Massive cramps

I rode from downtown Santa Rosa to Deepest Petaluma today, to see if a bike commute was feasible. I was slow, and it was hot, but I enjoyed it. “Hey, I’m on a bike in Northern California!” The hard part was riding back. I thought I’d go across town to catch the bus, but that seemed like more trouble than just riding back.

1:25 out, 1:45 back. I dropped the (fixed) Quickbeam down to the low gear for the ride back, and I might put the S3X back on it.

Not stellar, but sometimes it’s nice to have that much room for improvement, right?

I ate a banana, an orange and a half pint of cottage cheese on the road. Drank a few pints of water, and when I got home I had another banana, lots of orange juice, water, lemonade, and a little coffee. Some nuts. Felt pretty good.

I took a shower and stretched, and when I got up, I had a massive left leg cramp, both in the thigh and the calf. Relax, relax, relax, stretch. Ow ow ow. Try to find some salt. The salt that was packed for my bachelor month in California was in a shaker shaped like a Woodring Jiva that hadn’t been unpacked for years. I could hear the block of salt banging around inside, but only five grains fell out. “Pickles! Pickles are salty! I’ll have a pickle.” My wife makes the best pickles ever, so I had a pickle and a half, and my cramps went away. “I’m a genius!”

About ten minutes later, the other leg goes. This cramp is twice as painful. It has me on the floor sweating, thinking I’m going to puke. I’m laying on the floor, trying to shake the new power strip out of a drugstore bag so I can vomit into it if I need to, feeling a lot less like a genius. Relax, relax, don’t puke, try to stretch into a rictus that puts less stress on the leg. Whooo. It goes away, but I’m really leery about moving.

I look up “leg cramp pickle” on the internet, and find that the old thoughts about “dehydration,” or “salt loss” may or may not have any bearing on cramps. It may or may not be an electrical freakout in the muscle, and it may or may not be “neurological,” which may or may not mean the same thing as “electrical freakout.”

People recommend for cramps:

  • Potassium. Bananas have potassium, cramps are caused by… something… bananas seem to help.
  • Salt. Salt everything. If you’re hypertensive, try not to stroke out.
  • Pickle juice. It might not be the salt and electrolytes as much as the vinegar.
  • Vinegar. One study showed it to be more effective than pickle juice.
  • Tums. Really? Oh, for the calcium. The catch is that the people who swear by them eat “a couple before a ride, and then a few more…” so you could be eating 6 Tums MINIMUM every time you go out more than 20 miles. That seems weird. Less weird than writhing around on your carpet in a cold sweat, scrabbling for a plastic bag, though.
  • Some Hammer Nutrition stuff I bleeped over. People swear by it, but my re-googling didn’t turn it up.
  • Pinching the upper lip. This is what I got the second time I googled “leg cramp pickle.” I’ll try it next time?

Like with asthma, the recommendation is to do this BEFORE you get the cramp. “Well I didn’t know I was going to get it, did I?” During the cramp, it doesn’t seem to matter. They go away after about 2 minutes no matter what you do.

The best part of cramps for me, is that I always have a vision of my massive thigh muscles snapping my femur in half from the raw power of the cramp, resulting in a compound fracture, a snapped-off bone poking through my leg. Unlikely, true, but it doesn’t help me relax, at all.

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UI/UX Designer, bike nerd, artist.

10 thoughts on “Massive cramps”

  1. I really am sorry to hear of your cramping episode, and wouldn’t wish that for anyone. But, thanks for the story. It was quite entertaining.

    1. Thanks for the kind words – about the entertaining aspect, not the cramps! What’s the use of pain if you can’t make your friends laugh?

  2. Seriously?!?!? You rode from Santa Rosa to Petaluma? Cripes, fuhgeddaboud cramps….I can’t believe you didn’t have a cardiac! Ooops, nope. Wrong there. If it had been ME, it would have been a cardiac, not cramps. Lucky you in Northern California. Thanks for the hospital offer. My temperature is, finally!!!, back to normal. Took forever. Well, Philip, for those of us still not in Northern California, keep on keepin’ on.

  3. The acidity in pickles/vinegar allows Ca+ to be liberated from bone. Hence the cliche’ about pregnant women loving pickles and ice cream.

    Speaking of pregnant women, I take weird cravings as a sign of serious malnutrition. I’m happy to say in three pregnancies my wife never had any weird cravings. She did have a tendency to hit the ice cream pretty hard on the last one, but I don’t classify that as weird. In retrospect the last one was somewhat big, could have been a touch of g.d. from too much ice cream. Though lest anyone get the wrong idea, I’m talking about a bowl a night through the summer, it wasn’t a quart a day habit or anything like that.

  4. I work as a mover & do lots of stairs daily, sometimes get these deadly cramps also. Hyland’s makes a leg cramp medication w/quinine in it that (if in reach) helps alleviate almost instantly. V8 is good too, for sodium intake levels – of course drink lotsa water.

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