Exhaustion, Doubt

I’m utterly exhausted.

In spite of not running lately (and maybe partially because of?) I’m so physically exhausted that I’m barely functional.  It’s a chore to get out of bed.  I stayed home from work yesterday just because I was tired. Even socializing takes a lot of work, and since I barely have the energy to do it, I’m pretty sure I’m not doing myself any favors at this point. I’m just spent, and I have another week and a half till my next rest day.  I don’t know how I’m going to make it.

Sleep is a huge part of recovering from training and recharging mentally, and it’s not going well for me.  I’ve had sleep problems for a long time.  This isn’t new.  At this point, though, it’s getting to be a serous problem because I really don’t think my body and mind can handle the kind of beating they’re taking unless it improves.

A few of my friends have told me that it’s kind of common for you to feel like you want to cry sometimes when you’re into a training block, especially if something goes wrong.  It’s not really crying or being upset specifically about the injury.  It’s more just… a sense of release… There’s a lot of emotion that gets suppressed and builds up while you jack yourself up on endorphins for between one and six hours a day. And really, let’s be honest, ironman training isn’t the easiest thing in the world… I’m not upset or sad about the injury or anything in particular, I just feel like I am going to cry sometimes.  It’s different from the darkness of my normal depression.  That still permeates my daily life.  This feeling is more of just pent up emotional exhaustion, and I just feel like it’s all going to pour out at once.  I just feel like crying.

I don’t know.  I’ve never done this so maybe that IS normal.  I definitely know doubting yourself is normal.  But I don’t know if I’m feeling normal doubt right now, though.  Sometimes I feel like I’m coming apart at the seems mentally and physically.  Maybe I bit off more than I can chew.  Sure, I feel invincible sometimes too, but these injuries are piling up, and I’m running out of training time.  I’m not sure if this is going to work out.  I’m not sure I should have ever thought it might.  I don’t really know if my body can handle the punishment required.  Maybe a half ironman is too much.

Broken and Frustrated

I think I have an injury; the usual beginning runner injury: shin splints or possibly a stress fracture. Yeah, I made the classic mistake.  I went too hard too early.  I didn’t ramp up my miles slowly enough.  I basically did everything I was warned not to do.  This is not an eventuality I was prepared for, and not an eventuality I’m sure I can accept. It’s questionable if my mental health, which is helped so much by my training, can accommodate this deterioration of my physical health.  I WAS in a really good spot.  I’m just to the point where running is pretty enjoyable, if mostly for the social aspect…  My knee feels at least okay and doesn’t seem to be getting worse.  I’m getting faster, leaner, stronger.  I’m starting to see the benefits of my core training.  Things were starting to come together….

So much for my ‘wing it’ plan.  And so much for all that crap about things getting brighter…  I’ve really just replaced one drug with another.  Whether it’s a woman, alcohol, food, cycling, training overall… it’s all just one drug or another that I’m using to make myself feel better.  That’s the classic addict mistake.  “I kicked the habit”… no… no I didn’t. I just replaced it with a different habit that’s slightly less immediately destructive.

Did I actually escape anything by moving out of Texas or did i just shake up the etch-a-sketch only to have the same shitty picture appear once the dust settled after I moved.  Maybe i just projected all my shit onto the city i was in and really it just moved on up the highway to Cincinnati with me.  Did she ever really make me feel better or was it just that it feels good to have someone seem interested.  Maybe she made me feel worse in the long run.  Was i ever that into cycling or was it just that I didn’t have to confront my disappointment with everything else while on the bike. Maybe the bike distracts me from actually dealing with shit.  Regardless of what ‘drug’ I’m on and how much of a mistake I’m making with it, it seems pretty clear that I need to be on one to keep things going.

I don’t know what the point is. I’m not happier than I was.  I’m not really in a better place in life.  I don’t have any more idea of how to get to the next stage or where the fuck I even want things to go.  My sister is buying a house.  My parents are retiring.  My friends are all getting married and having kids.  The people I ride with have their lives, and the people I run with go home to their families. Somewhere along the lines I got left out of all of that and the more I try to have a piece of it, the more pointless the effort seems.  It takes forever to actually get to know someone, and anyone who might be good to know is, like me, already too cynical to believe anyone else is worth a shit.  I’ve made like 2 good friends in the past 4 years. I thought, at various points, that I’d made more but they just seem to disappear for various pointless reasons. I’m not seeing any meaningful signs of change or reasons to believe there’s a point to all of this work.
Maybe it really just doesn’t matter. Scientific happiness is just the balance of endorphins and hormones that make you feel good against those that stress you out or bring you down.  Whenever someone asks what religion I ascribe to… what I believe in, I usually say “myself and science”, so… I guess…  It’s time for a bike ride. Even if that only means 2 hours of being happy, that’s 2 hours more than I otherwise would have had.

