Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton
09:47

Hydration Isn't Just About Better Performances - It's About Survival

It’s been a challenging summer, to say the least, as we’ve progressed in to a malaise where the days may or may not be getting hotter, but the nights are almost certainly not getting as cool. The issue of staying hydrated is becoming a full-time concern, and I’m almost to the point where I’m perpetually helping myself to scoops of NBS Nutrition, even while in the studio and office, to stay optimally hydrated.


In order to understand whether your body is properly hydrated or not, I’m a liberal user of, and proponent for, Pee Strips. Yup - strips that you pee on to determine your hydration status, among other things. Cycling Center Dallas and Online Bike Coach spend hours looking at extrinsic information, like Watts and KiloJoules, but too often, the intrinsic information is ignored. Reagent Pee Strips allow us to determine things, like a body’s PH levels, Leukocytes, Protein elements in urine,, and most importantly, Specific Gravity.


Specific Gravity is basically a way to see how much extra ‘stuff’ is coming out with your watered urine. It’s no longer enough to have a look in the bowl and determine whether ‘Clear and Copious’ or ‘Dark and Clouded’ is the best determination. Instead, when you pee on the pee strips, the chemicals are reacting to what’s in your urine, and the results are pretty revealing. Distilled water has a Specific Gravity of 1.000, and most healthy humans have SG’s in the 1.005 - 1.015, but basically, the further out you go from 1.000, the more dehydrated you are.


At the studio and online, we have been emphasizing the need for hydration as a critical element to training performance now for years. If you read back on this blog, you’ll remember that I suffered a serious heat stroke in late June of 2010, and later that year, met Dr. Stacy Sims at the Olympic Training Center, and she changed my world. Nowadays, we not only focus on hydration on an individual basis, we use it as part of the training strategy. Right now, at the studio, I have two clients who have incredibly high sweat rates, and they routinely post Specific Gravities that are in the 1.030 range and worse. They’re both triathletes, and they’re both concerned about the stigma associated with CamelBacks and drinking to a schedule. As a coach, I’m going to go out on a limb and make a bold claim;


If you TRUST YOUR COACH, then understand that you’ll be a STRONGER, FASTER, MORE EFFICIENT cyclist by drinking THE RIGHT MIX, ON A SCHEDULE THAT KEEPS YOUR SPECIFIC GRAVITY IN THE 1.005-1.01 RANGE, THAN ANY AERO, WEIGHT, OR SOCIAL PENALTY YOU MAY SUFFER FROM WEARING A CAMELBACK.


There - I said it. Now, I’m going to back it up with an event that happened this weekend, just to drive the point home.


My wife’s travels over the summer left me working the studio, and I was unable to ride as much as I have wanted, so upon her return, I was able to drive down to Fredericksburg, Texas, the second weekend of August, to ride with a friend who lives down there. He knows all the roads, is a past State Champion, and is making the most of small-town life. He’s a great guy, and lives humbly, so I thought this would be the best companion for a lot of LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) rides of 2-4 hours, out in the countryside. I got down a day early, and we planned on departing around 7am on Friday Morning, to ‘beat the heat’.


Well, we’re definitely human. We ended up talking and catching up all night, went to bed late, and slept in. We rolled out around 9:30, and, well, August 12th just happened to be - THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR IN TEXAS. So at our speeds and with our relative levels of fitness, HYDRATION… WELL-UNDERSTOOD AND COMPREHENSIVELY PREPARED-FOR HYDRATION, was FUNDAMENTAL TO OUR SURVIVAL on that day.


I rolled out with a 70oz Camelback, and two 24oz. Chilled water bottles. My friend rolled out with…. 2 24 oz water bottles with neoprene coozies wrapped around them. We rolled out just as the heat began to hit, and made it to a town called Comfort, after roughly two hours. Now, we did get water at a filling station, but the route back to Fredericksburg left us climbing, with maybe a slight headwind, and we ended up suffering as the heat of the day wore on. This road is also incredibly remote, so we were going through our fluid ounces at a higher rate. Eventually, I inadvertently separated myself from my friend, and climbed up to an overlook where there’s a small State Park that protects an abandoned tunnel, which has become a famous bat cave, home to about 19,000 bats.


