The Big Bonk

Doug: First of all I would like to thank you all for coming to this press conference. Its amazing the level of interest my Leadville 100 race has generated. Especially considering I finished 4.5 hours after the winner! I mean I was right in the middle of the pack. OK lets open this up for questions……ok…..yes……you in the Yeti suite….

Yeti: Doug you looked fantastic going up Columbine

Doug: (interrupting) Yes, thanks! I felt great!

Yeti: (scowling) At that point you were were on pace for right at a 10.0 hour finish. You did not look fantastic at the end. Why was that?

Doug: What do you mean? I thought I was awesome at the end.

Yeti: Seriously? Do we need to recap the end of the race?

Yeti: Don’t you remember her?


Doug: Umm. No as a matter of fact I don’t remember a lot of that. It’s all a blur.

Yeti: Irregardless

Doug: (interrupting) That’s not a word!

Yeti: (scowling) Irregardless, what happened?

Doug: I bonked.

Yeit: I am well aware of that. Why?


OK, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Bonking here is a nice brief description:

““Bonking” is what cyclists call hypoglycemia which is the medical term for abnormally low levels of blood glucose.  You bonk when you have exhausted your glycogen stores, haven’t ingested enough carbs to produce more blood glucose, and are still riding the bike.  Anyone can bonk if they don’t eat properly on the bike.  Lance Armstrong, who probably knows as much about cycling as anyone on the planet, got wrapped up in the race on a stage in the 2000 Tour de France, forgot to eat, and bonked on the climb up the Col de Joux Plane in the French Alps.  The only reason he didn’t lose the Tour de France that day is because he had an iron will and an inhuman capacity to suffer.  Afterwards he called it the worst day on the bike he’d ever had.”

It comes from this article (worth the read, not long).

Here is what happened, I think……

Let’s assume you are in pretty good shape going into Leadville. If that is true then finishing Leadville is really two logistical problems: 1. Proper pacing and 2. Proper hydration/nutrition. I think I had the pacing nailed. I felt awesome, never really felt like I was redlining my effort. I felt in control.

My hydration/nutrition plan was to combine the two. I use two sports mixes: Infinit and CarboRocket. They both provide electrolytes and calories. Enough calories that if you drink a bottle an hour you will not need any other calories to sustain you while you are riding. There are a couple of really good reasons for going this route while racing: its easier to drink then eat and my stomach tolerated it well (sometimes solid food doesn’t work well on really long rides).

When I left Twin Lakes I was on track for the number of bottles I needed to drink. And after that, simply put, I lost track. During the ride from Twin Lakes to Pipeline I was concentrating on the ride and staying with the group I was with. I started to get behind. When I got to the Power Line climb, well, my focus shifted to getting up that beast. And while I did drink going up, I did not take in enough. I am sure I got farther behind at that point. When I did the last climb up to Carter summit I started to feel weak. I had two glasses of coke at Carter. Those staved off the bonk, but I was still behind on my calories. Finally on the Boulevard I ran out of sugar in my blood and on came the bonk.

Yeit: You were at the racer meeting the day before the race right?

Doug: Yes.

Yeti: You heard the doctor talking about the race correct?

Doug: Well…..

Yeti: Yes or no!

Doug: Yes.

Yeit: He told you ALL what to watch for in a bonk, and what to do if you were experiencing one correct?

Doug: Ummm…..

Yeti: You even laughed at his presentation! Yes or no!

Doug: Yes.

Yeti: The cure for a bonk is quick acting sugars. Like Honey Stinger Gels right?

Doug: Yes.

Yeit: You had those with you, just in case right?

Doug: Yes.

Yeti: Well Why didn’t you eat one or two of those?

Doug: Sometimes when you get into a bonk it affects how you think. Add into that over 10 hours of riding and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I could have really diminished those affects with the Honey Stinger Gels, but it never crossed my mind. All of my focus, all of what I had left, was centered on getting onto and across the red carpet.

Yeti: What are you going to do differently next time you do Leadville?

Doug: Yeti, are you related to Jenni?


4 thoughts on “The Big Bonk

  1. I totally understand. It’s too easy to forget to eat and drink regularly after so many miles. I don’t think I ate much of anything after Pipeline. I must have really had my tank topped off at that point because I can’t see any reason I shouldn’t have bonked.

    During the early part of the race I did really well though, eating on the quarter hour. But at some point I lost track of when the last time I had eaten and from that point forward I almost totally forgot to eat.

    At Pipeline Mandy encouraged me to eat and I actually spent some time taking in food before heading out again. It’s something I’ll have to be cognizant of next time because I don’t plan on stopping during the race ever again.

  2. Congrats Doug! We met in the Cycles of Life parking lot. We had a good chat about our first Leadville. I came upon you at the bottom of Kievens on the the return. You were struggling with the Bonk, but you knew you had it in the bag.

    • Paul, I never panicked and I never got down. I never really bonked like that on a bike before. Next time I think I will be smarter and realize when I start down that road what is happening and stop it earlier…..

  3. Pingback: The road ahead | A Year of Living...humm...dangerous?

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