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The Hardest Lesson

Most important lesson

Two weekends ago I rode 450km / 280mi over three days, including the 160km / 100mi Avillion Coastal Ride.  Which pales in comparison to the 642km /399mi within 40 hours that a number of my friends rode last weekend, as they attempted the BRM600.  The longest cycling event in Malaysia to date.

Not everyone who starts events like those are able to finish.  Some are stopped in their tracks by mechanical faults.  Many more suffer the drawn-out fate of succumbing to cramps and fatigue in the latter stages of the ride.

Which got me thinking about what it takes to not only complete an endurance bike ride, but to do so without feeling totally wiped out afterward.


Image courtesy of

There are a few things to do to prevent the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish).  Such as making sure your bicycle has been recently serviced, carrying the tools and spare tubes needed to make roadside repairs, fuelling up before the event, and eating and drinking regularly during the ride.

Even if you do all of the above, you still run the risk of DNF-ing, or struggling to the finish, if you do not heed the following advice.  The #1 thing cyclists need to remember is:

Comfortably completing an endurance event is not about how you feel during the first 30% of the ride.  It is all about how you feel during the last 30% of the ride.

Cycling slowly early in a ride, when I felt fresh and had good legs, was hardest lesson for me to learn.  When I first started doing century rides, I would go out too fast and too hard.  Even when I was drafting, which is a recommended strategy for conserving energy, I would tag onto a group that was riding too fast for my fitness level.

The inevitable would happen after about 100km / 62mi.  Fatigue would set in.  I would get light-headed and experience tunnel vision.  The last 30% of the ride would be a battle of survival as I fought cramps and exhaustion while my speed steadily dropped into the teens and below.


Graphic courtesy of

Now  I know better.  I let other riders shoot off like fireworks when the starting hooter sounds.  I settle into a pace which is slow enough for me to breathe through my nose.  If there is a group of riders who are riding at my pace, I draft behind them.

This usually feels too slow.  But I know from experience that going slowly at the start allows me to finish the ride strongly.  I pick up the pace in the second half of the event, when I overtake the girls and guys who set off like rockets and then exploded into a dazzling display of bonking.

Pacing myself, and metering my effort in the first 30% of a long ride, has become my golden rule.

It ensures I finish the ride like this

smiling emoji

and not like this

exhausted emoji

N8 Endurance Drink Mix

N8 Endurance Banner

Graphic courtesy of Egonutritions Sdn Bhd

A couple of weeks ago, a representative of N8 Sports Nutrition emailed me.  He had read my posts about hydration and sports drinks.  He asked if I would review N8 Endurance, a drink mix product that hydrates and improves recovery for cyclists, runners, and other endurance athletes.  N8 Endurance is one of a range of sports nutrition products manufactured and marketed by N8 Sports Nutrition.

The product is designed to help endurance athletes increase stamina, reduce muscle fatigue, improve recovery, prevent cramping, and remain hydrated throughout their chosen activity.

N8 Endurance provides Branched Chain Amino Acids to aid in muscular recovery and muscular efficiency, Electrolytes to prevent or minimise muscle cramping, a “Smart Carb” in the form of Palatinose to sustain energy levels, and Creatine Monohydrate to increase muscle growth, muscular endurance and recovery.

I said I would be happy to review N8 Endurance.  Within a few days a complimentary box of the product was at my doorstep.

N8 Endurance is in powder form, packed in single serving sachets.  There are 20 sachets per box.

N8 Endurance Sachets

Photograph courtesy of

The directions for use are straightforward.


Take 1 sachet of N8 Endurance with 250ml of water 30 minutes before your activity. Mix another sachet with water in your tumbler/hydration bag/ or water bottle to be consumed throughout your activity. Consume 1 sachet for every 45-60 minutes of activity.


Take 1 sachet of N8 Endurance with 250ml of water the day before your activity before bed. Take 1 sachet of N8 Endurance with liquid of choice when you are about to experience muscular cramp.

I have not had problems with cramps for some time now.  Probably due to increased fitness levels and proper hydration.  So I followed the Race Day / Activity Day directions.

The powder dissolves rapidly in water.  The product is not effervescent, so there is no pressure buildup if you cap your water bottle immediately.

N8 Endurance has a pleasant, light, blackcurrant flavour (the only flavour available).  When I first tried it I thought the taste was too light.  However after a few sips I appreciated the lighter taste as compared to other sports hydration products.  N8 Endurance has no lingering aftertaste.  Nor does it have that slightly bitter taste that products using artificial sweeteners tend to have.

A pleasant tasting product is important.  It is hard to finish the recommended 500 to 600ml of fluid an hour if you don’t like the taste.

I have done four rides so far with N8 Endurance in my water bottles.  The total distance was 300km, with 4,700 metres of climbing.  All the rides were in the morning.  A 100km ride finished in the heat of the day at 1.30pm.

My conclusions about the effectiveness of N8 Endurance are of course qualitative and unscientific.  I can only compare how I felt while riding and consuming N8 Endurance with how I have felt while using another hydration product.

With that proviso in mind, I can say that N8 Endurance did a good job of keeping me hydrated.  I didn’t feel unusually thirsty after my rides, despite sweating a lot.

I did not suffer any cramps, so the electrolytes did what they were supposed to do.

My energy levels stayed high, even after 1,200 metres of climbing.  That must have been due, in part, to the Palatinose.

Overall I felt good while riding, although I do admit that I felt like throwing my bike into a drain during the long climb in Hulu Yam.  Just as important, I felt pretty good the day after each ride too.  It is hard to say for sure without scientific analysis, but I do think that the Creatine Monohydrate made my recovery a little easier.  At 58 years of age I can use all the help that I can get.

