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
13:35

The Beginner's Mind


One of my favorite books, which is now completely out of print, but may be available as an "Ebook" somewhere, is a Coaching and Philosophy book titled "Thinking Body, Dancing Mind". It's a Taoist approach to Sports and Business. If you think about it, the title really says a lot. Our bodies are almost analytical in nature. They mostly move in a linear fashion, automoton-like. The heart beats, the lungs inhale and exhale, hair and nails grow, and bone and muscle are incredibly efficient and passive, ready to go at an impulse from the brain. But it's the MIND that is always dancing - playing 'what if', 'why not', and 'how?' It's a great read, and I recommend it to anyone. In fact, here's a link to some summaries and comments...

http://garthbox.com/?p=1468

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that there's a chapter in the book titled, "The Beginner's Mind". To summarize, when we work to become adept at something, to learn all of the aspects of a sport, a calling, a line of work, the best approach is to ALWAYS try and hold on to "The Beginner's Mind". Keep an open mind. Be willing to learn more, to listen, to read, and more than anything, to teach and instruct yourself, because often it is in the questions of others that you'll be able to understand where knowledge gaps come from, where you may need to do more research, and maybe learn that there are different ways to approach a challenge, either for you, your colleagues, or your own students. 

Tracy and I did just that this weekend, when we attended the USA Cycling Coaching Summit, held in Colorado Springs, at USA Cycling's headquarters. We heard from over a dozen speakers on myriad topics, some of which were repeats, but many of which were new. The most important aspect of the whole weekend was that we were there, she as a Level 2 Coach, me as a Level 1, not to teach or present, but to LEARN. So even with 22 years of experience as a coach for me, and 12+ years of experience for her, once again, we were students. We were beginners. Beginner's minds are open, they are self-critical, they are filled with wonder. Tracy and I sat as close to the front as possible, listening to these masters of their fields, watching their expressions, taking notes, asking critical questions, listening to the questions of others, and forming our own conclusions. Sometimes these were in agreement with the lecturers, sometimes not. The final review of each topic came between programs, when we met with coaches whom I've met and dined with over the years, as we reviewed the programs, the speakers, and the different ways those lectures and themes could possibly help us, help others. 

My favorite character when I was growing up was "The Professor", in Gilligan's Island. In reality, Russell Johnson, the actor, was SO MUCH MORE than just a character on a 3-season television show. The was a War Hero, a Disabled Veteran, a film star, a producer, an author, and an extremely successful AIDS activist. But he never stopped LEARNING. I remember when I read his autobiography, he remarked that Gilligan's Island was just a short part of his career, but it defined him, and he embraced it. He and Alan Hale, who was better known as "Skipper", would travel to Children's Hospitals dressed in character, to help brighten the days of kids who were incredibly sick, and their families. His ambassadorship brought him incredible joy, and hope. In later years, when he was a well-known AIDS activist and fundraiser, his speeches were always well-received, and he became, basically, his character, as he learned the in's and out's of that horrible disease, its' spread, and prevention and possibilities for a cure or vaccine. So the actor became, alternately, a chemist, a biologist, a spokesperson, and, honestly, a Professor. But he did it not just by preaching or professing. He did it... by learning. 

We at Cycling Center Dallas are proud of our accomplishments and publications in the field of coaching for cyclists. That said, we are, and will always be, students of the sport, first and foremost. It's why I earned first my League Cycling Instructor Certification, and later, my Cycling Savvy certification. It's why I wrote my first book. It's why I continued to write manuals and booklets , and despite having that Level 1 Cert way back in 1997, I continued to attend the Coaching Summits, bought the books from other coaches, highlighted them and dog-eared them, and practiced their modalities myself. It's why I continue to practice, try NOT to be too preachy, and work to explain things as simply as I can. In many ways, I like to think that I'm the "Professor". No, I don't have all the credentials and academic background to claim a PhD, but I DO believe that wisdom comes from listening, thinking critically, keeping an open mind, and then taking a position based on what one knows or understands as best-practice. I'm sorry that the Professor never learned how to build a raft to get the Castaways off the island, but I'm satisfied that while stranded, he learned as much as he could about the island, his fellow islanders, and the surrounding ocean, to give them the best shot for survival and evacuation as possible. Hopefully, this weekend's Summit will lead to greater understanding, and an ability by Tracy and myself to help you achieve more on the bike and in your lives, in a safe, convenient, effective, and clear way. 

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