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Serious Bonk - Scary but Worthwhile from a Nutrition Perspective

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Serious Bonk - Scary but Worthwhile from a Nutrition Perspective

Old 04-08-13, 08:21 PM
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Serious Bonk - Scary but Worthwhile from a Nutrition Perspective

I am a fit and athletic adult male, 47 years old, who has commuted off and on for the past 3 years. I ride 7 days a week; approximately 12-14 miles a day roundtrip and weekend rides that are about20+ miles and take me on longer runs of 30-40.

Today, I set off on an adventure of epic proportion (for me at this point). I left my home in Eagan, MN and biked approximately 32 miles on varying topography and few stoplights to my turnaround point in Northfield, MN. In the AM prior to departing I had my usual rolled oats and a glass of milk and on my person I had 2 homemade energy bars and my water. I'm not a big drinker so my plan was to refill when I turned around.

The ride down was terrific. The last 8 or 10 miles afforded me several small-ish but longer climbs with the subsequent backside in varying capacities. I believed I had low to no headwind and the ride went well.

At the turnaround point I ate an energy bar and took down my bottle of water, which I then refilled. After a few minutes I set out for the 32 mile ride home.

It wasn't terribly far into the return trip I realized I had a headwind, and a fairly stiff one. The in and out presence of the sun had been replaced by complete overcast. Further down the road I believed I may have even missed a shower that must have crept in behind me on my trip down. Since the last 9 or so miles of my ride were the hilliest, a good climb that paced me down a bit about every mile+ to 2 maybe. I had been on the big chainring all day but only the top couple of the cassette. I biked on.

At the 45 or so mile point I stopped and ate the second bar and had some water. I felt good. I did still have some miles to go but thought, "I do 20 miles without even thinking about it. I'll be good." What I failed to remember was that I have never done 20 miles after having done 48 miles. I biked on. I had reached what I considered to be the outskirts of my usual rides so I took great comfort in that as I was beginning to look with despair at even the long but well-doable climbs. At a point several miles down the road I began with some unprovoked self talk in the vein of "you're going to finish this loop - no reason not to" and "just keep pushing". I was breaking down.

With about 7 miles to go and some gradual but hilly terrain ahead, traffic picking up (I had beautiful shoulders or paved MUP's adjacent to the road to choose from) I moved from the shoulder to the MUP and unconsciously unclipped from my bike, stoodover the top tube for a moment and once having cleared my increasingly foggy mind as much as it was going to clear, I swung my leg over the bike, laid it down and took a seat on the ground. It had hit me. I was already cold, it was cool and breezy, I had been perspiring normally but maybe additionally considering the coolness of the day, I was fuzzy mentally, probably couldn't have signed my name very legibly, was extremely weak, and slightly emotional for having stopped the ride as well as becoming mildly concerned about my current condition. I gathered myself.

I drank that balance of my water and contemplated the positives of my situation. I stopped before blacking out while being clipped in and rolling through a stoplight or into traffic, I may have avoided a one vehicle incident, I was alive and I learned something about my deficit of knowledge in the area of long distance nutrition. I calmly placed the call to my SAG Wagon (wife) and assistance (and a ride home) was on the way. Not before a concerned motorist stopped to check on me, an ambulance just coincidently pulled past out of a private parking lot watching in anticipation for me to return the "thumbs up" and a young police officer pulled his cruiser up onto the MUP to get out and talk with me to see if I was alright as someone had called 911 to report a possible injured cyclist. Wife arrived, quick carbs and water in hand, loaded bike for me, drove me home, made sure I was in the house and into pajamas and in bed ready to collapse as I watched Paris Roubeix on the DVR, ate and fell asleep. Several hours later I awoke, ate a little more and am still more than ready for bed very shortly.

I have never done anything but profess my inadequate knowledge of long-distance nutrition and have even had conversations with a co-worker who marathons on the subject (maybe I should pay closer attention next time).

I though, having survived, will file this under an opportunity to learn from my mistake and plan better for food, quantity/when to take it in/pre-ride nutrition/hydration as well as the elemental factors. I did not like riding home in wet-ish clothes; it only added to my growing misery. No, wait... I didn't actually make it home.

