An inevitability

To be reposted at a much later date. Hopefully.

I died doing what I loved, which is supposed to be a consolation.
I died doing what I loved, which makes it all the more tragic.
Why couldn’t my last breath come during a calculus exam or while standing in an unmoving line at the grocery store?
Why couldn’t I die in the office, staring blankly at the computer screen on a Monday morning, reminiscing of a long summer weekend?
Instead, I was killed on a Saturday. Riding my bike in the sun. With a smile on my face.
I still had miles to go.

You killed me for three seconds. For 10. For 30.
Because you were going to be late, because you didn’t care to look, because I was, in fact, invisible.
To you, my life meant less than an unanswered text.
I wish I could be angry but I can’t. I no longer exist. My flesh and bones will soon burn into ash and come to rest in a vase at my memorial service.

Out of the malice, impatience, and to feel big, you ran me down to prove a point: that two tons is greater than a human being.

I am lighter than a glass of wine, more fragile than eyeliner, quieter than a vibrating cell phone.
You couldn’t afford to make a wrong turn and I wouldn’t want my life to steer you down the wrong path, so go ahead and look up the directions. You were born with two eyes for a reason. One on the phone and one on the road. The road was straight though. So two eyes on the phone, for just a moment.

I was in the way. Out of place, where four wheels are welcome, not two.
I’m now an ugly red smear on your bumper and an expensive, spider-webbed windshield. Drive away quickly before they see what you did. Let me grow cold on the shoulder of your road, to die alone with blood quickly pumping out and air ever more slowly gasping in. I will soon be a bloating, stinking carcass, awaiting flies. Nothing more. Just a cyclist.

Exercise Addiction

I prefer to call it Exercise Dependency. It’s a bizarre condition, if it can even be called a condition, and it’s something that not a lot of people are able to relate to. The avid elliptical user might feel a bit off if they miss a week in the gym, but I doubt that it would send them into a downward spiral of depression. For elite athletes Exercise Addiction is something that a lot of us most likely have to deal with at some point, though I’ve never heard anyone talk about it.

I stole the following from Wikipedia.

Five indicators of exercise addiction are:

  1. An increase in exercise that may be labeled as detrimental, or becomes harmful.
  2. A dependence on exercise in daily life to achieve a sense of euphoria; exercise may be increased as tolerance of the euphoric state increases.
  3. Not participating in physical activity will cause dysfunction in one’s daily life.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms following exercise deprivation including anxiety, restlessness, depression, guilt, tension, discomfort, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and headaches.
  5. High dependence on exercise causing individuals to exercise through trauma and medical conditions.

Key differences between healthy and addictive levels of exercise include the presence of withdrawal symptoms when exercise is stopped as well as the addictive properties exercise may have leading to a dependence on exercise.

I meet criteria #2, #3, and #4 and have dealt with #1 and #5 in the past. The issue I’m going to talk about has nothing to do with confronting the addiction or seeking help to wean myself of the euphoric state that exercise gives me. I’m fine with being addicted. It’s a healthy(ish) addiction. The problem I’m going to talk about and the issue I’ve had this year is not getting enough exercise, which leads to serious withdrawal symptoms.

The more attention I pay to my moods, the more I’m aware that they correlate directly with my weekly training volume. If I miss a day or two of training due to the aftershocks from Adelaide’s crash, I’ll become even more upset, lose desire to train later in the week, feel even worse over the next couple days, and become completely unmotivated and depressed by the weekend. It’s like a junkie not getting heroin, except instead of eventually getting over the addiction, I just feel worse and worse as time passes.

I wouldn’t call the depression that I experience life threatening by any means (as in suicidal), but I definitely get so low that I can’t see a way out of the hole, and life does seem meaningless. A lot of the time it feels like no matter what I do, no matter what happens in life, I’ll never be happy again—even if someone stopped by my house to give me 100 million dollars and the ability to piss refreshing, ice cold Surge.

