Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Reality Check – Don’t Get Greedy

Does Barry's beer make ME look bitter ?
Our ability to rapidly normalize improvements and then ask for more is almost shameful.  One aspect of this is typified by a term my son introduced me to, “Lifestyle creep.”  Cyndi Lauper in her iconic song “Money Changes Everything” has a line in the chorus that “We’re never going back again….” 

As an example when I set my training goals for my upcoming Dolomite bicycle odyssey I had a weight target.   To my minor astonishment I hit that early and of course, wanted more.  Now if I gain and even get near what was once my goal, I am disgusted.  Greedy I am.
As I built my base for the Dolomites I got strong and wanted to be stronger.  I quietly kept increasing my training plans and goals. 

I had gritted my teeth and mumbled under my breath when planning our East Coast Grad trip knowing the dent it would put in my training. The trip was the right thing to do on so many levels but it would put a dent in my training.  My plan was to hit it hard before and after the trip and treat the trip as a longer than needed rest break.

The big miles and big climbs prior to the trip made me fast and strong and light.  My left knee was, however, unhappy and looked forward to the break.  Years earlier I had some knee issues and a week off the bike and a steady stream of anti-inflammatories had resulted in a drastic improvement.  I repeated this on the trip and my knee is indeed better.
All was going to plan until I had some breathing problems on a comically easy bike ride with my son while on the trip.  I assumed that was an anomaly and looked forward to getting home and returning to training and recovering the fitness I knew I was losing while on vacation.

After getting back home I anxiously jumped on my bike and began my bike commute with high hopes.   “How hard should I push it?  Let’s just see how I feel,” I thought to myself.  To my horror the breathing problems were worse than before and even my powers of denial were no match for the reality of my physical experience.

As I slowly ramped up my effort on my morning commute things got weird.  They got weird fast. Typically when I ride at my limit in Z5 (Heart rate in zone five which is 95+% of my max heart rate for those less obsessed) my throat and lungs burn and I want more air than I can fit in my lungs and my heart pounds like it is trying to escape my chest.  This morning I wasn’t riding anywhere near that hard. When this happened in low Z3 I knew I was screwed.
With my dream trip just weeks away and my window for training closing fast I did not have time for any physical bullshit.  In 2012 my good friend Hank had a similar experience (chest pains during exertion) and after heart testing the day before our scheduled departure for France his doctor told him he couldn’t go.  He texted me a photo of his packed bags and boxed bike sitting in his entryway along with the news that he would not be going.  That tragic image is forever seared into my memory.

It took several months but Hank got his life and medication dialed in and has returned to hard riding and nationally competitive rowing.  With a departure in just over three weeks there wasn’t time. I didn’t want to be the Hank of this trip.
Hank of course
I rode home that evening and the symptoms reappeared albeit with less severity.  Now what?  My denial powers are strong, but not that strong.  I was nervous.

A couple days later the symptoms materialized at work and after a phone call with my doctor I set the wheels of our healthcare system in motion.  Everyone’s story is different but also essentially the same and I won’t recount it here.
As a matter of fact I will enjoy this hot dog...
You don't need to see a pic of me looking freaked out
After losing another weekend and having more tests than a full year of college I think we have it narrowed down and it looks like I won’t be the Hank.  Thus I am training now with a trifecta of emotions panic, relief and dedication.
Tommy and Evo

On the first post-you’re-not-going-to-die-ride I saw my mindset creep from “Ode to Joy” at just being able to ride to “Ali in the Jungle” as I got out of the saddle and powered up one climb after another.  So much for gratitude. Backsliding already.  I’ll never learn.
That night as I slipped into bed I was tired from the effort on the bike.  My quads were a bit tender. After a long exhale I smiled and drifted off......

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