Two Islands – UK & IOM: Body & Mind

Posted on Jul 11, 2015 in Body & Mind

This is the bike setup I used for the Isle of Man trip.  For additional details about this trip, check out this project.

I’ve just added this category to my trip tracking because my body has now become the primary factor of success or issue on any extended adventure.  Therefore, keeping better track of what works and what doesn’t is critical.

Early Morning Descent - photo - Rob Vandermark


  • Fitness:  On a scale of 1-10 – 1 being completely unfit – I felt like I’m at a 3.  I’ve ridden a bit this season but not nearly enough.
  • Climate:  It’s difficult to believe but I am uncomfortable in temperatures under about 70 degrees.  If it’s raining it’s even worse.  I’d rather ride at 90 degrees than 55 degrees.  Odd, and frustrating.
  • Riding Clothing:  I had only one set of riding clothing for this trip.  This has become pretty standard for me on bikepacking trips.  I had one set of bibs for six days of riding.  I did bring two jerseys but the second jersey was for layering, not really as a change of jersey.  Why only one set?  Clothing weighs a lot – one spare set of bibs, base layer, jersey, and socks weighs about 1.4 lbs.  The standard issue clothes I rode in are:  bibs, base layer shirt, jersey, socks, linen cap, shoes, helmet, and heart rate chest strap.  No gloves; I almost never wear gloves unless it’s cold out.
  • Chamois Management:  I rarely use chamois creme anymore.  The only time it seems to be helpful in on long rainy rides.  I carry individual packets and use them when necessary.  On this trip of 6 riding days I used one packet on the final day of riding, in the rain.
  • Stomach – while sleeping:  I’m having very serious stomach problems while sleeping at camp.  Within about 3-hours of laying down stomach cramps become unbearable.  The pain lasts for about 3+ hours after getting up for the morning.  One day the cramps lasted almost the entire day.  This was consistent each night.  Nothing made any difference – eating a lot, eating very little, going to the bathroom or not, etc.  Only two activities seemed to help a little:  taking aspirin and riding the bike.
  • Stomach – during ride:  I seem to have eliminated my stomach issues on longer rides of 10+ hours.  I used three techniques that seemed to have helped in some combination:
    • Heart-rate:  Keeping my heart-rate down helps a lot.  That may seem obvious but it’s really challenging when there are 20% grades and endless climbs.  I believe this is the number one element that helps protect my stomach.
    • Eating a lot:  Once my stomach starts to hurt I can’t really eat.  Not eating probably makes me feel worse on a 12-hour ride.
    • Supplements:  Hammer Endurance Aminos and Anti-Fatigue Caps.  This was the first time I’ve used either of these on a really long multi-day ride.  I think they may have made a difference.  I’ll be experimenting more soon.


  • Health:
    • Prior to trip:  I felt fine in the weeks coming up to the trip.  Other than not getting nearly enough sleep and traveling on a Chicago trip a few days before this ride, I was fine.
    • During the trip:  I did not get sick.  Yay!  Patria had a cold coming into the trip but she was good and recovered quickly.
    • After the trip:  Other than being completely wiped out, I did not get sick; I worked hard at catching up on sleep.
  • Sleep:  Terrible.  This is an ongoing problem.  For me there are three challenges:  1) stomach cramps, 2) snoring partner, 3) light sleeper.  Ear plugs are not enough.  I employed noise canceling head phones and a combination of books on tape and music but that’s not really sleeping.  I’ve started simply taking as many naps through the days as I could; this seemed to help some.

New Items and Tests:

  • Route preparation:  I did less prep work prior to this trip than any other adventure we’ve had.  It’s a long story as to why.  I had routes about 90% mapped.  It all worked out well but it was stressful – particularly so because I couldn’t get cell or wifi access during the trip in order to map routes in mornings or evenings.  I ended up working with paper maps more than I’ve ever done before; that was fun and interesting.  Since my brain is wired in pictures, physical maps fit pretty well.  Normally I do all mapping on my computer using about twenty mapping programs in various ways to determine routes in remote locations.

That covers all the mind and body thoughts I have for this trip.

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