Zen On Dirt

How to bonk in 8 easy steps while surrounded by beauty

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I’m really good at not bonking. This is because I love eating. I might even love eating almost as much as love riding my bike. I rode the whole Tour Divide route with only one bonk, and really, I forgive myself for that because while I did have half a jar of peanut butter in my pack, it was the last thing that I could even contemplate eating after crossing the Great Basin and running out of water.

But this weekend, I sent myself into a bonk that rivaled that of the one I was in when I decided it would be a good idea to ride the last 50 miles of the Iditarod trail from Nicholai to McGrath without eating or drinking anything. In fact, this one may have been worse.

So while it’s still fresh in my memory, I present to you: How to bonk in 8 easy steps.

1. Leave the house on a Saturday morning, in the middle of the morning, without making plans for lunch and having a two hour drive to the start of the ride. 

Normally, this isn’t a big deal. In Durango, all summer, we’d remedy this situation by buying a Zia burrito on our way out of town and surviving on the massive calorie bomb for the rest of the day. With my refusal to eat anything that could make me sick again, this was a recipe for disaster. We stopped at Safeway on the way out of town and bought some fruit, Larabars, almonds, and some quinoa and sausage for dinner. Scott bought a footlong Subway sandwich when we stopped for gas. I did not.



2. Ride through beautiful colors for several hours, stopping often to take pictures and marvel at the beauty. 

When I’m riding along, I know how much I have to eat to stay fueled, but when we’re stopping for pictures every few minutes,  I have no concept of how many calories are being burned. So I assumed not many and didn’t each much. This was ideal since I’d only had a couple of handfuls of cashews for ‘lunch’ before we even set out for a ride.

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3. After having a snack at the car, go back out for another ride, one that involves continuous pedaling. 

Scott had found some rocks on Topofusion that he wanted to check out. I was a bit skeptical of the whole endeavor, but went along anyhow because I’d left my Kindle at home and sitting around camp with a bunch of rednecks in town for hunting didn’t really sound that appealing. Cruising the dirt roads, staring at the sky, made it well worth it.

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4. Instead of eating dinner, sit on the bumper of the van, watch it get dark, and talk about anything and everything. Snack on almonds to satiate the gnawing hunger. 

Like I said before, I really like eating. And I really like eating after rides. What we were talking about that was so important as to completely skip a meal (my second skipped meal of the day) is completely beyond me.


5. Eat breakfast, but not much breakfast. 

We cooked up some eggs in the morning that I topped with an avocado and had some apples and nuts for breakfast-dessert. Scott also had a bowl of oatmeal and then a giant slice of apple pie at Annie’s Country Store. I had two freshly picked gala apples, which were delicious, but not terribly high on the calorie scale.

6. Pack whatever remaining trail food you have and pretend to forget you didn’t eat dinner. Eat most of said food in the first hour of a ride that you think will take <4 hours. 

I pulled out my banana 15 minutes in. I ate two of my Larabars at the top of the first climb. I insisted that we don’t do an out and back because we’d been doing too many out and backs for my style. I was out of food less than three hours in. It took up a hair over five hours to finish the ride.

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7. Be sure to bury one more bar deep in your pack so you don’t find it until the next day. 

Translation: Be an idiot.


8. Keep riding, because when you’re in the middle of nowhere, that’s really all you can do. 

I haven’t been that deep in the misery cave for a long time. It was a little embarrassing how slow I was moving and I spent the majority of the time wondering what I was thinking with eating next to nothing and expecting to still be able to ride. The biggest shame was that we were going through a beautiful area in the Dragoon mountains with huge rock features, beautiful views, and fun trail…and there was nothing I could do to enjoy it to the level that it deserved to be enjoyed. Stupidstupidstupid.


But we finished. Ate a lot of food. Chalked it up to experience. Really, an experience that I don’t ever need to have again.

The lesson: Do what you’re good at. Like eating.

It was still great to get out, to camp, to get harassed by a skunk while sleeping, and to see that there are endless really cool places hidden all over the state. I can’t wait for the next trip.


One thought on “How to bonk in 8 easy steps while surrounded by beauty

  1. Seems like your new dietary restrictions may pose a challenge since it isn’t OK for you to just grab whatever’s available. Hope it’s really helping though. Seems like it! From the riding stories it sounds like you’re getting strong again. GOOD!

    P.S. I’m back on bikes. Getting re-energized and looking for the fun. No more goals or benchmarks in my cycling world for a while, maybe ever?

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