The Bonk and why I’ll never do a century
It’s become part of nearly every long ride I do. I pour myself onto the road and the road eats me alive. I have been trying to push myself by doing longer rides. I have shied away from them because the aftermath is ugly. Headaches that turn into migraines, exhaustion, confusion, stomach issues–I’m a complete mess. I’ve tinkered with hydration and nutrition and there have been some improvements, but nothing has been 100% effective.
It’s been something I just sort of live with, but it’s been under my skin for a while now that I can’t do a big mile ride without suffering profoundly for several hours afterwards. Usually, the rest of my day is pretty worthless. I’ve never done a century, and it bothers me, but frankly if I attempted one, I think it would level me completely.
A discussion was prompted with a friend about this. She’s a lifelong runner, and compared my not feeling capable of completing a century with her own experience of never competing in a marathon. “Maybe you just don’t have one in you, and that’s OK.” I considered this a moment. It’s true, I judge myself negatively for not having a century under my belt. But maybe I was being too harsh to myself. (It would not be the first time….)
Still, I’m happy I’ve been focusing on bigger rides, attempting to build more endurance and resilience against my inevitable bonk. Heat is a factor, sun is a factor. I drink every 20 minutes (it’s like a drinking game) and eat every hour even when I really don’t want to. I eat a high protein and glucose rich meal within 20-30 minutes after a ride, and drink for hours after the ride to replenish fluids. Advil is a required ingredient in each post ride ritual to head off any serious headaches and prevent a day-killing migraine.
I’m going to keep pushing these longer rides this summer, at least until mid August, when I’ll switch up to cyclocross & intervals and all of that craziness. But I might just let go (for good) the idea of a century. I shouldn’t need that to validate me as a cyclist or an athlete. And sometimes things like this are funny. Sometimes as soon as you let go of an idea, sometimes, it finds you, or something better comes in the replace the preoccupation. Century or no century, I just love riding my bike.