The Fasting Ride

I’ve been doing fasting rides on the weekend, before breakfast and maybe also before lunch, depending on how long the ride is. The longer the ride, the lower the intensity. Also the more likely I am to meet my old friend, the Man with the Hammer. I might bring an Emergency Gel, in its glass tube, but I never use it, no matter how enthusiastic his visit is.

I love the hollow feeling you get just before his visits; it sharpens your senses and brings out an awareness that is hard to achieve with a sated belly. I’ve read that mountaineers experience euphoric hallucinations when they are on the verge of collapse, high up on some Merckx-forsaken snowy mountaintop. Similarly, La Volupté seems to make her appearances just prior to our own collapse, like a siren calling our ship to the rocks where her lover lies in wait with hammer lifted high.

The impulse is strong to avoid the dreaded bonk; we feel weak and if we’re riding in a group we will be unable to hold the wheel in front of us. It is not a pleasant experience. But when we continue riding in this state, the body will eventually adjust and find a way to carry on, albeit at a lower pace. Where prior to the collapse we felt a special awareness, afterwards there is a special numbness; a cloudy haze clings to us, insulating us from external stimuli. There is only us, the bike, and the road before us.

In these moments, the body becomes an automaton; the mind still works but its connection to the legs has been severed. The hands push the shifters and pull on the brakes as needed almost without influence from the head. This is for the simple reason that thinking is the least valuable thing one can do at times like this. Thinking will only lead one to become aware of the suffering. Thinking will only lead to wondering why we are putting ourselves through this. Thinking will only lead us to consider making a phone call to be collected in a heap at the roadside.

None of those thoughts will make us a better Cyclist.

I have had my espresso this morning; I am ready to ride. I look out the window and see the rain drawing its shifting patterns on the street outside my house. My phone tells me what the temperature is, but it does not tell me how cold it is. Only the ride will tell me how cold it is.

Today, I set out to meet my old friend once again; the rain will make his visit all the more brutal. Today is a good day to ride.

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81 Replies to “The Fasting Ride”

  1. I love such rides. I find it is like having a moment of extreme clarity when that hollow feeling arrives. Almost a high.

  2. Ive experienced seriously hitting the wall once, maybe just a little bit further than that which you describe. Unable to link pedaling with clear thought, fuzzy light head, and very little energy to the point of nausea. Not a good place to be without a sugar/glucose  fix. A good read

  3. This is how I get to work each day. Start off with nothing but whatever was for dinner. The shower at work and a warm breakfast are the breakaway I must chase, and only when I arrive at the final stoplight 1km from work do I feel like I know I will catch them.

    It’s a great way to start the day, I highly recommend it.

  4. “My phone tells me what the temperature is, but it does not tell me how cold it is.”

    That, my man, is gold.

    But to go looking for the bonk?  That is insanity. For I want to train tomorrow.  I want to build.  To be foolish is to fall behind.  Walk the fine line, certainly.  Ride to the point of needing fuel and then, and only then, re-up.  But bonk on purpose?  That my friend, is not just dancing with the devil, but eschewing all other partners in the name of futility.

  5. @Joe Cline

    “My phone tells me what the temperature is, but it does not tell me how cold it is.”

    That, my man, is gold.

    But to go looking for the bonk? That is insanity. For I want to train tomorrow. I want to build. To be foolish is to fall behind. Walk the fine line, certainly. Ride to the point of needing fuel and then, and only then, re-up. But bonk on purpose? That my friend, is not just dancing with the devil, but eschewing all other partners in the name of futility.

    Yes, this got to the structure of the post I was going to write. I was going to write something like the following:

    Strong work. Love the nod to Kelly.

    On the “fasting ride” business, did you read some pseudo-scientific article about this, or did you just decide it was obviously an awesome thing to do? Once upon a time when I was sort of fit, I was in the habit of doing twice-monthly things like this, but not to the point of actual bonk.

  6. I’m pretty sure I can remember all the times I’ve been wacked upside the head with the hammer. Various reasons why. None were ever intentional! That we can be certain.

    >>> I love the hollow feeling… <<< Huh ?? ¡Ay, caramba!

