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Bonk Series: 1989 World Championships in Lahti, Finland
By:  wayne   (2005/02/14)

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I've done lots of long races in my life, but when asked to write a story about my best bonk I was surprised at how few times I've really bonked. Maybe that's why I like the long races! I can think of 2 good bonks. For the first one I was 17, and did the Labrador Loppet in the spring as the last race of the year. I was still able to finish. The worst (or best) bonk was a race that I didn't finish, especially since there are very few races that I have dropped out of. This would be the 50k race at the 1989 World Championships in Lahti, Finland.

I will preface this story with the fact that it was a long time ago, and I bonked hard, so it may not be entirely accurate. This was a skating race. The conditions were slightly above zero, and it was misty, foggy and raining off and on. The World Championships had gone fairly well as a team, with Yves Bilodeau placing top 20 in every race, and Al Pilcher in the 20's, maybe one top 20 result. Personally I had not skied that well, so I was looking for a good result and decided to go for it from the start.

Fairly early in the race I got caught by an Italian skier who started 30 seconds or a minute behind me. I knew he was good, but not too fast to try to ski with, and I was feeling strong, so I decided this was my ride to a good result, and I would try to ski with him as long as possible. The Italian went on to a top 20 finish. I stuck with him until about 35k - 40k and then I bonked hard. This wasn't gradual slow down, I went from skiing with him to barely skiing at all.

At this point when you're bonking it's very difficult physically, but mentally it's even worse. I knew I had a good race going, but now it was gone. People I passed by minutes were passing me back. One of the American skiers who passed me back said "I wasn't expecting to see you again!". Also in the wet weather I started to get very cold, since I wasn't able to push hard anymore. Several kilometres before the finish the trail went near our wax cabins so I decided I was too cold and would drop out. However just before I dropped out Al Pilcher passed me looking very strong. As he me passed me he looked at me and said "I passed Mikkelsplass!", referring to Pal Gunnar Mikkelsplass, one of the top Norwegian skiers. Al went on to a 7th place finish, having skied the 3rd fastest final 15k.


Photo credits: CP PHOTO/COA/Ted Grant..
 
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