I arrived at the finish of the Kuantan Century Ride 2014 in much better shape that I was at the finish of the 2013 edition. One reason was the difference in the routes. The last 40 km / 25 mi of the 2013 route included a 25 km / 15.5 mi out-and-back section along the Gebeng Bypass. That section seemed interminable, and especially hot. It was as much a psychological battle as a physical one to complete that part of the ride. Everyone who rode in this event in 2013 was glad that the Gebeng Bypass was not part of the 2014 route.
Another difference was that the 2013 route had more climbing, and most of its elevation was in the last half of the ride, when legs were tiring.
The 2014 route had less climbing, and those climbs came in the early kilometers.
I think the crucial difference for me in 2014 was that I stayed much better hydrated. A week or so before the event I read an article that said that if your perspiration stings your eyes, that is a sign that your body excretes unusually high amounts of electrolytes in your sweat. My eyes sting like crazy when sweat gets in them. So for this ride I put two Nuun tablets instead of the recommended one tablet in each 21 oz / .62 liter bidon.
I went through five bidons during the 160 km ride. Plus two cans of 100 Plus, two cans of Red Bull energy drink, five servings of iced cendol and one bottle of plain water. I estimate that I drank at least six liters during the ride. I drank often, and I drank a lot.
A trick that I learned a few months ago is to loosely tie a bandana around your neck, with the knot to the front. Then regularly soak the bandana with water. That keeps your neck cool. The water dripping from the knot keeps the front of your jersey damp, so evaporative cooling happens. I confirm that this worked. Augmented by emptying a bottle of water over my head at each stop.
I also made a conscious effort not to go into the red during the ride. As it turned out, my 2014 average speed of 27.9 kph was not much slower than my 2013 average speed of 28.4 kph. But there was a big difference in effort, as measured by heart rate. In 2013 I spent more than half of the ride in the Tempo Zone: 133 to 149 beats per minute. More exhaustingly, I did almost a quarter of the ride in the Threshold Zone: 149 to 165 beats per minute zone. In other words, in the red.
By comparison I spent no time riding in the Threshold Zone in 2014. More than half the ride was spent in the Moderate Zone: 100 to 133 beats per minute.
There was little difference in my moving time. 5 hours 40 minutes cycling in 2013. 5 hours 49 minutes cycling in 2014. But I spent 30 more minutes at rest stops in 2014.
The lesson for me is clear. I can’t do anything about the terrain, or the weather. But I can manage my fluid and electrolyte intake, and manage my exertion levels. Drinking six liters sounds like a lot, but I lost that much fluid through sweating. I certainly didn’t pee much.
I’ll continue the two Nuun tablets per bottle routine. The extra electrolytes seemed to make a difference. I had some cramps in my thighs after the third and fourth rest stops, but the cramping didn’t last long, and my riding wasn’t compromised.
I finished behind most of my Flipside companions, but finished strong. Very much preferred over chasing hard, finishing fast but feeling shattered afterwards.