    One time the chocolate milkshake my daughter had waiting for me at home after a meeting with the man may have been the best milkshake in the history of milkshakes. Cheers

  7. Three times a week I ride before work – get about 60-70km in on an empty stomach. Brekky and shower at work.

    I never feel like anything’s missing.

    On Saturdays I tend to eat because the ride’s going to be 120-140km and can be fast, depending on who’s out.

  8. @freddy

    @Barracuda

    Cogal – circa 2014. Met man with the SLEDGE hammer. I know that feeling all too well @frank

    Were you able to get your shorts clean after that?

    Yeah mate, they are Rapha !  Indestructable.

    I soaked them in Tequila and lemon and provided the salt for free.

  9. Can do around 100kms on an empty stomach in the morning but only if its flat. Hilly rides require more sustenance for me.

  10. I’m not regularly there at the pointy end of the envelope with you Frank but I’ve been often enough to know what you write of.

    Terrific thoughts, beautifully written.

  11. “The hands push the shifters and pull on the brakes as needed almost without influence from the head.”  Because the head is pre-occupied with thoughts like “hmmmm… I wonder how that grass on the side of the road might taste? Would it be worth trying?”

  12. Recently managed 90km before breakfast which was another 15km away. Somehow enjoyed the cloudy haze.

    Pro’s have it sorted though;

  13. I like this in theory. But having a proper bonk on the way to work wouldn’t be ideal.

    Also, whenever I’ve tried to train hard in the morning with no food I just have no energy. It feels pointless.

    I nearly missed a friend’s wedding due to lack of food and an epic bonk while trying to get over Snake Pass (long story), so now I keep the massive engine stoked with plenty of fuel.

  14. Yeah, not sure if purposefully riding on empty to meet the MWH is such a good idea, but that top photo is magnificent!

    You can almost feel the cold nipping at the end of your fingers; the punishing gradient, and the determination to keep that gear turning over.

  15. @DavyMuur

    Yeah, not sure if purposefully riding on empty to meet the MWH is such a good idea, but that top photo is magnificent!

    You can almost feel the cold nipping at the end of your fingers; the punishing gradient, and the determination to keep that gear turning over.

    Oh yeah, I’d love to be in the top photo. But then I’d be racing, not training.

    But if I met the MWTH in a race it would mean a) I’d made a lot of mistakes, b) my race was over.

  16. @DavyMuur

    Yeah, not sure if purposefully riding on empty to meet the MWH is such a good idea, but that top photo is magnificent!

    You can almost feel the cold nipping at the end of your fingers; the punishing gradient, and the determination to keep that gear turning over.

    The theory, and I believe backed by some science, is that it helps train the body to burn fat vs using ready glycogen you would get from breakfast.

  17. @Oli

    I like a good bonk in the morning.

    Ha!  Thanks for that, Mate!  First line I read this morning on the V site and it killed me.

  18. Holy FUCK, that lead photo is AMAZING!  I need a shit-ton more details on that photo.  What race?  What year?  What rider? (unless that is what @universe was talking about with his Franco Chioccioli comment).  Not the Gavia in ’88, is it?

  19. @Buck Rogers

    Holy FUCK, that lead photo is AMAZING! I need a shit-ton more details on that photo. What race? What year? What rider? (unless that is what @universe was talking about with his Franco Chioccioli comment). Not the Gavia in ’88, is it?

    yes, Gavia 1988. He was in the maglia rosa at the start of that epic day. He went on to win the giro a few years later….

     

     

  20. … afterwards there is a special numbness; a cloudy haze clings to us, insulating us from external stimuli. There is only us, the bike, and the road before us…

    This. This is EXACTLY how it is. Legs engaged in just-turn-the-pedals-over mode, head hanging, hollow eyes staring 1 or 2 meters out in front of the front wheel, brain barely registering anything – but somehow also somehow completely focused on – the kilos counting down to home.

    Superb insight (yet again) @Frank

  21. @Buck Rogers

    Reminds me of one of my top Five most favorite cycling photos ever.

