Monday, February 20, 2012

My “Bonk” Buster

Everyone who cycles has “bonked” at one time or another.  You know the feeling.  You’re riding along and then suddenly it takes every thing you have to turn the pedals.  It can happen in races, on training rides, and even recovery rides.  That’s what happened to me yesterday.

Photo courtesy of Bike RadaI went out on a brisk but beautiful sunshiny day for an easy 2-hour solo recovery ride.  I was riding alone with my thoughts when, about 20-minutes into the ride, I felt a kind of growling in my stomach.  I’ve been riding enough to know what this means.  I was starting to bonk.  Less then 5-minutes later I was looking for a nice place to lay down because I was done.  I had now officially bonked.

For those of you lucky enough to have never experienced bonking, here’s a description courtesy of  Bike Radar:

Deriving from the original meaning ‘to hit’, the bonk refers to that catastrophic moment when there’s suddenly nothing left in the tank; when the legs turn to jelly, and getting to the finish becomes an altogether supreme effort of will. The simple explanation for its occurrence is that long-endurance exercise depletes the body’s store of glycogen, which produces the energy required to maintain performance. When the glycogen depletes entirely, the body has no more fuel and instead burns fat, resulting in a surge of fatigue and a performance collapse.

My first that was “what the hell happened”???  I answered the question before I finished the thought.  I rolled at 10:30 and all I had eaten that morning was 5 pieces of dried apricots, a handful of grapes, and 2 slices of buttermilk pound cake.  Definitely not the breakfast of champions.  I immediately downed a whole bag of GU Chomps and a mini Cliff bar.  As feared, there was no immediate impact.

The silver lining to all of this was that I was riding alone.  So, I didn’t need to maintain a group pace and I could adjust the route to eliminate anything that slightly resembled a hill, which included avoiding freeway overpasses.  Still, I needed to make it home.

payday_barThat’s when I saw it.  Up ahead in the distance was a gas station mini-mart.  So, I roll up and head inside to buy the one thing I know will get me home – a Payday candy bar!  You see, as an endurance athlete (and I using the term athlete very loosely here), I know my body and I know that I need something “real” to eat.  I need something that satisfies my emotional hunger as well as my physical hunger.  Paydays always do the trick.  I find them filling, satisfying, and they have just enough sugar to replenish my glucose levels until the GUs and Cliff bars finally kick in.

I really must take a moment here to discuss the psychological aspect of what to eat when I bonk.  I know all those scientifically engineered “foods” are designed to get energy to the body quickly but they are not satisfying to eat.  When you hear someone say the like a particular GU flavor what they are really saying is that although  they dislike that flavor they dislike the other flavors even more.  For me GUs, Cliff bars, Shark Bites, etc., are all items to be tolerated, not enjoyed.

Thanks the to Payday, I easily managed to not only finish but to enjoy the rest of the ride. 

So, did I learn anything?  Would I do anything differently in hindsight ?  Well, you might think I would have eaten better before the ride but the only thing I would really changed is that next time I’m buying 2 Paydays.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Serenity of Riding Solo

After a prolonged absence, I am finally finding the motivation, and time, to write again.  Actually, it’s been more of a time issue then motivation.  (BTW – a big part of the time issue will be explained in a future post).  And, I definitely don’t have a lack of stories and adventures to share.  But for me, the longer I go without writing, the harder it is go back into it.  Typically, I need something to happen that is so special that I can’t help but share it.  Yesterday was that something special.

Yesterday, I went for my first long solo ride in a very long time.  Now, I’ve done the short 90-minute recovery rides alone but spending 3+ hours alone in the saddle is totally different.  You get to do your own thing while being alone with your thoughts.  Plus, when you mix in quiet country roads, fog in the vineyards, sunlight through the forests, and an awesome mid-ride double espresso, you simply can’t avoid feeling like you’re part of something bigger in this world.

It started when my normal Saturday group ride canceled because of the possibility of rain and very wet roads.  A couple of folks tried to pull rides together but in the end, we all did our own thing.  So, off I go with only two goals – to enjoy the world around me while pushing the pace just a little.  I accomplished both.

After riding for about 30 minutes, I realized I was overdressed and stopped to peel of a layer.  As I stood there, I realized I couldn’t hear any “people” noise.  No cars, planes, people talking on cell phones, nada!  Just the sounds of birds chirping and singing, sheep baa-ing, and the majestic cry of a lone hawk as it circled overhead.  I knew right then that this ride was going to be special.

The ride continued in that fashion. I rode along vineyards draped in sunlit fog.  I rode through forests of oaks, redwoods and bay trees.  At one point, I was surrounded by bay trees and the recent rains accentuated their powerful bouquet.  I rode along the river shrouded in fog as the sun shined brightly on the forested hilltops all around me.

I made up my route as I rode along and eventually found myself in Guerneville, where I enjoyed a double espresso from the Coffee Bazaar.  From there, it was back home through Pocket Canyon along smooth roads, through patches of dabbled sunlight and the smell of wood fires.  Being west county, there was also the occasional smell of burning “herbs” but that is a whole different kind of serenity.  To each his own I guess.

This continued all the way home.  I took unexpected turns.  I rode on some of my favorite roads.  I rode in and out of fog, shadowed canyons, and sunlight.  I continued to listen to the sounds of the world around me while I rode alone with just my own thoughts to keep me company.

I love rides like this.  Don’t get me wrong, when given the choice between riding alone or riding with friends, the friends win 90% of the time.  But in that 10% when it’s just me and my bike, those rides always seem to be special in one way or another.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have go meet my friends at The Flying Goat for today’s ride.