, and I wasn’t struggling to stick with the bunch, even after my little adventures off the front. If it was the case that I was growing increasing tired the cramps would have been in the same place, and would have hurt a lot afterwards (as was the case with Race for Victory – where strength up that last climb is a key factor).

The cramps felt like those you get in the pool – foot cramps – they happen often, lock up the inside of the foot, but it’s not a lasting, bruising type of pain. You don’t get these sort of cramps because you’re tired; you get them because your body lacks salt.


I think fitness did play a bit of a role, and the fact that I was doing a long race flat race repeating the same motion all the time…and all this riding uncharacteristically without my Zipps. It could be this aspect alone that my legs weren’t used to, the heavier wheels over a longer distance, but if I had to make a bet I’d say it was drinking and eating too little before the race, and having a formula that didn’t have a lot of electrolyte replacement. What confirms this diagnosis, I think, is that I’ve had a splitting headache all day – I went to shoot a model on Northcliff hill after the ride as well, which meant even more time in the sun. I think I’m suffering from a bit of sunstroke and dehydration.

Even so it was a great way to start the morning and one of the highlights of a busy and stimulating weekend. Oh and the third miracle was that Rapport finally published my pictures of Roxanne in Sunday’s paper. Beautiful.


Time: 2:49
Distance: 102.6km
Speed: 36.2km/h (ave) 70+ max
KCal: 3027
HR: 154 ave/170 max
Time per km: 1:39

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a hell of a time. How the legs today?

I studied in the States and have my Masters degree in Exercise Science and I can tell you with certainty that your dehydration would been exaggerated by the phedra cut. Your cramps were all to do with dehydration and then the after affect is a moer of a headache:)

I do think it would be wise to alter your 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off policy to contend with the hills in the Panorama. You'll also find that this will prove to be more effective than Phedra cut in the fat loss department! :)