    Great photo! Really drives the point home that my affinity for climbing and my fear of heights are at odds. If that were me, my ride side would be scratched to bits from trying to cling to the wall…

  22. There’s “E”, and then there’s “out of gas”, usually there is quite a few miles in between.  We as individual cyclist must know the difference and distance between the two.  Setting out to meet the Man with the Hammer occasionally is just good training.    Great read Frank.

  23. @Buck Rogers

    Holy FUCK, that lead photo is AMAZING! I need a shit-ton more details on that photo. What race? What year? What rider? (unless that is what @universe was talking about with his Franco Chioccioli comment). Not the Gavia in ’88, is it?

    Stage 14 of the Giro d”italia on Sunday, June 5th,1988: Chiesa Valmalenco – Bormio, 120 km. At the end of Stage 13, Franco Chioccioli (Del Tongo) was in pink leading Urs Zimmerman by 33 seconds. Andy Hampsten was 5th overall at 1:18.

    Stage 14 was the now legendary Gavia stage won by Erik Breukink by 7 seconds from Hampsten. By day’s end, Hampsten was in pink, Chioccioli was 3rd at 3:54! Hampsten was the beneficiary of smart planning by his coach who anticipated the weather and made sure his riders were as well dressed as possible with gloves and hats. No so for poor Franco whose DS had no hat, gloves or warm jersey for his rider. Result? an almost 5 minute loss on the stage and his Giro hopes destroyed.

  24. Great piece. Now that spring seems to be making an occasional appearance in WI, good rides are keenly anticipated (rather than the “I just need to get out and do something other than ride my trainer, no matter how cold it is.”) Saturday’s looking good for I’d say at least 80-90kms. We’ll see how far we can go on water . . .

     

  25. I’ve been working weekends for months now, so no long rides have been had.

    Last weekend rode for 3 hours total, 2 with my riding pal. There is nothing better than rising early, riding for a few hours, and being back home while half of the dummies in the neighborhood are sitting around in pajamas scratching their bed heads.

    Life is too short to sleep in!

    I commute on an empty stomach, but once I hit 2 hours of saddle time, I need intake or else I’m doomed.

  26. I find that when riding on the rivet, no matter how well trained or how well I think I am fueling my body, I exit the bike in a slight haze.  There is no way that I can train in a fasted state (with my hypoglycemia) and have any resemblance of a quality effort.  But, for those that are able to train while fasted, most do experience a marginal benefit.  Recently, at their training camp, team Sky did a morning mountain climb while fasted.

  27. A key for me and my weak will power would be to follow a route devoid of cafés and déppaneurs, otherwise I fear I would cave. This fasting ride thing may appeal to @theEngine though, with his coach ordered 200+ km weekend training rides.

  28. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    Holy FUCK, that lead photo is AMAZING! I need a shit-ton more details on that photo. What race? What year? What rider? (unless that is what @universe was talking about with his Franco Chioccioli comment). Not the Gavia in ’88, is it?

    Stage 14 of the Giro d”italia on Sunday, June 5th,1988: Chiesa Valmalenco – Bormio, 120 km. At the end of Stage 13, Franco Chioccioli (Del Tongo) was in pink leading Urs Zimmerman by 33 seconds. Andy Hampsten was 5th overall at 1:18.

    Stage 14 was the now legendary Gavia stage won by Erik Breukink by 7 seconds from Hampsten. By day’s end, Hampsten was in pink, Chioccioli was 3rd at 3:54! Hampsten was the beneficiary of smart planning by his coach who anticipated the weather and made sure his riders were as well dressed as possible with gloves and hats. No so for poor Franco whose DS had no hat, gloves or warm jersey for his rider. Result? an almost 5 minute loss on the stage and his Giro hopes destroyed.

    (inspiring to me) Franco Chioccioli finishes the Giro d’Italia 5th overall that year 1988. 1989 finished 5th overall again. 1990 finished 6th overall. Finally in 1991 he finishes 1st – over all.

    Giro d’Italia, tappa 14, 1988 was a good day to ride.

  29. @Oli

    I like a good bonk in the morning.

    Nice one, Oli.

    Well yeah, if you’re not getting the occasional bonk, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. No pun intended. Think it was Guy Martin said (in relation to motorcycle road racing): if you’re not crashing, you’re not going hard enough. Same kind of thing really. I’m no stranger to the man with the hammer, believe me, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet him.

