I’m a heavy, heavy sweater. Not the cashmere kind, but the lose-five-pounds-in-two-hours kind.
When I performed my last “Conconi” lactate-threshold test at the UC-Davis Sport performance laboratory, a crowd of my Cal-Aggie cyclist teammates gathered around and watched with open mouths. They got kind of close, but not too close.
Everybody watched because Coach Judd VanSickle said that the Aggie record for a Conconi was 450 watts. That’s the max anybody had held for one minute—after pushing 150 for one minute, 175 for another minute, and so on. It’s a graduated stress test that starts off feeling really easy and escalates to utter humiliation.
I broke the record and made all sorts of ugly faces, so most of the team watched me and rooted me on. But they started backing away from my trainer about 8 minutes into the test. Afterward, I figured out why they kept their distance. It’s the same reason smaller riders fight like hell for my wheel in the beginning of a race but tend to shy away from it later on.
Water pours off my body faster than a cold beer bottle on a humid August day. Droplets cascade from under my helmet and splash all over the rider behind me. After I finished that Conconi, it took two full-size gym towels to soak up all the pool of sweat under my trainer. It was gross.
After the test, I sat huddled on a folding chair and waited for my legs to stop shaking. But when I tried to stand up, I almost fell over sideways. I got really dizzy and saw thousands of little Mario Cippollinis sprinting all around my head.
I lose a lot of fluid during exercise, but my sweat is also really, really salty. So I get moderate orthostatic hypotension when I stand up too soon. After screwing around with hydration levels, I’ve figured out that sodium supplementation helps eliminate the post-ride dizziness that plagued me the day I did that test.
I’ve found two products that really help:
Clif Shot Margarita Blocks: 6 for $2.00, 200 Kcal per package.
These little coagulated boxes of snot taste like my memories of the drunken skinny-dip that my English Department colleagues once talked me into feeding me several ounces of Tres Hermanos tequila. They’re redolent of shame. But they give me a slightly slower energy rush than gels, and the energy seems to burn a bit longer. Plus, they have 3 times the sodium content of a “normal” block, which helps stave off late-race cramping and my post-exercise dizzy spells.
Hammer Endurolyte Fizz, $10 for 12 tablets
These are new at the Trek Store of Omaha where I moonlight a couple of days a week. I think Nuun was first to market this kind of thing, and Clif followed shortly after. But I like the Hammer version best. You just plop a tab into a bottle like an alka-seltzer after a tequila binge. It fizzes up and adds a bit of pizzazz to the mix.
They come in a little plastic cylinder so you can stow them in your race bag. Each tablet contains 100 mg of sodium, 30 mg of chloride, 50 mg of calcium, and 50 mg of potassium. No calories, though.
I add one tab to plain water for easy rides and one tab to my Gatorade powder for long or intense rides. The extra salt really helps with recovery, so also I put one in my post-exercise bottles as I try to rehydrate. They taste kind of like diluted Squirt, which is easier to tolerate than the taste of dissolved Endurolyte capsules.
When I can’t get my hands on Endurolyte tabs, soy sauce will work in a pinch. Then there’s the always-popular Clausen Cocktail—a tradition my eldest has adopted with gusto.
I guess natural is the best way to go. But if pickle juice leaks in your race bag and gets all over your new team kit, you may have to die of shame. So try these tablets. I think they'll help.