Yesterday I headed out with a few friends on a 120 mile 8000 ft “training ride”. The plan was to start in Enumclaw, ride up to the top of Chinook pass, descend and ride up to the top of Sunrise, eat lunch, and then return back to Enumclaw.
I was a bit worried because I was riding with my friend Joe, who not only puts in at least twice as much mileage as I do but is also perhaps 30 pounds lighter than me. Luckily, Joe doesn’t mind riding slower so that others can keep up.
My nutrition plan was to use the Perpetuem, to hopefully avoid the issues I’ve had with Accelerade in the past on long rides. I also brought a bunch of Endurolyte capsules to give me a little extra electrolyte, and some Newtons to chew on. I made up two “two hour” bottles – with enough perpetuem for two hours in each – and carried a camelback for the extra water. I usually don’t like to do that, but we were limited with water sources and it was hot hot.
Joe had written up the ride as “16-18MPH on the flat”, which is what some of our other group rides. We tended towards the upper number (well, actually, above the upper number) for the first hour, which would have been very pleasant if not for the fact that we climbed around 1000 feet during that time. But, though my HR was a bit higher than I had planned (in the mid 140s rather than the 130s), that’s still right around my lactate threshold and I felt good and spent time talking with Greg as we rolled towards our first stop at Greenwater.
The next 17 miles we picked up another 1200 feet of altitude, as we journeyed towards the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. By that point, I was starting to feel a little out of sorts – I didn’t have the same sort of snap, but I knew that I wasn’t dehydrated nor was I down on sugar. I took a few more endurolytes. Then the fun began, as we climbed up Chinook pass (9 miles, 2400 feet)
I did okay on the first part. I gapped off the back of the group – not a surprise – and just tried to ride my own pace, and finished the whole section in about 75 minutes. Not horrible, but not a lot of fun.
A quick descent back down to the white river campground, $5 to enter, and it was time to work on the Sunrise climb. By this point, I was seriously down on both oomph and motivation, and the other riders just rode away from me (partly because I forgot one of my gloves at the water fountain, but mostly because I was so down on energy). I did okay on the first 5 miles – which aren’t very steep – but then the road kicked up and it was all I could do to ride on my smallest gear (a 30/27) at perhaps 80 RPM. I rode a mile or so, and stopped to take a quick break and stretch. After another 15 minutes, it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to finish the climb, and I stopped, sat for a while, phoned Joe and my wife to tell them what was up (interestingly, there was great cell coverage there. My guess is that we were using the towers at the summit of Crystal Mountain Ski area, which is just across the valley from sunrise (and sports the best view of Mt. Rainier around)). And then I descended back down, and started suffering…
It was 26 miles from where I turned around back to Greenwater, which was the first place where I could get some real food. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t fun – I stopped a couple of times to rest, but it really didn’t help much. Eventually, I made it to Greenwater and stopped by the Naches tavern for some food.
The chicken strips and fries did wonders for me, and I ate them with considerable amounts of salt. I tried a Coke but the fructose did not sit well on my stomach, so I only drank about a third of it. After about 30 minutes, I got on the bike and rode the remaining 18 miles back to Enumclaw. I got a little bit of snap back in my legs and started to feel better.
The exact distance isn’t clear – because of me not remembering to start my new HRM – but it’s pretty close to 100 miles, with about 6500 feet of climbing.
The whole experience is eerily reminiscent of my experience on STP last year. I felt good at the beginning, then after 3 or 4 hours started to really lose power. Both days were hot, and both days I sweated a lot.
On the other hand, I did another hard climbing ride earlier this year (59 miles with 4K elevation) where I felt strong, but it was cool and overcast that day.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking, that perhaps I was down on sodium?
But that shouldn’t happen, should it? The perpetuem has electrolytes in it, and I was supplementing with Endurolytes. *But*, if you look at the labels, you find that Perpetuem only has 231mg in two scoops (a one-hour dose), and the Endurolytes only have 40m each. So, that puts me at about 350mg per hour of sodium. As a comparison, the Accelerade I use has 380mg in my hourly dose.
Is that enough? I did a little research…
While there are guidelines around how much sodium is necessary to help water absorption, there are differing opinions on amounts above that. In Serious Cycling, Burke reports a recommendation of 400mg to 1000mg per liter and ACSM recommends 500 to 700mg per liter.
The amount you need depends on how acclimatized you are to the heat – more highly trained atheletes sweat more water and less salt. And it depends on your personal physiology.
The anecdotal stuff I’ve read from the ultra groups (running, cycling, triathlons) says that at least for some people, salt supplementation is pretty important.
During those long hours on the bike, I was seriously considering skipping RAMROD, but I’ve now decided I’m going to do it. But, I’m going to use a better salt supplement.
A few pages I found useful: