There is a rule of thumb in my cycling club, you can gauge the distance and hardness of a ride from the number of bananas protruding from the jersey of certain members. On Sunday’s club run, if anyone looked at my jersey they would be in for a nasty surprise. Getting my gear ready that morning I made a shocking discovery; there was only one, smaller than average, banana in the house.
For a club run I usually fuel up on a large bowl of muesli, a larger mug of coffee and a banana. For the road, I take more bananas, a muesli bar and squash. Besides the nutritional benefits of easily digested carbohydrates and potassium, I like bananas for cycling. They are easy to pull out from a jersey pocket, easy to open and easy to eat. Finally, in case of a fuel emergency, I will tuck a gel into the leg of my shorts.
I decided to save my one banana for the ride and make up the deficit with extra muesli bars.
Sundays route saw us head northwest on a lumpy 57 mile route, with over 500m of ascent, from St Neots to Thrapston. I tucked into my first muesli bar just before Raunds. By Thrapston I was getting the first warning signs that all was not well. My legs started to feel weak so I ate my banana. Crossing the A605, we picked up a tailwind which helped the group keep a good pace on the 2 mile drag up to Clopton. I sat in the bunch conserving my strength. I wondered with increasing pessimism how I could hang on when the pace inevitably picked up as the terrain levelled off.
The next 3.5 miles of decently surfaced, flat, tail wind assisted road were hard. After a mile, my legs had nothing further to give. I dropped down to the small ring so they could keep on turning. It was not a cold day, but for the effort I had been exerting and the layers I had on, I didn’t feel warm. The signs were there, I was bonking.
I could just about draft the group on the flat, but the route soon turned lumpy and I slid straight off the back. They guys waited for me, but I was never going to keep up with them, so I watched them ride off and considered my options.
I still had some food and my gel. This was a fuel crisis so I ate the gel. Next, I thought about route options. I figured that if I used a couple of gravel tracks as shortcuts I could cut the distance home to little more than 10miles. All I had to do was live with my mind for the next 45 minutes.
Ride a bike alone and your mind will drift. It is important to keep mental discipline, especially if you have bonked, otherwise the wrong train of thought can turn an unfortunate situation in to a disaster. On the road your body can weaken and make even an easy ride hard, but if you give in you are defeated. My situation was not that dire, but I knew I could make the miles home easier, and perhaps try to enjoy them, if I kept my mind focused and occupied.
It is a long time since I bonked on a club run. I don’t know if bananas or energy bars would have made a difference. The previous Friday I had felt a little under the weather, so perhaps there was an underlying cause. Nevertheless, on the day I bonked, I rode without my full complement of bananas, so inductively reasoned, my confidence in bananas remains intact. Next Sunday I will make sure there’s a surfeit of bananas in the house. I will also push the muesli bars to one side and reach for the box of energy bars. Just in case.