My Dehydration Problem

It happened again.  Saturday I went out for a hilly 37 miles on the CX bike.  It was a great ride, cloudy, humid, mid to high 80’s but halfway refreshing considering how oppressive it’s been here in New England.  When I got home, I was thoroughly spent, but in a completely joyous way.  I hadn’t bonked.  I went through my water and was dry the last 15 minutes or so, but began drinking immediately post ride.  My ride ended around 3PM.

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I showered, changed, had a lovely, healthy dinner–a little white wine in hand, I happily grilled chicken on the BBQ while my other half made us a nice fresh salad and a warm buttery baguette.  It was an ideal way to spend a Saturday.  Happy, relaxed, well fed, I settled down to watch some television.

At about 10:45PM, my head started hurting.  Bad.  By 10:50PM I was clutching my skull and rubbing, trying to knead out the pain as if my head had a knot in it that just needed to be worked out. The nausea kicked in at this time as well. 11:00PM I abandoned the movie I was watching and retired to the bedroom, plugging in a heating pad to wrap around my throbbing head.

11:15PM I went to the bathroom.  Not my normal time of day–but my body had other ideas.

11:20PM I tried to got back to bed.  My head was enveloped in indescribable pain.  I was exhausted and only wanted to escape into sleep.  I’d close my eyes and my mind would speed up.  A bizarre show unfolded behind my closed eyes, a fast twisty ride filled with surreal images that I couldn’t slow down or stop.  Moving constantly, I opened my eyes and the pain amplified, but the crazy ride stopped.  The nausea intensified.  I made the decision to return to the bathroom.

11:30PM  I vomited.  More than once.  Maybe 4 times in a row.  I don’t know, I was pretty sick and my brain wasn’t working well at this point. The only think I knew was that the pain had set up camp in my brain and I only had one trick left to beat the migraine back.  I stripped down and turned the shower on hot. I sat in the shower–sat–for about 30 minutes, the hot water working my scalp, my neck, my back.  I felt the pain ease and lift.  Not vanish but it abated for long enough I felt I might be able to sneak into bed and fall asleep.  I did.  I slept 8 hours straight and felt completely fine in the morning.

I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but it isn’t.  More like, the 7th?  8th?  It always happens when my life gets so busy that I don’t take regular care of myself–I rush, I hurry, I skip the basics just to get in that ride.  I should have been drinking lots of liquids on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the weekend.  Each day, I sweat our fluids.  I’m sweating when I blow my hair dry, when I walk to the car, even just sitting inside and watching TV.  The AC can’t keep up with the intensity of this heat.

I had a goal of 100 miles last week.  35 on Saturday, and another 35 on Sunday and I would have made it. I’ve been doing mileage like this all year, that and much longer.  But after Saturday’s hydration failure, my other half insisted I take it easy.  I usually would fight about it, but this time I had to agree.

I really need to get my arms around, and KEEP them around this problem I have.  I wonder if others experience this problem like I do.  I know what happened to me is a result of classic dehydration.  I sweat easily and I’m probably losing fluids when I’m not working out–something I really need to be more aware of. I should have a refillable water container at my desk all day and in the car.  And I should indulge in some Gatorade from time to time.  So–just curious–anyone else have this problem?  Care to share?  Please comment if you would.



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About Karen

Mid-life female amateur athlete focused on cyclocross, mountain biking, and road cycling.

7 responses to “My Dehydration Problem”

  1. Tim Cary (@tdcary) says :

    Karen- Lots of posts recently- great stuff from you I enjoy reading. I don’t have the same dehydration problem as you, in fact, I have never experienced anything worse than a headache, and, as you know I ride 100’s of miles a week in all weather. But, I wanted to share my experiences and thoughts from almost two full summers of riding now.

