Ultimate Guide to Bonking on Your Next Race (You must try these)

I am not really into racing bikes. However, I sign up for quite a few different races because I think that they help provide structure to my riding. I am not into a rigorous detailed training schedule because, let’s be honest, this is bike riding not nuclear psychics. I ride bikes to be healthier and see the unique places where they take me.

Nonetheless, I still participate in races to gauge my fitness and ride new places. Honestly, I go to races with a desire to finish them in good shape and have enough energy to enjoy the after party. But you’ve undoubtedly seen a bonker: distant stare, delusional and often incoherent ramblings about how this has never happened on a training ride, bits of dried gu pukies on the chin, begging for the dregs at the bottom of your pack. It’s no fun bonking during a race. We have all been there. Some are more astute bonkers than others.

I’m Yonkers, and I have been in the dirt lab carefully testing various bonking strategies for years in an effort to keep you upright on race day. Having fallen victim to at least 4 of the strategies below I consider myself an expert in the field. I have lofty goals of seeing you all at the finish line. However, if you want to see what bonking feels like for yourself then do the following:

  1. Try something new on race day. There are two types of new things that you should try: new gear and a different fuel source.
    1. Gear: I highly suggest switching bike seats or handlebars, lacing up a new pair of shoes, and/or loading that new hydration backpack up to the zippers. Implementing these new pieces of gear will not feel quite right causing constant readjustments and discomfort. All of this extra unforeseen fatigue will bring you to your knees faster than stick in the spokes.
    2. Fuel:
Yes that is eggnog on the seat. What’s it to you?
    1. You have trained for months at this point. You’ve ingested countless sport-specific snacks with varying degrees of success and indigestion. You’ve chosen the lesser of many evils: enough calories to keep you upright, some metallic “fruit” flavor which you just push down like a midwesterner’s emotions, and a sugar content that has no doubt created a strange stomach callous in order to keep it from ejecting. But in your race bag at packet pick up you have found a cure-all powder that just dissolves in your water bottle…. and look at the end of the expo line-up they have a tent. Why not go sniff around and see if this wonder dust is really all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out that you have no clue where the ingredients of your fuel are sourced from! Also the FDA has not validated any of the health claims of your fuel… Also the amount of sugar in your fuel is essentially high fructose corn syrup, you know that stuff you are eliminating from every single corner of your diet! Thank the endurance gods for sending this mystery powder charlatan to save your race day. Good news, buy 5 bags and the 6th is 25% off! Plus you get a free t-shirt (with a mail-in offer) AND you can put a sticker on your car or helmet AND if someone takes a picture of your sticker and submits it with their next qualifying order they get the 6th bag 50% off and you get a nice little commission which you can use towards your next qualifying order. KEWL so I guess I’m an influencer now!!!! BUY it; bottle it; slug it down at an alarming pace; puke it up an hour later; wish you had not filled all you bottles with it…
  1. Lie to yourself about your pace. See that racer at the start line? Yeah, you know them. You have seen them at the trailhead. Your Strava times are about equal on a few segments. You should line up next to them. You don’t want to start too far back in the cue and have to claw your way past the other weekend warriors to get to where you rightfully belong. Just push yourself, surely they can’t all keep the leadout pace up for the whole race, right? What’s that saying about burning matches?
  2. Skip aid stations. Those people there relying on the good of others and the questionable fuel choices they are offering are lessers. They haven’t taken the time to hone their nutrition needs. And besides, altering your caloric intake method would be akin to running gas station fuel into a highly-tuned race car… Wait… how many energy gels do you have left taped to your toptube?

Feel free to try any of the above at home, but for pete’s sake, don’t try them on race day.

I would love to hear your bonk recipes or stories.

-J

A Weekend Warrior’s Lament

IMG_3175

The stack of files is towering over my head and my desk chair is really cramping my style on this particular morning. My back and shoulders are super uncomfortable under my pressed white shirt and my tie is cutting off the circulation to my brain. You see, I’ve spent the weekend surfing, riding/racing bikes, and/or fishing. Oh bliss of bliss; having a life full of passions that involve entanglement with the natural world in ways that encourage mastery and conquest while never ceasing to remind you that you are only a mortal. The weekends come and I try my hardest to be wild and rad; to escape, and yet here I sit on an ever widening rear end; back to the grind.

IMG_2574

Seventy-two hours ago the texts started rolling in: “4 hours until go time!” “Finally getting out of here!” Pictures of gear jammed into vehicles, grocery cart of weekend fuel, and trail maps blow up all of the phones on the group chat.

