Beware The Dangers Of Bonking Out Of Context And The Potential Role Of Network Dynamics

Hi folks, welcome!

We see life through a tiny window that is limited by our senses and lifespan, and then we claim that we know what is going on!

We see life through a tiny window that is limited by our senses and lifespan, and then we claim that we know what is going on!

Noticing a bright and detailed image of the outside world through a small window in a dark room, I was struck by the imperfect or incomplete picture of the world it provided. Knowing the forest outside this house quite well, I could fill in the surrounding details for quite some distance, but what if I was not privy to this information? That little window view would be the world to me. This view was limited essentially to my visual sense, as I could not really hear, smell, or touch the objects seen, and to my preconceptions of my external reality, or the characteristics that I have internalized or cathected about this place. But then a few things changed in my life, which can happen when you least expect it, and ‘not expecting it’ is what this post is all about.

The window opens at the New Johnny's in Carrboro to let in the spring sunshine of a whole new day.

The window opens at the New Johnny’s in Carrboro to let in the spring sunshine of a whole new day.

Basically, I bonked! It was my own fault, I realize (as is always the case for bonking), but there we are. No fool like an old FitOldDog. It went like this:

  1. I went to a tough triathlon training Chez Ollie
  2. I returned and my coach told me to take it easy for a week or so.
  3. The day after my return I went for a swim with a swim buddy/coach, Rick (remarkable swimmer), who is improving my swim enormously, but his swims are tough, and I did one of his ‘4300-yard’ swims, but we were forced into a meter pool by circumstances.
  4. Two days later, with only an easy run and bike spin under my belt, I hit the pool with Rick again, but this time it was a hard swim, which actually dovetailed with my coaches workout quite well (fairly hard swim).
  5. I was in a hurry going to the pool (busy life), and forgot to do my usual hydration step (cold rainy day fooled me), and I didn’t have a bottle at the end of the pool (last time that will happen).
  6. We set off on our swim, with pretty strict wall times, and sometimes I was hammering to keep up, and I noticed my old triathlon coaches, Dan and Diane Shugars, swimming in the adjacent lane, and I tried to keep up with them sometimes too (FitOldFool).
  7. During sets of 9×200 and 9×100 repeats, easy, faster, hard, at about 3000 meters into the swim the pool started to lurch around. FIRST CLUE – instead of thinking that there was something wrong with me, I wondered why the water wasn’t slopping out of the pool.
  8. Forced to stop swimming by fairly severe vertigo, I get out of the pool, sit quietly, vertigo settled down, but I decided to abandon the workout. It never occurred me that I might be bonking. SECOND CLUE – my reasoning powers were impaired.
  9. Drive home, drop of Rick, go into my new business and second home, Johnny’s Gone Fishing, and start to work on my computer, but feeling a little dizzy, so I eat and drink plenty. About one hour later I start to sweat, the room starts to spin, and I crawl, unnoticed, along the floor into the adjacent bathroom, where I start to vomit.
  10. The slightest movement of my head results in intense vomiting.
  11. My son Duncan was a great support in the emergency room during my educational bonking experience.

    My son Duncan was a great support in the emergency room during my educational bonking experience.

    I use my cell phone to alert my friends, who come to my aid, followed soon by my son, Duncan. I had a doctor present, Jan, retired oncologist, who said, “Kevin, I think that might be severely dehydrated.” Jan was the only person present to suggest this, the ambulance is called, as I busily vomit and feel like death and just cannot think straight.

  12. I’m carted off to the hospital, which is where context was so critical – 68 year-old male, vertigo, vomiting, cannot stand – obvious concerns are heart attack or stroke. I did not present with clear symptoms of either, except for one thing, I’m 68 years old. No one in a hospital emergency room can be faulted, when at close to midnight they are surrounded by other aging stroke and cardiac arrest patients (plus kidney stones and so forth) to fail to think of my having bonked in the pool. At a race I would have been on fluids in the medical tent, but fluids were never administered, instead I had a CT scan and EKG – totally logical for a stroke or heart attack, but no fluids.
  13. During the waiting process, my vertigo settled down, my family gave me food and drink, and I returned to normal. Normal, that is, for a bonking athlete who has not been given fluids. I mentioned this to the hospital doctors and nurses, and they did not know what I was talking about, as not one of them was an endurance athlete, which is unusual – bonking is a dangerous, and potentially fatal, combination of hypoglycemia and/or dehydration and it can kill you, especially if you fail to arrest the vomiting by taking in fluids and appropriate nutrition very quickly.
  14. Here I am the next day, knowing I have lots of friends and family who care, and feeling exactly the same way after bonking at a race, which has not happened for many years.
My mom stayed as independent and sassy almost until the end of her life, and with the help of my sister and Editor, Marian, she had a good life until the end.

My mom stayed as independent and sassy almost until the end of her life, and with the help of my sister and Editor, Marian, she had a good life until the end.

Addendum – I learned today that my mother, whom I was about to visit in Spain where she lived with my sister and editor, Marian (thank goodness), died this morning, at about the same time that I was bonking so badly. People ask me, the inveterate questioning spiritual atheist, if these events could have been linked. My answer is, “Who knows?” Because of my lack of understanding of the universe and some limited experience with network dynamics, I say, “why not?” But Mom gave me some great gifts, for which I am very grateful. Thanks Mom! And thanks Marian for being there for her.

-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:




  1. Do take care!

  2. Rory Conolly says

    Sounds like maybe, just maybe, you should back off a bit in the pool.

  3. Sounds like a good lesson to learn though! You needed the 3 IV bags instead of the ER. Those ER folks are not setup like those medical tents at the end of races though so they lack the context to treat athletes that are over doing it.

    You could try my gallon / day method. I keep an plastic water jug on the kitchen counter and fill it each morning. The goal each day is to drink the entire gallon. With your other drinks outside of the house etc that should keep you close to fully hydrated most of the time. Only downside is all the bathroom stops 🙂

  4. Yes, Thanks Marian.

  5. Re: Addendum. By the way, I woke up last Thursday (March 1) with a splitting headache about 4:30 a.m. I also don’t know if there is any connection.

  6. Everything is connected, remarkably enough, but sorting out interesting behavior from pure chance is not an easy task. -k

  7. Found a painted lady butterfly in my greenhouse. It was a warm spring day. It flapped its wings…

  8. Dionne Liles says

    Sooooo… after receiving your message on f.b. today, I decided to see what you have been up to for the past 72 hours. The word “vertigo” raised a red flag for me. (obviously)
    1.) I am very sorry to hear about your loss. I am 100% certain she was an amazing women by just knowing who you are. My condolences, and as my NON-COACH, and distant mentor, the person I admire for more reasons than 1, your loss is my loss. You and your family are in my thoughts
    2.) While you were vacationing at “the other blue” I had sent you a text, and found it very weird that you had not responded. THAT should have been my red flag. I drove past johnny’s but didn’t want you to think I was in stalker mode… so I continued on. (following my first mind next time)
    3.) NOW… MR. POT (calling this kettle black) I am glad that you are well and that you resting. Thank you for continuing to sent an example through blogging about your experiences. I read them and ingest them just as I do all the information you prove me with while we run together.
    Leaving you and Duncan something at Johnny’s before the weekend is out. I will send you a text when I drop it off.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.