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I don’t really get cramping.  I’ve always cramped.  My friend Ed Bauman, who was partially responsible for getting me into cycling, used to call cramps Charlie horses.  Ed would cramp famously.

We were doing a road race down in Arkansas City and Ed was riding the long race.  He was probably a Cat 3 at the time.  I finished the young juniors race and Kris had done the “real” juniors race and we took the VW pickup out to try to feed Ed.  We found Ed and he was pretty done.

He said that he was cramping and it was super painful.  Next thing I know, both Ed’s legs are seized up and he coasts to a stop and falls over.  I jump out of the VW to run to Ed.  He is laying on the ground screaming.  But he isn’t screaming because of cramping, he’s screaming because it is 100 + degrees out and the pavement is scalding.  I didn’t have any shoes on and just when I get about to Ed, my feet are burning, so I have to run off the road and just watch.  Kris gets out, with shoes and gets Ed up off the pavement.  It was ugly.

Anyway, cramping is a very had thing to figure out.  Exercise physiologists have their ideas about why athletes cramp, but most are wrong.  Each athlete has their own observations too, which most are just out there.

Yesterday, I knew I was going to cramp.  It was going to be over 6 hours and one of the first hot rides I’ve done.  Plus, it was all on gravel, which meant a bunch of harder pedaling.

I didn’t cramp bad.  Actually, I really didn’t cramp at all while riding.  I felt like I was going to, but kind of kept them at bay.  I actually carried a baggy of electrolyte tables, which I ate religiously. That didn’t really help.  And I drank a ton, at least for me.  In 112 miles, I drank at least 8 big bottles, plus 2 28 ounce Gatorades and a cup of coffee.  That is about as much as I could have consumed, considering where we were riding and the availability of liquids.

Not cramping while riding is one thing, but after is another.  All evening, into the night, I was twitching.  I’m getting cramps in weird places, not normal places, this year.  Historically, I’ve had sartorius muscle, both legs.  Then sometime in my left hamstring.  This year I’ve been getting foot cramps, plus cramps in my calves and sometimes even in my hands.  Weird.  These cramps aren’t  nearly as debilitating as a hamstring cramp, but they are still ugly.

When I’m not riding good, I tend to cramp a lot more.  Yesterday, that was the case.  I’ve been in a funk the past couple weeks and cramping comes with funk.  Heat, funk and distance usually is the recipe for cramping for me.

We ended up with 112 miles yesterday.  I think Brian had over 130.  My brother went out on an early ride and then rode again after.  I’m not sure what he ended up with but he said he was trying to break his record day of 171.  I’m sure he did it.  I’d bet he ended up with close to 200.  I don’t really have a desire to ride that far.  Especially in training.  My butt would be too sore.

My legs still have those phantom cramps this morning.  They feel like they want to cramp, but aren’t.  Sometimes that lasts for days.  I hope not this time.

Changing the subject, how about calling Peter Sagan win in the overall in the Tour of California. I predicted it on Saturday, after he won the time trial.  He won by a tire width, getting the 3rd place bonus at the finish yesterday.  That was closer than I thought it was going to be.   I thought he would have had it wrapped up by the time bonus, but Cavendish and company did a very good job at protecting the led.  Just not enough.

The Giro is on its first rest day.  That race has been good to watch in the morning.  Aru is pretty aggressive, plus Astana is stupid strong.  Sometimes they have 6 guys left when Contador is pretty much on his own.  That might ultimately make the difference in this race, I don’t know. Crazy it is just the end of the first week.

Okay, I have to decide what I’m doing the next couple weeks.  I don’t feel like I have any form to race, but know I need to race to get form to race.   Strange how that is.  I’ll figure it out in the next couple days I guess.

It rained so much on Saturday night.  The river is so full.  Usually there are sandbars here.

It rained so much on Saturday night. The river is so full. Usually there are sandbars here.

The roads were sometimes nearly underwater yesterday.  We had to deviate around some low water bridges.

The roads were sometimes nearly underwater yesterday. We had to deviate around some low water bridges.

We flatted a ton yesterday.  Eric flatted 3 times, me too.  I hate stopping for flats on a hot day.

We flatted a ton yesterday. Eric flatted 3 times, me too. I hate stopping for flats on a hot day.

We moved a couple turtles yesterday.  This was the first snapping turtle I've encountered that wasn't as mean as hell.  The one earlier, bit through a 2 inch stick I was using to push it off the road.

We moved a couple turtles yesterday. This was the first snapping turtle I’ve encountered that wasn’t as mean as hell. The one earlier, bit through a 2 inch stick I was using to push it off the road.

Trudi took this photo after the Tour of California yesterday.

Trudi took this photo after the Tour of California yesterday.

25 thoughts on “Cramping

  1. riverdog

    I also was a cramper…lost a few big races because of this demon…but at other times I would not cramp…I believe I have figured it out after scouring the internet and research on the topic….it boils down to it is NOT just one thing…but a configuration of a few that is usually the cause…..the first and foremost being going into a race with sore legs…or tired legs. Even a bit of soreness will cause the legs to fatigue and send the electrical circuits into a frenzy. Second is water. Third is riding harder than you usually do. Anyway but paying attention to my soreness has mostly eliminated the cramps. However when I ride above my level and go for it…I can feel the twinges beginning….and I swear this works….reach either for my packet of mustard or drink my pickle juice…and walla…gone.
    As for the Giro…..Astana is just a bit too good…..I wonder why??? Hah.

