Sunday, July 12, 2009


I had to look up the official definition of bonking, so I could start there, today.
this is what I found from our web friend, wikipedia:

In endurance sports, particularly cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bonk describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by precipitous fatigue and loss of energy. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glycogen levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity . . . Such fatigue can become seriously debilitating; in cycling, exhaustion can reach the point where the cyclist is unable to stand without the support provided by the bicycle. Symptoms of depletion include general weakness, fatigue, and manifestations of hypoglycemia, such as dizziness and even hallucinations.

I'm sure you caught the key phrase in that description, the one that says this condition can usually be avoided by . . .
uh-huh, it sure can.

I have bonked twice so far in my cycling career, and both times have been extremely unnerving. the first was over 2 years ago when I was about 75 miles into a 100-mile ride in southern utah. I started feeling weak and strange and had no idea what was going on. I remember thinking I had to get off the bike, but didn't think I had the energy to do so. I slowed down and after a few miles, my mind settled enough for me to realize what was going on. I had a GU with me (those sugary energy goop-in-a-teeny-packet things) and quickly sucked it down, and soon some energy returned. I limped through the last miles, and thought I had learned a big lesson.

until yesterday, when I realized I'd done it again.

yesterday I rode with brad and bob and patty ~ well, I rode behind brad and bob and patty ~ from home to henefer and back. I left home at 7 am to ride up to the northern rim of our city, to brad's house, for pre-ride latte's from his killer espresso machine. now, I don't usually do pre-ride latte's, so I just had a small one.
we left brad's about 8, and headed east.
in henefer we stopped at grumpy's, which is basically the only place in town to buy anything. and they're closed on sundays, so we never ride to henefer on a sunday.
I had a salted nut roll (yum) which had 9 outstanding grams of protein, and only half a gram of trans-fat, which biking bob, MD, oh-so-kindly pointed out to me. I also had a small packet of trail mix, and filled up my water bottles.
the next leg of my ride, from henefer to east canyon resort, was not my best. if I wouldn't have been so embarrassed I would have called for a ride.
I blamed it on the trans-fat, and swore off salted nut rolls.

we stopped next at east canyon resort store where the owners have a tolerate-hate relationship with all of us cyclists. the actual clerks behind the register are usually friendly and nice, but the feeling hanging over the place is "keep your bikes off our property and don't mess up our bathrooms and ice is 25 cents and hurry up and leave." I bought a diet mountain dew, and drank it down while we waited out the brief rainstorm that started right after we arrived. and then we started up the mountain.

50 minutes later I reached the top, where we all said our goodbyes, letting everybody go from there home at their own pace. which meant brad and bob streaking off, and susan and patty trailing behind.

I did fairly well until I reached the top of little mountain, 10 miles left to go and all the significant climbing behind me. I crested the top and shifted gears to head downhill, and it hit me.
I bonked.
the world changed colors and my head was suddenly swallowed by an ocean and every muscle in my body started complaining. I lowered into my drop bars, and coasted and spun lightly down the hill, and after a mile or so had to lift myself back up to my handlebars before the ache in my upper arms moved to a cramp. I had nothing to give, nothing to pull from, and yet I had to keep going. I was the spinning wounded, knowing that I was running well below empty but knowing there was little I could do about it besides just get home. my head felt separate from my body, and neither of them wanted to be where they were. I had my last sip of water and started praying.
a couple miles from Ruth's I thought about the possibility of stopping there for sustenance. I had a few dollars left in my pack: perhaps they would fill up my water bottle and give me a teaspoon of their incredible raspberry jam . . .
but I so desperately wanted to be home, I couldn't bear the thought of stopping.

I wobbled through the last few miles, and dragged myself to my door, thinking that I'd never felt so intensely awful ever before. my arms shook as I lifted my bike to its rack, and biking paraphernalia scattered itself as I walked to the kitchen, my helmet here, glasses there, gloves wherever they fell.
I opened the refrigerator and with shaking hands pulled out a bowl of potato-and-veggie salad and scooped a large bowlful. I leaned my sweaty body against a chair and shoveled food into my mouth. after 10 or 15 shovels-full, I drank a glass of water, then went back for more salad.
the room wasn't spinning, but it certainly wasn't standing still.

I was too exhausted to shower, but too sweaty and dirty to rest on any of the furniture, so I stretched out on my tile floor until the world became somewhat navigable.
I thought that eating and drinking would immediately take me from bonking-land to the land of the living, but apparently it doesn't work quite that way.

so to end this drawn-out tale of misjudgement, I will say that a shower and a nap, 10 nilla wafers and a chocolate chip cookie helped immensely in returning me to me. rather, to a newly improved version of me who will never again ride without enough food in her belly and in her back shirt pocket and in her bike pack.

or who will, next time, bite the bullet and stop at Ruth's for a teaspoon (or two) of raspberry jam.

1 comment:

chris said...

this is the entry that led me to your blog. I did this ride for the first time the other day and afterward was looking for some moral support i guess. anyway, i just googled "cycling to henefer utah" and this blogspot popped up pretty high on the list. what a ride! climbs, rollers, scenery, small towns, no water between east canyon resort and the mouth of emigration... it has it all.