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Less Fun Than It Sounds

June 14, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Food 1 Comment

I treated myself to a mock Olympic distance triathlon on Saturday and, much to my dismay, bonked during the run. As it turns out, calories matter. Who knew??

For those not familiar with the term, bonking basically means “hitting the wall” while engaging in endurance sports. In short, your body runs out of energy. It is not as fun as the word implies it to be, believe me! It had been a very busy and tiring week, starting with being out of town and drinking copious amounts of wine at a friend’s wedding in Florida the prior weekend. Saturday was my sixth straight day of workouts and I had done a hard 40-mile bike ride in the hills on Friday. I had a busy day and weekend ahead of me, but this training tri was important so I went for it.

I woke up early (6:30ish) and had a familiar breakfast. I didn’t want to overdo it since I’d be swimming in short order, but I knew I needed more than a banana. I opted for a corn tortilla with melted cheese, then I added black beans, half of a baked sweet potato and Cholula. I eat this often and thought I was doing myself a favor with the combination of carbs and protein. I left the house around 7 AM to set up my “transition area” at Mel’s house on the lagoon. It was a picture-perfect morning.

The swim was fine, nothing spectacular and nothing disastrous. There is a ton of new seaweed that has nearly reached the surface and that makes me feel kind of claustrophobic when I’m swimming. On the other hand, the water temp was great and there were no waves to speak of. I swam 31:40, which was a little slower than I’d hoped for because I had to deal with quite a few issues with my goggles (I’m concerned about this) and I changed course several times. I exited, got out of my wet suit and rinsed it, and headed out on my bike. I wasn’t timing transition areas, obviously.

I mentioned in a previous post that my cycling race course is entirely flat, so I opted to keep this training route flat. This forces me to work on pushing to keep my speed up and I knew I’d have a few “obstacles” in terms of pedestrians and other cyclists on the Bay Trail to keep it interesting. It was early enough (8 AM) that the trail traffic wouldn’t be horrible, and it saved me from wasting time getting through downtown San Mateo out to Crystal Springs and back. I felt very strong throughout my bike ride. My average speed was 17.1 mph, which included a few sharp turns and other weird slow-downs. On my last mock tri, I forgot to hydrate at all during the bike, so I was very proud of myself for finishing my entire FRS bottle and most of my water bottle. I paced myself to eat my AccelGel at mile 20 so it would kick in about the time I started to run. Clockwork!

I finished 25.09 miles in 1:28 and quickly transition into my running shoes, visor, and grabbed my hand-held water bottle. The first mile never feels good, so I’m not that surprised that I was pretty miserable. But at about 1.4 miles, I was really struggling. I brought it down to a fast walk and drank a lot of water, catching my breath. I was mentally beating myself up. Remember all that talk about, “I can do anything for…”? Well, it was no good on Saturday. My quads were cramping charlie-horse style. My stomach was cramping and I didn’t know which end was going to revolt first.


I walked 30 seconds and tried to run again, only to be plagued by more cramping. This went on for several minutes. I finished my entire bottle of water by mile 4 and I knew there were no refill opportunities. I pushed myself to run ONE-MORE-MILE and told myself I could walk back to my transition area from there, wherever that ended up being. It was ugly. It hurt. Not only was this so defeating, but I was putting myself really behind for all of the other things I needed to do that day. There was no time to be sick. Back at Mel’s, I grabbed a soda out of the fridge — it was cold and full of fast calories. I loaded my stuff up and headed home. Greg fixed me a protein smoothie while I showered and tried to put it all into perspective:

This was a very important lesson in nutrition. As often as I am “afraid” of calories, they are VITAL. Welcome them. Love them. Lesson: pack food in your jersey, even if you don’t eat it.

This was thankfully not an actual race day! I came home and the first thing I said to G was, “I am so glad I did not pay money to do that.” I would have been in tears if I had actually been trying to race against other people. As much as I thought my run at Wildflower hurt and looked bad, this would have been pure torture if people had been passing me and there was nothing I could do about it.

The battery ran out on my Garmin 405 so I have no way of knowing how slow my 10K run was. I have no way of knowing my average pace. This is a blessing.

I FINISHED. It wasn’t pretty and it felt even worse, but I finished.

Two more weeks of hard-core training before my July 4 race. One week of taper and travel. I rode 35 miles in the hills of Napa County on Sunday and took today as a rest day. Tomorrow, I hit it again.

Shake it off. And don’t make the same mistake twice.


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  1. […] So I held it, all the while continuing to drink at every aid station as my body threatened to bonk again. There is probably a lesson here, but I’m still not convinced that spending the extra […]

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