Putting aside all concerns about hydration/electrolytes/etc -
What plan would you pick to minimize cramping only experienced in long fondo/race events going at/just above your limits?
I haven’t seen nearly as much written about is what kind of training is best to help improve resistance to cramps induced by over-exertion. I believe this is what happens to me in harder event efforts - only rarely see this in steady or interval power training rides.
This weekend, nearly hit my 2019 PR effort over ~18 minutes trying to hold on first long climb. A few miles later, got light twitches in legs, realized I might blow up, and eased up just enough to get through the remaining ~45 miles in Z2 flat/Z3 climb power holding off cramps until the last ~5 miles after a brutally hard climb that includes ~20% sections that had many people walking. I still managed to get through without getting off bike and I considered it a success for catching my limits this time - but I almost blew it! The cramps I did have were quads just above knees, insides of quads, hamstrings and even a touch of calf - not one particular group that would lead me to think fit issue (have been fitted) - suspect I was just overcooked. No clear hydration excuses.
30 seconds faster up that 18 minute climb would have gotten me with a fast group for the flats that would have gained me many minutes with less work and more recovery - was solo for way too many miles after this.
So, what to focus on to address this?
I could just say more FTP/20 minute power (or less kg ) might have closed the gap that I needed - in which case just stick with steady power build plans. Trust that more FTP makes everything better.
But the first climb was not steady - some surges way over FTP with brief flats. Hard to just do my own pace if I want to not lose a fast group that might help me recover more later. If you say train for what you’ll ride, it might say focus on a road race type of plan instead of exclusively sustained power - but my primary interest is 75-100 mile chip timed fondos that do break up a lot and usually have ample opportunities to catch other groups where you’re racing yourself as much as anyone else.
Nonetheless, I’m still wondering if I need to mix things up more and focus less on steady power intervals. At least in all the endurance and longer power plans that I’ve used on TR so far, there is not much “now go hammer on and off 150-200% of FTP in bursts for 20 mins.” Totally different than a 20 min threshold interval. I have actually tried to start hammering a bit more on a weekly group ride to force some adaptation to this - but that probably lacks enough structure to be very productive.
Another theory would be do more SS/threshold power intervals while climbing? This is usually the only terrain in a fondo where sustained high power is needed. I think more of the longest SS/threshold intervals I do outside are on flatter sections of road, or indoors on flat trainer in winter. Maybe a specificity of terrain problem?
Then again, some argue we should just use a lot more long Z2 endurance riding volume to build fatigue resistance over time and it’ll sort itself out. When I do ride on my own for long rides, I focus hard on minimizing Z1/coasting for this reason and am in a rural area that makes this discipline pretty easy.
Finally, I see many people arguing gym work may be very productive for improving ability to manage these kinds of intense bursts better. I’ve never done any. I’m wondering if now is the time to try. I saw this suggested more than any other idea beyond “just be fitter.”
Basically a ton of opinions out there but I’m not seeing a clear consensus once you accept there is no salt tablet/magic bullet for this kind of effort-based cramping, and I’m trying to decide what to do with the 8 weeks I have before next fondo/race.
Interested in thoughts from others who may have experienced similar!