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I raced against a car yesterday for fun, in doing this, I rode at about 25-29 mph (40-47kmh) for about 3 minutes. The temperature outside was in the mid to low 40s (5-8 Celsius).

Afterwards I felt:

  • Out of breath for at least 3 minutes
  • Wanted to cough but didn't cough anything up.
  • Inside of my throat felt cold and painful
  • I got the feeling of wanting to puke a few times

For the rest of my commute home, which was 15+ minutes I felt like shit.

I think that the cold weather was big factor in this, am I correct? What can I do in the future to prevent this from happening to me? During the 3 minutes of the ride I had no idea that I was going to feel this way.

I should add that I've been riding 10 miles per day for the 2 years (including most of the winter). I usually ride this same stretch going 21-26 mph.

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It should be noted that cold air is quite dry, and when you exercise vigorously in it you tend to dry out the lungs and airways. It's not unusual to have a "dry cough" for some time after. And in somewhat colder weather (below about 20F) it's actually possible to get frostbite in the airways. You can reduce the severity of this problem with some sort of mask/scarf that helps warm the air going into your lungs, plus breathing through your nose as much as possible (since the nose warms/moistens the air). –  Daniel R Hicks May 15 '13 at 0:49
    
may be you are supposed to .... –  hagubear May 16 '13 at 12:43
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Breathing in the cold air probably didn't help, but what you describe happens to most people after doing hard intervals and only goes away with recovering. As far as preventing it in the future, the only thing I can recommend is not maxing out and going anaerobic by chasing cars and going into zone 4/5 heart rate.

Edit for Clarification

When I refer to going anaerobic that means going above your Lactic Threshold. During the sprint after the car you were in that zone for a long period of time. This is also referred to as Heart Rate Zone 4 or 5 depending on intensity. Those zones are used for high intensity training and can't be maintained for a long period of time. Since your heart rate lags behind exertion you won't feel it right away, but you will after racing the car. When you are riding on your own, you aren't pushing as hard as you were when you were chasing the car (think dogs chasing after a rabbit) which is why you wouldn't have felt it before.

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you just used some terms here that I am not familiar with, ill look them up, but may you could expand on this for others in my boat. –  mkoryak May 14 '13 at 16:43
    
and how do I know that I am "maxing out"? I have "ridden as fast as I can" on this stretch before, mostly in the summer - and this did not happen. –  mkoryak May 14 '13 at 16:51
    
Sorry. Used sports terms. So going anaerobic is going over your Lactic Threshold (where your body stops being able to process the lactic acid that is produced during exertion and it builds up in the muscles). That is equivalent to heart rate zone 4 or 5 where zone 5 is supposed to be at or close to your maximum heart rate. As far as knowing when you are maxing out, it's subjective to you. Riding as hard as you can on your own probably isn't hitting your max hr, while chasing the car is pushing you to go that little bit extra to keep up. –  sevargdcg May 14 '13 at 17:38
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Alternatively, do hard efforts close to this more often. Your body reacted this way because you don't frequently stress it to similar levels. Relatively untrained people will experience these symptoms after engaging in a hard effort. Biking harder, for longer distances, or both will increase the threshold where this phenomenon occurs. –  Stephen Touset May 14 '13 at 17:49
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Would you consider editing some of your clarifications into the answer to make it more complete? –  amcnabb May 14 '13 at 18:26
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You've just become familiar with the feeling of exercise induced nausea. Don't worry, you're not at all alone. No matter your long distance endurance, it happens after a period of over exertion ( any amount of exertion more than your body is used to, regardless of your fitness level ), and is sometimes exacerbated by not enough or too much hydration.

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Its a physiological survival response from way back.... If you are getting chased by a saber-tooth tiger, you tend to go into Anaerobic exercise levels(or become dinner). Your digestive system needs lots of energy and oxygen to run, so the first thing that happens is that gets shut down (survival of the fittest etc - the ones that this did not happen too became cat food), making you feel sick. In this case, your primal mind could not tell the difference between the car and a saber-tooth tiger..... –  mattnz May 14 '13 at 22:33
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In addition to the probably-familiar effects of exercising very hard, air pollution may be a factor in your discomfort.

When you exercise hard in an city with plenty of traffic nearby and at least one vehicle accelerating right in front of you, then you'll be breathing a lot of air pollution, especially if it's the evening rush hour on a hot day.

This study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concludes:

Athletes and exercisers should avoid exercising by the road side even though levels of the more noxious air pollutants have been controlled in the United Kingdom. O3 is particularly damaging to athletes; it reaches its highest concentrations on hot bright days in rural areas.

However, it's worth remembering that exercising in polluted areas is still better than not exercising at all.

Try the same sprint somewhere less polluted and see if there's a difference.

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