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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Incredible Lightness of Bonking

(With apologies to Milan Kundera)

I was thinking yesterday if there ever is such a thing as glory in bonking, and the only incident I can think of is after one has broken away from the group, goes all out to win the race, and pass out as he crosses the finish line. Aside from that, the whole experience is probably one of the worst you'd ever feel in cycling.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, bonking in cycling means to hit the wall. Wikipedia defines it as "when the athlete suddenly loses energy and fatigue sets in, usually caused when glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are depleted, resulting in a major performance drop."

I think I may have bonked or was in the verge of bonking in yesterday's short ride to the Roxas trail in Maarat. I was climbing with King, Agu and Dandan on the stretch of cemented roads when I just couldn't follow. And it wasn't just getting dropped. It was as if I don't have that much in me to pedal.

I shifted to my granny gear and spun but it was no use. I was running out of gas fast and there was no shade in this part on the climb. White spots are starting to appear in my vision. Uh oh, I know what this is - I'm starting to bonk.

I think it may be heat exhaustion which caused this. Being used to riding in the shady trails of La Mesa and at night in the Ateneo campus with my wife, it was actually my first time in a long time to ride with the heat of the sun directed at me.

When I got to the top, I knew what I had to do. I told the boys that I'm bonking and looked for a shaded area where I can sit, rest, eat and hydrate. Luckily I was able to do this before the cold sweat and the goosebumps came in. After a few minutes, I was ready to roll once more.

I haven't bonked in such a long time, and I'm actually glad that I was able to prevent this one from being an all-out head-between-my-legs affair.

Some tips when you're bonking:

1. Stop cycling and look for a place where you can rest. Walk a while if you still can. Afterwards, sit on the ground so you won't feel lightheaded.

2. Eat and hydrate. Eat and hydrate. Eat and hydrate. Bring food and a hydration pack with cold water every time you do your trail rides.

3. Rest. You've probably gone to the red zone and need to lower down your heart rate to the lower it to normal levels.

4. Tell your riding buddies how you're feeling so they'll know what to do.

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