1 of the most dreaded things to a cyclist is getting CRAMPS: it sucks, and once they start there is usually not much you can do during one.

Just what is going on when you get a cramp? The exact cause of muscle cramps is still unknown, but the theories most commonly cited include:

* Altered neuromuscular control
* Dehydration
* Electrolyte depletion
* Poor conditioning
* Muscle fatigue – doing more than usual at a certain activity
* Doing a new activity

But first, let’s try to avoid them!
To aid in avoiding cramps I will add a little sea salt the day before and the day of an event.
Because I have experienced some leg cramping before on fast rides before, I will also take some electrolytes the day of an event. If the ride is going to be more than 4 hours, I will usually take extra electrolytes during the ride.

When I feel those first little twinges, of an upcoming cramp, I have ‘delayed’ them by pouring water on the area that I feel the cramps starting. Maybe it is a placebo effect, but it seems to help some.

During a cramp there isn’t much you can do other than avoid making it worse and try to stretch out the cramping muscle. Ask anyone that has had them before and it sucks!
Once I start cramping, it is usually a sign that the body is not getting enough nutrients and I will try to get in more calories quick!

Cramps usually go away on their own without treatment, but these tips appear to help speed the relaxing of the muscle:
* Stop the activity that caused the cramp (as if you have a choice).
* Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle.
* Hold the joint in a stretched position until the cramp stops.

After cramping I try to stretch as much as possible before getting in the car, then do more flexibility work by using a foam roller once I get home. The compression will help loosen the tight muscles allowing more blood flow and nutrients to reach the muscles and flush out toxins that are by-products of the activity.

Keep cool this summer

While exercising in the summer months can be great, hydration can be the key to keeping it a great experience. Hydration is something that even experienced riders can make mistakes and mis-calculations on.

Usually I will try to make the best preparations possible, as soon as possible. So if I make plans the day before or even the day of an event, I will try to hydrate more as soon as possible. Or at least try get in extra fluids.

As always, don’t try something new on the day of a race or big event. Always try it in training first, and then another time, as close as possible to race pace. Somethings that sit easily on the stomach with the heart rate around 150, may NOT sit well when the Heart Rate is around 170.

1 of my most ‘unbelievable’ tips is to put chapstick over your eyebrows! I do this from a slightly high point in the center, and then lower until I get past the eyes. The chapstick will cause a lot of the sweat to divert from coming directly down into the eyes, to following the chapstick past the sides of the eyes. It won’t stop all the sweat, but the amount of sweat in your eyes will be much reduced.

While your out riding and getting close to running out of fluids, it is best to go ahead and finish off what you have rather than sip on the last little bit of it. Getting the fluids into you stomach is better (for your body) than sipping and attempting to make it last longer – which doesn’t keep you hydrated.

If you do find a spicket or a creek, pouring water over your head will help with the evaporation process that allows your body to stay cooler. If you think that you will be out long, either keep money for a store stop or a water filter/iodine tablets for purifying water from streams.

I have been out on long rides in Pisgah and in North Ga., which have many creek crossings, and been saved by someone else that had iodine tablets, and another time by someone that had a water filter with them! Personally I don’t like the iodine flavor, so I think I’m going to go the portable water filter route.

any recommendations?

12 Hours of Yargo, Mt bike race report

Although we were a Murray down, we persevered….. You see last year the 3 Murray brothers and myself raced the 12 hours of Yargo. We went to have fun, hang out & ride hard. We were battling it out for what we thought was first place, but because of a timing mis-hap (an unrecorded lap) we actually battled it out for 2nd place. This year, unfortunately 1 of the Murray’s needed to skip this year race, so David came on board. Even though they weren’t racing, Ryan and RT still came out on course to cheer us on!! What a great crowd that shows up to these events!

The Dirty Spokes 12 hours of Yargo is a Mountain bike race on a 11.7 mile mainly single-track trail in Winder, GA. This course has open sections where you can get a lot of speed, some sections where you pick up momentum down a hill only to do a hairpin turn and go back up that hill. Many climbs are steep, but short however, 2 of climbs that are steady and longer. A couple of the downhills have some whoops and the race included 1 of the horse show drop-ins. If you have enough speed you can jump out of the horse-shoe, but you have to do it at an angle b/c once you are out of the horse-shoe, the trail turns left almost immediately. Lots of technical sections where you need to throw the bike around turns to avoid the trees and in a couple cases are bouncing off of them. Most lap times for the course were low 50 to 60+ minutes.

We all met up and camped at Fort Yargo the night before the race. ‘Jet-Pak’ Ed was out of the camp site early and got us a pop-up next to Fresh Bike service, on the front row of all the action! As always the start was a little hectic with so many 6 and 12 hour solo riders, and multiple teams, the line for the parade lap before heading into the trail wrapped around the parking area and the 4 wheeler pace vehicle had to slow for the last of the riders.

Our team clicked off the early laps, and waited anxiously to see where we were at against the other competition. A difference that we lacked this year was that we didn’t pay as much attention to when the last person was leaving – although this didn’t actually hurt the team, it didn’t make things easier. Usually we keep an eye on when a person leaves for their lap, and gauge when they will be coming back to the transition area. This year everyone seemed to get ready as soon as their relay person was heading out. This gave us about 55 minutes to get things together, get dressed, get warmed-up.

At the campsite I stayed hydrated with NUUN and tried to keep steadily eating food to keep the energy levels up. Two turkey subs from Firehouse were devoured, and I even tried some of the fine pickles offered by Addictive Cycles, anything to avoid cramping.

As the day went along, each time check came in showing that we were in the lead, and then each lap the pressure built – stay consistent – don’t cramp – don’t get a flat & worst of all – don’t Crash! The consistent part requires speed, especially for me, since I was not the fastest rider on the team. I get bogged down on some of the uphills, but I have to conserve the Heart Rate and pedal over them. The sections of fast, twisty single track is where I need to stay moving, and this requires full concentration. Whipping the bike left, right, right, left gets crazy with the tress directly in the edge of the trail. Too much speed and a missed-timed turn means sudden handlebar stoppage and rider ejection!

Lady luck was in our camp this day and as the laps ticked by we seemed to consistently put time into our opponents and at the end of the day team Sprocket Rockets relayed for 140.4 miles in 12 hours. We finished a lap ahead of our competitors and Won First Place! I was fortunate to have a great team, and once again, I had an out standing birthday weekend camping and racing at Fort Yargo!!

Unfortunately, due to finishing the race at 11pm, we didn’t get any pictures of our finishing podium. Full results are linked from the Dirty Spokes site here .