Sunday, October 24, 2010

A how to guide to "bonking"

Yesterday evening I was perusing the net and checked out the Narragansett Wheelmen site.  The Narragansett Wheelmen are a bike club out of Rhode Island that have been around for quite some time.  I believe it may be the oldest bike club in the country.  Every Sunday they put together a  group ride somewhere in Southern NE.  These are typical group rides - the fast folk go out first (18 or more avg speed) then the mid-range riders, and then the beginners.  So far I have ridden with them three times - here's my account of all of em' - and of course the one I did just today that resulted in my first bonkage.

My first ride with the club was last year around November.  It was a crazy warm day with temps nearing 70º.  Truth be told at the end, I wasn't all that smitten with the group riding concept.  Firstly, the ride I chose was out of Taunton, MA - as in "flat".  There was a shorter ride and a 50 miler.  I took off with the fast dudes and hung out near the front taking pulls from time to time. Riding in close proximity to a bunch of bikers you have never met is an exercise in everything biking isn't: It's not relaxing, and you don't enjoy the scenery - (unless it happens to be fit and jogging alongside the road).  The ride took a little over 2 hours.  Fairly quick, but that's to be expected when there is like maybe 200' of climbing.   So at the end, due to drafting and little climbing I just didn't feel very spent or enchanted.

Being a glutton for punishment - I opted to try again this year.  The chosen ride went right by our neighborhood - so I figured I'd ride solo to the start point in Central Falls (yah I know, not the kind of town you want to bring anything of value into) and finish up back at home.  This ride was for a benefit supporting some Columbian team or something like that.  I arrived about 20 minutes before the start and paced around to keep the juices flowing.  It was a fairly hot day - so the event coordinators graciously offered everyone additional water delivered in an ice filled plastic garbage can.  That was a pretty nice touch I must say.  We took off at the scheduled time escorted by the police.  Riding through downtown Central Falls was a bit surreal..  There was a lot of Columbian patriotism taking place - everywhere we went people were cheering (or jeering?) - giving the start a kind of parade atmosphere.  We finally got out of town, and I was feeling pretty darn good.  So good in fact that I laid on the hammer hard at the first big hill, laying waste to dozens of very well appointed riders. These aren't races but I just can't help myself - thankfully neither can some other guys.  There was one fellow, obviously Columbian (had the team jersey) and two others able to hang.  From there - our group of four tore it up.  This was more like it!  I am a pretty decent hill climber, so I'd pull the group up the hills and when the terrain flattened the big diesels would take over - with me barely clinging on in their wake.  The Columbian guy was entirely unconcerned with things like stop signs or traffic signals - as in, he wouldn't slow down at all for them.  The first complete blow-through was crossing Rte 146.  He weaved across the four lane highway dodging cars moving over 50mph. Umm.. OK pal, if that's your thing... I opted to wait out the light and not give motorists any further reason to run over cyclists.     Even with two water bottles and the extra water from the start I ran out with about 15 miles to go (this ride was around 50 miles as well) as it was hot, hot, hot! Near our house I bid farewell to the guys and turned off.  This was more like it: Hills, and fast.  Total ride mileage 56.9, time - about 2.5 hours - elevation gain:  about 3,700'

So today's ride..  Again it was pretty close to home.  I have kind of made it a point now not to drive to these things.  The ride was a 63 miler that starts at Ponagansett HS and heads out to the hills in CT and back.  I rode over to the high school (about 9 miles and got there with about 5 minutes to spare. 

The chosen bike: Salsa Vaya.  The Vaya is an "adventure" bike - at least that's the marketing angle.  It has a steel frame and relaxed geometry with a tallish head tube. It is fitted with braze-ons everywhere to fit just about every accessory made.  It also has disc-brake mounts.  Yes, I know - blasphemy on a road type bike. Fact is - they work really good - especially in wet or snowy conditions, which is where I intend to use the it.  There is plenty of clearance for juicy tires and fenders.  My initial intention with this ride was to just have a nice and easy tour of the countryside on a very comfortable bike.  Apparently I am still too immature to partake in this kind of riding.  When the coordinator announced that it was time for the fast guys to go - I joined them.  It  really seemed like the only thing to do:  While all of the fast guys were on fast bikes (the Vaya is about 29 lbs all up vs. their under 20lb machines) I knew if I rode with the mid-range folks I'd end up getting bored.  The ride took off and again, at some of the first hills I was able to quickly establish myself in the hierarchy.  I hung in for about 40 miles and then it hit:  Bonkage.  I just ran out of juice.  It was so sudden and debilitating that I started negotiating with another rider "I give you a nice PB & J sandwich after the ride if you give me one of your gels".  You see, I had brought only one water bottle and the  PB&J sandwich.  Like an idiot, I threw the sandwich in the pannier bag (another indication that I had a leisurely ride in mind from the start) but being kind of competitive, I wanted no part of stopping.  Without any hesitation, this kind fellow offered up one of his gels.  I thanked him profusely, and while I started squeezing it out and forcing it down I watched the group of five just kind of drift away.  There was nothing I could do.  To make matters worse, temps were in the low forties from the start, and supposed to move up to the mid-fifties.  That never happened.  The peak temperature for the day was 47º.  I was wearing shorts, a light long sleeved polypro shirt, shell vest and gloves.  I started getting real cold around mile 50 or so.  I finally pulled over to down the sandwich and kept on keeping on.  When the route got into Putnam, I was unable to resist pulling into Dunkin Donuts for a coffee.  The course continued on and started following some local roads I ride from time to time.  That was comforting, as I knew just how far I had to go, or so I thought.   I turned off the established route and headed towards home - feeling good that I was going to be OK.  Roughly 3 miles from home, I found the road was closed (#$% !!) . A bridge was completely out and there was no way I could hike the bike across.  I ended up having to turn back around which meant at least 10 additional miles.  Thoughts of calling for a ride started to come to mind.  But I just can't do that!  I think I'd rather curl up and die -  further indication that I have a ways to go with immaturity.  (I mean, I have a family for cripes sake!!)  After 5.5 hours of riding here are the numbers - the very sad numbers:

Miles:  88
Elevation gain: 6,150 feet
Food eaten the day before: A bowl of cereal, two eggs, two slices of Pizza and three glasses of wine
Food eaten the morning before:  A bowl of cereal

The simple lesson:  Next time eat some damn food a few days in advance, bring more food / beverages and take the damn fast bike!!  Unless you intend to ride in a leisurely fashion.  Right. 

Well, I should go now.  My right hamstring starting to cramp up.

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