    Thought the top photo looked recent at first glance, but then is that a delta rear brake? 89-90?

  30. @universo

    Making plans to meet Chioccioli at the Giro d’Italia 100˚ next year.

    Has he got seriously skinny arms or are those leg warmers?

  31. They’re the arms off a tryathlete wetsuit, by the looks of them.

    I wanna see more of that engraved Delta…

  32. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    Holy FUCK, that lead photo is AMAZING! I need a shit-ton more details on that photo. What race? What year? What rider? (unless that is what @universe was talking about with his Franco Chioccioli comment). Not the Gavia in ’88, is it?

    Stage 14 of the Giro d”italia on Sunday, June 5th,1988: Chiesa Valmalenco – Bormio, 120 km. At the end of Stage 13, Franco Chioccioli (Del Tongo) was in pink leading Urs Zimmerman by 33 seconds. Andy Hampsten was 5th overall at 1:18.

    Stage 14 was the now legendary Gavia stage won by Erik Breukink by 7 seconds from Hampsten. By day’s end, Hampsten was in pink, Chioccioli was 3rd at 3:54! Hampsten was the beneficiary of smart planning by his coach who anticipated the weather and made sure his riders were as well dressed as possible with gloves and hats. No so for poor Franco whose DS had no hat, gloves or warm jersey for his rider. Result? an almost 5 minute loss on the stage and his Giro hopes destroyed.

    I’ve also run across Chioccioli’s account that his own team was denying him the race that year. His support car went back to help another Del Tongo rider at the critical moments of this stage. Who knows, his directeur sportif may have stuffed a leg into those arm warmers before handing them to Chioccioli.

  33. @universo

    @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    Holy FUCK, that lead photo is AMAZING! I need a shit-ton more details on that photo. What race? What year? What rider? (unless that is what @universe was talking about with his Franco Chioccioli comment). Not the Gavia in ’88, is it?

    Stage 14 of the Giro d”italia on Sunday, June 5th,1988: Chiesa Valmalenco – Bormio, 120 km. At the end of Stage 13, Franco Chioccioli (Del Tongo) was in pink leading Urs Zimmerman by 33 seconds. Andy Hampsten was 5th overall at 1:18.

    Stage 14 was the now legendary Gavia stage won by Erik Breukink by 7 seconds from Hampsten. By day’s end, Hampsten was in pink, Chioccioli was 3rd at 3:54! Hampsten was the beneficiary of smart planning by his coach who anticipated the weather and made sure his riders were as well dressed as possible with gloves and hats. No so for poor Franco whose DS had no hat, gloves or warm jersey for his rider. Result? an almost 5 minute loss on the stage and his Giro hopes destroyed.

    I’ve also run across Chioccioli’s account that his own team was denying him the race that year. His support car went back to help another Del Tongo rider at the critical moments of this stage. Who knows, his directeur sportif may have stuffed a leg into those arm warmers before handing them to Chioccioli.

    Yeah, for some reason, despite having a man in pink, the Del Tongo DS was back with Flavio Giupponi (who eventually finished 4th overall) instead of being with their main man. Crazy! I could understand it if the rider in pink was non Italian, but he was Italian! Chioccioli said was was only 40 seconds down on Hampsten at the Gavia summit and that with proper support and gear he could have kept pink. Gotta love the Giro!

  34. @DavyMuur

    Thought the top photo looked recent at first glance, but then is that a delta rear brake? 89-90?

    Disregard. Just twigged the other photos/comments. Got to stop having these blonde moments!

  35. While new to cycling, I’m not sure I’ve ever really met The man with The hammer, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been in his neighborhood. Great read Frank, thanks!

  36. The man with the hammer 500 meter from top of mont ventoux could not push the pedal anymore……Nothing nice for me. MWTH not good news for me i need to stop and refueling.

    Great article

  37. @Ron

     tryathlete

     

    Oh fuck, that is funny!  I have never seen that version before.  Now I’ll quietly exit before setting of the “Swim, Bike, Run … We’re good at none” debates!

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