Question: I’ve ridden Colorado’s Triple Bypass several times and churned up and down the Pyrenees and Alps. But last August in the Raid Pyrenees (28 passes in 10 days) I had to stop due to severe exhaustion – a combination of 112F-degree (44C) heat, dehydration, overtraining and apparently a mild bug picked up on the airplane. What a surprise and disappointment. I want to return this year. Can you help me avoid these problems? – Gary K.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Dealing with the heat might actually sound like a good problem to many of us in the northern hemisphere for whom spring hasn’t quite sprung yet. But RBR has quite a few Newsletter subscribers in parts of the world where it’s still summer. You roadies can relate to this Q&A. The rest of us can use it in another few months.
Gary, it sounds like you experienced a “perfect storm” of conditions that caused your meltdown. Heat, overtraining (if you suspect it, I bet you were a victim), difficult terrain and lack of fluids all contributed. And if you felt a little puny to start, you may indeed have caught something during the flight.
Just one or two of these conditions can scuttle a ride. They’re what Coach John Hughes calls “showstoppers.” More than two, coupled with the difficulty of the Raid Pyrenees, could put any rider on the side of the road.
First, Don’t Overtrain
So this year, concentrate first on not overdoing the training. Overtraining lowers your resistance to illness, so by using a smart schedule that includes plenty of rest as well as stress you may also avoid catching another bug.
Riding days are relatively short on the Raid Pyrenees but they’re tough due to the daily climbing. To prepare, do consecutive hard days in training. Start with two and work up to four if your schedule allows. Rest well before and after. Back-to-back hard days are the only way to prepare for the demands of a “stage race”-type event.
I coach at weeklong cycling camps that feature six days of hard riding. I find that I do much better in the second week if I use the first as training. So if it’s hard for you to do consecutive long days at home, consider attending a camp or doing a week-long tour before your European trip.
Next you need to solve the fluid problem. A backpack hydration system may be the best way to ensure adequate hydration. Don’t forget to use sports drinks instead of plain water.
In hot summer weather you lose electrolytes along with fluid. Electrolytes, especially sodium, must be replaced quickly. Depletion can lead to cramping and feeling terrible. So salt your food well and take salt with you on the bike to add to sports drinks. They often don’t contain enough sodium for riders in sweaty conditions.
Finally, if it’s over 100F degrees again, slow down and forget your time goals. That’s way too hot for the human body to work efficiently. Riding hard can be dangerous to your health.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.