Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion... and Starting a Stage Race!?


The final racing block of my season is off to a rocky start. After building my fitness for the past several weeks, including a trip to California for the Death Ride, my team headed to Idaho for the Boise Twilight Criterium. An 8-hour drive to 3,000' elevation to downtown Boise where, despite the 8:30pm start time, the temperatures hovered over 100 degrees.

Just as CLUB member Ellen recently advised, life happens to the best-laid plans.

As the race kicked off, adrenaline kicked in. 20,000 rambunctious fans lining the 1km course encouraged the early speed. 80 minutes would translate into almost 80 laps, with lots of cash sprint prizes thrown in to spice things up. After a handful of laps, I dug deep to join a breakaway that stayed away for a few laps.

Just before the pack caught us from behind, I accelerated through a corner and went it alone. I stayed off solo for a lap and a half. I metered my effort and drilled the final 500 meters to pick up a $50 prime. The prize plus the great exposure for the team of having the announcers talk about our team were enough to make my night a success. But, there was still a lot of racing left.

There was a cost to the effort. It took me forever to recover and my body temperature remained elevated. Despite my best efforts to conserve, every small acceleration was brutal. With 15 minutes to go, I backed off the pace and pulled off of the course.

On came the nausea - not unusual after such a tough outing. The problem was, rather than subsiding, it only got worse over the next several hours. I vomited several times back at the hotel, couldn't get to sleep for many hours, and had another 8 hour drive looming at 7am the next morning.

I had teammates and friends looking after me, thank god. I was a mess! I have some great pointers to share with you, I just wish that they weren't based on recent personal experience...

  • Pre-hydrate with an electrolyte solution. For a short, intense event like a criterium, you can drink a sports drink. For longer events, water with electrolytes (i.e. Hammer's Endurolytes) is better than consuming calories.
  • During the event - MAKE TIME TO DRINK! It's really tough to drink when you're fighting to hold on. But, if you don't hydrate, your performance will eventually suffer and you may jeopardize your health.
  • Gulp! Small frequent sips may be the best, but the most important thing is to consume adequate fluids and electrolytes. When you have limited opportunities to drink, take some gulps when you can!
  • Prepare. Read our articles on Heat Preparation. Simulate event temps in your training, maybe try Bikram's yoga, etc.
  • Pedialyte. If, despite your best efforts, you wind up with heat exhaustion or dehydration, consult a medical professional. Pedialyte (I've been chugging a store brand knock-off the past several days) is easy on your stomach and replenishes electrolytes quickly. It's easy to find when you're on the road as well. If you're at an event, go to the medical tent to get back on the road to recovery ASAP.
Stay tuned for upcoming reports of the 6-Day Cascade Cycling Classic. I'll be lining up with superstars like Francisco Mancebo, Victor Hugo Pena, Freddie Rodriguez, Floyd Landis, and a slew of other way-too-fast guys. Trying to get recovered and hydrated for that... and the forecast is for HEAT!

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