Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Orange Cycle: Hydration and Hindsight

Orange Cycle: Hydration and Hindsight: Several years ago while I was still living in the Show Me state a friend sent a text asking if I was going to participate in the Red Ribbon ...

Hydration and Hindsight

Several years ago while I was still living in the Show Me state a friend sent a text asking if I was going to participate in the Red Ribbon Ride.  I had been out of town, had literally just flown back the day I received the text and the ride was the next day.  Why not?  I hopped in my car, drove over to the APO (AIDS Project of the Ozarks) office, registered for 35 miles and even drove the route to make sure I wasn't getting in over my head.  It didn't appear to be a difficult course - rolling hills and one steep hill that might pose a challenge - but overall I felt confident.

Did I mention I had just gotten back into cycling?  Did I mention I forgot A LOT about what one needs for a long hilly ride?  Essential needs like, for instance, proper hydration?

I went home, aired my tires, checked over my bike, made sure I had a tube, filled up two bottles of water to take with me the next morning and went about my evening.

That night one of my best friends came over with a big bottle of wine.  I was decorating her son's wedding cake and she wanted to spend time with me and help.  Well . . . that bottle of wine went down pretty smoothly.  We laughed a lot, listened to music, talked and as it got later I insisted she stay in my guest room.

Early the next morning, RIDE morning, I rolled out of bed with a fuzzy head, got dressed, ate part of a peanut butter sandwich, drank a little water and headed out the door.  I heard my friend say "You're not going on that ride are you?" to which I replied, "Hell yeah!  I paid for it and I'm going!".

Oh.  Believe me.  Boy did I pay for it!

This was my very first organized ride and I had no clue what to do.  I never did see the person who had invited me to the ride.  Someone was nice enough to pin my number on the back of my jersey.  I didn't know any cyclists and didn't have a relationship with a local bike shop so I was there on my own.  Feeling a little nauseous.  Nerves I figured.

I knew enough to stay away from the front and stick to the rear.  Everyone rolled out and I waited until I was almost the very last one to leave.  As I turned to head up the first hill there was a pile up of cyclists who had crashed.  At least I wasn't one of them.  I pedaled up that hill and rode with a couple of gals for about 8 miles.  They were faster than me and soon took off.  No matter.  As long as I knew where to turn.

The first SAG stop was about 15 miles out.  I was beginning to feel the after effects of the wine from the night before.  At that point it was 15 miles back or 20 miles to finish the ride.  I decided to finish the ride.  I ate a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter, drank a little water and headed out again.

To make a long story short because I wasn't hydrating regularly throughout the ride I became more and more fatigued, my head hurt, I walked four hills, huffed, puffed, thought one of my lungs was going to collapse, cried and cursed myself for drinking wine the night before the ride and for not getting enough rest.  I was so under prepared and I didn't even know it until I was out on those roads, people passing me, some offering encouragement, some making light of a small incline that might as well have been a mountain.

Determined not to walk all the hills I took it slow, dropping into my granny gear to ride up one of the easier inclines, turned onto a farm road finally picking up speed, then had to slow down to round a corner and BAM!  The hill from hell.  I got halfway up, thought I was going to fall over, jerked my left foot off the pedal, managed to get off the bike, banged the pedal against my shin, cussed up a storm, cried a little more, pushed that bike to a driveway where I stopped to catch my breath and take a long drink of water.  I was thirstier than I could ever remember.  My legs were shaking and I felt alone, stupid and drained.

Finally I caught my second wind, got back on the bike, topped that hill and made it back to my car.  I leaned the bike against the trunk, opened the cap on my one of the water bottles and guzzled warm liquid.  Then my stomach cramped and I thought I was going to hurl.  I poured water on my neck, the insides of my wrists and elbows.  I felt like hell.  Finally I popped open the trunk, tucked my bike inside the car and walked over to get a BBQ sandwich and a beer.

As soon as I had my food and beer I walked over to a picnic table.  A guy who was sitting there looked me over and said "You know, cycling isn't a contact sport."  I took a look at my arms and legs.  I was dirty, battered and bruised.  My left shin had a gash that was bleeding (probably from the pedal ramming into it) and I have no idea where the bruises came from.  I ate half the sandwich, took a sip of the beer and ended chucking everything into the trash and going home.

I went home, napped, drank a ton of water, went to the wedding and cut out right after the couple cut the cake.

Where did things go wrong?  Let's see.  A. I had flown the day before and was dehydrated.  I didn't know how to properly hydrate after the flight.  B.  I drank wine the same night after flying - causing further dehydration and, to boot, before an event I had never done before. C.  I didn't get a good night's rest. D.  I didn't hydrate before the ride and waited until I was thirsty during the ride before I began drinking rather than drinking regularly throughout the ride to prevent further dehydration.  E.  I carried only water - no electrolytes and I didn't fill up on Gatorade, oranges or pickle juice at the SAG stop.  F.  I didn't carry nutrition and didn't eat enough before starting the ride (I thought that half PBJ would get me through the ride).

Hindsight is 20-20.  I learned from my mistakes.  I never wanted to feel like that again.  I researched hydration, natural electrolytes, how to properly prepare for a ride - the Do's and Don'ts.  How to PRE hydrate, how often to drink DURING (every 15-20 minutes you should be drinking) the ride and how much AFTER the ride.  Hydrate the day before, even TWO days before.  How not to OVER hydrate.  I also acquainted myself with a local bike shop where I quizzed those guys brains for information.  A good bike shop will have employees who not only offer awesome services (bike sales, parts, maintenance, clothing and nutrition) but offer advice and expertise.  ASK for help! 

We are entering into 6 months of summer in Central Florida.  Beginners have trouble balancing hydration and nutrition as they begin to extend the time, distance and pace of their rides.  Even more experienced cyclists have problems in our humid, searing heat. The best piece of advice I can offer is to prepare.  Train for those long rides.  Ask fellow cyclists for advice and information.  Try different things BEFORE you ride to make sure something new agrees with your stomach.  The day of a long ride is not the time to try something new.

I like to prepare the day before a long ride by drinking a mix of coconut water mixed with filtered water, a squeeze of an entire lemon or lime, a little magnesium and a dash of salt.  Sometimes I carry this mix with me while I'm riding or I use EFS (Electrolyte Fuel System) or Hammer HEED (Hydrating Energy Electrolyte Drink).  I carry one bottle with electrolytes and one bottle of water.  I also carry energy gels like GU, or Hammer, Clif Blocks or Honey Stinger chews & waffles.  I usually carry a few extra gels and a little electrolyte powder for the newbies who think they don't need anything special for longer rides.  They do.

If you're not drinking every 15-20 minutes (for most people - I know some people who don't drink very often and I don't know how they do it) chances are you are going to dehydrate and lose energy quickly.  Plan your rides and your drinks accordingly.

It's important to remember to continue to hydrate after your ride.  Whether it's more EFS, Hammer Recovery or coconut water, your body needs to replenish electrolytes so make sure you treat yourself kindly.  You won't regret it.  Trust me on this.  ;-)  Oh.  And do yourself a favor and skip that bottle of wine with a friend until after the ride.  In retrospect I can laugh at that experience but it could have turned into a serious situation.  I realized that and educated myself.

'Til next time!
Keep riding!