I've done the Chequamegon 40 mile mountain bike race 6 times now. I love all there is about it. My friends that race it. My friends that come to watch. The hundreds of people that watch all along the way. The feeling that you get when you come down that last hill and make the big "U" turn and climb back up the hill and cross the finish line. Even though I finish way in the back, I still can hear my buddies hollering my name as I pedal that last 50 yards or so to the finish. That is a simple joy that always makes me smile. Competition for some, but the joy of pedaling for most everyone else, myself included. So what drives me crazy is cramps. It doesn't matter how good or how bad I feel, I always get cramps around mile 32.
This year, my heart rate was too high the first 15 miles, but then it settled down and I felt great. My bike was performing fabulously. My full suspension bike loved the rocky, rutted out fire roads, and I found myself passing people on these rougher stretches. The week in Breckenride, CO was paying off in that respect. But, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, when are the cramps going to hit? As usual, after Firetower Hill, at about the 32 mi mark, I had my first spasm in my left quad. I stayed on the bike and massaged it out. Rode for another mile and they hit again. I got off the bike for a few minutes and rubbed it out. This seemed to be the pattern. Ride a mile, get cramps, massage, ride another mile, get cramps. I started walking up hills that I would have no problem pedaling, trying to keep them at bay. I finally thought I had it made, but, they hit again so bad I was off the bike about 2 mi from the finish. After they subsided, I pedaled until 1/2 mi left, all I had to do was ride down the hill and back up to the finish. They hit hard, again my left quad and then my left hamstring at the same time. I had thrown the bike down on the ground, and a spectator was holding my bike, encouraging to me "just throw your leg over and hop on, you'll be fine, only 1/2 mile left!" The guy obviously never had cramps before. Finally, I got on and made it the last 1/2 mi. I was so disappointed to see the time, 3:45. My slowest race ever, and 15 minutes slower then last year. At one point during the race, I felt so good, I was hoping for a personal best. Effing cramps. They have taken the joy out of the race for me. Part of me wants to quit doing the race, because the pain and frustration are so great, year after year.
But, then I think of all the things I love about the race, the things I listed earlier. I decided that I'm not going to let 15-20 minutes of cramps change my love of the race. Bastards! I'll just keep researching cramps and trying to find the right concoction of electrolytes or witch's brew that works. Here's something I found that I may try. Even though the company is in New Zealand, they have a distributor in Canada and the US. Maybe it'll be the Kiwi solution for 2011. http://www.hchformulas.com/crampstop.html
Anyway, here is a short pictorial of Chequamegon 2010. Leading off is Dave...