Stuck in a Moment

11 August 2010 · 7 comments

I’ve been stuck in a strange mental place for the past month, and I can’t seem to get out of it. During the second weekend of July, I traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado to be a speaker at a blogging conference. I had a great time and I learned a lot, but was relieved when the conference was over — it was the last large commitment looming on the horizon.

The following weekend, I met a life-long goal: I biked 100 miles in a day. I was a little short on training before the ride (having logged only 500 miles), but I felt fit. My weight loss was on-track, and I was exercising nearly every day, sometimes for hours at a time.

The first half of the century ride was, theoretically, the most difficult; it had all of the elevation gain. But I loved it. When I stopped for lunch at the 54-mile mark, I felt great. I felt like I could ride forever. Ha!

Unfortunately, the next 46 miles weren’t as easy as I thought they’d be. Sure the terrain was flat-ish, but I hadn’t counted on the wind. (As most bikers will tell you, we’d much rather bike uphill against a visible enemy than to bike into the wind against an invisible enemy.) Plus, the sun came out from behind the clouds and beat down on me with what seemed like searing coals of rage. Plus, whereas there were water stops ever ten miles in the first half of the course, there were only two water stops on the second half, with a gap of 28 miles between lunch and the first stop. Ugh.

I finished my 100-mile ride, but I did so a broken man. I was exhausted. I was sunburned. I was in pain. I was mentally shattered, and to such an extent that I still haven’t really recovered.

I’m not kidding.

In the month since that ride, I’ve biked a total of 73 miles, including a 53-mile ride from home to the box factory and back. (That ride included a nasty hill climb into the back side of Oregon City, which just made me even more resistant to get on a bike.)

Worse, my diet has been terrible since the century ride. Well, that’s not true. Mostly, my diet is fine. I’m eating lean protein and fruit and vegetables about 75% of the time. But it’s the other 25% of the time that’s frustrating me.

Take today, for example. I was exhausted, so I slept late, which meant I missed my Crossfit workout for the second time this week. When I woke, I craved donuts. I mean I craved donuts: It’s almost an ache for an apple fritter. Several days over the past month, I’ve caved; I’ve driven to get donuts. (Come on, at least I could walk or bike!) I’ve also eaten ice cream sundaes and other junk. Again, not a lot of it, but enough.

As a result, my weight has stayed very stead for the past thirty days. I’m not gaining weight because I’m still doing Crossfit four or five times a week. But I’m not losing weight, either, and my body composition has stayed roughly the same (25% fat, 35% muscle). This would be fine if I’d reached my target weight and body, but I haven’t. I still have a ways to go.

And another thing: Along with my physical stagnation has come a sort of mental stagnation. For the past month, I’ve been worthless at the office. I find it difficult to write about anything. I stare at the screen for hours, surfing aimlessly. It’s as if I’ve checked out of life. I don’t like it.

Again, this all goes back to Cycle Oregon Weekend and the 100-mile ride. It all started then. (I can even trace it to a particular stretch of road where I just sort of snapped. I was biking into the wind on a long never-ending straight-away and the sun was beating down and I was thirsty and I knew I had 30 more miles to ride before I was finished.)

So, what’s the point of all this? I’m not sure. I feel like I just need to get this out there so that other people know I’m stuck. Paul Jolstead saw it early on — within days of the ride — so he walked to lunch with me one day and we chatted. Kris is very aware of it, but doesn’t really know what to do about it. I don’t know either.

I’m trying to make slow progress by regimenting my life. I’m making lists of things that need to be done, and I’m trying to use my calendar extensively. This is working…sort of. I’m also doing my best to clean everything around me. I’ve heard that an ordered environment fosters and ordered mind, and in my case, I’ve found that’s true. So, I’m trying to keep things tidy.

But the real key is for me to start doing the right thing. When I crave donuts, I need to eat something else. In April, I adopted a policy that if I craved something bad for me, I could give my permission to eat anything in the world that I wanted that was healthy. So, instead of donuts for breakfast, I’d have a filet mignon for breakfast. Expensive, yes, but much better for me, and strangely satisfying. And I need to attack my to-do list with vigor.

What about today? I woke late and missed Crossfit, and I’ve had a palpable urge to eat two or three donuts. Well, I think I’ve found a solution. I still haven’t eaten breakfast (it’s 10:11 am), but as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going into the kitchen and I’m serving myself some roast chicken and watermelon. No, it’s not donuts, but I’ll be happy once my belly’s full. And then, at 11am, I’m going to get on my stupid bike and I’m going to ride to Lake Oswego for the noon class at Crossfit.

