Overtrained

It was a Thursday in April. The spring had been spectacular. I’d been piling on the miles and getting stronger by the week. I’d scheduled the day to work from home, which gave me the chance to take in a four-hour ride in the morning; a great loop in the mountains north of home was the recipe. I’d just finished a 2000-foot climb and rolled over some gentle terrain followed by a brief 45 mph descent. I thought I felt great.

The moment the road turned back up, and by up I mean an extended false flat, one that would last the next 10 miles, I found out that I was not okay. My legs felt as if they’d been hollowed out. It was an emptiness I’d never known.

Things didn’t really improve when I finished the false flat. I was still 25 miles from home and the steepest climb of the day lay ahead. Inside the convenience store I purchased a Mountain Dew and a Snickers bar. It was more a prayer than a calculated gambit to find energy. The word woozy doesn’t begin to illustrate the way my head reeled.

I sat on the sidewalk chewing and sipping my way through the refined-sugar equivalent of rocket fuel. I took no notice of the neon flavors.

The irony of crossing the top of Spunky Canyon in my condition escaped me. I descended for more than a half hour, pedaling only when mandatory.

In the shower, I slumped against the wall. I wondered if I was getting sick. I ate everything in the kitchen that didn’t require cooking. That afternoon I napped and managed only one email that could be construed as “work-related.”

I dashed off a note to a coach I frequently used as a pundit for all things cycling. By this time, my despair was Orwellian. My body had betrayed me, abandoned me. “What happened?” Honestly, I was less concerned with what went wrong than what was required to fix the situation. I needed a solution STAT because I couldn’t abide feeling like the flicker of a dead florescent tube.

You already know the answer: I was overtrained. So overtrained it took me three weeks to get back on track. This was my first season of consistent 15-18-hour weeks and my rest weeks had been, well, they hadn’t been rest weeks, had they?

And just like John Cleese’s character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who claims a witch turned him into a newt, I got better. We all do.

Friends, I’m overtrained. For the first time ever in my life as a writer, I’m tapped. In the last 12 weeks, between posts for RKP, features for peloton and Bike Monkey, reviews for Map My Ride and copy for several industry clients, I’ve written roughly 50,000 words—half a novel.

I’ve tried to limp along for the last two weeks, but I’ve done a lousy job and RKP has suffered for it. While the desire is there, the feeling is similar to how Beethoven described being deaf—it’s not a silence, but a roar. I sit down ready to write but all I hear is static.

I am going to put the keyboard away for the next week. Following a trip to Chicago to promote my book The No-Drop Zone at Velosmith Bicycle Studio, I’m heading up to the Sierra Nevada to take in as many hors categorie climbs as I can manage in a week. As I empty one battery, I plan to charge another. I’ll be back by Labor Day.

Thanks for reading.

Image: Sony Pictures Classics

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11 comments

  1. LD

    Onion Valley Road brother……….. I did that and the Whitney Portal one 100 degree day. You’ll be seeing angels on the roads to heaven.

  2. Mike

    I have been reading your work for years, you deserve a break! And like eating and sleep can refuel our legs and body, great rides can refuel our minds. I look forward to you return.

  3. DavidA

    Put it in your smallest gear 39×26 0r 27 and ride that EZ until you cant take it anymore and your body and mind doesnt hurt at all. Then you are recovered…remember EZ means EZ.

  4. Derek

    You should head to a skatepark or half-pipe for a few days. That is a complete break from training. You still are developing skills but you only average something like 5 rpm.
    Enjoy your riding.

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