• Hiking, Cramps and CrampNOT Gel

  • Cramps!!!! Something a lot of people get when in long distance races, hard hikes or other strenuous activities. Cramps I have been getting for years and on different parts of my body. I used to get them in my sleep mainly in my calves and sometimes in my jaw. Since I started hiking a few years ago those type of cramps have subsided. Now I am no expert on this so this blog should be taken that this is just my findings and experiences. After a couple of years hiking and improving my fitness greatly I tried my hand in trail running which is hugely popular here in Hong Kong. Entering my first ever competitive race, Moontrekker, in 2015. Now before this I had done marathon distance hikes before so the 30km race was not a distance I had not completed before. On this race, although I was 90% of the time hiking, I was doing great until I started the ascent of Lantau peak (934m). When I started the climb I already had over 20km in my legs so they were fatigued. As was the case with most of the other competitors. Some were slower than others so these people I tried to pass on the steps going up. This quick adjustment to my gait was what brought on the first twinges and then cramp came with a vengeance. The pain made me shout out and curse and had to stop for a couple of minutes for the pain to subside. This only happened on the climb up and after that I managed to keep them at bay by resting and stretching as soon as I felt the first twinges.
    The following year I competed again in Moontrekker again but in the longer, 43km distance. I trained for this and also watched my diet and kept myself hydrated along with advice on taking salts etc. This year I did a lot more running with about 80% running in the first 18km and just before CP1 (check point 1) I felt the first twinges in my calves. I rested for just a few moments at CP1 and took some salt, nuun and water before hitting the big steps going up Radio hill. Cramps came on cue I and after that I knew I couldn't run anymore for a while and was under pain management for the next 25km so as to get across the finish line. Cramps came and went and all the way to the ascent of Lantau peak they stayed in my calves but on the climb they came up to my hamstrings. A fellow racer lent me a bit of his pain relief spark which was supposed to make things better but didn't. After submitting the peak I didn't hang around and wanted to get the descent done as quick as possible and this section I had trained a lot for in past weeks. Everything was fine until I was two thirds of the way down when I tried to jog a little then the cramp hit me in my groin. This I had not had before but again, 2 minutes resting it ebbed away and I carried on to the finish line where I did manage to run the last 4 km and our team came in 6th.
    I had future races coming up and even a 50km one I was organising on Lantau called the Lost Sole 50k ultra. I read lots of articles and have been told of many remedies and potions but to no avail and then I saw on facebook about crampNOT gels. This was new so I was eager to test out and once a package had arrived I was excited to do a long distance hike/run/climb. We chose a route on Lantau island.
    I did a 32km route with around 2000 meters of vertical elevation. The route was from Mui Wo over Sunset peak, then over Lantau peak, over to the rescue trail down to Tung Chung and then it was the Olympic trail back to Mui Wo. I took my first sachet on the ferry going across from Central. About 30 minutes before any exercise. I tried the pineapple flavour which was fine and had a bit of a spicy kick to it which made it different and not so sweet sickly like some of the other gels. As we was a large group of around 12, we managed to keep a steady fast pace up to the top of Sunset although I found myself stopping a few times to wait for the back markers to catch up. On the way down to Pak Kung Au we ran down avoiding tourists as usual and waited for everyone else once we got to the rest stop at PKA. I did my best to really work my legs to copy the conditions when I usually get cramp but knew the real test would be when I climbed Lantau and beyond as its usually when my legs are tired when the cramps hit. We didn’t wait longer than 5 minutes for the rest of the group to catch up and then we agreed that everyone was on their own for the ascent so could pick which ever speed they wanted. As I had been going for less than 2 hours I held back on the 2nd sachet. I started the ascent and actually felt good all the way up but noticed a slight cramp coming in my calf when I did a sudden movement to overtake someone but the cramp seemed to feel very suppressed and was over very quickly. I made it to the summit of Lantau in a personal best time. Once at the top we waited around 30 mins for everyone else to catch up before setting off. Once down at the foot of the steps by the wisdom path in Ngong Ping I took my second sachet and again pineapple flavour. This was around the 3-hour mark. After this we set off on the part we knew there would be plenty of steps going up and down and lots of concrete which I knew would make my knees suffer. Again, I noticed no cramp pains as my legs were getting tired at this time. Once at the bottom of the rescue trail and close to Tung Chung I took a 3rdpacket as knew we still had to go through Tung Chung to get to the Olympic trail and finally Mui Wo. Although I didn’t run hardly of this section as I am not a fan of running on concrete, I did find I had plenty of energy still inside my to set a very fast walking pace of around 7-7.5 minute Kms. I got back to Mui Wo as planned and was very happy with the results. This is part of our training for our Lost Sole 50km event in February so after noticing the results of the CrampNot, I am very satisfied. I will use again on another training session once I get back from the UK after the holidays. FYI, I wear compression shorts from Newline but I don’t wear any other compression gear around my legs, arms or anywhere else.

    How did you feel after I took one - did I notice any significant changes and if I took one when I felt cramps coming on, did they prevent the cramps? I noticed just a couple of times a very heavily suppressed cramp in my calf muscles but nothing to cause any change in pace, or movement.
    Taste? Surprising is the word I would use and different but in a positive way.
    Would I use this product again and would you recommend it to others? Yes, I would use again and would also recommend to others although I will try them out again to see if I can better replicate cramp conditions as its usually when I have done 20 plus kilometres.
    Price point - it is an expensive product, HK$35 for a single sachet of the Original and HK$55 for a single sachet of the Premium. Would I be prepared to pay this amount? Might need to run the difference between the 2 products again but considering a regular gel costs $20, 35 is not so bad considering how much it could help with preventing cramps.