Weekend Reading from the Tour of California Race Experience: How to Survive a Stage Race on the Sun

Riding the Amgen Tour of California Race Experience with Team CTS this past week has been a blast, but that heat in first few days felt like riding on the surface of the sun. I’m really proud of all the riders and coaches for toughing it out, and even more so for being smart. Fitness alone will not carry you though 100+ miles a day for multiple days in 100+ degree heat; you have to be diligent, purposeful, and focused on all the details.

We all suffered like dogs for the first three days of the ATOC, and the cool/cold spring weather in most of the country didn’t help. I normally handle hot days just fine, but the cool spring in Colorado meant I had not acclimated to heat before starting this week’s journey. Since heat was such a big storyline for us and for the pros, CTS Coach Jim Rutberg put together this great FAQ on Adapting to Training and Competing in Hot Weather, including details on the physiological adaptations your body goes through, how long acclimation takes, and what acclimatization steps you can take to improve performance in the heat. He also posted a column I wrote a while back on Four Keys to Effective Training in Hot Weather.

One of the other topics of conversation has been nutrition, particularly in light of a blog I wrote earlier this year called “Let’s Get Real About Your Weight”. In that blog I pretty much said that 90% of the cyclists I meet could stand to lose 10 pounds (I still include myself in that statement, BTW). And while I stand by what I wrote, the unfortunate fact is that many of the athletes who are in that other 10% are also the ones who are constantly – and often to their detriment – striving to be even lighter.

From a performance standpoint, the essential metric for caloric intake is that you need to consume enough energy to support your activity level. When you fail to do this, you’re compromising your ability to recover from workouts, you’re increasing your risk for getting sick, increasing your vulnerability to injury, and hindering your ability to adapt to your training workload and get stronger. Nowhere has that been more evident than during Bucket List events like the Amgen Tour of California and US Pro Challenge Race Experiences.

During big, multiday training blocks or camps, you have to eat today for what you’re planning on doing tomorrow. That means pre-loading your energy stores with hearty breakfasts before big rides, so you stand a better chance of mitigating the energy depletion from today. On the ride, you have to stay on top of energy/fluid/electrolyte intake, so you minimize the stress you put on your body today and reduce the amount/extent of recovery you’ll need to be able to perform again tomorrow. Remember, you’ll have less than 24 hours to recover before another big ride. If you dig too deep a hole, you may not be able to refill it in time!

After the ride, it’s not just the nutrition and hydration you have to think about. You have to cool your core temperature and get cleaned up quickly as well. Elevated core temperature places a continued stress on your body, even after you’re off the bike. Standing around in hot, sweaty, nasty cycling clothes after a big ride on a hot day does you no favors for tomorrow’s ride. Cool yourself down by dousing yourself with water, standing in a sprinkler, sitting in a creek, whatever. And get out of your cycling gear, pronto. Take care of your skin, especially your contact points with the bike (hands, bum, feet) by washing, getting dried off, and attending to any irritations/injuries so they heal faster and don’t get infected.

When Team CTS rolls into Santa Rosa tomorrow, everyone here will have accomplished something monumental and life-changing. Every CTS Bucket List event has its unique challenges, and this year’s ATOC Race Experience has been very different than the previous editions. I believe every rider here has pushed beyond their previous limits for mental and physical fortitude, and learned a bit more about themselves in the process. This is an amazing journey and I’m thankful to Kristin Bachochin and everyone at AEG for their continued support of CTS and the Epic Endurance Bucket List. Be sure to check out our Facebook page for photos from the ATOC Race Experience, and then join us for the US Pro Challenge Race Experience or Tour of Utah Race Experience later this summer!

Have a Great Weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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