So in summary, I think N8 Endurance does what it claims to do.  Help endurance athletes go further, stronger, longer, faster.

N8 Endurance Recommended

N8 Endurance is available at these locations:

Fitness Zone
Taman Selayang Utama

Johnson Fitness
1 Utama
Sunway Pyramid

Anytime Fitness
Solaris Mont Kiara
QLIQ Damansara
Oasis Ara Damansara

Anabolic Gym
Aman Suria Damansara

Merican Muay Thai Gym
Solaris Mont Kiara

One More Rep Fitness Centre

Body Factory
PJ21 Commercial Centre

Ultimate Gym
Wangsa Maju, KL

Muscle Brothers Gym
Desa Sri Hartamas

Taman Danau Desa

Fever Fitness
Teluk Intan

For further information please contact:

G-36 Aman Suria Damansara, PJU 1/45,
47301 Petaling Jaya, SEL, Malaysia

Telephone: +(60)3-7804 8970
FAX: +(60)3-7804 0970


Hyperthermia. Avoid It!

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Hyperthermia is elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates.  From the Wikipedia entry for hyerthermia

I had a few instances of overheating when I first got back to Malaysia.  The land where maximum temperatures year-round look like this:

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Broadcasting, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Broadcasting, Inc.

Since then I have been able to manage my core temperature.  I have been hot during rides, but not excessively so.  Where did I go wrong during the Kuantan Century Ride to end up hyperthermic?

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

A lot has to do with the length of this ride.  It was about 100 km / 62 mi longer than our weekend rides.  My routine for staying cool during those rides was insufficient when stretched out over 160 km / 100 mi.

There are reams of articles, blog posts and lists about how to prevent exercise-induced heat stress.  They all start with hydration.  The most important thing you can do to stave off hyperthermia is to stay hydrated.  How much fluid is required depends on body type and sweat rate.  One guideline suggests drinking 1 liter / 34 oz per hour.  By this measure I should have drunk about 6 liters / 203 oz during the ride.  I did drink about 5 liters / 170 oz.  My Camelbak Podium Chill bottles hold 620 ml / 21 oz each.  I went through 8 bottles.  So I was 2 bottles short.

What you drink is also crucial.  Lost fluids and electrolytes need to be replaced during a ride.  I added a Nuun tablet every time I refilled a bottle with water.  Even so I probably didn’t take in as many electrolytes as I should have because I didn’t drink enough.

I usually put a bottle in the freezer and another in the fridge the night before a weekend ride.  The cold fluid helps to keep my core temperature in check.  All the fluid I drank during the Kuantan Century Ride was lukewarm.  It wasn’t until I picked up some ice at the last rest stop that I got some cooling effect from what I was drinking.

I got my hydration wrong on all counts.

Clothing always gets a prominent mention.  I had on the right ‘technical fabrics’ that wick sweat away from the body.  As the sweat evaporates it carries heat away with it.

The right fabrics but perhaps the wrong color.  My jersey was navy blue, and the suggestion for staying cool is to wear a light-color.  The sun was very strong so it is likely that I absorbed more radiant energy that I would have if I had worn a white jersey.

My jersey did have a full zip.  Unzipping my jersey and getting moving air onto my bare skin helped a lot.

I also had my arms covered so they never felt hot.  My bare legs, on the other hand, did get hot.

I got my clothing partially right.

Most writers suggest pouring water over your head every 15 minutes or so.  Preferably enough to soak your jersey as well as wet your head, face and neck.  You will immediately feel that the water is cooler than your body is.  Pouring a bottle of water over my head did cross my mind, but the two times I thought about it I was at rest stops that had run out of water.

I didn’t take full advantage of evaporative cooling.

Another suggestion is to generate less body heat by riding at a slower pace.  My riding companions and I had planned to ride at an easy pace right from the start.  The intent was to conserve energy so that we would still have something in the tank for the last part of the ride.  I am sure the gentler pace helped keep my core temperature down, at least in the first half of the ride.  Of course riding at a slower speed meant spending more time in the sun than would have been the case if we had gone quicker.  I am not sure which would have been more detrimental:  generating more body heat or absorbing more radiant heat.

Let’s say that I got the pace of the ride right.

That, and having ice to eat for the final 30 km / 18 mi, is probably how I made it to the end of the ride.  I knew I was feeling the effects of hyperthermia with 50 km / 31 mi to go.  I was light-headed, which I now know is an early symptom of heat syncope.  I started cramping on the run in to the finish.  That is another symptom of hyperthermia.

After the ride I spent 30 minutes sprawled in the shade, shoes off and iced drink in hand.  That cool tiled floor felt good.

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

So what to during the 120 km / 74.5 mi Iskandar Johor Mega Ride in July?  The lessons learned from the Kuantan Century Ride are:

  1. Freeze two bottles and chill the third.  Carry one frozen bottle in the middle pocket of my jersey, where it can cool my lower back.
  2. Drink a liter of Nuun-infused water an hour.
  3. Carry extra Nuun tablets.
  4. Buy chilled water at petrol stations rather than depend on rest stops.
  5. Soak my head and jersey with water every 30 minutes or so.
  6. Wear a light-colored jersey.
  7. Ride at a gentle pace.

All the “Beat the Heat” articles I read today have given me a few other things to try as well:

  1. “Pre-cool” 30 minutes before the start by drinking cold fluids.
  2. Wrap a water-soaked bandanna around my neck.  Or go one step further and wrap an ice-filled sock around my neck, as suggested by Phil O’Reilly, former president of the Five Borough Bike Club.
  3. Buy ice cream at petrol stations.

I’ll give these other suggestions a miss for now:

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine