Sunday, December 17, 2006

Get in mah belly

Date: Dec. 15 and 16
Total mileage: 35.1
December mileage: 225.1
Temperature upon departure: 26

I always read with great amusement other cyclists' accounts of mid-ride hunger attacks - knocking on a stranger's door to ask for crackers, pocketing Snickers bars at a gas station or fashioning a bicycle pump into a weapon and using it to hold up the nearest McDonalds. These stories have novelty for me because I don't suffer from this problem. If anything, I suffer from the exact opposite. I have mid-exercise food aversion. As long as my heart's pumping, the thought of digestion repulses me. Once, while sitting near the top of Kings Peak in Utah, Geoff actually force-fed me a cheese sandwich after I had spent the entire day refusing to eat breakfast, lunch or snacks. To be fair, we were huddled under a rock during a lightning storm, and I didn't think I was going to survive long enough to require energy for the hike down.

If a bike ride is long enough, I will (usually) force myself to eat. But if I'm planning on being out for two hours or less, I don't even bother bringing anything, knowing the only purpose it will serve is gooing up my pockets. Now that it's the dead of winter, when bottles freeze and camelbaks give me shoulder pain, I often don't even bother to bring water (I know, I know. Feel free to lecture.) But that's how I set out today.

Conditions were a little closer to awful than not. At 11 a.m., we were in the midst of an heavy snowstorm that had dumped about two inches of new snow so far. Where I rode, on the shoulder of a narrow highway, the plows had pushed chunky piles of snow that ranged in depth from 2 inches to 7 inches, changing often and without warning. Riding in loose, uneven snow is fairly unpredictable, and the proximity of traffic forces me to keep a straight line, which means I have to slow down when I'm not sure what's ahead. Add to that the icy blizzard and a fierce gusting-to-40-mph headwind that brought windchills, well, far enough down to create a solid ring of ice around my face mask ... and I have what Geoff calls "perfect conditions for training for the Susitna 100."

Anyhow, it was tough. Covering 24 miles in two hours - because I was riding on a road and expected to go at least that fast - took about all I had to give. Despite the aforementioned facial ring of ice, I was sweating buckets while riding into the wind and even tore open my coat and thin fleece layer, exposing the bare pink skin around my collarbone. I was really that hot. I was in deep focus, earning ever pedal stroke through the deep stretches of snow and occasionally correcting a wild fishtail. I hardly even noticed the miles go by.

When I got home, I couldn't strip fast enough. I tore off clothing, leaving a trail of ice-caked layers on my way through the house. And standing in my bedroom wearing only a pair of socks, longjohns and a sports bra, I first noticed that I was wicked thirsty. So I went to the kitchen and started chugging warm water from the tap. And when that craving was abated, I started to feel something else - something that started deep in my head, a distant cry that fired over my synapses, rushed through my blood stream and emerged screaming from the depths of my stomach. It screamed "ice cream." And without even making a conscious decision to do so, I grabbed a half gallon of huckleberry swirl out of the freezer and began shoveling in large spoonfuls right from the carton. I did not even bother to mine the boring vanilla crap for the swirls of sweet, sweet huckleberry. No. I ate it all. I mean, I didn't eat the whole carton. Really. I promise.

But I did finally have a taste of what it's like to need a particular food so badly that the subconscious muffles out the rational voices and pushes a person toward instinctual gorging. I know it's not rational because after I finished inhaling about 500 empty calories of sugar and saturated fat, I felt intensely guilty. But not enough to skip lunch.


  1. Dude -- pass the Ice Cream!! Really -- those 500 calories of sugar are exactly what you need.

    Seriously -- sugar pushes your body through space.

    But -- I have to admit -- I am so laughing.

    My boss frequently asks me: "So how's the tapeworm?"

    I felt guilty -- but not enough to skip lunch.

  2. No need to carry water when you can eat snow if necessary. You are hardcore.

  3. i remember the first time i ran the chicago marathon.... running through the ethnic neighborhoods and smelling all the wonderful aromas of people cooking. i remember thinking to myself that i'd wished i'd brought cash! it was pure torture for me. after the finsih i walked about 2 miles to the car with my wife and headed straight for mac's. i think i inhaled 2 quarter cheeses, a couple of orders of fries and a milkshake. i felt horrible afterward! not horrible enough to give up supper though.

    peace out, yo!

  4. Shame on you for calling those calories "empty". It's ice cream!

  5. Many years ago, I got into a ride much further than I had anticipated...the map was real old. I packed plenty of water, but no food. I bonked hard, and started looking at the indigenous plants for sustenance. I tried some fuzzy looking pea pod things, but they were horrible. When I finally made it back to the car, I ate an entire serving of dry instant oatmeal that I found under the seat. And it was delicious!

    Nowadays, it's so easy to stash a few Clif Bars in the pack, and bonking is never a problem. For longer rides I'll throw in a PB&J sandwich...although it's usually more of a paste by the time I eat it. You kind of just squeeze it from the sandwich bag. Food always tastes so much better when your body is starving!

  6. If I'm on a ride and I smell cooking pork products....

    I HAVE to stop and eat Its very strange =)

  7. Ice cream and popcorn are the two best foods ever discovered.

  8. OK, since no one is going to say it out loud, then I will.
    You should not go on 2 hour bike rides without water or food. Especially where you live. If your water always freezes, you can wear your camel back under your outer layer and keep the hose buried until you need it. You can also keep easy food in your pack too for emergency use. Like raisins, nuts or any of the processed energy bars.
    Accidents happen.

  9. Hey Jill,

    I don't tend to eat much on rides under 3-4 hours, but when I get home I'm so ravenous it isn't even funny. I literally just eat whatever I can get my hands on in the kitchen. I'll be wolfing down slabs of cheese, peanut butter sandwiches and beer while cooking hamburgers.

    It's all part of my diet plan called ride like a hoss, eat like a hoss.

    My friend Andrew is even better than me, though -- he gets so hungry he eats raw hot dogs while he waits the 60 seconds for them to heat up in the microwave.

    Loved the post on ski snobs as well. I ski a fair bit but find myself spending more time on multi-use or ungroomed trails when I do.

    I'm visiting Juneau next week. Too bad I can't bring my bike...

    Have a good Christmas.

    Whitehorse, Yukon


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