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What *IS* "bonking"? (or Green Elf Needs Food Badly!)

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January 28th, 2008 | 12:06 am
posted by: stoneself in aidslifecycle

hi everyone,

Mantra:
Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty.
c'mon repeat after me:
Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty.

Why?
So you don't bonk.

What is a bonk?
There is this really nifty physiological explanation, but go with this: "It's when you run out of gas."

What happens when you bonk?
When you bonk you feel weak and/or you can't think well and/or you cramp up and/or get uncoordinated and/or get sick and/or fall down and/or pass out. There are other symptoms more or less severe.

But here's the trick: some of the first things to go are your cognitive abilities. (Read: you get stupid.)

So, here's my personal story for getting stupid. I'm co-leading a nice short ride as a TRL. And 5 miles from the end of the ride, I can barely go 8 miles an hour on the flattest part of the ride. Normally I got 20ish on this part. But do I stop to think something is wrong? No! I just figure I'm tired from riding all the earlier miles. I keep pedaling. I'm now going 6 miles an hour. Do I stop? No! I figure it's only 5 miles back to the start, I can make it! I'm panting really hard, I feel weak but it doesn't register. I'm thinking to myself, "Boy! This is really hard! I don't remember it being this hard!" 4 mph now. After the next light I take a break to "catch my breath". A rider asks if I'm ok. I say, "Yeah. Just resting!" Rider goes on. I get on my bike, and I start pedaling. And I fall over. *BONK* OMG! I just bonked! I can't bonk, I'm a TRL! And I try to get back on my bike - I told you, you get stupid when you bonk. I almost fall over again. I sit down and eat something. Hmm.... 10 minutes later I'm starting to feel better, enough to get back without being completely bonked out.

Won't I get hungry before I bonk?
No. Not usually. Really, you will bonk before you're hungry. (You will also dehydrate before feeling thirsty.)
Repeat the mantra:
Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty.

What should I do if I feel a bonk coming on?
Stop pedaling. Eat something. Walk around (if you can) to keep your muscles warm. Drink. Give your body time to digest your food and get the fuel into your blood stream (usually 10+ minutes).

What should I do if I bonk?
Stop riding right away. Get the attention of a TRL or a fellow rider. (No one gets left behind!) Sit down. Eat. Drink. You will need to wait at least 15 minutes before you should try riding again. Give your body time to digest your food and get the fuel into your blood stream. Stretch before riding again - it will help you warm up again and if you cramped up it will help with that. "Wait... you only waited 10 minutes before riding again. And.... and... and... you didn't say you stretched or anything!" Did I mention you get stupid when you bonk?

How can I tell if I'm bonking?
If you think, "Wow, this flat part used to be easier." You may be bonking. If you find yourself doing something stupid. You may be bonking. If you cramp up. You probably are bonking and/or are dehydrating. (I'll let some other TRL write a confession about dehydrating.) If you fall for no good reason. You are probably bonking. If you feel tired. You probably bonking. If you feel sick to your stomach. You could have food poisoning, but are probably bonking. If you think, "Only 2 more miles to the End, and I can drop dead." You are probably bonking.

What will cause a bonk?
  • "Oh, it's only a 'short' ride. I don't need breakfast." Bzzzzt! You will probably start the ride okay, but about 30 minutes into the ride (around mile 7) you will probably start to feel really tired.
  • "It's halfway, and I don't feel hungry. I must be ok." Bzzzzt! What's the Mantra? Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty. You will probably be ok until 1-1.5 hours (around mile 10-15), and then you will get really really really slow and uncoordinated.
  • "I'm on a diet." I diet so I understand. But a training ride is not a time to deprive your body of fuel. You need a steady supply of fuel all during the riding. You're using between 600-1000 calories per hour on a bike. Energy bars aren't 600-1000 calories. This is even better than dieting. Starve yourself during a ride, and your body will do funky things to your metabolism that won't help your dieting. This is in addition to bonking.
* * *
* * *

"We're all in this together."

One of the most amazing things about ALC is how much compassion and caring ALC'rs show each other. TRLs are out there keeping an eye on you all. But keep an eye out for your fellow riders. If you notice a fellow rider is not riding as fast or as well as before. Or if they aren't quiet riding in a straight line anymore (weaving ever so slightly). Or if they seem extremely tired. Talk to them. Ask them when they last ate, (e.g. "So what kind of energy bar do you like?"). Ask them what they had for breakfast. Check their water bottles to see, if they've been drinking. If they don't have any fuel, I'm sure another rider would be glad to provide some. If they tell you they don't feel hungry or they feel fine (but you can tell they aren't riding as well as before), try to get them to each anyhow. Remind them of the Mantra: Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty. If you are uncomfortable doing anything yourself, talk to a TRL and let them know your concerns.


All together now:
Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty.

You all are awesome!


love and noodles,

peter key

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