This won’t bring me any closer to getting my other tasks done, of course, but it will be a mental victory. And right now, that’s what I need. I need a bunch of mental victories so that I can get out of this funk I’ve been stewing in for the past thirty days.

Update: It’s been nearly an ideal past four hours since I posted this. I ate a breakfast of grilled chicken and salsa, with some cherries on the side. Then I got on my bike and pedaled ten miles to the gym, taking the cemetery route for the first time in two weeks (That means a 1.5-mile steep hill.) I did the Crossfit workout: back squats, hand stands, and some very clumsy L-sits/tucks. Then I biked ten miles home. Now I’m eating an apple and some ham. I’m at the office now, and I stink — I can barely stand to be in the same room with myself! — but I’m a lot happier than I was this morning.

1 Dean August 11, 2010 at 11:19

That century kicked my butt too (and after I was not terribly enthused to get back on the bike). Deep down, it sounds like you realize you probably didn’t train enough in advance. If you’ve ever look at the 6 week training guides from Bicycling Mag. or wherever, you know they want you to ride and/or do something active 6 days a week.

I struggle with weight and proper supportive nutrition as well so I know what a challenge that can be. I also know how devastating it can be to have a terrible day on the bike.

Regardless, I’ve found that continued work (eating right, exercise, strength training, etc.) leads to more great days on the bike and fewer terrible ones. But I’m pretty sure there will always be terrible ones. That just makes the good ones that much sweeter.

Regardless YOU RODE A FRIGGIN CENTURY! That’s something most people can and will never do. It is a big deal and you should be proud.

BTW, if you want to ride with our group (Team Fartlek) drop me an email. I’m based in L.O. too. Our site is http://pdxcyclingonline.com.

2 Marisa August 11, 2010 at 11:30

Are you volunteering anywhere? If you’re not, you might give that a try – it’s a huge mental boost, plus you’re helping other people (or animals or the environment…).

And thanks for writing about this – it’s always nice to be reminded that *everyone*, no matter how productive, occasionally falls into a funk.

3 bethh August 11, 2010 at 11:39

Oh dear. That bike ride sounds really rough. You needed bike buddies to cheer you along and let you draft – they saved my bacon many a time back when I was biking a lot.

Of course that’s a little while ago now and you’re still feeling blue. Is there anything that is relatively easy and effortless for you that you can try? If I were in your situation I’d try baking or cooking – I find it soothing that following the directions in a mindless way usually results in reasonably good product. Or maybe you just need to try to do something social and fun and enjoyable, like an easy walk in Forest Park. Or maybe you could trim the bushes in your yard so you see some visible success.

Do you feel like you totally failed on the ride? Has it been a while since you’ve had to face failing? It seems from the outside like your successes have been rolling in for quite a while now. Or maybe this has nothing to do with your ride and everything to do with something else. I hope that your small steps pay off soon – good luck.

4 Greenman2001 August 11, 2010 at 17:26

This little sentence whizzed by so fast I almost didn’t notice it: “I was a little short on training before the ride (having logged only 500 miles), but I felt fit.”

If, one year before you made your attempt, I had asked you the questions, “what effect do you think under-training will have on you?” how do you think you would have answered? And now?

5 Matt Haughey August 11, 2010 at 17:36

I must admit, last year’s Portland Century was the worst day I’d ever had on a bike in my life, and I also felt much the same way you felt in the aftermath. What I didn’t know at the time was my hormones were all so low from my brain tumor that it literally took about three months to recover from the day’s effort and I never really felt normal again until long after my tumor diagnosis and treatment.

I’m not saying you might have a tumor like I have, but you might want to get your basic hormones (like testosterone) checked with a quick blood sample from your family doctor.

6 Matt August 12, 2010 at 08:45

Do you have any very specific (SMART) goals for yourself right now, or are you just sort of moving through life now you’ve hit a couple big goals?

It sounds like you’re doing activities that are fun and help make you fit… but do you have a challenge that’s really driving you?

7 Pam August 16, 2010 at 20:25

JD – Some call this over-training syndrome. I don’t like that term because it often happens after one big event, not from the training. basically, you weren’t trained enough, you over-taxed and over stressed your body, and now you are fatigued. Your body is craving all those calories to help it recover, same with the sleep and lack of motivation. If you are still having this problem, I suggest taking a week off from exercise and focusing on sleeping more (some people say up to 10 hours a day!). Also, make sure to eat healthy food regularly. Your body wants to rebuild right now and when it gets hypoglycemic it basically “panics” and signals you to stuff your face with high calorie foods.

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