I’ve never considered myself an athlete. Athletes have to work hard and suffer and compete and stuff. Although, I will likely never compete, cycling has been the closest I have ever come to being athletic. Its a great sport.
If by great you mean that it kills you slowly.
Tonight’s ride was to be an chance to catch up with an old friend who I haven’t seen in quite a while. It was to be a simple ride – out and back no special fuel needed, no need to worry that I had put in 30 miles on the mountain bike already. However, after we passed the power plant – one of the landmarks we use to indicate it’s time to turn around, Jaren said let’s go to the top of the dam. The dam really isn’t far. Only another mile and a short hill climb and we would be there. I am always up for a hill climb.
However, we didn’t stop there and I wasn’t about to be a wus and drop out. Before we knew it we had arrived at the top of Blacksmith Fork Canyon and end marked by Hardware Ranch. Usually, this is not a hard ride for me. We averaged about 16 mph up. I usually manage 20.
The sun was setting. The canyon looked beautiful highlighted by the final rays of the sun. We got our butts in gear and started back.
I almost always carry extra fuel – a Cliff bar, some sport beans just something for those just in case moments. I have passed them out to buddies who needed a little something more along the way and most of the time I bring the stuff back home and throw it back into my cycling stash.
This was to be a simple ride, not far and so for the first time I carried nothing.
My total mileage for the day would be 70 miles. I can handle that. However, I always handle it with appropriate fuel so guess what…
I bonked bad. About one mile into the return journey my legs screamed out in terror begging for something. I had not eaten dinner – that never sits well. Instead I had eaten a banana. Those measly calories were long gone.
When you bonk and you still have 20 miles to go and no cell reception your mind does interesting things. I could taste Cliff bars. My body begged for cherries or rice or peanut butter sandwiches. I even started to imagine that my water was Accelerade which is very bad because I don’t usually get along with the stuff. Even though the air was cold and I wasn’t sweating I finished off two bottles of water in the few miles back to the power plant – in my mind that liquid somehow contained the energy my body needed and I found myself constantly, unconsciously gulping down vast quantities. We stopped at the power plant and I refilled.
I was hungry in a very interesting way. Sometimes you feel hungry – like when you watch a movie. This results in popcorn and soda. However, you weren’t really hungry you just needed some oral recreation.
I was hungry hungry. I started scanning the roadways. Every now and then I would see a discarded bottle and think, “I wonder if there is anything left in there. How bad would it be? Would it really kill me?” Then I found myself imagining that someone had dropped a completely wrapped Snickers by the road. Oh that would have been so great.
We passed a family reunion and I wondered what they would think if some goofy looking cyclist dropped by and begged for food. I imagined my self offering them 20 bucks for one of Grandma Thelma’s cookies. The urge passed and we road on. The myriad of cars that made up that reunion would soon be headed down the canyon and it was getting dark. I though of the big SUVs. One of the pilots of these monsters would surely be distracted and while chatting with his wife about how cousin Bob just “came out” he would ignore the road and smash me against one of the rock walls that line the canyon road.
Then the bugs started pounding my helmet and I wondered how many calories are in a gnat. I debated opening my mouth wide to try to obtain a mouthful of the little critters. Surely there would be some protein to be had.
Next I started to wonder if there were any calories in my spit. Maybe I shouldn’t be spitting. Perhaps there were a few calories there to be had.
Bonking is totally disgusting, but hunger and the fact that I was now burning brain cells for fuel made me loopy.
My legs didn’t feel like they were my own. They kept spinning but each stroke came at an enormous cost. It hurt.
I finally did make it home. I didn’t stop to chat with the neighbors outside. I didn’t say hi to the kids. I ran to the kitchen and inhaled the bowl of fruit on the table. Then I ate rice and beans. Then I ate yogurt. Then I ate cherries. After that I ate cookies and drank a lot of milk. This to was a mistake I have made after so many rides but I didn’t care. It only took about 10 minutes and the pain in my legs was gone. It is amazing what a joy it is to have your legs stop consuming themselves for energy.
My head was great – likely from the rush of good feeling from the carbs I was scarfing down and probably because of the drunken state I was in from the destruction of some many brain cells that were consumed to keep my legs turning.
Then I nearly had to puke. The stomach is the worst victim of riding and throwing a buffet of food at it while all the blood is still in the legs will make you ill. I have learned this about 10 times now, but never well enough to stop my post ride gluttony.
This was added to the fact that I was freezing. The canyon was cold (remember how the sun was going down). I like the cold. I love to stay cool, but this was a different cold. It was as if all the energy used to keep my body warm had been transfered to my legs to finish my last grueling miles.
So I went to bed.
About 30 minutes ago I awoke because I had to use the restroom – I drank a LOT of water and because both of my legs cramped up. These weren’t charly horse style cramps. These were I can’t move because my inner thigh has turned to a rock and I am in so much pain that I wish I could cut off my leg kind of cramps. My left leg knotted in my inner thigh and my right leg knotted at my calf. I couldn’t move. I could swear. It hurt.
So now I am here writing this because I fear going back to bed.
I still don’t consider myself an athlete, but I refuse to be a wus. My wife says she won’t let me go again if I complain so much, but in spite of the pain I will find myself in Blacksmith Fork again soon. You won’t hear about it when I do because I plan to carry the fuel I need next time so that you don’t have to suffer through another complaint like this that I wrote when I was still a bit loopy.
But then maybe you will be with me next time begging for a bike of the Cliff bar I plan to have stored in my back pocket.
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