DNF’d First Cross Race of the Season….not good

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I raced about a 1/3 of a cyclocross today in Kansas City. I had planned on doing 3/3 of a cyclocross. Not sure what to say other than it is impossible to rotate your legs in circles when both hamstrings are cramped. And that happened in less than 20 minutes. Twenty minutes of racing. I’d ridden 50 miles, at a 20mph average, into a stiff headwind, on a very hilly road, to get to the race. 13 minutes before the scheduled start. Next to Brian Jensen. Not a good thing. They did start 15 minutes late, so that was something. But, not enough.

My hamstrings had been feeling weird all day. But, eating at 8 am, 6 hours before the race and then doing the before mentioned trek, didn’t help much. The weird thing is that I didn’t see it coming. I’ve hardly ever cramped up a hamstring. Never both simultaneously. I had been feeling weird back in Kansas this past week. Allergies or something. But, today I felt pretty great riding over there. But, I did run out of juice as we had to pick up the pace to make the race start. Then, there wasn’t much to eat in the van. And no coffee. Not very good planning on my part, but at local races, I don’t usually cross all my t’s and dot all the i’s. Maybe I need to start. The sport is hard enough, that there isn’t much leeway for sloppiness in preparation.

The course didn’t help much either. It was more of a grass circuit race. 1.5 miles in length. On the side of a hill. 50% up and 50% down. And it had rained a bunch yesterday, so it was super slow. Not peanut butter slow, but sticky slow. Slow enough that I only rode in my small ring down hill pedaling. No rest.

So, I followed Shad Smith, KCCX around for most of the first lap. I was pretty comfortable. I got in the lead climbing back to the start line. The 2nd time over the barriers, I felt a small twinge in my left hamstring and though, “shit, it is way too early for that to be happening.” I backed off a bit and thought maybe I could ride into a pace. Then the next lap over the barriers, both hamstrings cramped. I can’t think of a race I’ve ever been in that I quit when I was leading. But, like I stated above, there is nothing you can do to pedal a bicycle in that situation. So, I just stood on the side of the course as everyone rode by. I couldn’t really move for 10 minutes or so, then just rode back to the van. Josh Johnson, Big Shark, won the race over Jonathan Schottler, Big Shark, with Shad Smith, KCCX, coming in 3rd. (Shad lost the sprint for 2nd because he was never told it was the final lap).

I can’t really complain too much. I haven’t ridden a cross bike one pedal stroke before today, but that wasn’t the issue. I guess I need to address this hamstring thing pretty quickly. There was only 10 meters of running on this course. So, I cramped up after 30 meters of running. That probably wasn’t it. I did have a very hard training day. Not such a hard race day though.

So, if anybody has any intelligent thoughts about how I can address this quickly, feel free to tell me. If not, I guess I’m going to have to try to figure it out myself, which is a long shot. And it won’t be quick.

Not the photo you want to see of yourself at a race.

Early in the race when I was leading (and still riding).

Artsy photo Joe Houston sent.

Bromont hadn't been to a bike race for a few weeks so he was in dog heaven. He loves cyclocross.

8 thoughts on “DNF’d First Cross Race of the Season….not good

  1. G-wiz

    Hey Steve,

    Bummer, but I feel ya. I used to have nasty issues with cramping, and have had a few issues this year. I race a SS in Expert and keeping up with those boys on hilly courses pays it’s toll.

    Some things I’ve been doing lately have helped, which showed at yesterday’s race. Elderberry… Good antioxident. Foam roller… Get deep in those hammies. Theracane… Again get deep in those knots. EMS… this is new but after a month of dead legs, I was willing to try anything. I did a solo first session on Thursday and even with overdoing it and coming into yesterday with sore thighs, I was able to dominate the Knob hills SS style and stay strong all race long. Massage of course, mostly done with my own two hands.

    Lots of electrolytes, and worse case scenario, pickle juice. Yup some good ol pickle juice before hand always does the cramps good.

    Not that you probably didn’t know this all, but that’s what this brotha does to keep em at bay!


  2. Brian

    Did you keep eating on the bike during the ride over? 50 miles on little/no food and then little to no food prerace is the likely problem.

    That hill was a killer, especially after a hard effort into the wind. I would assume that you were running low on fuel, causing cramping after the hard efforts. Too little glucose/glycogen upon hard efforts leads to cramping.

    That is more likely than the electrolytes, given that it was not too hot yesterday.

  3. Ken Harkin

    And I thought my day sucked with breaking a chain on the first lap (and no bike in the pits)…
    I won’t offer any advice on cramping. I’ve suffered with large muscle group cramping at inexplicable times since I was a teenager (as has my father, but not my brother who appears to have more of the maternal family build). I’ve tried everything and the more I learn about cramps, the less I realize I (and just about everyone else) really know . So, no advice, because everyone will have their own home remedy that won’t work for anyone but them, but hoping for you that it is just one of those freaky, once a season things.

  4. Tom Hagerty

    Being a massage therapist and cyclist, I like ashiatsu for the hammies. But massage is more of a long term maintenance/recovery solution, whereas you want a quick remedy/fix, or at least an explanation. I am in the camp that says your nutrition was lacking during that pre-race effort.

  5. confused

    sometimes the hamstrings are the effect, not the cause. the cause could be your back, or more specifically your psoas. i think i read in a previous post that you swim some, so an easy way to loosen up your back is to swim freestyle with just a light kick or no kick/pull-buoy. if it doesn’t work, then at least you still got a cardio workout without harming your hamstrings anymore.


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