Friday, August 14, 2009


The Alsea Falls 400k was last weekend. I should know better by now, at least once a year, I get hit with a bonk like a wrecking ball smacking me in right in the face. The 80 to 85 degree temperatures were much cooler than 95-105 degree temperatures that I had been enjoying on normal home town rides. I was only drinking 12 ounces of maltodextrin and water per hour and failed to recognize the long hill climbs caused me to loose so much water weight that my heart rate monitor felt loose on my chest. By the time I got to Alsea, the fix was in, pain in the making.

In Alsea, I sat on the bench at the store with Greg and Del for a while and we left town together. I could tell though, my comeuppance was on the way. On the way out of Alsea, I decided to stop and take a beta blocker to control a rapid atrial fibrillation based on advice of my cardiologist and a slowly growing body of experience with rapid, irregular heart rhythms. The drug didn't seem to have much affect lowering my heart rate on the hill climb, my heart rate remained at 110-percent of max through the 12-mile climb. It wasn't that much of a climb and I should have powered through it with no problems. But I was beginning to suffer more with each mile.

On the descent, the drug took hold and slowed my heart rate to 80-85 bpm where it stayed for the rest of the ride. By the time I got to the little hill leading to the outskirts of Monroe, I was dizzy and felt the lights in my brain getting dim. I stopped and managed to get off my bike, lay it in the ditch and execute a reasonably controlled sit on a turnout with a slight incline. I thought about getting my cell phone from my bike but quickly concluded it was a worthless idea as I was fading so fast I could only put my head down. Luckily I landed face side up with feet uphill and head downhill. After a while, I heard the Timex 15 minute count down timer go off on my bike and realized I was still conscious but feeling very, very ill.

Eventually I thought to sample some body movements and quickly discovered the muscles from my right hip to my knee were vibrating like big bass fiddle strings and seizing in an alarming manner. I relaxed and lay still. When the count down timer went off again, I managed to execute a drunken roll and stagger back to my bike in the ditch. My Bacchetta felt heavy, like a big hog Harley, but I managed to get it back on the pavement where I walked beside it, slowly and painfully climbing the little hill to Monroe. I was amazed to be moving again, heart rate stuck on 80 bmp.

A bonk becomes a calculation. What is the quickest way home? Call AAA, call a taxi, get a motel room, call an ambulance, and the most dreaded home. I felt very ill but I knew if I waited long enough, conserved energy, kept replenishing water and calories, eventually I would have enough power to ride Bacchetta to the finish. I had to stop at the next two little towns and get something to make me burp, my stomach was killing me. I should have tried to find something caffeine free, but I ended up with Classic Coke-a-Cola at the first stop and Diet Coke at the second. I managed just enough burps so my stomach was just badly chronic, not terribly acute.

So the last 150k was an exercise in patience and pondering. With my heart rate metered at 80-85 bpm, I wasn't able to go very fast and I had to be content with a slow rate of progress. I also had to walk a few hills which felt really good for the gluteal muscles that were unhappy with the recumbent posture. The main reason I had to walk the hills is I could not keep straight on the fog line. Once I found myself instantly on the opposite side of the center lane facing the opposite guard rail. The traffic was very light, but I was unpredictably wobbling and veering into the traffic lane.

I was concerned about the trip through Salem and if I was going to be able to ride through town safely. The route through Salem was perfect, almost no traffic, some of it on bike path and a good share of it on the flat with a generous bike lane. I also stumbled on a place to stop with dry green grass to lay down on and a store stocked with just about everything.

Such is the nature of Randonneuring. The adventure of an epic fail. The thrill of unknown hazards, the threat of permanent damage. Pondering if I should be doing this or maybe doing something healthy instead like hang gliding, sea kayaking, wind surfing or para sailing. I can't count the number of times I've asked that question. The answer is always the same.