The stoke is high. Cars start pulling up and we can all feel the week’s stresses start to ebb away. Crack a beer, eat a coma-inducing meal, more maps, youtube slopestyle videos on the projector, finalize plans, water, bed.

Fourty-eight hours ago we debated the merits of a light breakfast during gear checks and coffee. Toys in tow we head to the trailhead and strap up and prepare to let loose.

It’s go time, the moment that everyone has been waiting for all week. Sure each and everyone of us puts in a few after work laps of some sort but this is the chance to shine. This is the opportunity to not be overworked or crunched for time. Today is the day where we can play ’til our hearts are content. We shred all the gnar; seek out the secret trout spot; and maybe if the wind is right we catch a wave or two.

Twenty-four hours ago I cheerfully whipped up a camp style breakfast of churro crepes and eggs while my wife and friends played with Copper; everyone anxious for one last late morning session.IMG_2536

We all knew what was coming the next day so we pushed ourselves one last time. But Sunday rides are sad. Not like pointless sad, you know? But everyone plays it safe. We make loose plans for the next round of awesomeness (at an undetermined future date), and ease back to the tame, civilized, version of ourselves.

Monday: The lunch hour comes and goes and still my bike rests in the back of my car. Another training opportunity squandered. On top of the missed ride I also smashed a fistful of redvines and another cup of office coffee. Refined sugar and caffeine: great fuel for the after work ride which will serve as a release and reminder of what I am and what I could be.

IMG_2545
Weekend Warriors living their best life. Best life AF indeed!

So what do I do? Well, I certainly don’t quit my day job because no one is going to pay to support a middle of the road weekend warrior’s pursuit of action-adventure sports mediocrity. (If you are willing to do this, and why wouldn’t you be, please slide into my DMs and we can talk).

That leaves one real option: keep giving it hell. We’re not called weekend warriors for nothing. Not only do we train and strain for age group podiums, Strava KOMs, and the well-deserved beer and burritos which follow, but we also have to crush a full-on work week on top of it all.

So instead of a lament, let’s hear a battle cry from all of the weekend warriors out there. Get out there and do your thang you well-adjusted, slightly above-average doers!

-J

 

2018 HAMR

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e6de
Want to know the secret of the snorkdangle? Sign up for 2019.

So, that’s a wrap. The inaugural HAMR weekend is over. How’d it go? In a word: wild. We were up in the wilds being wildmen (and women) having wicked type-two fun.

Since I am only a little bit of a masochist I opted for the Team HAMR race this year. My partner and dear friend Adam flew in from Colorado to suffer right along side me.

The concept of this adventure was simple: 7 checkpoints total in a cool passport; 4 mandatory, 3 optional. The more checkpoints you hit the greater the time bonus when you hit the finish line. Twelve hours to get them and get back. Random wakeup time. Ready, set: GO. Part adventure race/ orienteering and part endurance cycling. Sprinkle in a little knowledge of the area and you have yourself an adventure.

My pre-race prep involved eating a burrito, drinking a few beers, and stuffing half a watermelon down my gullet.

Spoiler alert: I was one of the first people up to use the two porta-johns. This race-prep worked out well as I discovered the lights on in the race tent and some of the volunteers scurrying about. Win for Team Dirtbag Yuppie!

You see, the start time was random and my bubbly belly served me well by forcing me out of bed early.

“Africa” softly wafted through the loudspeaker while racers rubbed the sleep from their eyes. This song was the harbinger of things to come. Those blessed rains would come soon enough.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e710
Fresh Adam prepares for the Dogman.

Adam and I took off toward the old 510 Bridge checkpoint in the same direction as the SledgeHAMR racers. (Those sick puppies did 186 miles). We rolled down to the checkpoint just as the sun came up, punched our passports and headed up 510 in the general direction of the next checkpoint. The watermelon demon again raised (or rather lowered) its ugly head and I was forced to make a pitstop at the pullout just before the new 510 Bridge. (Thanks MDOT for providing that one).

We headed north of CR 510 toward the Red Road.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e71b
Bring your bodies to the Red Road.

The next checkpoint was south of Mosquito Gooch in the Mulligan Plains and the Red Road was the only way to get there. The steady light rain tamed the otherwise sandy road  and made it nearly enjoyable. However, every time I started to get into a decent cadence I would get sucked into a sandy spot and reminded of the shortcomings of my 2.3″ tires. Adam and the fatty pounded on, mostly unfazed by the loose spots. Riding in nasty sand can be quite taxing and the roadside was loaded with wild blueberries so Adam and I took full advantage of nature’s bounty whenever we felt our energy dip. You know… every 5 minutes or so.

