I Think I Bonked – Almost

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is back in Florida after summer in cool upstate New York — and he finds that reacclimating to hot, humid weather can be tricky.

I like to think I’m in pretty good cycling shape. But today I think I bonked…almost.

In hindsight, I probably should have expected it. Today’s ride was my first since returning home (just last night) to Florida. For the last three days, I’ve been off one kind of saddle and in another – the seat of my car, driving my two young children solo on a nearly 1,500-mile road trip. Sure, we stopped at Hershey for a diversion, but other than that it’s been three days of basically sitting in the car. I ate lousy fast food, indulged in a Mountain Dew every day to keep me awake following a post-lunch desire to take a nap, and drank way too little water. I also slept lousy, one night sharing a bed with my restless young ones while spending the next battling a cantankerous hotel air conditioner.

Then this morning, after just arriving home about 12 hours earlier, I ate a mediocre breakfast, threw on my cycling gear, and expected to knock out a quick 30-miles in the oppressive Florida humidity…after two months in the cooler, lower humidity of the Upstate NY mountains…without a problem.

Stupid? I’m starting to think so. My reasoning, of course, is that I was in really good shape. I’ve been riding steadily for years, and climbing big hills all summer long. A measly 30 miles on flat roads would be easy. But in the end, it wasn’t.

I started out strong. My bike computer’s battery had died, and I think I ended up pushing it a little harder than normal. Then I stumbled across a triathlon wrapping up, and fell in with a guy churning out some post-race miles on his TT bike. When I ultimately turned off to head home, I suddenly found myself battling a strong headwind, with no support in sight, and the beginnings of a weird tingly feeling I’ve rarely, if ever, felt on the bike.

I’ve never bonked, so to be honest, don’t really know the feeling. I recognized something was amiss, however, and tried to react. I downed a couple Clif Shot Blocks, and tried to drink some more of my Gatorade mix. But I never really significantly backed it down, reasoning that I would only if I started to feel dizzy or something. Of course, I was also somewhat vain. Passing me was by now an endless line of triathlon types in their cars heading home. I’m not sure I wanted the indignity of being the guy stopping by the side of the road just because he felt a little heat.

Toward the end I got unexpectedly passed by two triathlon competitors, then sped up to join them at a traffic light. Stopping for a moment, as well as starting a conversation with the pair, seemed to distract me from the weird sensation I was flirting with. When the light turned green I fell in with them and churned the pedals till I got home.

The afternoon, however, has been pretty much of a waste. I’ve got a headache, haven’t accomplished much of anything, and just feel really weird. Another thing? I’m not that thirsty, though I know I’m way behind on my water intake compared to normal.

Obviously, I staved off the bonk on my ride, by how much I’m not sure. But I’m certain I flirted with it, and perhaps continue to do more so as the day wears on.

What about you, any bonk-related close calls? And perhaps more important at this point, any good suggestions for recovery? I’ll read any and all…but first, I’m seriously thinking about taking a nap.


  1. johnt says

    I had a similar experience with the tingly dizzy feeling and thought I would bonk. It came on all all of a sudden at mile 40 of a 50 mile ride. I had been trying to keep up for 15 miles or so with my friend who is a much stronger rider. It started to get pretty hot. I got lucky and a SAG truck (on a ride with not much support) appeared and I devoured 3 cookies , some orange slices, a bottle of Nuun Water refreshed with ice from the truck and my last energy bar. Still light headed I stayed in my little ring and rode the rest of the way slow with each long roller a challenge. The last 10 miles seemed like forever. At the end of the ride was free beer and a burrito. I chugged the beer sitting on the grass in the shade but just nibbled on the burrito (no appetite) as I shot the bull for a half hour with the guys. It was all good after that.

  2. says

    Hi Jeff….I had a similar experience a couple months ago. I am very regimented in my diet and training so when it happened I kept thinking “what did I do differently?”
    I couldn’t figure it out, but luckily it hasn’t happened again since.

    Thanks for your guest post.


  3. says

    I once did a 12 mile stretch in a semi-dizzy frame of mind. I just kept saying to myself ‘you can always get home, don’t quit, stay alert.’ what saved me was recognizing i was spent and reducing my pace to about 13-14mph.

    You seemed to have, in part, peer pressured your self into bonk-land.

  4. Pointyhead says

    A few years ago, our bike club did a ride on a hot July 4 weekend to a restaurant in a town about 50 miles away (Georgia) It was almost 90 when we started at 9 am, and it was about 118 heat-index wise when we arrived at 12:30. About 2 miles from the restaurant I started to get a sick stomach, but I pressed on. By the time I got there I was very dizzy, nauseous, and shaking. Good thing that my wife and children came down in the car to have lunch with us. While everyone ate lunch, I stayed laying down in the car with the AC on high. I was on the cusp of a heat stroke. It was so hot that day that several of the “tough guys” in club rode back in the car with us. I’m very conscious of my senses now each time I ride because of it.

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