The only thing that relieves that feeling of hopelessness is training. If I’ve been in a real bad place, a few days of riding won’t even cut it. I’ll need a week to get back to feeling decent. Two weeks to feel happy. And with the passing of years, I’ve needed more and more exercise to feel whole. Sixteen hours a week of hard riding seems to be the absolute minimum. 20 is better. 120/month, I’ve found out, is too much and falls into the category of “excessive or detrimental to health.”

Looking back on my life, it’s apparent that I’ve had this dependency to exercise ever since I was a kid. On the rare occasion that I had a week off of whatever sport I was doing at the time, I remember my dad telling me that I was acting upset and that I should just go for a run. Sometimes I’d continue to mope about, but usually I’d take him up on it and feel better almost immediately. Before I reached the double digits in age, my dad and I would go on 10 mile runs up Parret Mountain behind our house. And it wasn’t like I was even training to be a runner or anything at that point either. Just a 10 mile run with 1,100 feet of elevation gain for the hell of it. I’m pretty sure I was an abnormal child.

Along with the normal sports kids do like soccer, track, and white water kayaking, I also did a lot of martial arts. In middle school I’d rollerblade to the bus stop, take the bus to the dojo, and do four hours of training starting with the kids’ karate class, then jiu-jitsu, then Muay Thai kick boxing, and finally the mixed martial arts training session at the end which ended at 9PM. The last couple classes were almost solely attended by adults and I got my ass kicked for years before I was big enough to start inflicting damage of my own. At home I’d hit myself with a metal pipe to condition my legs, arms, and torso. I eventually fucked my thumbs up so badly from punching that I couldn’t open a car door for half a year. They’re actually still tender to this day.

While that last passage shows the obvious downside to exercise addiction (over doing it), the other side of the coin (under-training) leads to a much darker place, for myself that is. So contrary to what every sports science book, training article, and coach will say, when it comes to working out I’m fine with erring slightly on the side of too much. Results can come second to my mental health.

Aside from not getting enough exercise, there’s another factor that has contributed to my depression this year. It’s underperforming in races and having poor fitness. I don’t feel like myself when I’m not strong on the bike. It’s as if I’m missing part of myself.

Despite that feeling of inadequacy, the lack of success in races is still a lesser issue than the lack of training itself. Feeling strong and winning races is a huge mental boost, but simply stroking my ego isn’t enough. I’ve had plenty of bad years on the bike before and never felt as down as I have lately. That’s because back during those years I was training a lot and had a sense of accomplishment just from that.

As further proof, to myself, that training is the key factor when it comes to feeling good, this year I’ve had a lot of immediate success and recognition in triathlon that hasn’t made me happy for more than a couple days after the race–essentially just enough time for the endorphin tank to run empty.

Exercise Addiction seems like a ridiculous ‘disorder’ to have. It’s well beyond a first world problem, and quite possibly dips down far enough to be a -1st or -2nd world problem. But chemically speaking, if my brain needs X amount of endorphins and it only gets half that, I’m not going to be happy. Simple as that.

I’m lucky that I’ve always had athletic outlets and grew up in a family that’s been so supportive of them. Without sports, I’m sure I would have been prescribed antidepressants a long time ago. Fully realizing the issue and being able to address it will hopefully lead to less time being depressed. It takes a lot of energy to start training hard again once you’ve been off the bike for a while, but training is the only thing that’s going to fix the problem. The last three weeks of hard riding, running, and swimming here in Boulder have completely turned my mood around, and seeing my fitness slowly return has added to the fire in my belly. This is the most normal I’ve felt in over a year.

4J6A8855An exercising Kennett is a happy Kennett. (SmartEtailing photo credit: Alex Lepert).

The second half

From where I left off, the trip got slightly worse before it got better. Bookending two races during a month-long trip was not the best of plans, especially since we didn’t know what our home base conditions and the terrain for training would be like along the way. Unfortunately we only ended up doing six or seven super short rides during the month, which zapped a lot of the fitness Adelaide had prior to our departure. Despite that, Adelaide finished the Vineman full in 12:14, coming in 4th in her age group and 7th female overall. How she did that with so little training leading up to the race I’ll never know. I had ridden a little under half the course the day before her race and was utterly destroyed by it. When you’ve been off the bike that long, it’s hard to do even zone two.