I found a cool spot, drank up the rest of my Camelback, and downed another bottle, so I was at well over 100 oz. in just about 3 hours, and waited. It took about 10 minutes, and when he showed up, he looked just ragged. Fortunately, there is a Hole-In-The-Wall restaurant about 200 meters up the road from this lookout, and my friend knew the owners. We rolled over there ---- and spent the next two hours in the A/C, drinking lemon water and recovering. Even after that, in the 8 miles home, he STILL didn’t feel or ride well, and cramped on all but the slightest of efforts. We spent that afternoon and evening keeping him in a cool shower, and drinking to recover. A quick step on the scale showed that he’d lost about 6 lbs, which, for a skinny guy, is REALLY dangerous.


Me? I drank the other bottle, and then made a poor-man’s carb drink by mixing a flat Dr. Pepper with water, which I also drank on the 40 minute ride home. I then immediately drank a recovery drink, and took out a pee strip. The result? Well, it was a life-or-death issue. Here - take a look.


IMG_1740


And here it is compared to the baselines you get on a reagent strip container.

IMG_1741

So - after FIVE HOURS in the sun, in which temps hit a peak of 111 DEGREES… I was STILL HYDRATED at a SPECIFIC GRAVITY of 1.01. How much did I drink? 70+24+24+24 = 142oz, of which all but 24 of those ounces was NBS Hydration (remember the Dr. Pepper trick). Also - Look at the Leukocytes. I actually WAS burning fat, which was the mission for the weekend. Furthermore, look at the PH levels. That’s purely from the NBS. If I had decided to attempt some hard intervals, I would have been prepared for them internally, since intensity leads to lactic acid and increased Co2 output. Being slightly alkaline can help offset some of the challenges those efforts bring.


Here it is - Sunday morning, and my friend still hasn’t really recovered from the heat stress. It reminds me of that life-altering day in late June, 2010, when I drank the wrong drink, didn’t drink enough of it, and suffered a life-altering heatstroke that left me with impaired vision in one eye and a higher likelihood of migraines overall. I just hope this message gets across to others; you CAN exercise in the heat - you just have to be EXTREMELY prepared for it, and honestly, DRINK your way out of it.


PS - I honestly feel sorry for the Dallas Cowboys… They’re getting umpteen million dollars for a Gatorade Sports Science Institute in their new facilities in Frisco, and I can’t believe they’d be using almost 50-year old information and higher concentrations of sports drink, to their detriment. One can only hope that every sports franchise, in a warming world, will see just how powerful these new, scientifically based sports drinks, can change your cycling for the better.



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Coach Wharton
16:17

Stage 19: 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July - Keep Your Cool!

Spray

Wow - it's July in Texas, and here and at the Tour de France, it is HOT HOT HOT! But are there any ways we can ride outside and KEEP OUR COOL!?

It's not easy, but it IS possible.

Start off with a mantra that's dear to me - HYDRATE! Drink early, drink often, drink your sports drink, and avoid the caffeine or diuretic medications. You just need to keep drinking a light-carb/smart salt solution, like OSMO or Skratch. I like them both.

Second, sunscreen is a Godsend. I'm more of a fan of having lighter sunscreen, like SPF15, and re-applying it every 90 minutes or so, but that can be cumbersome. Talk to a dermatologist about the pros and cons of seasonal protection and higher vs lower SPF values.

Third, lots of new kit fabrics come pre-treated with SPF protection, as well as Infra-Red ray protection. The kit at CCD reflects UVA and IR rays, thus keeping the skin about 8 degrees cooler. The kits are also built to help sweat evaporate instead of coagulating on the skin, thus helping with a cooling microclimate.

Finally, don't hesitate to use ice bags in your jersey pockets, under your jersey and on your back. We've seen it a lot in this year's Tour, and one thing I've noticed is that the riders, when given fresh ice bags at feed zones, will 'Pop' them with their fists, and then stuff them in their kit. When the ice begins to melt, it saturates the clothing, providing the user with a 'Swamp Cooler', that feels great!!!

Another trick along these lines is to take a ziploc of any size, snip the corners with scissors, and fill the bag with ice. Again - it'll melt and leak all over you, but it's reusable.
Be safe, stay hydrated, and keep your cool these next few weeks as summer wanes.

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Coach Wharton
15:56

Handling the Heat - the Cycling Center Dallas Way!!

