This Saturday Chris and I set out for a 56 mile bike ride as he wanted to test his new bike and begin to prepare for a half iron this fall. Despite completing the ride, I bonked around 37 miles or exactly 2 hours into the ride and had to suffer through another 20 miles of riding in that state.
The funny thing is that I’ve been very excited about what happened because this is forcing me to learn more about how my body works and what it’s limitations are.
First, before I dig into the analysis, I’d like to point out that I recently completed the MS 150 a few weeks ago. This included a century ride on Day 1 where I was feeling a second wind around 90 miles in. So I don’t think I bonked purely due to lack of fitness as I’ve gone longer and with intermittent bouts intensity before.
Week Before: I had a week off for vacation leading up to Friday where I only worked out once.
Friday 5:30pm I joined 2 coworkers for a run around the quarry. As usual, running with others caused me to run faster and longer than my planned 3.5 mile easy run. We ran 5 miles somewhere between easy and threshold pace (avg 9:15/mi or lower Zone 3). It was hot and while I did have water during and a recovery shake after the run, I didn’t have a proper dinner to replenish glycogen stores that night.
Saturday 6:30 am Woke up after 5 hours sleep to prepare during and post workout nutrition bottles. Loaded 4.5 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem (latte flavor contains 25mg caffeine per scoop) + water in one 24 oz bottle. The plan was to consume the 24 oz of Perpetuem evenly over the estimated 3 hour ride or about 200 calories / hour. Perpetuem includes electrolytes so I had no other nutrition planned.
Loaded 24 oz plain water in the other water bottle. The plan was to consume 12-16 oz / hr and refill the bottle on the way back through Andice.
Also mixed (2) 12 oz servings of Hammer Recoverite so I could evaluate the product. Each serving is 170 calories and I planned to have one immediately after the ride and the other about an hour later. Two hours later would be back to whole foods.
7:00 am Feeling hungry so I ate 130 calories or 4 shot blocks. I was hesitant to eat only an hour prior to the ride because I wanted to test the nutrition plan and felt like a bowl of cereal (my usual pre-workout meal) would be too much this close to the start.
I saw the Cliff shot blocks and ate them without thinking. I’ve since read an article (See Mistake #10) on the Hammer site that eating only an energy gel an hour before a race was the worst thing you could do. There wasn’t an explanation as to why so I’ll leave this as an open question.
A better option would have been to eat the cliff blocks but wait until 5-10 minutes before the ride began. I’ll need to research this since I often workout first thing in the morning when I don’t have the recommended 2-3 hours to digest a proper whole foods breakfast.
I also had about 12 oz of Yerba Matte for the first time. I used two tea bags which is the caffeine equivalent of 2/3rds a cup of coffee.
8:00 am Wheels down, the ride begins. Weather was overcast and relatively cool at about 70 degrees and 10 mph winds out of the South (tailwind to start).
I planned to drink 3 oz Perpetuem and 4 oz water every 20 minutes. My new water bottles are insulated so you can’t see how much fluid is remaining. You have to just know that a decent gulp is about 1 oz.
My Garmin ride data is located here: http://connect.garmin.com/player/84418375
Sadly, my HR strap was a little loose and this caused some HR spikes in the data. I’m not sure how often so I don’t know how accurate some of the HR data is. I’m even more upset because my HR monitor battery died 15 minutes into the MS150 so I have no data for that ride to compare to either.
8:01 am Chris passes me on the left and I lose site of him and his new Cervelo. I thought he went “Loos” and we’d never see him again that day but he would wait for us to catch up later. This pattern would repeat for the next 4 hours.
9:45 am Chris and I actually rode together for most of the ride until this point. He caught a second gear and I just couldn’t catch him. Looking back, this was the first sign that I was weakening and he was getting stronger.
Chris and I have been closely matched prior to this ride even though I would give him the edge. He recently purchased a new Tri bike and we think that has to account for 1-2 mph improvement for him. It’s possible that I was burning up and going deep into Zone 3 too many times trying to ride with him up until this point.
He would later admit that he was getting upset that I was keeping up because with his new bike he should have been faster than me. It’s kind of unfortunate that he thinks this way but I’ve learned to expect that overly competitive attitude now. Shame on me for not recognizing what was happening… however, I didn’t really understand my limits either so I didn’t know to just let him go.
10:00 am We are 2 hours, 38 miles, into the ride and I realize for the first time that I’m bonking. It occurred to me on CR 248 just before you get back to Ronald Regan Blvd. Side note: while we are 2 hrs into the ride it’s probably a bit after 10am because we stopped to get water.
So now I’m cooked, anything approaching mid-high Zone 2 HR (140+) feels terrible and unsustainable. To top that off, we would be turning South onto Ronald Regan into 15-20 mph head winds and facing the rolling hills again.
It would take almost another 2 hours to cover the remaining 18-20 miles back to my car. I’ve been reading about signs of “bonking” and I don’t think I had anything as severe as what is described (e.g. uncontrolled chills, irritableness, short temper, light-headed, etc). I just felt weak, tired, and ready to be finished but I was still smiling. I may have had poor judgment by refusing a Gel for more calories.
From what I’ve gathered, the real issue is that your body relies on fatty acids and glycogen for most of its energy while in the aerobic zone. Once glycogen stores get low your body has to rely on mostly fatty acids for fuel. Since fat cannot be burned as quickly as glycogen (glucose) your body can’t operate higher than about zone 1 (the fat burning zone!). This would explain why I could still pedal for 90 more minutes though.
11:45 am I arrive at my car and begin drinking recovery shake. I note that there are still 4 oz of Perpetuem left in my bottle and maybe half of the water bottle is left. I consumed 2.5 24 oz bottles of plain water during the ride.
Somewhere I messed up and didn’t even consume all of my calories despite riding for an additional 40 minutes longer than planned. This means that I only had about 400 calories (130/hr) during the first 3 hours of the ride. This is way under fueled and it’s likely that I didn’t even start the day properly fueled either.
How did I mess up the fuel intake? I believe it’s because the Perpetuem was not coming out of the water bottle at the same rate as the water. So usually I take 3 gulps for 3 ozs but I was only getting about 2 oz instead.
Saturday afternoon I was pretty useless the rest of the day until dinner. I drank my two recovery shakes as planned and felt a little better. I remember wanting to have whole foods instead of the second recovery shake an hour later. I had burned over 3,000 calories and only eaten about 1,000 calories by 2 pm. I was in a serious calorie deficit.
While I wanted to eat, I remember going to the pantry a few times and not finding much that sounded appetizing. That was probably telling as well because that’s not normal behavior for me.
I took one 40 minute nap and laid on the bed a few more times wishing I was sleeping.
Saturday night We ate Indian food for dinner. I had a large amount of food but didn’t want to stuff myself. By this point I was feeling more normal although still less than full strength. Dinner helped a lot.
Sunday morning Woke up feeling hungry and looking for food. Ate a ton of pancakes for breakfast and while full, I finally felt fully functional again.
Sunday night Even after spending 2 hours on the lawn I felt strong enough to do my usual 3.5 mile run. I felt a full day of recovery was a better option though.
I’m Looking forward to doing the same ride next weekend with a few major adjustments. I’m confident that there is a combination of things I can do to successfully complete that 56 mile ride without bonking. For my sake, I better figure it out quick because the Real Ale ride is the following weekend!
There is always more to say, as if I haven’t said enough already, but it’s 2am and I have to work tomorrow!