Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Bit Charred, But the Burnout is Momentarily Behind.

“And you can’t break through with the one that you want.”
Maritime ~ Parade of the Punk Rock T-Shirts

Wading onto the shores of the over-trained is common enough as to evoke no screams from the lifeguards.  And we’ll all, at some point in time, wash up unconscious and shaking on the rocks.

How many times can you go to the well?  When does evoked distress usurp your body’s ability to battle back?  When is bruised battered?  When is battered broken? 

It’s different for everyone.  And I can’t even begin to figure it out for myself.  As much time as I spend with my own body the more of a strange guest I appear when I try and speak open and intimately.

If burnout were purely a physical phenomenon, a concoction of muscles and tendons refusing to respond, a platter of strains and limbs polluted with lactic, then we could at least chart the problem with medical journal explicitness.

Personally, I’ve found, burnout takes on a more manipulative role as it firmly embeds itself into my  psychic regions and encamps before unfurling itself outward, systematically shutting down one system after another. 


Burnout germinates as a repetitive Fuck My Life that accompanies all usual activities.  Some invisible element materializes from the atmosphere and settles upon every object - a patina of misery you can’t brush away. 

Burnout affixes itself within the deployment of hormones and serotonin, making sure it disrupts any standard operating procedure with outbursts and emotional conflagrations.

Burnout disembowels your favorite songs.  It weakens the syntax of language.  Burnout doesn’t wash off no matter how long you stand in the shower.

Burnout injects those established race goals with doubt and gags and binds all core beliefs regarding the timeless question:  Why should I wake up today? 

Burnout then complicates recovery on a cellular level.  You’ve been stripped of any motivation to workout first, and then your immune system starts operating like a that frenetic vacuum cleaner in your basement closet you refuse to throw out. 

I’ve been known to fall over rather embarrassingly, the composition resulting from my balance and leg musculature a knocked over Scrabble Board of confusion. 

But this is not the trying part.  Crying on the ground inexplicably trumps all in terms of embarrassment. 

Burnout sutures shut within you an amnesia of all your accomplishments to date along with a conviction that all is lost if you don’t get right back on the fucking track.

And then you do.  And prolong the misery.

In readying for Kona in 2006,  I didn’t trust the fitness that got me there.  I went skeletal and near anemic.  I remember crawling from my bed to the kitchen, propping myself against the cabinets trying to climb up to the Keurig. 

Battered into broken. 

It took me two years to battle back.

I did in 2010  when I broke my hip while overtraining.  Broken into shattered.

This time I ran away to a Swaziland hut for 5 weeks…before absconding to Vermont after finding Joe Desena’s passport on my return trip.

And now, during the last three days I’ve imbibed the compounded misery of those previous episodes before I finally recognized what was going on.  Again.

Has anyone ever learned his or her lesson the first time?  Can I have your autograph?  Saint.  Bodhisattva.

I hadn’t worked out in three days and the guilt was coiling like a stiff mattress spring. 

Internal pressure has internal cause.  “Remember that”, I kept reminding myself as I lambasted myself with accusations of dogging it.

But finally I stood firm and refused to elevate the damage and prolong the illness.  I went so far as accompanying my workout partner to the lake…

…and watched her swim while I was sprawled along the shoreline, too tired to stand.

And finally, as strangely as the untimely cold front blew in, it started to dissipate.  The fatigue dusting every action was beginning to catch in the wind.

This morning I woke up to a whole new Vermont.  Clean and crisp lines of thought caught at the fog covering the valley. 

I could taste my coffee.  Music took on its original tonality.  Words fell into place, syntax restored and semantics returned to boot.

Fuck My Life translated into Hello My Life (Damned As You May Be).

At least you’re interesting.  At least there are explosions in the distance to investigate. 

Once I’m strong enough to get there.

And then you go to your one shot to where you are.
Rouge Wave ~ Love’s Lost Guarantee

Monday, August 15, 2011


"The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching."
-Anson Dorrance

Racing is 90% preparation and 10% toughness.

Most people get it backwards.

(Oh.  And preparation?  That's the tough part.)

Race day romance is easy.

Sorry.  10th place was a pretty freakin' tough competitor, let me tell you.  Probably as tough as 1st.

1st was just better prepared.

If you really think your 'mental toughness' is the key to getting ahead on race day, you're probably deep in the mid-pack.

Wake up.  Almost everyone showing up is ready to go to the limit  more or less.  

In endurance racing we romanticize the 'grueling' or 'punishing' aspects of our sport.  And behave as if the only solution for success in endurance racing is getting ourselves in a transcendental mind-set brought only by watching the 6 Rocky movies on loop for a week.  

What is tough?  

- Get out there day in and day out when no one is watching - accountable only to yourself.

- Taking responsibility for your preparedness.