Cramping at Altitude?

Hey guys,

I’ve never cramped before. Yesterday I did a 70 mile Sportive (7000’-8600’) when my hami’s started to twitch with 10 miles to go. I managed to hold them off with some leg straightening and serious backing off the power. They went a way for a bit, and then came back with 2 miles to go. Except this time much worse, I was feeling cramps in parts of my legs I never knew existed. To the point were I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I lost 45 seconds to the eventual winner (finished 2nd overall) but the cramps may cost me the win. And it makes me wonder; are athletes more prone to cramping at altitude? And what could I have done differently?

FYI. Finish time was 3:20. I drank 3.75l, 500mg of sodium per litre, and had 80g of carb per hour. Temp was mile 65-80f. Live at sea level.

Cramps happen when you go harder and longer than what your legs are used to. And that happens frequently in races because of the adrenaline.

Hydration and electrolytes are important but IME they’re not the answer to cramping. Carbs make a bigger difference. 80g/hr is on the low side unless you’re a small rider. I’d go 100-120g next time.

Also, you WILL cramp again in the future. It’s an indicator that you’re not leaving any power on the table. When that happens, pickle juice usually stops the cramps dead in their tracks.

I’ll bring two of these on a road fondo up to 100 miles and four of them on longer gravel races. When I begin to feel my legs twitch, I’ll take half a bottle and from there on out, sip 1/4 bottle every 20-30 minutes.

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Thanks. And that makes sense. My power numbers were nothing out of the ordinary but my HR was definitely higher. I don’t have a lot of experience with racing and was definitely feeling the cognitive load of covering attacks and keeping track of who was who and where they were.

That is 100% to be expected at altitude.

I should clarify, I pre-road the course two months earlier. When I looked back at my numbers; the same or less power had a higher HR. Eg. The first 7.3 miles of the course- Yesterday I averaged 50 watts less (154) but HR was 6 beats higher (136).

Here’s the first short climb. HR is quite a bit higher. I imagine it was adrenaline.