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Bonk Series: 2001 Nationals
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2005/02/14)


This is a 'good' bonk story. Not 'good' in that the STORY is particularly good, but in that the bonk itself was in a good situation.

It was the 50k at National Championships in 2001, and it was my first year as a senior. It was also my first ever 50k race. Nationals that year were in Val Cartier, QC. The weather was every classic skier's worst nightmare: around 0, slushy/wet track, and then soon after the start of the race it started to snow heavily, wet snow but dry enough to clump on everyone's klister or very-warm wax job.

Fortunately, I had the best wax techs that particular day. John Langstone and Pavol Skvaridlo did a terrific job on my skis, and as everyone clumped up (and many dropped out of frustration), my skis were great on grip and adequate on glide.

It was a mass start race, and for some reason I was able to pace myself well right from the start. It was one of the rare races when I've felt like I have control of my energy levels to such an extent that I was able to ration my energy use, and monitor the amount of exertion. For some reason, and to this day I don't know how, I timed my running-out of energy perfectly. The feeds, I should say, were very helpful in delaying the bonking effect, but I knew I was in some trouble when I could feel the energy from the glucose in the feed almost immediately, and the race became a series of almost-bonk sessions between feed intervals.

I full-on hit the wall at 49k. I had passed Timo of x-c.com at about 42k, and he had hit the wall a few kilometers too early. Thankfully, I timed my bonk so that I was less than 1k from the finish, and was able to drag myself in. Even so, it was the longest kilometer of my life, very flat terrain with a final short steep push at the end.

I was crying when I finished the race, and I still can't say why. I had a great race, possibly the best race of my life thus far, finishing 10th Canadian in my first year as a senior. But I know that's not why I was crying. I think I was just finished. I couldn't untie my shoes or take my skisuit off; John had to drive me back to the barracks where I got fed apple juice and had pretty girls take my clothes off. I had to lie down for about 40 minutes and drink lots of sugar water before I could stop shaking and crying. After that, miraculously, I was fine - just the normal dead-legs feel of after a 50.

It was a 'good' bonk in that it was well-timed. But it was also the deepest into energy debt I have ever driven myself. It's a good feeling, and it's good to have the experience, to have something to work towards in the future. Just giv'er, eh?

Interesting Reading. . .
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