We often get asked - "How do you ride in the heat?! I can't STAND IT!" Well, there are no simple answers, but being native North Texans, we can give you a couple of pointers that will definitely make a difference.
  1. DRINK MORE, DRINK OFTEN, DRINK MORE OFTEN! - Take a look at this hydration chart. Start by looking at your weight, then, scroll over to columns two and three. I'm weighing in at 160-164 lbs right now, so I'm looking at a MINIMUM of 25 ounces per hour, and in times when I'm really pushing hard, 30 ounces per hour. Sometimes, when it's really hot and humid, I'll consume over 50 ounces per hour!Osmo Nutrition Hydration Strategy
  2. THINK about what you DRINK! - Most Sports Drinks trend towards a 6-8% sugar content. Everyone who knows me knows what a fan I am of Osmo Nutrition, and secondly, Skratch (both were developed by Pro Crush, Stacy Sims, who also had a hand in Clif Electrolyte formula). The hotter it gets, the more you want to consume something with fewer overall calories. You're NOT trying to get calories by drinking. You're trying to basically keep FRICTION DOWN at a CELLULAR LEVEL! Osmo is about 3.5% solution, and helps keep you cool. Furthermore, water in the bloodstream helps prevent the bonk better than just about anything else!
  3. DRINK BEFORE YOU HAVE TO! - Osmo and Skratch both have pre-ride solutions that will help act as anaerobic buffers, will help you basically retain water (your ring finger will get tight), and help you 'stay thirsty my friends' with their good salt setups. These aren't the most flavorful items (they tend to taste like seawater), but they REALLY work. *** Note - women - Try the women's formula at full-strength, BUT, if you feel bloated, then cut the solution down to 1/2 a dose of the powder, with a full dose of the water needed. It'll help you avoid an upset stomach. 
  4. It's not ALL on the inside! - One of the most important things we can do as cyclists, since we're exposed to the sun for hours at a time, is to protect our skin. Sunscreen makes a HUGE difference, and if you're a guy, they make 'mousse' that you can rub in your hair, which will help protect your scalp. Don't forget the small parts, like eartips, the upper neck, the hole in your gloves when you cinch up the velcro, and the chest, when your zipper is down.
  5. Fabrics Matter! - When you ride, your fabric can literally save your soul. Modern fabrics are designed to have SPF factors in the 30's and 40's, and the stuff that I've gone with, the Louis Garneau jerseys, are treated with a dip called ColdBlack, which literally repels about 40% of the IR rays per square cm that the Sun fires off every moment. Have you ever stuck your hand under a heat lamp at a cafeteria? That's IR energy! So think about that, the next time you're out there roasting. Think about how, for a few extra bucks, you could have something that is still breathable, still comfy, but also helps keep you skin that much cooler. And cooler skin, means less energy expended trying to keep you cool from the inside!                 
  6. You CAN be aero AND have great ventilation in a helmet! - Everyone knows that a helmet is a must these days. They're the 'last inch' of protection! But when you're NOT using the helmet as protection, you can expect a modern helmet to channel oncoming air in different ways over the scalp, so that any heat generated can be channeled out the back, and keep your head, literally, cooler. Again - check out the latest helmet from Louis Garneau - yeah, I'm a fanboy, but it really does work.                                                                                          
  7. What's in YOUR jersey pocket?! - Still too hot? Stuff your valuables like your wallet, keys, and smartphone in a waterproof pouch, and then FILL YOUR SIDE POCKETS TO THE BRIM WITH ICE!!! Yeah - that's right, ICE. Sure, it's messy. Sure, it's going to MELT ALL OVER YOUR LEGS AND LOWER TORSO. But you know what? IF WORKS!!!! Refill every hour that you're out, and watch your watts stay HIGH.                                                                                                                                                     (Photo Pending - you'll LOVE it!)                                                                                                          
  8. SONIC! WE LOVE SONIC SLUSHES!!! - Research shows that one of the most effective ways to keep your cool, is to consume beverages made from Ice Slurries. While we don't always have access to a blender while we're out on our rides, we CAN stop at the local Sonic, and have a Wet, HIGH SUGAR-BUZZWORTHY Slushie, in any color/flavor you like, and safely expect that it'll help drop your core temp quite well. Mmmmm!!!!                                      
So that's about it from me regarding this topic. I also have used unhosed Camelbacks filled with ice, and have let them drip down all over me. Furthermore, taking a gallon ziploc, filling it with ice, and then nipping the corners, allows you to stuff it under your jersey and against your back, where it'll melt and drip, much like the ice in your jersey pocket, and allow you to stay cool on an area that is filled with blood vessels that are close to the skin. 

Heat stroke is a real threat when the temps and humidity climb. I know - I've had one, and it left me with some damage to my right eye. But with proper strategy and precautions, you SHOULD be able to withstand the heat, and enjoy the ride!

Till next time! Leave With Nothing Left!!

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