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Getting the knock, getting dropped, another love/hate affair with cycling

Your legs are aching, they feel hollow, there's nothing left, you feel like you're going to be sick. Quad and calf torture comes in the bucket-load each time the road goes up, your club mates tell you to "dig in", someone gives you a push and you manage to cling on for another mile.

By the time you realise what's happening, it's too late. There's no Porte in this storm, at your beckon to nip back to the team car for nutrition so you start digging in your pockets, which yields the half-eaten energy bar you had at the top of the last climb and the gel that you've been saving just in case things go south. Both get smashed down in short order; you put the gel packet back in your jersey pocket and your hand returns to the bars in a sticky mess. It makes you feel a bit more sick, as if you could feel any worse.

You're rocking in the saddle now, your head is bobbing from side-to-side, your shoulders have dropped. You're not going to be able to tolerate this misery much longer. All you can focus on is the wheel in front, the rest of the world has some kind of Instagram filter on it - that one that makes things fuzzy around the edges. Another dig... another push from your club mate. Not long now...

When it happens, it comes without fanfare or surprise. That half a wheel becomes a bike length, you click up the cassette - maybe a change of cadence will get you up this lump in the road, you ask your legs... they turn the other cheek. Sorry, we've checked out, you're on your own. That bike length is now 5, the small chainring beckons, your vision is now a pinprick in a fuzzy mush of greenery, the only thing you can see is your front wheel, Tarmac and your mates disappearing up the road.

Into the 36 and the granny at the back and that's it. Sit up, gasp for oxygen and try and get the world to return to normal. It's 10miles back and that gel you choked down still hasn't kicked in. As you try to regain energy, you go over the ride and identify the point at which you should've eaten, you've been fine if you'd had something at the bottom of that climb, hindsight is wonderful. Halfway through the ride back your legs start to work again and you can again start to pedal with some conviction.

You hate it, that feeling when every ounce of energy in your body disappears. It's the worst. But somehow so, so satisfying that you've done this to yourself.

16 comments

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fukawitribe [1946 posts] 4 years ago
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That bike length is now 5, the small chainring beckons, your vision is now a pinprick in a fuzzy mush of greenery

..maybe you should just tell the big ring bravado to do one and change down a bit earlier  3

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Daveyraveygravey [535 posts] 4 years ago
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Happened to me today at Goodwood doing the MS challenge. Two laps to go, the bunch of 20 I'm in turns downwind and the monsters at the front crank it up again. Me and the other wannabes at the back dig in, we're still on the back, and I know if I can keep digging through the chicane, over the start/finish line and round turn 1 (out of sight of the Grandstand and watching friends and family) the monsters will back off again and we'll drop back to a more manageable Sunday pootle pace. I look again and realise the bunch of 20 I was at the back of is actually now a bunch of 3; chummy in front of chummy in front has blown and there is another group of 17 disappearing up the road. I go again, or at least my head says go, but the legs have baled out on me and I sit up knowing my last 2 laps will be at recovery pace.

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Quince [381 posts] 4 years ago
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Perfectly summed up. And as of yesterday, very fresh in the mind and legs.

Left haggard, mid-way though a high-paced chaingang ride, I was told (for the second time) to take some time out at the back by merciful pack-member who could see that I was on death's door.

I did.

A very long time. Very, very far back.

There's something vaguely cinematic about watching the team you've just been a part of drift away into the distance, as you powerlessly will your legs to close the gap.

And then you sit up, and your time pretending to be a human torpedo - hunkered down into the perfect aerodynamic spear - is over. Sat like a sail into the wind, watching the screen feed you miserly digits, you remember, "Oh... So this is how normal people ride a bike". You may as well be going tootling to the shops.

Humbling indeed.  3

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southseabythesea [149 posts] 4 years ago
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What's that rattling noise? It's the broom wagon.

I saw an unhappy chap just after the Arenberg, on the Paris Roubaix this year, having to reluctantly succumb to the Broom Wagon.

Happens to the best.

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700c [1151 posts] 4 years ago
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good blog post - though not sure if I could ever call it 'satisfying'. Its happened to me properly only once - it's more than just getting dropped, it's a complete inability to pedal in anything other than the easiest gear and represents a failure of feeding strategy.

I imagine it's not very good for you either to have such peaks and troughs in sugar intake - best to keep it consistent over a ride if at all possible.

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ch [188 posts] 4 years ago
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10 miles into a 20 mile ride and concluding that lack of during-ride nutrition was a factor in bonking? Some metabolism training is required.

