Importance of Hydration - Knowledge is Power

I'm thirty miles out on my fifty mile ride, it's a hot spring morning and I'm sweating buckets. As I struggle to accomplish that simple act of pushing those pedals forward, I realize that I am wayyy more fatigued than I should be. This is supposed to be one of my easier rides as I taper down in preparation for the real trial that lie ahead.

Still, my legs feel leaden and my muscles are cramping something awful. Frustrated I try to push through the pain to keep my momentum going. After all I only have twenty more miles to get through, can't stop now. But it seems no matter what I do, no matter what I tell myself to try and keep going, I can't keep the pace.

While my mind tells me that this ride does not properly reflect the conditioning I've been putting myself through, my body continues to shut down until I am forced to call it quits after ten more miles. For someone who should be able to eagerly pump out over 100 miles a day for thirty days, this is not a good sign. 

What went wrong? 

The next day, I  get a text from one of my best friends, Daniel Marks. It just so happens he is reading an article about hydration for cyclists and thought its contents might interest me. The other day I was complaining to him about the frequent headaches I get after my bike rides, and it seems that this article contains some answers to my questions. 

Apparently a cyclist should intake fluids at a rate of 4 cups or more for every hour they spend in the saddle, as they are more inclined to lose fluids at a quicker rate. The loss of hydration is critical to performance, as even a small decrease of fluids in the body can result in a significant decrease in performance. It also goes on to state that many endurance cyclists report having headaches long after their bike rides are completed, some lasting until the next day as their bodies struggle to replace lost fluids.   

Unfortunately he read this article in a print magazine, otherwise I would eagerly be posting it's contents here for your reading enjoyment. But the meat of the article focuses on how important is it for a cyclist to drink profusely on these rides and how often we sweat while pedaling out those long miles. While I knew that it was important to stay hydrated, I have no idea that it would affect me on such a significant level. With this new knowledge in hand I decided to really take more of an effort to properly hydrate myself. Next time I would be ready.

This is yet another example of how important it is to be as knowledgeable as one can when it comes to tackling something as large scale and difficult as training to ride across the country. Too often on this journey I think that there is nothing left to learn and that I am a master of the road. My pride grows and I get cocky to the point where I might even have a little swagger. So when something goes wrong and I can't seem to hack it, I blame myself and get frustrated rather than swallowing my hubris and trying to examine the problem from a different perspective. 

Time to swallow that pride and grab a slice of humble pie, or in this case, a glass of water.

Danielle Rivenbark