Last Sunday I thought it would be a great idea to go out for my first ride since the Easter break. Many things indicated that this was a bad idea. It was my first ride back – I should have been thinking 15/20 miles. Instead I had planned 38. I had played in an all day hockey tournament the day before. I was already hurting. As soon as I got outside it started to hail. I didn’t have any suitable snacks. Talk about not taking a hint!


I convinced myself on the first bit of the ride out from Heaton to Callerton that everything was going fine. I had also for some reason which I will never fully comprehend, thought it would be a brilliant idea to test my body by not taking on ANY sugars or food during the ride – just having two bottles of water with me, I had presumed, would be sufficient for my elite athletic status. Many of the choices I made last sunday were absolutely bonkers. Taking no food was the first one. Choosing to carry on riding to Dissington Hall when I was feeling rough was the second one. Forgetting my gloves and not taking any money with me were also pretty high on my list of ‘idiot choices’. Dissington sits just under half way round my route and by the time I got there I was absolutely soaked through and had the beginnings of a sugar low. I finished the first bottle of water in the hope that somehow my body would magically source some energy from it. Alas, I was already confused.


After Dissington things started to get wobbly. In cycling terms, I was bonking. This is a phrase used rather tentatively by new riders since we all know what it otherwise refers to. But once you have bonked on a bike you feel like you’ve earned the right to use it with confidence. It is basically where your body runs out of sugars to convert to energy and you having nothing left in the tank. Your legs, instead of burning, turn to a sort of uncooked-jelly like state. You head is pounding and your stomach is roaring. Anything for sugar. ANYTHING! This is the state I was beginning to enter after leaving Dissington Hall. Little did I know how bad it was going to get. 


The roads from Dissington get gradually worse until there is no smooth tarmac to ride on at all – just punishing potholes which shake your body. By the time I hit this stretch of the road I was in full bonk. I couldn’t concentrate on any one train of thought except for the fact that I needed to get home as soon as possible. But I still had 18 miles left on the road before I was even close to home. Every pothole slammed through my legs and arms and ricocheted around my skull. I felt horribly sick with each one. Having not brought any money with me meant that I really had no choice but to keep pushing at the pedals. I thought by the time I got back onto Stamfordham road that I had enough in me to get home. I was feeling horrible but I thought I could do it. After two miles I thought again.


I had the most peculiar sensation that I had no idea where I was. This is the route I have cycled almost every week since January. I know it like the back of my hand. But I was unfortunately bonking so badly that I was really confused and couldn’t for the life of me work out where I was. This really unsettled me. A couple of times I stopped just to look around, thinking that I would be able to find out my exact GPS position by staring at the bridleway sign. It didn’t work. So I would get back on the bike and cycle on with ever-weakening legs. By this point in the day I was extremely grateful for my DHB long bibbed cycling trousers. They at least kept some warmth in while I was having the worst ride of my life!


Things went from bad to worse when I realised that I had to pee all of a sudden. This really wasn’t easy considering how out of it I was. I found a small hedge on a massive main road and crept through the gate of the field in order to shelter behind it and go to the toilet. Putting all of my lycra layers back on again took me ages and I lost a lot of heat doing it but at least I could cycle again.


By the time I got to Gosforth I really was in dire straits. I couldn’t put any pressure down on the pedals at all, I was just turning them in a feeble attempt to move forward. By the time I got to Jesmond I had to get off and walk because I was so worried I was going to faint and fall horribly. Walking through the door of my house I was so overwhelmed with relief I almost cried. Anna my housemate asked if I was ok and I couldn’t talk. She soon had the kettle on and toast cooking away and I was fed back to being well enough to talk through the whole ordeal. In her words, thank God nothing worse happened. 


In my words, never again. Never. I will never head out without taking some sort of food supplies. Never without money incase I get into a sticky situation. Never carry on pushing when I don’t have either of the above. I think I’ve learnt my lesson. 


One thought on “Bonking

  1. christy says:

    Oh dear phoebes! That is not good! I take a whole bag of snacks: apples, nuts, even sometimes cold pasta to all night salsa congresses.. and that’s just dancing! Get your fuel woman! I am glad you didn’t fall into a ditch.

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