Super Solo Metric Century

It started very poorly.

I woke up and didn’t really want to get out of bed. I haven’t been sleeping well and I’m not 100% sure why.  I’m normally plenty tired in the evenings and I’ve been keeping my bedroom fairly clean and stress-free.  I haven’t been doing that great at not drinking right before bed, but that wasn’t the issue Sunday morning.  I didn’t do anything Saturday night.  Actually, doing nothing Saturday probably WAS a factor on Sunday morning.  I thought this weekend was going to be really good socially… Thursday evening was decent, but left me feeling frustrated that I seem to have lost any touch that I once had when it comes to identifying and interpreting the signs and signals that are sent by the opposite sex.  Friday evening was almost a carbon copy of Thursday and I spent a lot of Saturday dwelling on it.  I’d like to not care, but I do.  That drags me down. I just end up spinning my wheels on it and it sucks away my will to do anything else.

I made a fantastic breakfast while I got ready, talking myself up the whole time.  French toast from homemade bread with bourbon barrel aged maple syrup and some OJ.  Solid ride fuel for some solid base miles.  One would think that kind of breakfast would be inspiring on it’s own.  Instead, I just felt grey. The radiator in my kitchen mocks me.  It rattles when the building boilers turn on, but it yields no heat, just a racket to go along with the drone of the ever-running fridge next to it.  So while  elsewhere, super bowl party hosts donned their team’s jersey and ran out out for last minute supplies I sat, alone, eating in the sterile flickering light from the rickety ceiling fan/lamp fixture, naked except for a grey hoodie and the scabs from my recent crash.  The prescription bottle across the table and each pillowy bite reminded me that oblivion and sleep was within easy reach.  This was the setting for my half-hearted pep talk about ‘these base miles just being what I do now’, and that it’s ‘a measure of my character that I make them happen.’  The darkness has a way of crowding in on cold, lonely mornings.

I’d decided it was best for me to stick to the bike path given my misadventures last week and the need for me to keep from pushing too hard.  The point was to log low intensity base miles, so, wise to stay on the flat, featureless ribbon of asphalt that weaves it’s never-ending way north along the Little Miami River.  I’d be safer there, less likely to crash and could also meter my output better than in hills.  It shouldn’t be hard efforts as much as it is just injecting miles into the legs. I drove myself and my bianchi over to 50West and got out to finish suiting up.

Fuck. No helmet.
I was already an hour behind because I didn’t want to actually be awake.
I had everything else. I’d battled with the darkness for an hour and I’d only barely made it out before it swallowed me up.  I’d been so close to just ending up on the couch in a haze of pharmaceutically softened self loathing…Just making it there was hard enough but of course, i had to forget the goddamned helmet.
“FUUUUKKK MAN… You have to be fucking kidding me.  Goddamnit”

I drove back to my apartment.  Fueled by anger at myself, I went inside determined to give a fat middle finger and “fuck you” to whatever misery tried to pull me down, I loaded up with what I needed and drank half a can of coke. I put my helmet on, put one earbud in and started recording data.  Screw driving back to the trail.  No time for that now.

By 12 miles in I was feeling good.  The endorphins were starting to flow and the darkness, ebb. Once I got to 20, I’d decided that I should go for a metric century.  It’s all flat, it’s all easy, and 100km would take about 4 hours, which was the right amount of time.  I considered just burying myself and going for 100mi but realistically, for a century I need more than the 450 or so calories I’d brought with me and I had failed to bring any money or a credit card.

I kept output fairly low for the first half.  I’ve been hearing and reading more and more that a proper, long warmup of high cadence, low effort work is especially important for getting your body going for a long effort.  I tried that but can’t say if I really noticed any difference because I don’t have much to compare it to.  I haven’t done more than 45 miles in a while.

It was an out-and-back route and I tried to keep my heart rate under 160 and mostly under 145 for the “out”.  I did some long out-of-the-saddle intervals to give my ass some relief and just practice bike handling out of the saddle for long periods of time too.  On the “back”, I tried to open things up a bit, which didn’t work so well.  It’s hard to know how much of that was wind and how much was fatigue. I had some good bursts but the ability to sustain wasn’t there.  I guess that’s really why these long rides are part of the training plan.  I’d set out to hit a certain average over 3 mile segments but could never seem to hit those goals.  Glycemic roller coaster? Tired legs? 15-20mph variable winds?  Who knows, but the “opening it up” thing didn’t work the way I thought it might.

