June 30, 2013

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right had of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

BonkI have my first triathlon of the year in two weeks.  My greatest fear in these events is bonking.  I always have the apprehension of making the mistakes of not pacing myself well, not fueling properly during the race, or not drinking enough, that results in being ground to a virtual stop.  My training has been going very well and I am feeling much stronger than I did at this same time, last year.  However, I have been training each discipline independently.  Therefore, I did my first brick run this weekend, to alleviate my concern of bonking.

I should have been doing more of these but there has not been the time.  Brick runs take a lot of time because you are combining a full ride with a full run.  That is about a two hour commitment for me when training for the Olympic distance; 40 km (25 mile) ride, 10 km (6.2 mile) run.

My Saturday plan was to cycle for about 1-1/2 hours (since my bike computer is broken) and then run a 10K.  I wanted to go early in the morning to avoid the heat.  However, I awoke to a howling wind that made me second guess my plans.  I hate riding in the wind.  I know that it is a good workout but whatever fun-factor that might have been in my plans would definitely have been annihilated by having to ride in the wind.

So, I vacillated most of the morning.  I worked on a “what I liked” post while keeping a gauge on the bend of the trees out the window.  There seemed to be a slight abetting of the wind’s bite that convinced me to make a go of it.  After all, this was my last weekend to get a good workout in before I start tapering things off before the race.  I suited up in all my spandex glory and made my way to the starting line.

The route for my cycling leg was a new one that proved to be more challenging than I had thought, particularly since the wind decided to play an encore.  I missed the turn-off for my loop and had to grind through a series of rolling hills.  Another miscalculation placed me on a highway that I had been trying to avoid.  Since I don’t like to ride on busy roads, the best way to get off of this one was to just gut it out and go faster.  I dropped a gear, picked up my cadence, leaned into my aero-bars and felt the sensation of speed, as a metronome of sweat droplets dripped from my nose and chin, keeping a rhythm with my burning thighs.

That proved to be a good push and I got off of that highway quicker than I had thought.  I was about three miles from my transition point.  I was tired when I drank the last of my water, which was now warm.  I realized why my water was so warm when I dismounted the bike at the end of my driveway.  The temperature had risen significantly since I had left.  I could really feel the oppression of heat now that I no longer had the cooling wind of motion.

However, I did not think too much about the heat as I traded my cycling shoes for running ones and my helmet for a hat.  I stepped back onto the asphalt, after guzzling a bottle of solar heated water, and prepared for the coming protest of my muscles.  The bike – run transition is most uncomfortable because you are trying to convince muscles, familiar with the limited range of the cycling motion, to stretch into the longer striding motion of running.  This unpleasant process usually takes about a quarter mile before  legs begin to understand that they are no longer cycling.  That is a quarter mile of fun.

81191-2478-030fHowever, the lethargy of the transition lasted longer than normal on this day.  I grew a little concerned when at a half mile my legs still felt dead.  I breathed deep and focused on my form but there just did not seem to be much strength in my legs to draw from.  I shuffled along under the open sky with the sun beating down.  It seemed to be getting hotter.

At 1-1/2 miles, I knew that I was in trouble.  I was not recovering even though I was merely jogging at this point.  I was only a quarter of the way into the run and I was gassing out.  I decided it was better to fight another day and turned for home, making my 10K run into a 5K.

Unlike a horse that picks up speed when heading for the barn, my condition did not improve.  Every stride became more difficult until I was forced to walk.  I was walking.  I have not had to walk in over a year when I had tried a practice tri…and started out late… and the heat got me.

What a fool I am.  I had done the exact same thing; again.  I had been confident in my fitness.  I figured I could push it on the bike and then just muscle through on the run.  That strategy had obviously not worked since I was now walking along a road that I had not planned to be on.

I made it home through a series of jog-walk intervals and the rest of the day was spent in the air-conditioning with Gatorade and water.  What had been intended to build up my confidence has had the opposite effect.  I am faced with an impending race with a combination of distances that I have not done before and I am a little freaked-out.

