My name is Keith Richards, and I am a 55-year-old master’s class competitive cyclist in central Ontario, Canada. Unlike my British rock legend counterpart, I have taken a different path towards personal health and wellbeing through the healthy lifestyle that cycling inspires. I have been riding since I was in my 20s, and took up competitive mountain biking for many years until I moved into road racing in my 40s.
My history of competing in longer or more important races is filled with debilitating cramps that have kept me off of the podium for my entire racing career. Yes, I have won or placed in some shorter events, but literally 100% of my “A” priority races have been ground to a standstill by cramps for my entire racing history.
As background, I am an accredited financial analyst, media financial commentator and Portfolio Manager by trade. My life is all about discipline and quantitative analytics. As such, I approached the subject of eliminating my cramping problem with similar rigor as I do in my profession.
I’ve tried many avenues to solve my cramping dilemma. I train with a coach (Ed Veal, who is a Canadian cycling icon), and spend a good deal of time paying attention to my nutrition and hydration needs. I’ve seen specialized sports nutritionists and sports therapists to try to solve my cramping problem. I do tend to perspire more than other athletes under similar conditions, so some of the work that these experts did with me was to test and adjust my levels of electrolytes. That helped a bit, but I still cramped more often than not at big events. I have also spent hours of time doing internet study, listening to podcasts, and reading books by experts like Joe Friel and others, on the subject of cramping. You name it; I have searched for the answer!
In my search, I knew that humans have the same basic biology even if we differ in some minor aspects on an individual basis. For example, I perspire more than others, and some people may have more slow or fast-twitch muscles making them better at different sports but it’s not like some of us breathe air and others have gills. Thus, there had to be some mechanical/biologically logical problem causing my cramps that could be solved. I just hadn’t found what it was and how to solve it. In my never-ending quest to solve the cramping problem, I read a news article on HOTSHOT, sent to me by my longtime friend Dave Viney, who himself is a bit of a Canadian cycling icon (Dave holds multiple Canadian and world amateur road racing and time trial titles.) Having read something by Joe Friel that seemed to concur with the HOTSHOT science, I decided to buy two cases of the product. I tried a couple in the basement during two of my time trial workouts. Truthfully, it’s rare that I cramp during those short but intense efforts, so I really hadn’t developed any confidence in the product given the lack of a true test. The real test was about to come…
In March, I entered into the Florida Gran Fondo 100-mile race. This race contains four timed segments – sort of like four shorter distance time trial races buried into a century ride. The idea is that you literally redline yourself for about +/- 5 miles in an all-out effort where a chip detects your total time for each segment, and then settle back into an easy tempo pace until the next segment. I was in a leading position in my age group after the second segment. As I approached the third timed segment, the familiar twitch started in my left leg. Damn! I can quantify through 30 years of racing and cramping experience that my leg was about to seize – no mistaking it. But for the first time ever, I had brought two HOTSHOT bottles in my jersey pocket. I popped one of them, swished it through my mouth, and even gargled it a bit, taking it a sip at a time to get maximum nerve impact. Bang! The twitches were gone!!! I hammered through the third points segment and kept my lead without a cramp. But there was one more segment to go.
Another 20 miles of easy paced riding, and we were up to the final segment …One last points segment to go, and I was already starting to feel the twitches in my left leg again! Ahhh! Not now! I was one segment away from the yellow jersey according to the feedback from race officials.
So I opened and swallowed the other HOTSHOT. I swished it around in my mouth like I had with the first one. A few miles later, along came the start flags for the final segment. The fellow who was in second place in my age group is an accomplished masters athlete (and last year’s winner) and he happened to be with me for the segment. We both knew that it was now or never for him. He attacked in the last mile. In response, I went harder than I think I have ever gone to keep my positioning. In fact, I saw a new maximum heart rate!
Conditions were ripe for my traditional last-minute cramp. Instead, I finished the race with no cramping whatsoever! I took the Yellow jersey in what was to me an important race! HOTSHOT was the only discernible difference this time– I am sold. In fact, I will tell you that I have already entered a big stage race coming up in June here in Ontario, with the hopes of placing high enough to qualify for racing in the World Masters Championships. You better believe that I will be popping HOTSHOT during that important two-day race!
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