  2. Jacque Meihauf

    The number one reason for cramping in an otherwise well trained and fit athlete is dehydration. Period. After that, the lack of electrolytes is the number one culprit.

    As for Peter Sagan- I knew from the first time I saw him ride many years ago, that the guy was bound for greatness. He has not disappointed. Cav’s team did a great job, but Sagan beat them…. with some help from his team.

  3. Bryan

    The river was up before the recent rains, largely because Tuttle Creek has opened up the outflow to 15000cfs. Combined with the unusually high outflow at Milford (2000cfs this time of year is almost unheard of) and Kanopolis also running high, well for once the Kansas looks like a river again.

  4. mike

    Not sure why people cramp, or how to avoid it.. that said i never cramp… don’t know why..
    Although usually pretty miserable, hot long hard races are always good for me… most of the time i will outlast a lot of riders who end up cramping, especially the bigger guys who sweat a lot.
    It’s my secret weapon… I know i have an advantage, and just have to make sure there are hard efforts at the end of a hot race to ensure i get rid of a few guys.

  5. some dude

    Funny last week you write a blog about how you knew that gatorade effect is wrong, and how you don’t drink much. hmmmmmm..

  6. Steve Tilford Post author

    dude- I don’t know about where you live, but here in Kansas if you stop at a rural convenience store and want to get something cold to drink you have 3 choices. Beer, pop, or Gatorade. Actually, water too, but I’m not big on buying bottled water. So, Gatorade it was.

    If they had cold pickle juice, then I would have gotten it.

  7. Bryan

    Why buy a bottle of water? You can almost always get free ice and water from one of their sinks. I’ve never been in a “rural” convenience store that wouldn’t allow that. I usually by a pack of crackers for 50 cents just to be a good customer. Even little towns have a lot bigger selection than beer, soda or Gatorade. I’ve always found more than that even out in the boonies.

  8. Ron

    Wanna talk about BIG mileage? Look up Kurt Searvogel on Strava. Already over 25,000 miles for the year! Over 200 miles per day average! He is going for a world annual mileage record. Pretty extreme shit!

  9. chris

    Sagan reminds me of Jenson. My experience from playing soccer at the college level and then cycling post college, is cramping stems from muscle fatigue or repeated use (sprints/soccer). Not much you can do about it me thinks. I used to wake up in the middle of the night as a 15 year old with one of my legs locked up, usually after a hard day of practice.

  10. riverdog

    Hmmm…if that were true I would never cramp! I drank constantly and have cramped while other riding along never touch their bottles….I am afraid Hydration CAN BE the culprit..but not always ….muscle fatigue as well….do the research as I have and you will see it is not a simple picture…Electrolytes hardly ever are the reason.

  11. gehry

    While lack of hydration was always a big factor in getting cramps, I found they had far more to do with the regularity at which I did high-mileage riding and racing. The more I did the long rides, the less I got cramps. I think it has mostly to do with how efficient your body gets at utilizing the water and nutrition you’ve already got.

    I remember once at districts (the VERY first Boulevard RR) in 1984 when I was in the break with 3 other guys on a REALLY hot June day. 46 miles into the race (in the feed zone), some wanker thought he’d do us a “favor” and throw an entire bucket of ice water at /on us. Two of the other three guys were directly hit by it and they immediately got dual-whole-leg cramps that caused them both to seize-up and topple-over. I missed my own feed, eventually bonked and lost contact with the winner.

    Legs don’t like to get messed with.

  12. Larry T.

    Where’s Ed Bauman these days? What a character…and a damn fine mechanic as I remember from the daze working with him on the European cycling tours.

  13. Steve Tilford Post author

    Go to or SteephillTV and they have the links to Eurosport, which is in English, or you can watch the RAI Italian feed or other languages also.

  14. Jake

    Lovin’ the Spinergy! I’m still riding mine after decades of faithful service.

  15. Bryan

    I had cramps that frightened me once. I was riding what ended up being around 130 miles. I was riding south from Bandera to Hondo TX, any my right leg starting cramping horribly, but only if I relaxed my rpms or tried to slow down or shift. As long as I kept pushing 20mph into the headwinds (which were not pretty that day) it was fine. There was nowhere to stop out there, and it was before the proliferation of cell phones so I couldn’t call anybody. I just had to push through about 15 miles of cramps – and then they disappeared as suddenly as they appeared.

  16. John J.

    Go back and read Meihauf’s post. You didn’t get the right message. After that, go read your sports science and exercise physiology books.

  17. Larry T.

    THANKS! I’ve wondered about crazy Ed many times and you’re the only (slim as it is) connection I have. Say CIAO for me next time you’re in SoCal and see him.

  18. JR

    The Giro is on BeIn Sports channel if you have the right sports package (with English commentators).

    I used to cramp in triathlon going from the bike to run but taking a salt tab or two in the last few miles of the bike leg eliminated that issue.
    Any kind seems to work but I am partial to the Hammer products.


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