Recently I’ve moved over to the dark side, the dark side of biking… Mountain biking. It all began with an email about a bike to work voucher and quickly escalated to a new bike with some very nice features which I still don’t know how to use (gears, a mysterious white button). Soon I had my bike on the roof rack and was heading off into the forest for a “social” ride. I think I initially thought mountain biking would be the same as road biking. How wrong I was! Within minutes I had come off on gravel, gone over the handle bars going down hill, ripped my trousers, cut my face and jammed the gears… A good first effort with some impressive bruises as souvenirs. Don’t worry fellow road bikers I haven’t lost all sense. My road bike is still enjoying trips out on smooth, Tarmac roads!
I’ve learnt a few things about mountain biking. Firstly, the distance may be much lower but the technical side is much harder – especially staying on the bike. Secondly, mud gets everywhere even in summer. My water bottles have become disgusting and I’ve had to power through the mud to get to much needed glucose and water! Thirdly, adrenalin messes with your blood sugar levels!
I have pretty much managed to get my blood sugars under good control when road biking by following the same routine each week from pre-ride smoothie (20g carbs) to High-5 drink through out (60g carbs) plus additional torq gels if required (20g carbs as needed) along with a Temporary Basal Rate reduction of 70% for up to the last 30 minutes of riding where I return to 100%. Yet, mountain biking does not want to follow the same rules. It seems to be dirtier, sweatier and harder to grab a drink! It does not make my blood sugar drop where I expect (hill climbs) due to the sudden surge of adrenalin when going down the other side. Worse still is the adrenalin feels like being hypo and my fingers are way too dirty to test. Thank goodness for CGM and freestyle libre.
This week I completed my first (very friendly) mountain bike race. An hour of cycling a 1.1mile course to see how many laps you can do in an hour. This sounded simple. I filled my camelback with High-5 energy drink (60g or carbs for the 1hr) – see I’ve learnt about the water bottles and not being able to get them – and had my usual pre-ride smoothie with a reduced TBR. What I hadn’t accounted for was that within the hour I would be working so hard and feeling so exhausted my blood sugars would drop then rise quite a bit. That there wasn’t much time to grab a drink and stopping to take on a torq gel when I was 4.0mmol meant I lost time, even if I was glad for the rest! I was very glad I had my freestyle libre with me so that I could flash and see my trend patterns. I had to unplug my insulin pump at one point as I didn’t have time to stop and alter the TBR for 15minutes. Trying to plug myself back in must have been a sight for the other racers…! When I’m riding I keep my insulin pump in my sports bra so I can quickly see CGM / TBR / IOB data. I am now very glad I have a waterproof insulin pump. Turns out mountain biking may not cover the same distance as road biking and strava will say you’ve only burnt 200kcal, yet it is unbelievably hard work and going over rough terrain makes your heart race! By the time I had finished my hour I was out of drink and starving hungry. Of course I’d only brought lucozade for an emergency and no real food!
In two weeks time the club will be re-racing the same route. Next time I’m going to lower my TBR more and have more high-5 powder in my drink for a higher carb ratio. I will also be packing a small meal for afterwards along with lots of water! Fingers crossed the strategy works.