    I’m a salty sweater. I can tell that by all the white left on my face and helmet straps. But, I am not an excessive sweater either. I have had comments from others on how little I drink on rides. I usually only go through one bottle an hour or less. Everyone is different of course, but I think the key to my success is what I do after I ride. But before describing that, let me mention what I do before and during the ride. Pre-ride is usually just a cup of tea and a glass of OJ. Plenty of hydration for me. On the ride, I always have salty items with me- crackers, etc. I usually eat one banana during the first hour of the ride for both energy and potassium. I know exactly how much water I loose- typically I weigh 4-5 lbs less after a sweaty or long ride. But I monitor that for changes.. it has always been consistent so far. When the ride is done, I usually take in at least a 16 oz container of coconut water, a cup of Greek yogurt, nuts and fruit. All of those help me re-hydrate. I then usually drink 3-4 glasses of water of the next several hours, plus something with caffeine if it is earlier in the day (to keep me awake and resist a nap!). I also watch the color of urine. No alcohol, and continue the fluids until is is lighter in color. So far, by following this method, I have not had any severe dehydration problems and am able to enjoy a nice dinner and drinks in the evening after riding. But the summer is not over yet!

    Hope this helps- I am not a doctor of course- this is just my experiences. Good luck.

    • Karen says :


      I see how many miles you log on Strava and I’m always marveling–I’d love to be able to log that much mileage. One weekend day for you is like me all week, on a GOOD week!

      Thanks for your insights–I know I’m just more sensitive than others when it comes to this. I’m generally bad at drinking water on a day to day basis. I’m also a terrible eater, and while I’ve made some improvements with nutrition, I was also one of the very first people in western mass to have a box of the recently re-released Twinkies. Anyway–the key is definitely in preparation and post ride fueling. I got the post ride down this time, but didn’t do the prep. It’s happened to me when I skip the post ride and I pay dearly. I just would like to accomplish a century one of these days, but these experiences make me hesitant to try (longest ride I’ve ever done was 70 miles, followed shortly by another horrible migraine).

      Thanks again Tim! One of these days I’m sure we’ll run into to each other on the road.

  2. Samanthacycles says :

    I’m a sweater. And I’m pretty much sweating as soon as I start pedaling. I used to drink lots of water starting a few days before a ride because I thought I needed to “hydrate”, but then I discovered I was depleting my body of important electrolytes where I ended up in trouble during and after my ride…especially headaches. I also have some stomach issues and just can’t handle a lot of those sports drinks, gels, or water additives. Last year I discovered SaltStick capsules through another rider. They have been a lifesaver! I take one pill every 60 minutes I’m on the bike.

    What are you using for electrolyte replacement?

    • Karen says :

      That’s a really good point. I usually drink Gatorade, but I haven’t been consuming as much this year. I should fix that too. I’m also a big sweater. I joke that I’m like a “faucet.” I’ll check out the saltsticks–couldn’t hurt!!

  3. Laura says :

    I use Propel Fitness Water drop-ins. Zero calories, sweet enough but not too much (I use one in a 24-ounce bottle instead of a 16oz bottle so it’s diluted), and packed with B-vitamins and electrolytes. I am the Queen of Sensitive Stomach and these are almost the only thing that works for me. I even use them on my bike commute (16 miles each way). (

    Another great product is Scratch. Made with real fruit, it has a scientifically optimized balance of sodium and electrolytes to keep you hydrated. About 80cals per 16ozs – nominal. I used this last year during my Bike MS century and it helped keep my hydrated. And they are from Boulder so you know … gotta support the Home State. (

    I will do anything I can to avoid Gatorade. It kills my stomach and reminds me of a canoeing trip I took in seventh grade where my team’s food was somehow lost so we subsisted on Gatorade and handouts from the other kids and teachers. I didn’t notice how hundry I was until I got home at the end of the week and my parents took me to Denny’s and I inhaled TWO Grand Slam breakfasts before they cut me off. Once we got home, they found me a little while later eating peanut butter straight from the econo-sized jar.

    Ah, memories. I hate Gatorade.

    Anyway – I also drink 16-32oz of water the night before I ride whenever possible/I remember – and whatever is left in my water bottles at the end of a ride gets immediately drained into my belly. Like Tim says – it’s key to hydrate before, during, and after. It really is the key to optimal performance with minimal migraines.

    Good luck my friend!

    • Karen says :

      My stomach is very sensitive too, but I can take Gatorade to some extent–sometimes I dilute it with water to soften the blow. I have to check these other products out. I know the pros are raving about Scratch too, like it’s a not so secret weapon.

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