Thanks for the opportunity to purge. My soul that is...

Ride on!
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Old 04-08-13, 08:33 PM
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I'm glad you were able to get home safely.

My body does okay on energy bars for about 50 miles, but anything longer than that I need to eat some real food. I usually bring PB&J sandwiches or money to stop and get food along the way. I also bring electrolyte powder to put in my water bottles for the last half of the ride.
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Old 04-08-13, 08:40 PM
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Cool. I spend most of my time in the Commuter Forum but this one is a regular stop from here on. Thanks. Also, I love the jolly_ross quote in your sig.

Cheers.
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Old 04-08-13, 11:39 PM
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Thanks for sharing, I guess I'm not alone. There are days I'll take off on a ride (distance unknown) with little energy or incentive and yet, something happens. The wheels keep turning, and I get to feeling better. Before I know it, 30 miles has gone by, I'm not hungry, I'm in the groove and rollin steady. Other days, I feel good, well rested/fed and energetic and I'll bonk at 25 miles and have to hunt for food. It's why I travel with a small saddle bag and food for every eventuality if I'm out in the middle of nowhere.
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Old 04-09-13, 06:16 AM
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Shortly after I started riding, I learned that for any ride longer than 30 miles, I need to eat early and eat often or else it's going to be a miserable day. Also, when in a bind, stopping by the gas station to pick up a can of coke helps a lot.
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Old 04-09-13, 09:05 AM
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For rides over 1.5 hrs our so, consume 100-150 cal of easily absorbed carbs (AKA sugars) every 1/2 hr after starting out. Calories in drinks count.
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Old 04-09-13, 08:10 PM
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It never ceases to amaze me how fast things change on longish rides.
At the onset, biking is FUN!! going FAST!! those hills are hard but give a great sense of accomplishment.
Then the switch flips, and I'm wilting fast. Then - off the bike, sitting on the curb, and crying.
Yes, always bring food, water, money, id, cellphone.
I keep a powerbar in a flavor I don't even like in my saddlebag. They are edible for months.
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Old 04-10-13, 04:10 AM
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The general advice is that if you're going to do a ride of 2 hours or more, aim to consume 200-300 calories per hour right from the start of the ride. As you get fitter, you'll be able to get away with less (as you might see from some advice given), but to start, go with the 200-300 calories per hour.

As for hydration, aim to drink one 750 ml bottle every 1 to 1.5 hours.
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Old 04-10-13, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by nkfrench
It never ceases to amaze me how fast things change on longish rides.
At the onset, biking is FUN!! going FAST!! those hills are hard but give a great sense of accomplishment.
Then the switch flips, and I'm wilting fast. Then - off the bike, sitting on the curb, and crying.
Yes, always bring food, water, money, id, cellphone.
I keep a powerbar in a flavor I don't even like in my saddlebag. They are edible for months.
Man, it's like you were there watching me... All the advice on a steady intake is well taken... Thanks forum.
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Old 04-10-13, 04:14 PM
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I noticed this particularly:
I had been on the big chainring all day but only the top couple of the cassette.
Assuming an ordinary 700c road bike with a 53/39 double, and that you don't mean you were cross-chaining all day, you'd be doing almost 29 mph at a 90 cadence in a 53/13. I don't see where you mention how many hours you were on the road, but I don't think you'd be posting here if that were the case. Therefore I assume that you were turning more like a 50-60 cadence. This is very common for short distance riders who have not yet been beaten about the head and shoulders about maintaining a high cadence when riding long distances.

The problem is that a low cadence is a real glycogen-eater. One's breathing is slow and even, but it's taking it out of the legs. Bonking is just using up one's glycogen, then the blood sugar is next. What you did is not necessarily ill-advised. One summer long ago, I did a solo Imperial century on one candy bar, one orange, and two bottles of water. The record for riding without either eating or drinking is around 270 miles. However, such things take particular training to lower glycogen consumption. Meanwhile, as Machka advises, eat more. But also try riding much, much lower gears, that is if my assumptions about what you said are correct. Try for a 90 cadence on the flat, and 80 when climbing until you run out of gears. If you don't have a computer with cadence, but do have speed, you can get your cadence from this calculator:
https://www.machars.net/bikecalc.htm
just to give you a general idea.