We turned north toward Mosquito/Mulligan and were immediately delighted to find that the road grew firmer with every rotation of our tires. We arrived at the very picturesque second checkpoint, punched our passports, and took some quintessential photos:

Surely, we thought that it would be time to start piling the miles on again now that we had solid trail under our tires. Unfortunately, we were sadly mistaken. We began to notice that we were climbing, which was to be expected, as we are in the Huron Mountain Range after all. However neither of us was prepared for what we encountered partway up the hill. As the road deteriorated into rubble we started pushing more and more. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e707

Here’s Adam; he is suffering up some rocky crap. We saw many footprints of those who came before us. I thought it’d be fun to take a cute picture of him suffering. Shortly thereafter karma struck and mother nature rewarded me for my hubris. On the first descent following this enhanced climb, I tried a stupid shortcut. ‘Why ride around solid-looking mud when I could probably ride right through it?’ Big mistake. I shoulder-checked that mud puddle after going OTB. Rich, black, backwoods mud covered my helmet, jersey and most of the integral moving parts on the front part of my bike. Adam only heard my very manly screams as the mud consumed my pride. I washed my sins away at the Yellow Dog River crossing and we motored on.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e711

After getting on the AAA road the checkpoints seemed to tick off with greater frequency. As we headed south on CR 510 on our way to the Wilson Truck Trail the rained picked up. (It rained about 5 of the 11 hours that we were on the course) After 15 minutes of hard rain on the well-packed CR 510 I turned around to apologize to Adam for dragging him out of sunny Denver to slop around in the cold wet midwest. My spirits were lifted and I knew that I picked the right co-pilot when I saw the smile on his face. He was soaking up the rain and sucking down gels with a side of sand.

We thought that we had lost our way en route to Wilson Truck Trail but ended up righting the ship with a little help from some friends on a tandem. (Thanks, eh?) There are few activities where competitors will come to each other’s aid. That’s one of the main reasons that I love riding mountain bikes and events like this.

Heading down, or east, on the Wilson Creek Truck Trail was a blast. We thoroughly enjoyed the creek crossings and even made a few stops to snap some semi-rad shots. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e6fe

Letting gravity do the work in this section provided a welcomed reprieve from pedaling and gave us some time to recharge, chat, and eat more sugary gels and bars. This was also about the time that we both became oddly infatuated with the bag of Lays that was nestled in the van back at basecamp. We totally forgot about the free pasties but more on that later.

The last 22-ish miles and checkpoints 4, 5, and 6 are sort of a blur. This is mainly due to the fact that they were quite consolidated and close together compared to the first three checkpoints. The one that sticks out the most is Top of the World. Chelsea and I have made several trips out here and it was really cool to be able to show Adam the killer view of Lake Superior from this point.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e6f3

After the final checkpoint dubbed “Chunky Summit” on some strange snowmobile/atv trail we emerged onto the Noque ski trail somewhere around the 17km marker. We made our way to the basecamp along a freshly flattened trail through the overgrown grass. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t sink mid-thigh in the “wet area” just before the bridges… At this point we were both rightly soaked and honestly I didn’t even notice the extra 3-4 pounds of mud that clung to my body and bike. (Why was I the only one that looked like an extra from Swamp Thing?)

The finish line at the basecamp came up quick and we had our passports cleared just shy of 11 hours in the saddle. Because we got 6 of 7 we received a 3 hour time reduction and ended up placing 5th of 20 teams. Not too shabby for all of the berries that we ate.

Survivors!

IMG_6404
My Salsa Fargo carried me and waaaay too much gear 76 miles to the finish line. I should have bought a Fargo years ago. This thing has so many different possibilities and is an all-out grin-factory.

We finished up the party with a pastie, a gallon of ketchup, and a few bags of candy from our wives.

Something tells me that HAMR isn’t going anywhere. Like many endurance events, this one will probably get its own cult following and serve as jewel in many future crowns. I’d like to thank Beardsley and Todd for putting this great event on. I’d also like to thank Adam for making the trip out to ride bikes in poor weather, on an un-marked course, with this strange little man in the woods. Chelsea–thank you for supporting my childlike dreams and for putting up with my super loud trainer rides while you are trying to do yoga and achieve inner peace. Kathleen, thank you for the moral support, encouragement, and forcing Adam to pose for pictures. Michele, thanks for the Garmin and tutorial. Finally, thanks to Velodrome for allowing me to ride on Team Tamp Stamp and that dope little packet of instant coffee.

Oh yeah, that snorkel? The one from the famous #snorkdangle?

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e6de

We didn’t friggin’ use it for anything substantive. We took a picture. I cannot wait to see what they make us carry next year.snorkel

HAMR: Let’s pound again in 2019.

-J