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ABSA Cape Epic News

What happens to your body when you cycle over 100km?

Ready for #40take2 of the Cape Town cycle tour? Here we outline what to expect to happen to your body during the race.

Dr Jannelene Killops, Clinical head of the Mediclinic Events Department and official race doctor for the Cape Town Cycle Tour, explains what happens to your body during a 100km cycle race – and how to prevent these common complaints.

Tingling or numb hands: ‘This can be due to the position of the handlebars causing pressure on the nerves that pass across the palmar side of your wrist,’ Dr Killops says.

Solution: Shift your hand position regularly, check your bike setup and handlebar position and wear protective gloves.

Racer’s cough: Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) occurs when the small muscles lining your lungs go into spasm. This is triggered by cold, dry air, pollution and allergens. ‘Exercise is also a trigger for asthma – and by not treating your symptoms, you could be limiting your performance,’ says Dr Killops.

Solution: See your doctor. The correct medication can control your symptoms.

A runny nose: ‘Your nose might simply be trying to warm and humidify the air entering your lungs, but it can also be a symptom of illness,’ Dr Killops cautions.

Solution: ‘Illness does occur at peak times of training,’ says Dr Killops. ‘Should your symptoms be above your neck only – that is, no fever, sore muscles or cough fatigue – you can exercise moderately and assess your symptoms. If they worsen, don’t exercise, and stay away from racing. It could lead to serious and even life-threatening consequences.’

A sudden need to visit the bathroom: Inconvenient and unpleasant bouts of diarrhoea during a long race are common. This occurs when you take in a lot of sugary snacks and energy gels, but limited blood flow prohibits proper digestion.

Solution: ‘To avoid an urgent bathroom visit, consume the same fuel you use on your training rides and remember that concentration gels and supplements are not a substitute for training,’ Dr Killops says. ‘Hand hygiene is also important yet underrated when racing. Carry disinfectant wipes to make sure the food you are eating is not contaminated.’

Fuzzy head and fatigue: ‘Depending on your exercise intensity, your body stores 60 to 90 minutes of rapidly available fuel as glycogen in your liver and muscles,’ says Dr Killops. Whether training or racing, you need to eat to keep going.

Solution: ‘While training, choose foods that are easy to digest and not too sweet, such as bananas, salty potatoes, white bread sandwiches, rice cakes and race fuel bars that contain whole food ingredients,’ Dr Killops says. ‘Hopefully your training will be equivalent to the amount of time you plan to spend on your bike.’

Be warned: fatigue, nausea and dizziness can precede serious medical complications. ‘If you feel you’ve hit a wall during the Cape Town Cycle Tour, get to one of the 12 strategically positioned Mediclinic medical points. Experienced doctors and nurses will be ready and willing to assist you. Should you be on the route, flag down a marshal who will communicate with the mobile paramedics. If you have an emergency please call the emergency number advertised on your wrist band.’