All that said, some very talented people do ride low cadences for long distances, but they are rare.
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Old 04-10-13, 08:23 PM
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You've made the correct call. Being somewhat of a noob, I had no idea about the importance of maintaining a higher (normal) cadence. Yet another invaluable piece of the puzzle falls into place...

I will be spending more time in this forum than others because as I inspire to do longer rides (successfully I might add) there is alot of stuff I need to learn. Beyond the obvious (eat), and I've already admitted to being somewhat confounded by nutrition, the cadence bit, while seemingly counterintuitive initially to someone who doesn't know, makes sense. When the roads clear up this way (MN - 6-10" of snow on the way tonight - so they say) I am already planning this ride again but differently. I'll post back afterwards. Thanks.

ken
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Old 04-10-13, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I noticed this particularly:
Assuming an ordinary 700c road bike with a 53/39 double, and that you don't mean you were cross-chaining all day, you'd be doing almost 29 mph at a 90 cadence in a 53/13. I don't see where you mention how many hours you were on the road, but I don't think you'd be posting here if that were the case. Therefore I assume that you were turning more like a 50-60 cadence. This is very common for short distance riders who have not yet been beaten about the head and shoulders about maintaining a high cadence when riding long distances.

The problem is that a low cadence is a real glycogen-eater. One's breathing is slow and even, but it's taking it out of the legs. Bonking is just using up one's glycogen, then the blood sugar is next. What you did is not necessarily ill-advised. One summer long ago, I did a solo Imperial century on one candy bar, one orange, and two bottles of water. The record for riding without either eating or drinking is around 270 miles. However, such things take particular training to lower glycogen consumption. Meanwhile, as Machka advises, eat more. But also try riding much, much lower gears, that is if my assumptions about what you said are correct. Try for a 90 cadence on the flat, and 80 when climbing until you run out of gears. If you don't have a computer with cadence, but do have speed, you can get your cadence from this calculator:
https://www.machars.net/bikecalc.htm
just to give you a general idea.

All that said, some very talented people do ride low cadences for long distances, but they are rare.
I assume this wold apply to hybrids and road bikes alike?
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Old 04-10-13, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
The problem is that a low cadence is a real glycogen-eater. One's breathing is slow and even, but it's taking it out of the legs.
What makes you say this? I know glycogen consumption varies with intensity but I haven't seen anything that would indicate it's affected by cadence.
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Old 04-11-13, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by gregf83
What makes you say this? I know glycogen consumption varies with intensity but I haven't seen anything that would indicate it's affected by cadence.
It's about how one measures intensity, just like some folks go on about how one measures efficiency. Certainly squatting 3X bodyweight once is pretty intense. Remember all those studies that show greatest VO2 efficiency at about 55 rpm? But yet no one rides like that? Most LD riders that I ride with, meaning folks that regularly do 300k and up, ride a good 100 cadence. It spares glycogen at the expense of slightly increased HR intensity for the power. But it varies with the rider, I don't know why. Lemond rode about 80, Merckx I think was around 115 when he broke the hour record. I've ridden with one LD racer who turns closer to 60 and rides a 90" fixie in the mountains. But most folks take longer to bonk if they spin fast, and do so even if they give up a little power to ride at that HR intensity when riding LD for time. Sort of like 250 mile TTing.
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Old 04-11-13, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Graupel731
I assume this wold apply to hybrids and road bikes alike?
Yes.
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Old 04-11-13, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83
What makes you say this? I know glycogen consumption varies with intensity but I haven't seen anything that would indicate it's affected by cadence.
Here's the science:
https://www.wenzelcoaching.com/blog/c...rt-or-science/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1385118
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Old 04-11-13, 06:37 PM
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Interesting study although it is really only applicable to fairly intense riding (basically at FTP or 1 hr TT pace) comparing 50 to 100RPM pedaling. Under these conditions they found the type II fibers utilized more glycogen. Other studies have found greater efficiency at lower cadences. In any case, 50RPM @ FTP is an outlier.
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