SUMMER SMART TRAINING
On a hot and humid Indiana day in July 2016, a group road ride to a lake house destination ended in disaster for me. The group I was riding with included athletes that could pace line at 22mph. Given that I was knowingly capable of an 18mph pace on a flat asphalt surface, I should have known that was a bad idea, especially with a temperature of 90, dew point of 72, and hilly terrain. The master plan for that day was for the group to pull me, with the strongest riders circling back, if necessary, to pull me up. After all, it was only a 40-mile ride.
So, that was the idea. Given the performance gap, I premeditated on the matter and overthought it. I elected to ride the preceding day in 90 degree heat. Expecting hot and humid conditions on event day, I drank a full bottle of plain water before the morning start with two aspirin for good measure. Being a cycling rookie, I carried vitamin water in my bottles.
My early performance was spectacular—really. So much so that I thought I had a breakthrough. Then, I bonked hard at about mile 25. Thinking a gel would take care of it, someone gave me one and a rider held back with me. I was sure with a carb boost the bonkiness would pass, so I just kept pedaling. I have no memory of cycling for the next three miles, riding in a semi-conscious state. I “woke up” when my tire hit the bike tire in front of me and I blacked out, free-fall in motion into the street. Fortunately we were traveling on country roads and no vehicles were present. I cracked my pelvis in five places, (felt the searing pain before lights out BTW) cracked my helmet, ripped up my kit and received some sporty road rash. My bike was fine since I absorbed the impact.
The hospital emergency room team quickly assessed my condition, started an IV, and ordered a full body CT scan since I didn’t recall what day it was and had searing abdominal pain. Eight hours later I was released with paperwork that identified a condition I had never heard of: water intoxication with exercise-associated hyponatremia—an electrolyte imbalance where your body is depleted of sodium and water enters your cells. The condition symptoms vary, including impaired judgment, unconsciousness, coma, and even death.National news carried a story the very same week in which an elite athlete died of the condition. I was lucky to have fallen before reaching our final destination, which was my ticket to the hospital where I received an immediate diagnosis and IV fluid to replace the sodium and electrolytes I had depleted from my body. Since then, I’ve taken care to understand proper hydration and endurance fuel and I’m still learning.
Then, in March of 2019, I was the lucky MGRS scholarship recipient. On the day I traveled to Grand Rapids to receive my bike and loot, Matt Acker pulled a large Bike Law bag from his van loaded down with Hammer Nutrition just for me as part of the scholarship. That was my introduction to the Hammer brand. I really have come to appreciate HEED, Recoverite, gels, endurance supplements, and the education-focused advice and services provided by this MGRS Sponsor. Regardless of ability, training, or experience, any athlete can be susceptible to dehydration or hyponatremia that can put you in the hospital. Proper hydration and endurance fueling is critical for both competitive and recreational athletes whenever participating in an event for which you have no prior experience, including encountering extreme weather conditions. SOS, Secrets of Success for Endurance Fueling is a quick, essential read published by Hammer Nutrition. I’ve read it and encourage you to read and share it with the people you love.
I’ve applied this knowledge to my training and events and am better for it. Endurance fueling matters for me—I’m more in tune with my physical state, feel like I’m working to my personal best for a beginner, and just feel safer going the distance.