No matter.  It was a beautiful day and in spite of my continued lack of progress on my social and relationship goals, I knew I was crushing my fitness goals.  Plus, I knew there would be superbowl snacks later.  JACKPOT!  Okay, by that time I was feeling pretty good.

My route had me do a long shallow climb in the last 4 miles.  The pavement there isn’t the best, which makes it harder to maintain a steady cadence.  That hill is one that I use to gauge my fitness.  This would NOT be a useful measure of my ability.  I rode comically slow.  I nearly dipped into my emergency 36×28 gear that I rarely use for anything other than cat 3 and above climbs.  I crawled to the turn where I could either push further up, or turn for home.  Home.  Even on the flat I could barely hold 13 mph in a cross/head wind.

Legs=wrecked but I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Patience (again)

I think I wrote about patience before, and I know I’ll write about it again. It’s going to be one of the really difficult parts of training and of dealing with depression.  ACTUAL progress on either doesn’t happen over night.  Remembering that and trusting that the pieces I put in place now will build a stronger house in the future isn’t easy.  I want to be fast NOW, and I’d like to feel good again NOW.  Like… actually good inside.  I don’t really want to be patient.

Snapshots are good in some ways, and necessary, but aren’t really that useful with figuring out where things actually are.  That I did 5 miles at 10:40/mi on a certain date is fine.  Or noting that I felt mostly content and happy at 8:00p.m. last night is fine.  Those snapshots are fine but they’re like the numbers I talked about before.  They only exist for that second; at that moment. It isn’t representative of where I am on the whole.  Maybe I killed a workout and got a new PR but maybe my knees are a wreck afterwards.  Maybe I’m only happy right now because I just got new shoes. Losing weight is great for power/weight ratio but if I’m not eating right, feel like shit, can’t deliver when it matters or I get sick then it’s worthless. Feeling good means nothing if it was only because I was too high to notice the darkness all around.

I don’t want to be patient. I want new friends now.  Good ones. I want old friends to be better, and for me to be better with them. And I want it now. I want to be faster now. I want to be lighter now. I want endurance and strength now.  I want to FEEL stronger in my core and less beat up after long workouts because of it.  I want to wake up and be excited or at least look forward to the day.  I think life is a beautiful and wonderous thing, so why do I dread it so much other than my workouts?  I want to be sure that I ACTUALLY DO look forward to my workouts and not just the fact that they are respite from wallowing in my dysthymia.  I want results. I want progress. I don’t want it to be incremental.

I just have to be patient.

Patience means remembering that everything is on a spectrum.  That progress exists before goals are met.
Patience means recognizing that I’ve already made a lot of really good changes in my life to improve my mental and physical health even if I still get stuck with a 1000yd stare for a while and am embarrassed about my gut.
Patience means remembering that while my diet is no model for anything, it’s also come a long way from 50% beer/pizza/sweets, 50% everything else.
Patience means not NEEDING to be excited about losing weight, but just noting and being content with the steady downtick.
Actually, true patience (and the healthy way to increase that power/weight ratio) would be being HAPPY with a nice steady, progressive downtick.  Maybe that’s rationality… or common sense… whatever…
Patience means having lots of conversations with people I probably won’t ever be really good friends with because those people are still good people, and it’s good for me to practice being a good person too.
Patience means lots of zone 2 and low zone 3 riding on flat ground and gentle hills rather than more exciting efforts, so I can build up the cellular and systemic capacity for sustained high level output.
Patience means doing core strength work and being okay with it yielding basically no measurable, tangible or visible results; just trusting that it’s going to keep me from getting hurt and help me absorb the punishment of the rest of my training.
Patience means doing lots of base runs that are shorter than the longest run I know I can do and slower than the fastest run I know I can do.
Patience means just being myself when I’m out with someone and trying to enjoy it rather than control it or analyze how things are going or gauge their interest or what the chances are of anything more developing.
Patience means letting some pitches go by and being okay with fouling some off, whether it’s in terms of training opportunities or social opportunities.  It’s knowing that it doesn’t always work out, but eventually I’ll connect with a pitch, and over time I’ll get better at connecting.

Patience is the simplest fucking thing in the world.  It’s just waiting for everything to happen. Waiting for the plans to work out the way they were set up. It’s waiting for the fucking delivery guy to bring the food after you order it.  You do A, then B happens… Patience is the “then”.

I ran a long way (for me) last night.  It felt really good, actually.  I am starting to understand why people like running and maybe starting to enjoy it a bit myself for the same reasons I like the other two sports.  It definitely helps to have some good running shoes.  Once you have some basic fitness and can get into a rhythm, it’s a great endorphin flow.

