First or Worst Bonks

In honour of a discussion between Holmovka, Pablo, Jen and Willj in the "First Races" thread, and with a very bonk-friendly race coming up on Sunday, I thought I'd create this post, in which I cordially invite you to recount the story of your first or worst bonk. I'll get things rolling . . .

This wasn't my first, but it was my worst. And it wasn't in a bike race, it was in an x-c ski race, well kind of an x-c ski gran fondo or sportive, which in skiing they call "loppets." Here's the thing: I wasn't even doing the full distance (52km), I was only doing the half-loppet (26km). It was in a hilly region just outside of Ottawa. I'd just gotten back into skiing after many years of not doing any skiing at all, I can't remember why. Anyways, it's cold (about -12C) and windy, but I figure I'll be warming up soon, so I decide not to wear gloves. (Did I mention I'd just gotten back into skiing after a long layoff? I should also mention that I had about 4 weeks of training in me.) There are literally thousands of people there -- it's Canada's entry in the world loppet series, there are people from all over the world. So, the gun goes off for my wave, and I immediately sprint to the front! I'm thinking, this is only going to take around 1.5 hours, I might as well go hard the whole way, I'd be fine doing that in a 1.5 hour bike ride.

We get to the first rest stop, where volunteers are handing out cups of tea, bananas, etc . . . and I storm right through. I almost want to yell "tassez-vous" -- get out of the way! in Quebec French -- I'm feeling so good! It's mostly flat at the beginning, but when the hills start, I'm fine, I've been training in a very hilly region. Then, at some point, I realize I'm all alone . . . it's just me and a teenage girl, who's skiing strong, her form is great.

We ski side by side for a while, up and down the hills, and I'm thinking, "she's strong, it's everything I can do to keep up with her," but I'm holding my own. The downhills are the best, I'm able to distance her a bit on the downhills, all I hear is the "whooosh" of skis on snow. We're double-poling in beautiful symmetry: her, then me, then her, like clockwork. Fatigue starts to set in, but I'm thinking that we must be close to the finish, or so my body is telling me.

Then we come around a corner, and there's a sign that says something like "12km to go"! My whole body stiffens up, teenage girl immediately drops me, and I suddenly realize how tired I am. Also, how cold I am. Also, I haven't brought any water -- for some reason I got it into my mind that for a 26km bike ride, I wouldn't really need water, how different can it be for skiing . . .

Suffice it to say that I barely made it to the finish line (took about an hour longer than I thought it would), that my hands almost fell off from cold, that all the people I passed passed me back. But the best part was at the end. I see the line, hear the roar of the crowd (there actually was a roar of sorts -- despite the cold, there were plenty of people cheering us on), I look at the faces of the spectators, and notice that as they see me, they go from smiling to looking aghast. As I get to the line, a race official comes over, looks at me, and says "hey buddy are you ok?" I look at him, what a strange question, I think, and I try to say "I'm fine," but instead I say "ahturoughttt," to which he responds by yelling at another official: "Hey get a stretcher for this guy!" I somehow manage to tell him "Iwoneedastretcha," so he and the other official put my arms (I can barely feel my arms anymore, for about the last 8km I basically held them at my side and used only my legs) around their shoulders and take me to the first aid room.

In the first aid room there is an overly chatty doctor. "Have some coke! It's the best thing for people who bonk! Did you know that in every can of coke there are 12 teaspoons of sugar? It's crazy! Imagine how much sugar most Coke-drinkers ingest in a day! Boggles the mind doesn't it?" At some point, when he's off tending to someone else, I get to my feet, grab my skis, and leave.

At the bus stop (a friend has dropped me off in the morning, but she isn't able to pick me up), I meet a Swiss man. I learn that he is twice my age, and that he has done the full distance. "How did it go?" I ask. "Great," he says. "Too cold for skiing though." "Yeah," I respond. Then I look down at my feet. At some point, the bus comes ;)