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Hitting the Wall.

July 15, 2009

They always talk about “hitting the wall” in athletics. It’s that point of no return, the point that’s the hardest before it starts becoming easier again.

This weekend, I hit the wall. And then I promptly fell off my bike.

Erik and I went on my first long-distance(ish) bike ride on Saturday. We biked NINETEEN miles. That’s almost 20! But not quite. Erik found this trail in Rockland County called the Heritage Trail that goes about nine miles, one way, plus we did a little extra in the town where the trail ends. The first leg of the ride was OK. I did great for about seven or eight miles before I started to get tired, but I was able to push through.

But on our way back, I thought I was going to die. I was getting off my bike about every half an hour, my thighs burning so bad I thought I would never be able to walk again. I became to testy from the pain I even snapped at Erik. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from lactic acid build-up and let me tell you, it is the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. My legs hurt the rest of the night and into the next day.

From what I’ve read, you need to just build endurance and get your muscles used to working that hard for that long. It’s a good thing I’m training or I’d be dead at the Ride before the first rest stop! I went to the gym yesterday and worked out for over an hour, and I plan on increasing my time a lot more now that I know what my severe limitations are! Have you dealt with lactic acid build up before? What did you do to overcome it? I need serious help here!

  1. July 15, 2009 4:46 PM

    Wow, 19 miles is quite a ride! It’s been a long time since I rode that much, but I remember the pain all right. Some short, flat rides and more time in the saddle might help out. You really do just need to build up your endurance. Don’t forget that your BG and even your female cycle can also work their ‘magic’ on your muscles 😉

    Good luck!

  2. July 15, 2009 5:49 PM

    I agree, the best advice is just to build up gradually. You are teaching your muscles something new, and it will take some time to adapt. Also, when pedaling, try to keep your cadence high whenever possible, rather than pedaling slower in a harder gear. You can shoot for 90 RPM’s–it may take some training to build up to that. If you don’t have a cadence meter on your bike, think of pedaling 3 times per second… (You can think in your head 1-2-3, 1-2-3, with each “1” coming every second. Does that make sense?) Pedaling faster (which does not necessarily mean riding at a faster speed, but can) is more efficient and should spare your legs a bit! Also, make sure to stay well-hydrated, and to have a snack every 45 min or so if you are going to be exercising more than an hour at a moderate effort. Most people shoot for 30-60 g carbs/hr, depending on the intensity of the riding. (Eg., if you are coasting downhill for 30 min, you won’t need to eat as much…)

    • July 15, 2009 10:06 PM

      Really? I was under the impression that having my gears higher and pedaling slower meant that my legs wouldn’t get exhausted as fast… So you’re telling me that I should pedal more on lower gears? Hmm. I didn’t know that.

  3. July 24, 2009 2:11 AM

    yes to pedaling more at lower gears…. i’ve heard similar, ideal is 60-90 revolutions per minute…

    and about the lactic acid… mostly just training more to build up your muscle strength and tolerance as you mentioned. also, when i was on the cross country team in high school we would “drain” the lactic acid from our legs. there’s a pretty high chance this is utter BS, but whether it was placebo effect or not it sometimes made me feel better. we would do this by lying on our backs, and leaning our legs up against a wall, almost straight, and staying there for 10-15 minutes.

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