Has anyone ever completely blow up on a long distance event and not been able to finish? I’m talking about going out way too fast to where you are totally smashed and unable to finish the race. Not limped home but d.o.n.e
Yes, just 2 weeks ago. The first DNF in my life (ignoring two DNFs because of mechanicals years ago).
Still haven’t processed it yet. After a very successfull race in 2018 I started with high hopes for another top rank this year. Started even more conservatively than the previous year. However, my new fuelling plan failed completely. It was cold and rained for hours. Trying to get the carbs mostly through my drinking bottles was a bad idea for these conditions. Instead of ~90g carbs/h I only achieved ~40g/h. This was far from enough for the intensity I was going. I already noticed after 4 hours that my power in the legs waned. Aftter 5-6 hours I was not able to go the longish climbs at SST pace anymore. After 9 hours I was completely wasted. Could not even go further at base endurance tempo. Could not see myself climbing another 2000m. I’ve never bonked that hefty in my entire life.
So it was a combination of pacing and fuelling under these conditions. You really have to stuff the carbs into you right from the beginning.
However, I must also admit that my training was perhaps not that perfect this year. Did probably too little Tempo/SST work. Volume was as high as always in the last few years (~20h/week).
Yup, in fact very similar conditions to sryke above!
Endurance mtb event, I was in good shape and hoping for my best result. It was cold, raining and windy so I had a waterproof jacket on.
At the back of my mind I knew I was sweating loads underneath my jacket and not drinking and fuelling enough.
After few hours I stuck my foot out to prevent a fall as I’d gone off line (in hindsight probably due to being so drained) and immediately suffered a small cramp, not bad but annoying. Within a few minutes my entire quad was in agony, I stopped and stretched and had a gel and a drink now realising exactly why it was happening.
I carried on but had to get off and stretch again a few minutes later but as I stood on one leg the good leg went into spasm too and I went straight down, I kind of laughed initially. I’ve never experienced cramps that bad in my life before and could barely move.
That was me done, try all I could I couldn’t pedal more than a few metres at a time, I was about 10km from the end but knew there was no way I could get up the last few climbs or get down a tricky descent.
Came very close, again a combination of poor pacing and poor nutrition. 200km event, was with a very fast group and pushed too hard on the climbs. Then made the mistake of skipping an aid station because I wanted to stay with that group, not realising how low my bottles were and that the next aid station was 30km away after another big climb. And it was hot. Got dropped early on the climb, struggled about halfway up it on my own and then just had to get off the bike and lie down. Was in a pretty bad place, cramping, dehydrated. A support car came along and gave me water and electrolytes, if they’d offered me a lift I would have got in, but that wasn’t an option so I lay down for another 5 minutes, then a guy I knew came past and stopped, he got me over that climb and there was a town at the bottom of the descent with an aid station, my plan was just to get there and then find a way of getting a lift or taxi to the finish. On the descent it started to rain lightly which cooled me off and made me feel a little better, the food and water I’d taken on while stopped was starting to kick in, and while I was at the aid station some more riders came in. Still 50km to go but fairly flat and no immediate options for a lift, so decided to roll along at the back of the group. Hideous ride, every time I pushed above z2 I started cramping, and I ended up getting dropped twice more on gentle climbs and sitting up for next group to come along.
So sorry for giving you a limping home story rather than a complete DNF, but without that support car I would have been a DNF without a doubt, and if I’d had a viable option for DNFing at any point after that I’d have taken it, right up to the last few km when I finally thought I could make it. Came as quite a shock as I’d done multiple IMs and other 8+ hour endurance events and am normally good at pacing myself, and have also done plenty of fast group rides and races so am experienced at surging and recovering, measuring my effort on the front and on climbs, etc. DNF through blowing up was something I’d never even come close to contemplating in my entire athletic career. Guess just a very bad day where multiple factors/mistakes combined to put me in a place I’d never been in before.
