The one who does not fall

June 27, 2012

Unintentionally timely post.  Two years ago yesterday, the great Russian heavyweight MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko experienced his first true defeat in MMA competition, after some decade-long run that saw him face and defeat most of the best fighters of his, the previous, and the future, MMA generation. Upon finally losing, Fedor was both classy and philosophical in defeat, responding to the inevitable “how do you feel after this loss” with the insightful words, “The one who doesn’t fall doesn’t stand up.”

I, too, have experienced a fall, but I have stood up.

A couple weeks ago – the period running from June 3rd to June 15th – I entered a short-lived downward spiral of self-doubt and questioning, precipitated by the worst bonk, by far, that I’ve ever experienced.  I had to call a friend – a good friend – to come get me WAY out of their way after I ran completely out of gas on a weekend ride dozens of miles from home.  (Thank you for that, JDO and KLO).

The following days were among my darkest in years, as I speculated, analyzed, obsessed over exactly what had gone wrong. What did it mean for my cycling career?  My approach to cycling?  My goals and ability to reach them?

As if to mirror the inner turmoil with outer circumstances, I was also battling an incredibly painful tooth which had to be extracted and remained infected for over a week; got a flat tire on the way home from said extraction; and a host of other small-in-the-scheme-of-things unpleasantness.

I exercised essentially none during this time, and ate very poorly.  Suffice to say I definitely fell off the sugar wagon that I had diligently ridden for months.

Thankfully, with the encouragement of a large base of support, I did quickly find my way out of that funk.  The long & short of it as far as cycling itself goes is, I consulted many additional sources, internet and “real world”, regarding my fueling habits during rides.  My diagnosis was that I was fueling myself adequately for “smaller” (say, up to 20-25 miles) rides, or less intense rides, but that I was pretty dramatically under-supporting my glycogen stores for longer rides, tougher rides, or multi-day longer rides.  I was allowing my glycogen to get too depleted, with the inevitable result:  early effort was within reach, but effort beyond a certain point was simply unavailable to me.

With this, I somewhat completely overhauled my entire in-ride-nutrition approach and returned.  I’d definitely lost fitness during my brief hiatus, and it took a few rides to feel truly comfortable again.

But, I’m extremely happy to say I’ve been back, not only on the good path, but better than ever, for the past couple weeks.  My in-ride-nutrition is working extremely well for me – allowing me to meet my twin and somewhat contradictory goals of losing weight via cycling – which requires caloric deficit – and yet keeping up my energy stores throughout the ride and over multiple days.

My absence was unquestionably a time of growth.  Spending my time simply thinking about cycling, and my approach to it, allowed many new ideas and learnings to percolate in my brain, which have jelled into long-term habits upon my return.  I am without question a stronger cyclist now than before my “fall”.

I’ve put in roughly 200 miles over the past 11 days, which I’m virtually certain is a personal record for me, and more importantly, I have felt very strong and consistent during that period.  Points in long rides, or following rides, where historically I became accustomed to feeling a certain “unwillingness” in the legs to respond, are now not there at the same levels.  I say “at the same levels” because I have no delusions that I’m Superman now.  Much hard work lies ahead, and many ride plans are still (temporarily!) beyond me.  But relative to the rides I was doing pre-hiatus, I can now conquer those much stronger, much more evenly, and with more difficulty + mileage.

On the weight side, I’m happy to say things have recovered as well.  You may recall I weigh in every other Wednesday morning.  At the depth of my hiatus, I had gained back four pounds in two weeks, after being on such a good run.  This morning’s weigh-in was beautiful, as I’ve lost back those four pounds plus a small amount.  I’m the lightest now (granted, by 0.2 pounds or something) that I’ve been since I started losing weight in mid-2009 – which is to say the lightest I’ve been in somewhere around 7-8 years.

For those friends & family, or strangers whom I’ve yet to meet, who follow this blog, sorry for the long absence & silence.  I appreciate the support of everyone who’s helped me during this time; and rest assured my fitness goals are still first & foremost in my mind – possibly more precious to me now that before – and I am once again working very hard to meet them.


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