My race will start at 8:45 AM, which will have me finishing up just before noon if all goes well.  I should be transitioning to the run between 10:15 and 10:30 AM.  It can already be pretty hot by 10:30 AM.  I could easily bonk once again.  I am going to need a new strategy.

There is an inclination when things go badly to pull-out.  While I was in the middle of bonking, I had no answer to what I was doing.  If I had not already paid for my upcoming race, I might be tempted to bail out.  However, a lack of fitness did not result in my bonking.  I had a bad day.  My bad day was due to a seriously poor strategy and some poor decisions.  Pulling out of my upcoming race will simply be an over-reaction to a bad day.  I just need to change my strategy.

Most of us have a tendency to throw in the towel when all that is needed is a change in strategy.  A ministry opportunity can turn into a disaster.  An attempt to hold a friend accountable might blow up in our face.  We might stumble over the same temptation.  The passion may seem gone and lethargy might have replaced strength.

We have never been guaranteed a smooth road.  There will be times when it just goes bad and we spiritually bonk.  We feel like we have no strength to continue.  The joy of our ministry is sapped into intervals of just grinding it out.

Those times can destroy our confidence.  We can get a little freaked-out about taking the next step in our faith.  We must be careful not to over-react to a bad day (or series of days).

God is still on His throne – there is no need to pull out of the race.  All you might need is just a new strategy for that next step of faith.  There are times when we need to change our strategy of how we are practically laying aside the weights and sins that are clinging to us.  We need to look to Jesus and acknowledge the poor decisions we have made and the lifestyles that we may have drifted into that holding us back.  We don’t need to give up.  We just need a new strategy.

Therefore, stay in the race.  Set your eyes upon Jesus and keep running with endurance that race that is set before you.

PRAYER: Lord, help me not to give up.  Father, guide me to know what I need to change in my life to be more consistent in my faith.  Lord, I want to endure in the race that you have set before me.  Thank you for leading me in all things; help me to follow your example.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.


  1. I too was relieved to discover what the post was about – bonk in the UK means the sexual act! But i was encouraged to think of a new strategy rather than despairing that I’m a failure. Thanks JD!

    • Hi Ann Marie,
      I had to throw in “anatomy” on top of it all. Thanks for the heads-up on different meanings. I will be using a different word in the future.

  2. Some hints that ive learnt from cycling until bonk. The more it happens the further you can go before it happens again. Something to do with glycogen stores having to be depleted before the body builds them bigger.
    Either way it works.
    Also go easy on sugar. Gels etc have a finite usefulness – about 2 or 3 hours of endurance. Thereafter fats are needed in the way of nuts etc. Fuel accordingly.
    Drink. A little but often. If you havent started, you want to be taking sips every 5-10 mins from 30mins into your endurance.

    • Chris – thanks for the advice. I can use all the help I can get. I did my ride (20 miles), run (10K), once again yesterday morning. It went much better. I followed your advice on drinking. I watched the time and took a sip every 10 minutes. That made a big difference. I end up drinking more and never had the uncomfortable feeling of drinking too much at a time.
      It is encouraging to know that hitting the wall does train your body although it is a rough way to go.
      Thanks again

  3. Another risk when things get tough is the lure of false teachings, those that promise to fix the very things we are struggling with…healing when we have pain, a bigger ministry when ours if flagging, or even a ‘deeper’ spiritual experience when we are feeling alone. Remaining grounded in the Scriptures, praying (including for all of those examples I gave), and repenting of our sin is certainly the best remedy for all that ails us. It’s great to see your post encouraging others to stay on the narrow path.

    Just an aside: I was so relieved to discover that the term “bonk’ means something different than it does here in Australia. I got quite a shock when the email arrived in my inbox!

    • I imagine that was a shock. Clearly, I did not think my word selection all the way through. I appreciate your not reporting me. “Hit-the-wall” is probably a more appropriate international phrasing.
      Thanks for your comments. I agree with those risks that you pointed out.
      God Bless!

      • No offense was taken…my response was slightly tongue in cheek, and my shock only momentary! I was confident from my previous readings of your blog that it was most likely a cross-cultural anomaly. 🙂

  4. God is still on His throne Isn’t that a comforting thought!

  5. AMEN!

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