I really want those endorphins again. But I need to wait.  I need to rest. I need to recover.  I need to be patient.  I also really don’t want to foul another one off tonight, but I’m pretty sure I will.  If I am patient, maybe I wont.  I need to be patient even if I do.

Crash

I had a crash Sunday.  I went down hard crossing some railroad tracks.  No, the wheels didn’t get stuck in the tracks.  I’m more experienced than that.  I just had no traction on the plastic/rubber parts that are employed alongside tracks to bring the level of the road surface up to the top of the rails.  Experienced, but not enough to avoid this fairly obvious mistake.  I landed hard on my left side with my hip and knee taking most of the force.  Luckily, I didn’t slide into the path of the oncoming minivan, so I have THAT going for me.  It started something like this, but with railroad tracks involved, and I’m not pro.

tymmsy-crash

I was pretty shaken up by it.  I dusted myself off, though and made it 7 or 8 miles back to my place, somewhat glad that my injuries were being “iced” by the cold weather and glad that I was still at least (mostly) functional.  I Iced everything that evening and after seeing my physical therapist, I was told I probably just bruised my knee innards, my hip and my rotator cuff. I’ve got some nasty roadrash on my hip and some on my knee and elbow but was spared the worst by my thick winter kit.  No full swimming for a week (kick drills only, and maybe some side swimming), and lots of ice on everything.  I guess I’m lucky to have escaped more severe damage.

On the subject of crashes, I was told by one of my friends that I probably shouldn’t try to do all my planned events because I will end up over training, burning out, crashing and burning… ultimately I’ll get hurt.  A bunch of my other friends said I should be fine as long as I don’t push everything too hard. Still another friend said I should just make some adjustments… do an early sprint tri before the half marathon instead of an olympic between the Flying Pig (half marathon) and the Little Smokies (half ironman).  All this advice just confused me more and caused me to panic, which led to me having a minor mental crash after my test run Tuesday night.  A couple High Lifes and living that high life helped mellow me out.

One day at a time, guy. One day at a time.  Plan the work, do the work, trust the plan.  This is base time.  It’s going to be really hard to make this all work and I would prefer the rest of my life to go away so I can focus on my athletic goals.  There isn’t a lot else in my life that is really bringing me much satisfaction anyway.

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

Monday morning before my run and my unexpected mile, I had a little bit of back pain.  I don’t know what was going on, but it wasn’t a big deal at the time and felt sort of like a pinched nerve that might happen when my back gets a little out of wack from sitting on my wallet for too long or something like that.  Tuesday it got bad.  Just sitting on the bus on the way home was brutal and laying in bed hurt too.  I started taking prednisone for my tendinitis (knee, annoying little shit elbow) on Tuesday though, so thought that might take care of things.  Wednesday wasn’t much better.  Things like sitting, standing, walking, laying down, and moving in general still were painful. Thursday things were a little better.  I got my trainer session in and had a lot less pain going to sleep.  I was even able to get a quick 3 mile run in this morning.

I registered for the Flying Pig half marathon on Tuesday.  It was one of those times where I swung from excitement back into the “Oh my god, what am I doing?” mode.

what-the-hell-am-i-doing

I’m not a runner… I never wanted to be and after screwing up my knee 2 years ago, that put the final nail in the coffin of a hobby I never had… Who the hell am I and what happened to whomever it was that I used to be?

The truth is, I don’t really know what I’m doing.

i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing

I basically decided to do this triathlon because I’ve enjoyed riding bikes for a long time and had some friends who got me inspired.  I didn’t really actually think about it a lot.  I knew it would be a lot of work and because I don’t know what else I’m doing with my life, I just figured this would be a bridge to whatever’s next.  I still don’t know what I’m doing next, and I don’t know what I’m doing now.

I realized that I need to learn a lot about running and swimming if I want to get faster.  It seems like I can sort of practice the running drills, and maybe with one or two sessions with some experienced runners, maybe pick up what I need to know to be able to do the Flying Pig Half in under 2 hours.  That’s just over 9 minute miles.  To me, this sounds do-able… but I have no real basis for that.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  The swimming seems more difficult.  My goal isn’t that lofty though, for the swim.  I just want to do it with an average pace of 2:00/100yds. that would work out to just over 42 minutes for the swim.  I’ll need to learn more technique (which I think is harder than learning running technique?) and I’ll really need to learn open water swimming and sighting because I have NO idea what I’m doing there…

i-have-no-f-ing-idea-what-im-doing

I realize that I’m also still running the same old loops that I used to get stuck in when it comes to my relationships with people (and lack of them).  I still get hung up on things and people that I need to let go of.  I’m upset by things that people do that are out of my control.  I’ve forgotten that I need to be a huge fan of myself and that when I am, others tend to come around to that point of view.  I’ve also forgotten that people can be incredibly cruel and hurtful without even intending to be and that I need to not take those occurrences personally or allow them to affect me more than they should.  I’m sure I’m guilty of this sometimes, though I specifically try hard not to be.