few more thoughts on my experience:
over-hydration: despite failling my carb intake goals I had drunken a lot. A lot lot. But did not have to pee a single time. Given the weather conditions I don’t believe I sweat so much. I believe that because of my experience after the race. For hours I had to pee almost constantly. Honestly, I don’t know where all the fluid came from. Would have been interesting to step on scales right after the race. I overhydrated once in the past, the feel is similar to bonking. So perhaps it was combination of getting in too few carbs but too much fluid (of course with salt)
aid stations: in the cohort where I race most riders have support crews. Actually all of them as they a mostly team riders. I’m in a team as well but I usually don’t have anyone to support me. Hence, I’m dependent on carrying everything myself and on aid stations. It’s sort of bewildering that it makes difference for races of 12 hours in length but it does. At every aid station you stop, have you bottle filled up, add your powder. And the group you had been in is already far off. My races are all with very long sustained climbs where a group does not really bring so much. With one exception: mentally. It was mentally draining to lose contact each time. Making your way back and then losing contact again at the next station. This is tough, really tough. I have to think of something for next year.
what really surprised me, despite following a chronic high carb diet (mostly, only on rest days I cut them back) I can go out and ride fasted for 5h without any issues and good endurance base. The only difference I see is the day after. Simply takes more time to recover from such a session so I don’t do it too often. However, during the race I would have thought that you can always continue at base pace. Nope. Once you’re past a certain point it is too late. I find this actually quite scary, never been there. And I have experience in these races but I’ve never been at that point before. This is really a complete different suffering.
Training: as already alluded to in my previous post, prep was perhaps not perfect either. 2018, exceptional performance: from winter to the race I went through the following “classical” phases:
Endurance + more tempo work
Endurance + more SST work
Endurance + more threshold work
Build phase → lots of climbing at SST
strongly polarized from Nov to about April
Endurance + vo2max (once a week)
Endurance + vo2max (twice a week)
Endurance + threshold/vo2max (twice a week)
started my build phase in May but did not do as much climbing at SST. Overall training load (based on hours and KJ) was similar to the previous year but did more low and high intensity and less no-man’s land.
Definitely interesting to hear thank you for sharing.
I’ve never gone that deep, I’ve always been able to crawl home. I did a qualifier race about 10 years ago and the first 2 laps my HR was over threshold. I was near the front group and didn’t want to let them ride away. 3rd lap I cracked and by the 4th lap, my avg MPH was down over 8mph, from 14 to 6! I felt like I was crashing in slow motion but never cracked open completely.
I have another long race this weekend and I’m considering doing everything it takes to stay near the front but don’t want to end up having to be driven in if I completely shatter myself and can’t continue.
Even pacing reduces the risk of blowing up, but takes away the possibility of a breakthrough performance. By racing aggressively you have a chance of hitting one out of the park. Instead of a consistent string of pretty good performances, you opt for a few great ones mixed in with some undeniable poor performances.
I blew up on a crit solo chasing a break on Tuesday… You can hear the boom from miles away!
I was too hyped up that I over extended my self into my max heart rate. When the chase group came by I tried to hung in the back, but no use ha ha ha
My excuse is my PM is dead so I have no way to guage my awesome watts lol
Yeah, during a half marathon. Ran with a few friends who were better trained than me and I decided right before the start to just hang on with them and see how it would go.
Turns out that’s not a great pacing strategy and there are no miracles on race day. Fastest 5k, 10k and 15k I ever did up to that point. At 15k I hit the wal, I was totally done and couldn’t go on. Even though I took 3 walk breaks after that I made it to the finish and still had an ok time
I agree completely. I’m thinking of just swinging for the fences and whatever happens, happens. I’ve already earned my participation medal.
Cat1/2 race chasing breaks for 3hrs. Eventually took its toll on a climb. 18km from the finish and I just sat at the side of the road totally cracked until team car came and got me.
That took a while to recover from.
That sounds pretty miserable!