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2017-04-28 12:05 PM


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Subject: Cramped up at my first triathlon
I'm new to this forum--and to the sport of triathlon--and just completed my first triathlon, an Olympic distance course, last weekend.

Having never owned a road bike or a wetsuit until February, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I trained intensely w/a local tri club for 3 months to the point where I felt comfortable and confident that I could complete all three events (I come from more of a running background, and cycling was brand new to me). My goal was to finish around 3 hours, but to be honest I just wanted to try and finish.

The race, however, didn't go quite as I had hoped. My left leg started cramping halfway through the swim, and it got progressively worse throughout the course. I tensed up on the bike, and it became an all-out Charley Horse when I started running. I ended up walking quite a bit of the run and limping my way to the finish line. My left quad, hammy, and maybe even my calf were frozen stiff. It was a small miracle I finished the race in 3 hours, 16 minutes.

I'm not sure if the cramp was a muscular issue or a nutritional one. I'd never had one since my first day on my bike back in February--and certainly not swimming. While I probably didn't get enough water or salts for the race, I'm not sure how I could have prevented it. I even had 1 1/2 bananas right before jumping into the water.

Any thoughts? Could it have been overtraining (my suspicion)? I've already signed up for two more races this year and really hope this won't happen again!


2017-04-28 1:35 PM
in reply to: Kreshendo

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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
First: Good job completing your first Triathlon. Not too many first (or second) races go according to plan.

Questions: Did you warm up before the race? I usually warm up backwards to the race format. I start with a light/short run. Then I bike to test equipment and generally keep the distance short. Last is the swim warm up. Mostly focus on smooth stroke and getting heart rate up.

Did you drink water the day before the race? Did you hydrate the day of the race?

Did you start off faster then you would in one of your training swims? Sometimes we get caught up in the race and push our bodies more than what we trained.

My experience with my body when I get a Charley Horse is when I'm not drinking enough water through the day.

When you say overtraining. Did you train right up to the race or did you taper off?
2017-04-28 1:42 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
Sounds like you got a common swim-related cramp that just persisted through the event.

I come from a swimming background, but find I must be careful to hold my form in an open water race or I'll get a leg cramp. The traffic and need to sight makes me a little tense. Then I have a tendency to over-lift to sight, which requires a strong counter-kick to keep my legs from sinking. I have to relax, sight less often and without trying to lifting my whole upper body out of the water, and concentrate on getting back to a good, streamlined, head-down position between sightings. Otherwise, it's gonna be a long day with a painful cramp in my left leg.

When you swim, are you a bi-lateral breather, or do you breath just to one side?

Edited by gary p 2017-04-28 1:45 PM
2017-04-30 5:56 PM
in reply to: Kreshendo


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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
Originally posted by Kreshendo

I'm new to this forum--and to the sport of triathlon--and just completed my first triathlon, an Olympic distance course, last weekend.

Having never owned a road bike or a wetsuit until February, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I trained intensely w/a local tri club for 3 months to the point where I felt comfortable and confident that I could complete all three events (I come from more of a running background, and cycling was brand new to me). My goal was to finish around 3 hours, but to be honest I just wanted to try and finish.

The race, however, didn't go quite as I had hoped. My left leg started cramping halfway through the swim, and it got progressively worse throughout the course. I tensed up on the bike, and it became an all-out Charley Horse when I started running. I ended up walking quite a bit of the run and limping my way to the finish line. My left quad, hammy, and maybe even my calf were frozen stiff. It was a small miracle I finished the race in 3 hours, 16 minutes.

I'm not sure if the cramp was a muscular issue or a nutritional one. I'd never had one since my first day on my bike back in February--and certainly not swimming. While I probably didn't get enough water or salts for the race, I'm not sure how I could have prevented it. I even had 1 1/2 bananas right before jumping into the water.

Any thoughts? Could it have been overtraining (my suspicion)? I've already signed up for two more races this year and really hope this won't happen again!


Super easy to overdo it in the swim leg. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like you're overcooking it but without a pool clock it's hard to know. I'd suggest taking a more conservative approach to the swim next time and see how that works out for you.
2017-05-01 8:57 AM
in reply to: ziggie204

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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
First off, Congrats on your first Tri, welcome to the club!

I may go out on a limb here and say most (if not all) of us veterans have had a cramp that ruined a race, I know I have.

Take a look at your pre-race routine, try not to eat anything 15 minutes right before getting in the water, age old wisdom from my parents always said an hour, but I've taken a banana or a gel 15 minutes before my swim start and have been fine.

Also ensure that you try and hydrate the night before, and the morning of, drinking plenty of water should help prevent cramps early in the race.

I'd also concur with the other advice given, try not to go too hard on the swim, your first race is very exciting, anxious energy mixed with fewer fixed visual reference points then the pool can result in going much harder then you intended/planned. I am by no means the worlds greatest swimmer so I treat that portion as almost a warm up, so I stay solid middle of the pack in the water, then crush the bike.

again, good luck and congrats!
2017-05-01 11:39 AM
in reply to: Kreshendo

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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
How cold was the water?

Were you wearing a wetsuit?

How hard were you kicking?

Were you focused on pointing your toes?

Shane


2017-05-01 3:27 PM
in reply to: Kreshendo


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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
Thanks for all the fantastic advice!

In response to some of the questions:
- Water temp was about 58 degrees
- Yes, I was wearing a neoprene wetsuit and cap--and even thermal booties
- I had a banana about 30 mins before the start
- In practice I bilateral breathe, but not on race day since I was already gasping for breath due to the adrenaline

I suspect it may have had something to do with not enough water (or salt) the night before, and the fact I was kicking differently than I normally do on account of the swim booties (which I never really wore in practice) and possibly the big timing chip on my left ankle.

I am also a terrible sighter and probably looked up too frequently (since I was always getting hit, too), which might have caused me to kick after long periods of little movement.

Either way, I'm really hoping I can avoid a repeat of the issue . . . I've already signed up for another one (a sprint) later this month! Even though I consider myself a strong swimmer, I desperately need help with my sighting (and open water swimming more generally).

Thanks again for the tips!

2017-05-01 5:16 PM
in reply to: Kreshendo

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Subject: RE: Cramped up at my first triathlon
Originally posted by Kreshendo

In response to some of the questions:
- Water temp was about 58 degrees
- Yes, I was wearing a neoprene wetsuit and cap--and even thermal booties
- In practice I bilateral breathe, but not on race day since I was already gasping for breath due to the adrenaline

I was kicking differently than I normally do on account of the swim booties (which I never really wore in practice) and possibly the big timing chip on my left ankle.


Hydration and nutrition are almost certainly red herrings; the key elements I suspect lie in what remains above.

Cold water, wetsuits, extra/different kicking are the mostly culprits combined with the fact that you were probably working pretty hard due to race day excitement.

Good warm up, practice in open water (and cold open water if that's what you're racing in) and trying to control your kick (keep it relaxed) along with experience will likely help in your next race.

Shane
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