Relationships just confuse me right now. I don’t know what I’m doing.  I can’t tell at all if someone is actually interested in me and I’m not sure I ever really have unless they make it pretty clear.  Especially in the initial stages, I don’t have any real idea how to approach the whole situation.  It’s been over a year since I was actually TRYING to date.  My last two ‘relationships’ just sort of happened without a lot of intention or effort.  That’s good, right? but they didn’t work, so maybe not good? I feel like I need to be trying to meet people and find a relationship that adds to my life but I don’t really know how to do that.

There has been some shift in my mentality, though, since I started getting serious about this training.  When thinking about my personal life, a few months ago I was just immediately into the depths of the darkness, usually some alcohol, excess smoking, maybe eating too much, possibly some bad TV.  Now when I think about my personal live, I just want to NOT think about it anymore and go swim/bike/run.  I’m not sure if that’s really progress or just trading addictions or what, but it’s different, at least.

im-okay-but-im-not

The Unexpected Mile

I reluctantly hit the pool last night after having to give myself a lengthy pep talk.  It had been a long day.  The morning run was cut a bit short as it wet and cold and I was stiff from Sunday’s effort on the bike.  Work was frustrating, and my evening plans got canceled (which has become disappointingly regular) so by the time I got home I felt like shit, physically and mentally.  I really just wanted to drink myself into oblivion, to forget it all with a few tall whiskeys.  I talked myself up, though, and forced myself to go to the gym.

Things started out poorly.  I’m having some nerve pain in my lower back lately and I had to share a lane with a dude that had a bunch of distracting scuba gear. I’ve previously discussed my lane share preferences here.  Most importantly, I showed up without a plan for what I wanted to do.  Great… another shitty workout after a shitty day and before a shitty dinner which would likely be followed by shitty sleep and a shitty morning. FUCK… fine. whatever.

I warmed up, did a few drills, and after about 1000 yds of that, scuba guy left.  My head was starting to clear, though I wasn’t really feeling any better.  I decided I’d just do a few 500s and then maybe go see some music and drink my dinner. I reset my watch, hit start and pushed off the wall.

Somewhere around the 300 yd turn I decided I should push for a longer set than just 500 yds. I kept going. Around 600 yds I had a good rhythm and thought maybe I should try to up my personal best distance of 1250 yds.

Around 700 yds I started having problems with the left side of my goggles and I had to fix it.  It leaked again maybe 100 yards later again.  I one arm swam half a lap trying to smash that sucker onto my face. (hmmmm…. those one arm drills ARE worthwhile…)  No more leaks.

1100 yards or so… I’d lost count of my 100s by this point but I knew I was getting up there.

1200 yards… “my stroke is still long and strong.  Weird… I’m feeling pretty good”

1300 yards… I wondered how far I’d gone. I glanced at the clock on the wall while I turned and figured I’d gone continuously for about 20 minutes… Hmm… I’d thought it had been longer.

1400 yards… “okay, yeah I’m getting a little tired, but I’m just flying… stay focused.  Long strokes. Don’t fight the water.  Rock the shoulder out of the water before bring the arm up.  quiet swimming.  Nice and smooth.  Keep the feet near the surface.  Be efficient.”

1500 yards… I had no idea how long it had been at this point.  I just knew it was the longest swim I’d ever done.  I also spotted an attractive woman doing some stretching on the far side of the pool who seemed to be eyeing me and I became aware that the guys in the next lane seemed to be paying attention to me.

1600 yards…. “DAMNIT SAM! keep your focus! Long strokes! That lady doesn’t matter, and quit trying to keep pace with the guy in lane 2… he’s not swimming hundreds of yards!  Be Efficient! Breathe more than you need to!”

I tagged the wall, hit STOP on my watch, threw my goggles on the deck and promptly wobbled backwards, exhausted.  38:58

Once I pieced together my times (I’d missed 2 splits and hadn’t split at all over the 250 yards where I was dealing with my leaking goggles) I totaled 1750 yards.  One mile.  I’d maintained a pace of right around 2:08 for the trouble free 100s.  More importantly, I’d added 500 yards to my longest swim. I felt like I was within striking range of the IM70.3 distance and I’d finished with gas in the tank.

This might really be possible.