Sunday, June 7, 2009

Epic Bonk

Last weekend, I decided to organize a group ride. I always love riding and pushing myself, so I was trying to think of a fun but challenging route. Bump and Grind, a Mtn Bike Race, was in town so I thought "Why not ride out there and back?"

I asked a few friends for routes, and kept hearing "It is not a fun ride, Elisa. Bad roads and nothing but hills. Are you sure you want to do that?" Of course, this clearly made me want to do it all the more.

I sent out a mass email recruiting folks and 3 gentleman took me up on my offer. Three accomplished cyclists, might I add. Heath, Alan and Brett. I was nervous to put it mildly.

Started out a bit rough, due to lack of sleep and general icky feeling. But I kept going. heath and I met Brett and Alan at Primavera Coffee, which Brett had kindly opened for us, offering us coffee and pastries. A bit later we took off.

Uphill both ways. Seriously. And getting hotter by the second. The hills seemed endless and the suburbs treeless. We made it to Oak Mountain and then made our way up the mountain to our watch point.

Oh, did I mention that I was left behind repeatedly? I was slower than the fellas and kept losing them up ahead. At one point, one was way ahead, the others were behind, and I had no idea which way to go. So, I kept on pedaling. Up the mountain we went, having lost Heath miles back. At the top, we look around, and realize that we have clearly missed our turn.
Back down we go, only to have to shoulder our bikes down the trail for about a mile (in Vans!). By this time, my pedal had broken and I had run over a squirrel (but didn't fall!). Eventually we all met back up, fixed my pedal, rested for about 1/2 hour to watch a bit of the race, and headed home.

I had officially bonked. It was bad. I was walking up the steeper hills and barely pedaling up the longer ones. Luckily, Heath felt enough pity to stay back and ride with me (Alan and Brett went ahead as Brett's tire was quickly losing air!).

It look at least twice as long to get back, what with all the resting and the stop for ice cream and gatorade. But, 8 hours after we left that morning, we made it back. My hands were bleeding and my body had streaks of salt on it. But I was triumphant. I had done it. I was in over my head and made it. We had gone over 60 miles, crossed 2 mountains (twice) and arrived home alive.

I am realizing that is how I will become a stronger rider, by taking chances and doing things that I am not sure I can handle. I may have taken rest stops and ridden more slowly than I would have liked, but I did it.

I am pretty damn proud of myself. Was it Epic? You decide...but I think it was pretty damn incredible.

Here's to a summer of Epic rides, being in over my head, keeping up with the boys, and keeping the rubber side to the road.


  1. With all do respect, 60 mile rides with mountainous climbs call for Sidis, cleats and padded shorts. Trust me on this, your ride will be so much more comfortable! Congrats to you for going for it. You are definitely tough and you did it. :-)

  2. I was wearing padded shorts and a wicking wool shirt. Alas, no cleats...only Power Grips.

  3. Thats really great riding you should be very proud of yourself.....If you get some cleats you will think 'why did i not do this before' i recommend ernestly.

  4. You go girl! I hate bonking, but I always seem to bonk on the tail of some crazy ride idea too. Epic is individual. What's epic for one person may not be epic for another. For you- it sounds like you went epic- way to go!

  5. Energy gels and / or shot blocs don't take up much space and can keep you from the bonks or help you bounce back.

    I frequently run into newbie riders who feel so good they go just that little bit too much (two hours is kind of the dividing line). I'll give them a gel, stick with the for about 10 minutes and they usually get enough of a boost to keep going.

  6. It is fun, in retrospect, to push it to the limit, sometimes. I have had many winter rides where the thought "WTF! Maybe I shouldn't have done this?" has come to me. But I'm still here and a bit stronger because of it. I do have recollections of a long ride to a festival with some guys who had faster bikes than me. I put that extra effort to keep up with them, and managed to not slow them down, very much. I felt great...after I recovered.

    At the same time, I'm now less into monumental challenges and am taking a more even keel approach to biking. I ride everday, somewhere, and I try not to be in too much of a rush. As a result, I'm getting to be an even stronger rider. When I need to kick it into overdrive, it's there more often now, than before.

  7. I'm envious, I've yet to do an epic, so far I've only done 35 miles in one loop. My commute is 20 miles each way, but there's a 12 hour gap in between to and from work. Really hoping to epicise this summer.

  8. Am I to understand that you rode from downtown B'ham to Oak Mountain and back? And this from a segment of the population that thinks Alabaster is only slightly closer than the moon? Wow.


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