Getting bonked

Yesterday morning Duke (my lab) jumped in the bed of the Tundra at 7 am, and we drove to Starbucks.  Weather was dubious for the planned 9 am bike ride, consistent with an incredibly wet summer in SC. We left after Duke made a few friends. Preparation for the ride was the normal ritual – pump the tires, gather up spare tubes, CO2, Zone bar, and water.  I had eaten oatmeal at Sbux to hopefully prepare for what was a very muggy (humidity equals lots of sweat) day. As the group started out, we hit several climbs at a pretty strong pace.  Everything seems normal, with exception of a consistent thumping sound from my bike, which had been in the shop all week. After pulling over and consulting with Paul, a mechanical engineer, he decided it looked good and we moved ahead.

In a group ride, you take the lead position and drop off to the left after completing your “pull”.  Mine was longer than usual, as I have a tendency to go too fast and too aggressive at the beginning of rides.  I begin to notice my heart rate isn’t settling down but confident I’ll find the rhythm. Sweat is dropping from helmet and splashing on my legs and bike, even before we hit mile 10. It’s common to perspire like this, and since the temperature is mild, there’s no reason to be concerned.  Still, I’m waiting for my rhythm to kick in. At a crossroad, one of the riders drops off, and waves us on.  The ride continues.

The turnoff to the hilly road is up ahead – we slow down, anticipating incoming traffic. Everyone seems to get removed from the paceline when facing the first steep hill climb. You can see the dread in some of the riders eyes, but I’ve done this hill hundreds of times. After looking down and back, wondering if the rear tire is flat, or if the brake pads are rubbing … something feels funny.

Several riders passed me. What is wrong? I ate breakfast, had enough sleep last night, I’m not dehydrated…don’t think.  How can this be happening – I’m normally the first rider to the top of this hill!

It finally starts to make sense. This week I had been on a mission – to lose weight.  You see, I don’t have a bathroom scale and rarely use the scale at Gold’s gym.  So at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try a scale and it surprised me! My normal weight, especially during the summer, was at least 8 pounds lighter! Pathetic.

The group passes around a bend, and are out of sight; I’m trying to stand and rush up to them, but the legs feel like ramen noodles. Pain starts down the back of my neck, I’m sweating profusely, my abdomen feels cramped, I’m weak and basically spent!  At our normal spot to “re-group”, I’m asked about continuing on and reluctantly agree to keep riding. But, I recognize the symptoms…it’s happened before. What I’m experiencing isn’t listed in any medical book; this is just a case of bonking. And no amount of sustenance can fix it. 

We have all had a case similar to this, where nothing goes right; black is white, white is black, and hot is cold. It’s as if everyone else found some kind of magical adrenaline, and stormed off without you. It’s maddening. Cycling is competitive, even at the most amateur level, and its humiliating being the last one up the hill.

Don’t worry, yesterday’s deficiency has a reason, and will have you looking that much better when a few pounds are dropped and nutrition is restored once again. Let them laugh now, because they also know it will be their fate one day…possibly sooner than later.