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.
I 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.
That’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.