Why did my legs die on me?!

LondonMTB Posts: 79
edited August 2010 in Health, fitness & training
Just wondering if someone can shed some light on this:

I have just returned from 5 days cycling-camping holiday in France. I consider myself a moderately fit 'average' young woman, I have a rowing machine to keep my general fitness up, and do MTBing when I can, so I am not a weakling...

I weigh about 57kg, and my bike+gear weighed about 29kg
I was riding my mountain bike (hardtail), but with slicks & front sus locked out.
We rode 60k, 76k, 73k, 72k and 15k (last day shortened by torrential rain...), over mixed terrain but including some climbing, around 500-1100m per day.

Compared to other people on the trip, I was having to use much lower gears for the climbs, and consequently was slower and got left behind. I wasn't puffed out and struggling because I was out of breath (not sure what my HR was, didn't have monitor with me), more that my legs muscles didn't have enough power in them to power up the hills. As the days went on I was changing down at an increasingly early point on each climb, and using lower and lower gears on each climb.

My bike seemed OK, so I don't think it was a problem with the bike. I do need to eat a lot normally, and took some snacks but didn't have much chance to eat them (too busy playing catch-up!). We didn't get much of a lunch, either, because everywhere in France shuts over lunchtime for about 5 hours...But I ate large amounts in the evening and got quite hungry.

My question is, WHY did I struggle so much more than others on the trip? I do think I was carrying a little more weight (particularly in relation to my being female and my lowish body weight compared to the others) but can't be sure as I didn't weigh the others/their bikes! Was it purely lack of leg strength, lack of training, lack of energy, ???? I tried to keep hydrated and took both water and Nuun-infested water to drink.

I want to cope better next year, so any suggestions welcome!


  • furby
    furby Posts: 200
    My initial suggestion would be either ride more to get bike fit, or gym work - squats and variates of, to improve your strenght in your legs.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    Were you high up in the alps? Could be a side effect of the altitude as well.
  • mobilekat
    mobilekat Posts: 245
    Being small, you will need to refuel frequently as you will be burning quite a lots of energy in relation to your body weight, and once you run out of 'juice' you will struggle to get it back. And if you think you were shifting 50% of your own body weight as bike and kit- the same as a 90 Kg bloke having a 45Kg bike/Kit combo.

    For next year I would suggest trying to train with kit a few times (and even be extra hard to yourself and train with knobbly tyres- as this will make the real event seem easier. (remember the old films of runners training dragging a tyre!)- as suddenly gaining the extra weight of kit etc will make life harder!

    Also what bikes were the other riders on? My OH reckons he saw a chart that claimed a mile on a MTB is the same as 3 miles on a road bike- this makes me feel better when burned of by road bikes when on local hills!

    Good luck for next year (and if all else fails hide heavy things in the other riders kit- I have been known to try this with OH, but sadly its just made him fitter and faster!) :)
    Wheeze..... Gasp..... Ruddy hills.......
  • mea00csf
    mea00csf Posts: 558
    how much riding do you do normally compared to the others? maybe they were just more bike fit than you and were more used to multiple days rides. if they were on road bikes, or touring bikes they'll have been far more efficient as well
  • Buckled_Rims
    Buckled_Rims Posts: 1,648
    As a rule of thumb you'd need 600-800 calories per hour cycling depending on terrain, weather etc. So, did you eat enough? Looks like you answered that question :)

    Also, was your cycling position correct. On road bikes its extremely important to be correctly positioned, but the usual MTB'er tends not to bother and has all sorts of inefficiencies whilst cycling on road.

    The distances aren't too far on a MTB. I can easily bike 50 miles on a road bike before breakfast, but 25 miles on a MTB is hard going...very hard going.
    Kona Jake the Snake
    Merlin Malt 4
  • Thanks for all your replies, guys - none of them that suprising, all things I was thinking too...

    Re the other riders, 4 of them were couples so able to split some weight between them (eg tent), whereas I had to carry all my own stuff (where has CHIVALRY gone - not even the guy whizzing off up the hills miles ahead of me even offered to see how heavy my gear was, let alone share any of the weight!). There was a mixture of bikes, one guy on full-suss (!) but this weighed half what my bike weighs (or less), couple of girls on hybrids, one carrying hardly anything (thanks to uber-fit boyfriend mentioned above!), nobody had done any particular training ie days-riding-in-a-row, or practising carrying gear, so I don't think I was any less prepared/fit than anyone else, although I do work a long-houred/stressful job that probably isn't the best preparation for such a 'holiday'!!

    It's pretty difficult to eat that many calories when the other people you're with don't seem to get hungry every 2 hours like me, but lack of calories does seem to have been a factor...
  • GhallTN6
    GhallTN6 Posts: 505
    Bloody good effort on that amount of riding every day, by no means easy.

    Were you drinking on an evening, it's amazing how much even one glass of vino can affect your performance the next day.

    sounds a good week though, would love to do something like that but an off-road version.
  • Actually I was the one person not drinking on the trip! Bit unfair that everyone else had a tipple every night and I was the one who struggled the most! Maybe that's it though, maybe I SHOULD have had that vino..... :wink:
  • GhallTN6
    GhallTN6 Posts: 505
    Get some High 5 or something similar, that stuff really does work, plus maybe crack a few more miles for next year.

    oh, and buy some sandwich bags, break up a Yorkie, with mixed nuts, raisens and broken hob nobs in there, and every time you stop, just dip in your pocked and munch (it works for Royal Marines Winter Training in Norway).
  • mea00csf
    mea00csf Posts: 558
    rigid hybrids will be alot easier to ride on road, and having done the south downs way carrying camping kit i can definetly agree with how much difference it makes. We chose tents, karrimats, sleeping bags, cooking kit etc that were reasonably light weight without spending silly money, and split that up between 2 of us. Everything fitted in 4 front panniers (2 each) but even then we were carrying an extra 8kg each, which is quite a lot when it's nearly 15% of you're body weight!
  • RallyBiker
    RallyBiker Posts: 378
    You need to fuel up on protein/ Carb shakes ( Whey protein/ Waxy Maize starch) One shake before and immediately after the ride). www.bulkpowders.co.uk . That the supplier I use. :D
  • ddraver
    ddraver Posts: 26,383
    Was it just the uphill - sounds like a classic Power:Weight issues to me. Don't mean to be mean but sounds like they were just a little fitter - plus if you re carrying more weight that them on the bike you ll need more power

    I have the opposite problem - loads of power but too much fat! Perhaps we should try and swap! :wink:
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • If you were ok on the flat and underpowered on the hills it might be that your seat is too low or too far forward on the rails.

    How do I know this - I altered both height and forward position before a hilly race last spring and was really struggling.

    Changed everything back and bingo - my usual power returned.

    Also I agree with other posters - you have to keep the carbs up when riding. I chew jelly beans or liquorice sticks (3 of these = 100k/cal) and energy drinks not straight water regularly.
  • Thank you everyone for your input, much appreciated :)

    Probably was a combination of things, I was surprised at the time that I struggled more than the others. I do regular cardio work on my rowing machine (including interval training which I though was meant to help power?!), and spend 10-11 hours 6 days a week on my feet/rushing around, & although I didn't get much cycle training in beforehand, neither did most of my team-mates...

    In the end though I think my having a mountain bike + carrying more gear than the other girls on the trip + not getting enough fuel stops + lack of training with weight on the bike +/- position on the bike (I did raise my saddle after the first day & think this helped), oh and + being absolutely exhausted by recent overwork/stress....all had a bit of a negative impact upon performance!! That's my excuse anyway! Not that it'll stop me doing it next year :wink: