Facing The Bonk: I am not invincible

I ended my week with a bonk. I want to talk about it.

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I truly don’t believe I had bonked before this point. Sure, I’ve had some bad runs, but nothing where I nutritionally was unprepared. I have now experienced this terrible bonk I’ve heard so much about, and I’ve become a wiser runner.


Events leading up to the bonk:

1.) It’s been hot all week

I have been working and sleeping in less than ideal conditions for the past week. It’s just so hot and I get heat headaches now when I stand in front of the ovens at work for too long.

2.) I cannot hydrate myself

In addition to the heat, it is very hard to stay hydrated. I joke that I haven’t stopped sweating for two weeks…but it’s true. Spending my time in a constant state of sweat has made it not difficult, but impossible to stay hydrated. I do drink, not just water, but electrolyte beverages, iced coffee and tea and eat foods with a high water content. However, I have been unable to stay on top of my hydration.

3.) I did not plan my route well.

I woke up early to run in the cool morning (haha) and miscalculated the amount of mileage I would get before meeting up with friends. I was planning to do some myself and some with them. By the time I got to them I was 9 miles in. I drank and felt fine, but after a few miles with them I decided to turn and cut it short. I thought it would be a faster way to get home by doing this, but I should have just turned around.

4.) My foot was giving me problems.

On and off the past few weeks my right foot hurts. I can still run on it, but after about 10 miles it gets uncomfortable. Well, 14 miles in things were not looking up. This is when I turned a around…only to have 6 miles to go.

5.) I ran long the day before.

I was planning to race today (just for fun) so I ran 16 miles yesterday morning. Then worked on my feet all day. I felt great yesterday and still planned to race. This morning however I made the decision not to based on cost, time that I could spend working in other passions and my niggling foot. Sunday was my only day off and I wanted to work on other things. After races I am not that productive.

I felt fine the day before. I felt fine during the first part of my run. I chose to continue for these reasons.

What happened?

I ended up doing the runner slog up a few hills until I made it to a Burger King three miles from home. It was in that Burger King stall that I put my head in my hands and thought about my life choices.

I felt like a fool.

Why did you run without water? Who do you think you are?

Why do you put hope in running? You might get injured from this!

Your running group thinks you’re a wimp.

You want to coach people to do this? What do you know?

All these things flew through my mind as I sat there. I didn’t know what else to do, but put my head down, drink a liter of Coke (thank you kind BK worker!) and slog my way home.

I made it. Tired legs, messed up gut, totally humbled by this experience.

I think, as regular runners, we think we know our bodies. Sure, someone else might need water or food, but I don’t. Someone else might need a break during a run, but I’m ok. We put ourselves on a pedestal because “if we’ve done it before we can do it again.”

Change means defeat.

Change means I am less than.

Change means I was wrong.

What I learned this day is that change means adaptability and learning how to deal with hard situations effectively.

I did not fail, I learned what my breaking point is. I learned how to do it better next time. 

Next time I will not fail.

Bonking taught me how to be a better #health coach. What has a bad experience taught you? #runchat @runningblogs Click To Tweet

How this experience will make me a better running and health coach:

1.) Not only is each client different, they are different in each moment.

I will learn what things motivate them and what goals are important each time we meet. I will be aware that these things may change and it is important to meet the client where they are at.

2.) Nutritional needs vary upon the situation and no food is off limits forever.

I will discuss my ideas about “eliminating certain foods” in a future post, but today showed me that when you need energy, any calories will do. I don’t drink Coke, I don’t really like it either. Today, it was the elixir of life. It got me home safe. I will remember that some foods are like that for people. A necessity part of their world. That’s ok.

3.) Planning is key to a good experience, no one is “above” mapping it out.

I thought I knew myself and my town well enough to guess a practical route. I was wrong. For each of my clients, I will never assume how a meeting will go or what mindset they will have on that day. I will be prepared and open to anything they bring to the table. I am not against doing specific research for their problem if I do not know the answer straight away. Part of what I look forward to in this profession is always being a student of wellness research and modifying my health ideas based on that.

Today I am linking up with Meg for a review of my most impactful run of the week. Be sure to show that mama some love!

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What is one experience you have that was a big eye opener?

What did you learn about yourself from it?

26 thoughts on “Facing The Bonk: I am not invincible”

  1. I love what you learned from this experience, and how you allowed yourself to learn instead of just being upset with bonking. I had also had bad runs, but never bonked, up until a trail half I ran in June. I started out way too fast and overestimated my capabilities. It was a really bad race, and I fell a lot and had to walk, which I felt like such a failure for doing. Overall, it sucked big time, but it was kind of my body slapping me in the face and telling me to learn my limits.

  2. I think your reflecting on this experience will certainly reduce the likelihood of it happening again. I love how you point out that coke was the best thing for you at the time. No food should be off limits- it could save us! I was starved after a hike this weekend and a brownie was the only thing that satisfied me!

  3. I have never even heard of a runners bonk before although I’ve certainly experienced the nursing bonk more times than I care to admit. I keep lots of snack on hand now and always a giant mug of water.

    Happy Monday, thanks for linking up.

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us Ellie! We learn so much from our little struggles and bonks. I have learned to be grateful for them because they teach me so much about ourselves! This heat has been a killer lately. Hoping for more mid 70 degree days instead of mid 90s!!

  5. It would be hard for me to name just one eye-opening experience as I’ve had multiple in different areas of life over the past few years. What I like to remind myself and others of is that nothing is truly a fail. It’s a learning experience, a lesson, that was set into our lives for a reason. It sounds like you had finished this lesson taking really smart notes for your life from here.

  6. I LOVE this post! For me, an eye-opening experience was about 3 years ago when I stepped on the scale and saw that it read “100 lbs.” I knew right then and there that I better do something or else I’d be in SERIOUS trouble with my body, my school, my family, and my eating disorder in general. I’ll never forget that day, and I’ll never forget that it was the thing that caused me to wake up and accept recovery. I’ve never looked back 🙂 I hope this week is much better for you, Ellie!

  7. Ellie! I’m so glad you made it back safely. That is a scary, scary situation–the closest I have ever come to that was coming down a 12-mile hike when I was in the midst of disordered eating. I felt like I was going to completely panic.
    I can empathize why you felt foolish at the time, but you are human, of course. Everyone makes mistakes. And sometimes when we push ourselves to meet goals, we can push ourselves to hard. It does sound like, even though at the time it was pretty miserable, it will help make you a better coach in the future. Hope you rest, eat and drink plenty of fluid for a few days!

  8. Hydration is huge for me too in the dry heat and something I am very careful about – I always plan to pass at least one drinking fountain to refill my handheld bottle for 6+ miles and recently invested in a 2L running hydration vest for long training runs because it’s a seriously dry heat here, dehydration can be scary!

    1. I have a vest and it is wonderful. Snacks, a phone, money and water all have spots in it. I didn’t bring it, for obvious reasons, but I sure am glad I have one for the future!

  9. Ellie, this speaks so much to your humility and what God is teaching you. God taught you something that you could share with us, and I really appreciate you going through each step of the bonk, because that happens both in physical instances and for me, often in spiritual and emotional ups and downs.

    Sometimes our bodies will need Coke or lots of rest or lots of doing nothing or lots of just sitting and listening to Scripture and praying, and it’s okay. We don’t have to always be going, because the rest will refresh your body. And I think you are so right that bonking really does enable us to look at others and realize that we all have individual needs and individual health journeys that we are on. Change does not mean that you are complete failure. It means that you are LEARNING and growing! <3 you so much sister.

    1. Thank you so much Emily! I think we all face similar bonks in life where we don’t know what happened or how we got to that point. Often those things, and the methods we use to overcome them, change us in such a meaningful way. Praying for you friend!

  10. Ah, a good long run gone bad… it happens to the best of us. And it always sucks. BUT! We pick ourselves back up and on we go! You’re going to be a great coach.

  11. Better to learn it in training than during a race! It happens to us all. I love how you said that nutrition needs vary. I 100% agree that there can be a time and a place for something like Coke that I would never have normally. It’s healthy to view things that way I think.

  12. I’m sorry you bonked, Ellie! So glad you were able to learn a lot from it. I just love that about you–you’re always, always learning! I tend to bonk in life when I’m doing to much. I end up crying or overwhelmed. I always learn that I need to do the important things, not everything!

    1. Oh there were certainly tears here too Allie. You’re right, I don’t need to do everything, just important things. Everything else is just extras 🙂

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