First the good news, I feel pretty damn good. I feel rested, refreshed, and happy. I arrived in Florida early enough yesterday to get a short but brisk ride in before the sun went down and enjoyed every second of it.
|Sun setting over the Intercoastal.|
My energy is solid and the doc called yesterday to tell me that my test results were back and that he wanted to bump the medication levels up even further. I should expect to feel even better than I do now. That is amazing news. For the first time I feel like we are taking a crack at solving the root of all the problems instead of just treating the symptoms. Now, I have no idea exactly how much my body was having to work to compensate for the sluggish thyroid but I know it had to have impacted my recovery. I am expecting to tolerate training better this year, I just wish I knew how much.
I heard back from DW and he was incredibly helpful. He brought the failure of last season down to two critical elements: Sleep/recovery and diet. He questioned whether I would ever successfully tolerate a training load with my sleep/work/travel schedule and suspected with the limitations in my diet that I might be falling short of nutritional requirements. The latter is easy enough to solve. I will see a nutritionist and arm them with the results of lab work. I explored the possibility last year but then it seemed like I figured out a decent balance (by balance I mean I was losing weight and that was really all I cared about) so I back-burnered the idea. In hindsight, perhaps I could have salvaged the season if my nutrition had been spot on.
The other element, sleep/work/travel, is not as easy to solve. DW's comments: "The sleep patterns though are what I think is/was the biggest issue, and it was clear when you could get a few weeks of normal rest and low stress your body would respond really well to it but then when you got out of that the training and often everything else deteriorated. I've worked w/ pilots, doctors, firefighters and others w/ really crazy schedules but I think your's was the toughest and it was compounded by the travel/driving that you would have to do. I think you are going to really be up against the 8-ball when it comes to training at any level beyond a 20min run or short ride/swim a few days a week while you are juggling the work/life balance that you have." He also added "Hindsight is always 20/20, I think we always thought that you could/would just be able to catch up and then hit it hard again but this seems to have been developing over time and your body just began to shut down no matter how strong your will to push forward may have been."
Wow. It took me a few days to digest that. I realized that he was right on many levels and that if I did not really appreciate the impact of the lifestyle, then that last sentence was, well, my sentence. I lack the necessary recovery to sustain normal steady progress. I also think that there are a few things contributing and clouding the issue here, though I don't dispute for a moment that he is right. Without the recovery, the outcome is basically predetermined.
Since 2007, I have gone from Michigan in July to Kentucky in August. Since 2007, I have fallen apart physically and seen major medical issues arise during the weeks following that transition. There was one notable exception, the year I skipped most of the Kentucky weeks and took a vacation in the Caribbean. That year, I sailed through the fall physically (though financially was another matter). I believe that I have a breaking point and the tremendous stress of the summer shows pushes me past it every year. During those years, I have been fat, fit, training, not training, focusing of strength, focusing on endurance, eating, dieting, sleeping, not sleeping, staying in hotels, campers, friends homes, on gluten, off gluten, carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, coached, uncoached, happy, unhappy... in other words, the culprit is not any of those variables. The culprit is the job and the stress of that MI-KY block. Short of getting another job, I have only one option: try to modify the job I have so that it stops killing me. Break those summer shows up and accept the lowered income as my new reality. For the sake of my health, I need to lower my expenses and live more frugally.
I also realize that I need to stop digging holes where they don't need to be. I might have recovered enough, I might have gotten out of my hole if I HAD EVER PUT DOWN THE SHOVEL!!
|By shovel, I mean THIS.|
If I hope to avoid a repeat of this year, I will have to leave all the excavation equipment in 2012. I am now realizing the need for a 500 mile per day driving cap. No more will I respond to sleepiness towards the end of a long day with more coffee and 250 more miles. I will respect (as much as I can) a 10 horse per night limit. When I can't, I will no longer use my recovery days to compensate for brutal work hours. I used to move my recovery workouts or days off to the busiest nights, when I was so exhausted and short on time, nothing else was possible, that way I would be able to do all the really wicked ones while I was fresh. But since I have a physically demanding job, that meant that my body had a constant elevated workload with no downtime. Going forward, I am going to respond to days like that by taking extra down time. Recovery will be protected even at the expense of a certain amount of forward progress, at the expense of key workouts, at the expense of my income. Besides, I will probably see more progress through a slower pace that is sustainable than lots of results followed by devastating injury/illness. I lost more fitness and more money during Duckpression 2012 (this fall) than I would have by tempering things all season.
|By recovery, I mean taking a tip from Mr. Wilbur J. Rotten!|
I am going to carefully monitor my blood work and thyroid levels. By the time, Duckpression was in full swing, my RBC had bottomed out in the low 3's. That is NOT GOOD. I am going to respect the added load that injuries and stress place on my body. THREE bike crashes and the grief surrounding the death of my dog, those were all contributing factors. I read somewhere that your body can't differentiate between types of stress, be it exercise or emotional or otherwise, they all elicit hormonal responses. They all require the body's energy. I guess I kind of see the body like a bucket. It has a maximum capacity before it can't hold any more. Everything you put in that bucket, whether it's water or rocks or styrofoam peanuts, counts against that total volume. When that limit is reached and the bucket won't hold anymore, either you stop adding or it will overflow (Overflow= Duckpression). When you rest, you get to take a little out of the bucket. It is possible to go for quite a long time adding more than you take away, but eventually the inevitable happens.
I am going to ignore DW's advice about giving up on training and push forward but with a number of changes that will hopefully see me operating in the black energy-wise (even if it means being in the red in other ways). I think last year, I took a situation where I was under- recovering slightly, where the bucket was getting a little more water each week than was getting removed, put it under a leaky faucet (thyroid, nutritional deficits) and then I threw a number of rocks (long travel days, back to back weeks of heavy work/shows, days of working around the clock), three medium sized appliances (crash, crash, and crash) and a Volkswagon Beetle (the loss of my dog). Perhaps this year I can avoid the solid objects and fix the leaky faucet. Then with careful guidance, I can make sure I don't overflow that bucket again.
I am okay with three steps forward, two steps back if that is all my lifestyle will allow. It is still progress, even if it is disappointingly slow. I am not okay with three steps forward, three steps forward, fall off a cliff. It hurts when you land!
|Some things are just worth the struggle.|