So what is a cyclists nemesis, is it hills or maybe a strong head wind.  Yeah there all a pain in the legs but I recently experienced something that makes these look like a fun day out. 

The Bonk is a well known in the cycling world as the word you don’t want to hear.  Not only do you not want to hear it but you don’t want to experience it either.  Over the last few years I cant really say I experienced the full effects of the bonk.  I mean I had moments where I felt a bit weak and my legs felt heavy, but an energy gel or a chocolate bar later and I was fine again.  Was this the bonk or just a bit of weakness, I don’t know and this is what made me think who does know what it feels like.

Well Since my recent ride I’ve looked into the Bonk and what causes it, what I found from the inter web is there’s a lot of info on what the body needs.  There’s also a lot of info into what can be done to prevent it, but what there isn’t a lot of is actual stories of the Bonk itself or those who have been into it.

So I thought I’d let you know what happened to me and how to deal with it.  There are so many different versions out there I just hope this helps you out in some way. 

When you plan a cycle route you must always remember, if you don’t take the correct foods your in chance of witnessing the bonk yourself.  I’ve done loads of long rides and I can honestly say I’ve never bonked, not once.  On a few rides I felt a bit weak towards the end but that was about it, I never felt like I couldn’t go on.

Before any long ride I always load my body with carbs and proteins.  So pasta and meat are a popular food intake at least 2 days before the ride.  I also use Beet It shots to get more potassium into my system, this seems to be the perfect plan for all my rides.  So when I started the recent challenge I felt good,  all I needed to do was make sure I kept my food intake up to balance the output my body was pushing.

For the first 10 hrs I had it nailed, eating constantly when we stopped to rest briefly.  My intake consisted of cereal bars, banana, cake and a powder shake which was a food supplement.  I felt Ok but just after I started to feel a bit sick, I assumed this was down to me not allowing the food to digest.  If you know how your body works it takes a while for the food to digest in your system so this wasn’t the cause for the sickness I was feeling.

I then put it down to being tired as I’d been up for a long time now, we stopped in the morning for a bacon roll and a coffee which was great.  So to recap so far I’d been cycling for 10hrs and my food consumed consisted of;

A box of cereal bars (5bars)

4 banans

2 cakes

2 bacon rolls.

2x bottles of powder supplement.

Looking back this was no where near enough food for the ride, I always try and take food when I ride and start eating or snacking at least 20mins into the ride.  So I was way of what my body was using.  This appears to be a common problem with cyclists and fluids is another thing to consider. 

I might not of been eating the required amount but I was drinking loads, in fact I felt like I was stopping for a pee every couple of reps.  On a ride I normally drink 2-4 bottles on a 50 mile ride, pee’ing at least twice with clear coloured pee.  This means I’m hydrating correctly, if your pee is bright yellow you need to drink more.

Getting on the bike was tough from the tenth hr but the support was brilliant, this helped and pushed me on.  The problem with this was I was not taking on any where near as much as I was during the first part of the ride.  When you go out for a long ride or your doing a 100 miler make sure you have snacks for 2 stages, for the first 25 miles then a good feed at 50.  Some pasta or cakes and a good feed then at 75 miles another break.  This should supply you with enough reducing the chances of falling into the bonk.

We stopped at lunch time where I had a sandwich, cake, biscuits and yep more banana’s. We had a good hr rest before pushing on with the ride, this was great but the reality was I still hadn’t eaten enough.  I should of had some pasta or potato salad, even cheese is great to have, so my complacency was growing.  We pushed on through the afternoon where I reduced my food intake even more.  A bad sign straight away looking back on it.

So far I’d pushed through the sickness and the tiredness but my legs were now starting to hurt.  I felt like I couldn’t eat anything and that I was feeling OK, this was a sign I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Pushing on with my ride I was still maintaining fluids but no where near enough food.  My body was now using its own reserves, I was well into the BONK.  It was only my determination that made it possible for me to push on through all these feelings.

Sickness, tired and my legs felt so heavy I kept checking I was in the right gear.  If your feeling like this the first thing I would suggest is to stop.   If I put them into levels I would have it like this,

  1. sickness,   = eat something now a gel may help but only briefly.
  2. tired & dry mouth,     = stop for a 5-10 min break, have a snack or sweet hot drink.
  3. no energy,    =Stop for a good coffee break, have a warm meal if you can and a cake.

This starts to get really real from now on.

If you don’t do anything and you continue your body will start to use all its stored energy, your sugar levels drop and you start to feel weaker than ever.  Each rotation will feel like your dragging a lead block.  Some of you may be bloody minded as I was and ignore these signs and push on thinking “ I’m not being beat “ but your only making things worse for yourself.  Some state you should have a gel and juice and you’ll be fine in 5 mins.  you might be but it’ll be worse for you after  you start riding again.

I had two cans of coke and a chocolate bar and yeah I felt good, for about 10 mins but then I felt as bad as before.   

When you push on from the first signs more will follow, so you’ve felt sick, tired and no energy what more can you feel.  Well I started to hallucinate slightly, I thought I saw things that weren’t there.  Then my eyes started to go all blurry, like your wearing glasses with water on them.  This continued for a while and I was feeling worse and worse.  I wanted to sleep like nothing else, every rotation felt like a 12 hr clock but I was still maintaining 7mph.  I was so head strong I ignored my body signs to stop. 

When your body isn’t operating as your used to STOP, have a break and take on some fluid and snack. A simple cereal bar will help till you get to an agreed break point. 

I pushed on further, feeling sick tired and loosing my vision I then started to get a headache.  I was taking tablets for some knee pain but the headache still made me suffer.  I had my headphones in and I was trying to ignore all these feelings, riding more and more I felt weaker and weaker.  I could of fell asleep on the bike at this stage, I started to stop more often trying to gather my thoughts and get the effort to push on a bit more.  I had not eaten now for a good few hrs, but I remember smelling fish and chips and wanting some. 

I managed a few more miles and then my body took control, I stopped on the side once more and just fell into the hedge.  I felt so comfortable, it was at this stage any vision I had started to go tunnelled. I felt like I was falling away from my body, and that everything was moving away.  I had to just close my eyes.  I had no energy, I couldn’t move my legs/arms or even my head.  I just wanted to lie still and fall asleep.   My body was trying to protect its core and in doing so shut everything else down. 

Apparently I was in a hypoglycaemic state, the same as diabetic’s.  I was carried into a car and given a lift back to my van, on the way though I had to stop and was violently sick.  Thats the last stage, I had lost all and any nutrients my body had left.  I was helped into my van where we returned home, I was shivering and mumbling utter rubbish. I’d lost all powers of thinking straight and normal.  A hot shower and sleep was all I could manage.

I slept for a good 10hrs, upon awakening I started to remember a little of the ride before.  I felt drained, my legs ached but I still struggled to think as fast as normal.  I had to get as many fluids into my body as possibly and eat the right foods to get my energy back. 

Apparently the next stage was a coma, now thats serious stuff.  So I wanted to look at how to avoid this dreaded Bonk.  Make sure you eat well a few days before the ride, drink well during the ride and make sure you eat regular during the ride.  Bonking is not a good feeling and pushing past it is defiantly not recommended so please do the right thing and stop.  Follow these steps and it should prevent you from hitting the Wall. Stop take on food and fluids and make sure you feel better to push on.  If you really don’t feel it call for a lift and don’t try and push on.

Bonking or hitting the wall is not a great feeling so if you make sure you eat well before and carry supplies you should avoid this feeling.