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SamShaw [267 posts] 4 years ago
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ch wrote:

10 miles into a 20 mile ride and concluding that lack of during-ride nutrition was a factor in bonking? Some metabolism training is required.

No, it was 75miles into a 100miler, it happened when we were 10miles back the meeting point, then I did another 15 on my own to do the ton.

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meursault [38 posts] 4 years ago
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Nice read thank you.

Feeling the sticky hands one, I never throw a wrapper away, but it means getting sticky hands ugh. Also, I go to change down into lowest gear (26 on the back) and find I am already in it oops!

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andygravett@gma... [9 posts] 4 years ago
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Do more hills...  1

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mtm_01 [201 posts] 4 years ago
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Had it recently after 25 miles into a headwind on what turned out to be a century ride. It started with a bit of tunnel vision and a wobble and finished with me sat on a bench in a Cotswold village wolfing down the spare breakfast biscuits stored in the large audax saddlebag. 10 minutes later, right as rain! Stopping is always the better option than trying to power through it.

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ragtimecyclist [160 posts] 4 years ago
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It's miserable isn't it, and once you realise what's going on it's way too late to do anything but cling on grimly!

I got home from a winter ride this year, and told the wife I was a bit 'hypoglycaemic', to which she rolled her eyes and said, "you mean you're hungry".

Fair point.

Forgive the self-promotion: http://ragtimecyclist.com/2015/03/01/good-old-fashioned-cold-and-hungry/

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Flying Scot [973 posts] 4 years ago
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Ha, nice one Sam.

It's not quite the way it goes for me, but I recognise it in others!

I just start getting waves of crapness, then the elastic snaps in my legs, then I get cramp.

That said, my CV fitness is much poorer than my leg strength.

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grahamTDF [37 posts] 4 years ago
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Daveyraveygravey wrote:

Happened to me today at Goodwood doing the MS challenge. Two laps to go, the bunch of 20 I'm in turns downwind and the monsters at the front crank it up again. Me and the other wannabes at the back dig in, we're still on the back, and I know if I can keep digging through the chicane, over the start/finish line and round turn 1 (out of sight of the Grandstand and watching friends and family) the monsters will back off again and we'll drop back to a more manageable Sunday pootle pace. I look again and realise the bunch of 20 I was at the back of is actually now a bunch of 3; chummy in front of chummy in front has blown and there is another group of 17 disappearing up the road. I go again, or at least my head says go, but the legs have baled out on me and I sit up knowing my last 2 laps will be at recovery pace.

Sounds like the group I lost about 2 thirds distance! Got lost when we lapped another group and could not get back on.... chased for a while until I was completely empty and dropped back to sulkily finish with the group we'd lapped.

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Zebulebu [70 posts] 4 years ago
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I remember my first bonk like it was yesterday (no sniggering at the back)

I'd only been riding about six months - like so many I took it up just after losing weight and it just felt like I could ride forever. I started doing longer rides and ended up banging out 70 milers in about four hours before I knew it - fuelled only by High 5 and optimism.

Until, that is, I did it one day and must have forgotten to eat first or something. I got literally five miles from home and all of a sudden my legs didn't work. I was so perplexed I thought my brake block was rubbing against my wheel and remember with absolute clarity getting off and staring at it for fully 15 seconds, spinning the wheel and watching it skitter unfettered through the brake caliper.

When I got back on, I literally couldn't turn the pedals at more than 30rpm. I dropped into the granny ring and the big cog, and was still barely able to hit 10mph. My legs didn't hurt - they just wouldn't work! In the end, I got off and sat down by the side of the road completely flummoxed.

It was only when I (finally) got home that I realised what an idiot I'd been (God bless the Internet!) Now whenever I go out I take twice as much food as I need just in case I haven't fuelled up properly beforehand.

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rocketdoguk [7 posts] 4 years ago
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I hate that feeling of pedalling through treacle, of tunnel vision, at the panic at the onset that you think you're going to be found lying in the hedgerow/ditch but most of all I hate that feeling of stupidity when you know you've been telling yourself to eat for the last 20 miles but did nothing about it.

I also hate the sugar crash after too much cake in the mid ride café too

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tsmith2456 [2 posts] 4 years ago
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Why not read the Phinney and Volek book, go low carb, do the 2-3 week transition (feeling a bit iffy), then NEVER bonk again? I did it and can do 5 hour plus rides on water alone. And no they're not at 12 mph...