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Cyclist captures distance record
by Erin Kelley-Gedischk
Oak Bay News, Jan 10 2007

Some say he’s crazy.

Ken Bonner says he’s just driven.

The ultracyclist recently won the North American title for most distance ridden on a bicycle in a year.

Bonner spent more than 2,100 hours spinning his wheels across United States and Canada, clocking a grand total of 50,438 km in 12 months.

Bonner, a 64-year-old retired social worker, just keeps getting better with age.

“It is interesting to just be able to keep pushing the body,” he said.

Bonner hasn’t always been an athlete. He started marathon running when he was in his mid-30s. He didn’t start ultramarathon cycling races – which span 1,200 km – until his 40s.

“There are a number of athletes on the Island in their late 70s and early 80s that are making the rest of us look pretty bad,” he said, with the wry sense of humour that peppers his conversation.

Bonner believes that people often unintentionally create psychological barriers that limit their potential.

“I don’t think of what I am doing as amazing. It is just a matter of having the determination to get out there and do it,” he said.

Bonner stresses that determination is more important than muscle power.

“It’s a way of seeing what your limits are – with a lack of sleep,” he said.

While working toward reaching 50,000 km, Bonner competed four 1,200 km races that involved riding for two days straight without sleeping.

So long as a person’s level of glycogen does not drop too low, Bonner explained, the body can adapt to a greater amount of physical stress than most people realize.

Bonner does not subscribe to any fancy, high-priced athlete supplements or diets to ensure his glycogen level remains stable for his extended rides.

Dubbing it “convenience store dining,” Bonner said he often refuels with coffee, cola and sports drinks from corner stores.

Fudgesicles and chocolate milk are his foods of choice on the road because they have the perfect combination of protein, carbohydrates and sugar, he said. Protein bars make him gag.

While Bonner’s easygoing, blithe spirit gets him through much of the extreme mental and physical exhaustion, riders often slip into a state of depression when glycogen levels drop.

When Bonner hits that ultimate low, he repeats to himself, “After this one, I won’t do it again.”

But after he finishes something always happens to draw him back to the road.

“(Marathon cyclists) all say it is really stupid and we shouldn’t be doing it, but it seems to give us some sort of satisfaction,” he said.

Bonner equates ultramarathons to how most of us live our lives.

“You start off feeling good and optimistic, but after a couple days you have emotional and physical ups and downs and you start to ask yourself ‘What am I doing out here?’” he said.

In the end, Bonner only seems to remember the positives about the ride: the breathtaking scenery, the sense of accomplishment and the people he meets.

Along his cycling odyssey, Bonner relishes the friendships he’s formed with cashiers at quirky convenience stores or waitresses in greasy spoon restaurants.

“You get to know the rhythm of the road, along with the stores and people that you meet along the way,” he said.

Bonner also cherishes friendships formed with other utracyclists, many of whom are high-powered executives and professionals.

“(Ultramarathon cycling) is like project management: you have your goal and there is all kinds of logistics about bikes, food and clothing because the weather is going to be up and down. But no matter how you plan it out, things go wrong.”

More important than logistics management for Bonner is the sense of liberation and self-determination he experiences on a ride.

“If you are used to being in charge, you can’t delegate when you ride.”

You have to get out there and do it,” Bonner said.

With Ultra Marathon Cycling Association’s North American title for most distance ridden on a bicycle in one year under Bonner’s belt, he wants to break a new record for cycling across Canada in 2007.

To do so, he’ll have to cycle 6,000 kilometres in less than 13 days and 12 hours.

Once that’s completed in July, he plans to catch a flight to the most famous ultramarathon cycling competition: the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonnée, which only occurs every four years.

“That one will be easy. It’s only 1,200 kilometres,” said Bonner, who (not surprisingly) is nicknamed “Iron Butt”.

© Copyright 2007 Oak Bay News (Link to Source)