Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring is for Bonking

Could it be that spring is finally coming to Seattle? I went for a 200k training ride on Saturday and was only rained on for about five minutes out of the eight hours I was out riding. I don't usually do such long training rides, but I'm still not quite as fit as I should be at this point in the season, so I decided to punish myself a little with a fast and hilly 200k. No pain, no gain, and all that, ya know.

Most of the ride went well. I felt great for the first 100k or so as I rode over some of my favorite cycling roads: up to Snohomish, Dubuque Rd, Old Pipeline Rd, Ben Howard Rd, High Bridge Rd... I hit a little slump around Carnation, but a quick stop for some real food and a cup of joe got me rolling again.

I was still maybe an hour away from home when I ate my last shot block. There were plenty of places I could have stopped to grab a candy bar or something, but even though I knew "the fuel light would be flashing" by the time I got home, I figured I could make it without food, so I kept going. Then as I rolled through Montlake, I came upon this:

It was opening day of yachting season in Seattle so the Montlake bridge was up to let the parade of yachts through. The police officers standing there said it would probably be about 20 minutes before they'd lower the bridge. It was warm and sunny and there were lots of people milling around to watch so I just sat down and waited.

When you've been riding hard for nearly eight hours straight, your body doesn't just suddenly stop burning fuel the second you get off the bike. I don't completely understand the physiology, but I know from experience that it takes at least an hour or so for your metabolism settle back to normal. I hadn't really counted on this when I did the whole flashing-fuel-light/coast-in-on-fumes calculation. So when the bridge finally opened--and I spent another ten minutes working my way through crowds of pedestrians--I started pedaling the last two or three miles for home, and suddenly I BONKED.

I thought I had experienced a bonk before. Apparently not. This was like nothing I've ever felt. I was seeing spots, I had tunnel vision, my head was spinning, my legs felt like they were made of clay... The last mile to home (all up hill of course) was at a snail's pace.

As soon as I got home, I shoveled in a huge mountain of leftover pasta and flopped on the bed. Slowly I started feeling human again. It was about 45 minutes before I had enough energy to take a shower.

While bonking isn't much fun, I think this was probably a good learning experience for me. It reminded me of an episode of Car Talk I heard a while back. One of Tom and Ray's callers explained that the first thing he does whenever he gets a new car is put a can of gas in the trunk and then go run it out of gas. This is so he knows exactly how low the gas guage goes before the car is really empty. Yes, Tom and Ray made a lot of fun of the guy.

Coming up next weekend: Baker Lake 400k. It's been a long time since I've done that kind of distance...

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