Most of our stress from the trip was from attempting to train and getting shut down. I had trouble sleeping at times as well, which didn’t help things. But the more we stressed about not being able to train properly, the less fun we had, the more frustrated we got, and the less energy we had to train with the terrain we did have.

Instead of doing a long write-up of the second two weeks of our trip, which would take hours of my precious time, here are some pictures with captions. Since the internet is essentially a picture book for adults, I assume you’ll all enjoy this more than a 3,000-word essay anyways.

IMG_0696We drove down to Walnut Grove the day after my race, which is about 45 minutes south of Sacramento, to stay with my cousin Chris for just under two weeks. It was about 100 degrees every day and ample black berries hung ripe from vines for easy picking. The three of us kayaked, played Monopoly and pingpong, made some great dinners, and ate out on the patio every night. The only thing missing was the riding, which was non existent in that area. And I can’t seem to stress how important being able to ride is to me for mental well-being. Even more so for Adelaide, who had the race quickly approaching and legs that needed to be moving. However, the river was a mere five minute walk away. So we swam as much as my shoulders could take, and got some good runs in too.

IMG_0697 IMG_0688This was one of the worst rides we’ve ever been on. After an hour-long drive to get to Antioch in our attempt to find good roads to ride on, I got three flats and ran into a parked car. And that was just the first 45 minutes. At least we got Dairy Queen afterwards. (And then spent an additional 45 minutes driving through town searching for a place to get cash after being turned back at a toll bridge).

IMG_1325 Though, Maybellene was content, with a large yard to run around in and watermelon rinds galore.


IMG_1329 My aunt and her dog Buddy are top competitors in agility training, so we thought Maybellene should try one of the obstacles in the back yard.

IMG_1338We had zero success.

IMG_1342Sushi making with my cousin Chris.

IMG_0676Adelaide doing some studying for the CSCS exam on the dock.

IMG_1344We headed south the the bay area to spend a few nights with one of my old friends Mike. Snaps was the third cat Maybellene has met. The first scared her so badly she peed on the floor. The second she chased up a tree, and I had to climb up and rescue it because it got stuck at the top. This was a happy medium.

11752478_10153525720019292_7164225932515759016_nThe pre-race dinner with our friends Krista, David, and their friends, almost all of whom were racing. I ate more than anyone else by about four magnitudes and all I did the following day was watch them exercise while I sat in a lawn chair feeling like a fat tub of rancid lard.

A few days before, we’d picked up our friend Lindsey Knast (sitting behind Adelaide in the photo) from the airport and driven up to the Motel 6 in Santa Rosa. I finally had some roads to ride on and our spirits did a 180 after being around Lindsey, who was excited and upbeat since she hadn’t been living on the road for a month.

IMG_0704 Finally. Race morning with a bit of fog.

IMG_0706 Somehow this was the best picture I could get of the two of them. My photography skills are renown as my knitting abilities.

IMG_0709IMG_0713A few seconds from the start.

IMG_0735 Fast forward 7 hours later to T2. Adelaide was the third woman out of the water but lost some ground on the 112 mile bike leg. Now just a marathon to go. Easy as pie.

IMG_0742 - Version 2 I think this face was, “Holy fucking shit this hurts.”


IMG_0746 Sprinting past some fool with 100 feet to go.

IMG_0747 - Version 2 IMG_0750 It might not have been the time she’d hoped for but I was super proud to see her finish it off. She was just 30 seconds behind 3rd place in her age group, which was sort of a blessing in disguise since that meant we didn’t have to go to the awards ceremony the following day.

IMG_0752That’s a wrap. She curled up in bed without puking and managed to eat some fries before falling asleep. We visited the beach and then my grandparents the next day, then spent two days driving home to Boulder. It’s good to be back.