Dead Tired

Before I make this about me, as I always do, I want to give credit to Roberto Ballini, who is pictured here sunning himself against nothing less morbid than a gravestone during the 1971 Tour de France, presumably in protest to how much of a shitshow The Prophet was making of the race.

But let’s be honest: being tired is the best part of Cycling. To begin with, going for a ride and not coming back at least a little bit tired is entirely unrewarding, unless you happen to be a Recovery Ride Specialist. I do enjoy a recovery ride and the satisfaction of coming home feeling light and loose and not at all tired, but anything representing a real ride needs to leave something behind in the body, something tangible that reminds us of the work we put in. It doesn’t have to be devastating by any means, but we should feel the ride somewhere in our being.

I struggle with depression a bit. I’m an introvert in an extroverted world who writes publicly (here, in Cyclist, and now also for Rouleur) about his love for Cycling. The shock for me is that Cycling and writing are my greatest passions, and they have miraculously come together to lay the foundation for this incredible worldwide community in the Cycling world – something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

The irony is that when either the writing or the Cycling doesn’t come, I start to come apart at the seams. When they fall apart, I fall apart as well.

I suppose I’ve been an athlete and an artist my whole life, but it takes some time for you to find your specific medium in both these areas. It may well be a “calling”, but life can throw its voice like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I found Cycling by way of Nordic Skiing, and I found writing by way of Cycling. Which is another way of saying I have been using Cycling to aide my ills much longer than I have been using Writing to do so.

I don’t know much about fixing Writers Block, but I have learned a thing or two about using the bike to fix almost anything else: Sometimes you just have to ride until you can’t ride anymore. Run it until the mind has nothing left to think about but getting home. When I had been off the bike (Holidays?) and stopped writing (Holidays?), I fell back into that familiar darkness (Holidays?). So after (too many days) I realized what I needed to do: get on the bike and pedal. So I did. I rode through a terrible cold I didn’t expect; the kind of cold that freezes your fingers and toes to the point you don’t feel them properly for weeks.

It worked. I felt alive again. Facing the prospect of riding home through those conditions reminded me that I could face anything. Getting home reminded me that I can not only face but conquer anything. It didn’t cure me of my dragons, they will be back, but it turned the tide on the emotional experience I was having and that is one of the things Cycling has come to mean for me over the years.

Every day when I go out on my bike, I risk my life. But I risk more by not going out on my bike. The bike has saved my life so many times that I’m forever in its debt.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

 

 

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66 Replies to “Dead Tired”

  1. Good to see you back, it’s been a while.

    Time off the bike can be a dangerous thing. Work is a bit stressful at the moment with a seemingly impossible amount to achieve in a very limited time. The information we need is flowing slowly from external parties whilst internally there are resourcing pressures that threaten to take people out of my team.

    I’ve been lucky never to have suffered from depression but I certainly find it harder to maintain a focus on it all and not to get snappy at home if I don’t get on my bike every few days under these conditions even if it’s only an hour on the turbo.

     

     

  2. Or a kilometer or boundary marker near the town of Malesherbes being a former commune in the Loiret department in north-central France.  Did the 1971 route go that way?

  3. Loved this article Frank

    Perfectly written and a glaring insight as to why I ride .

    Without my bikes me and a straightjacket would the norm .

  4. “A vigorous five-mile walk (or a vigorous 50 mile ride–my insert) will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world”  Paul Dudley White.

    I have loved this quote ever since I first read it in Med School.

    Depression is a dangerous and real animal that lives around the edges of some people’s lives and gnaws at their psyche like a rat.  I know a lot of athletes that have it and when training, they liken it to “feeding the rat” which keeps the rat at bay.

    Five years ago I was hit with my first ever episode of anxiety and man it fucked me up.  I had never experienced anything like it.  For me (now making this all about me, eh?), anxiety can be crippling and it was for a couple of years.  But I learned that I could keep my “rat” at bay with the bike, as well.

    Like you, I can still feel it around the edges and I am always trying to keep it fed but fear that it will come back full bore.

    Glad to have you back and “keep on keeping on” because that is all that we can do sometimes.

     

  5. When I saw the word writers’ block, I immediately thought about riders’ block. Which is what I am facing now. I do not like turbo in the cold garage nor the slippery and wet roads outside (oh, and it’s freezing here too, maybe that plays a role as well). When in one of my first English tests, we had to conjugate “to write”. I heard “to ride”. So I wrote “to ride, rode, ridden” which was wrong but still correct.

    Fortunately I have next week a 5 hour indoor spinning sponsor event after work, so look forward to be dead tired then. Only problem is these sessions go up to x%’s of HRM and I do not have a heart rate measure so am just gonne give it all.

  6. Cheers Frank – sums up why I ride after work in the freezing cold, dark winter evenings. I know that the tingling in my face  from the cold air just brings me back from the murk & makes me feel alive.

    The black dog/dragon is always there but with a bike ride we can keep him at bay.

    Good to see you back

  7. Thanks for this Frank, keep on fighting the dark side! I was first diagnosed with depression 5 years ago, but it then became apparent that I had been suffering on and off since childhood. My medication helps, as does meditation and the love and support of the VMW but ultimately it is the bike that makes carrying on possible. In the summer (such as we have in Lincolnshire!) it is the sunshine and the deserted (if flat and potholed) roads that do the trick, this time of year it is the artificial pain cave of twice weekly spin classes. Not so much the man with the hammer as a blonde lady in lycra, but the effect is the same! VLVV

  8. A brilliant article @frank and perfect for the new year.  A chest infection has had me off the bike (and out of the pool) for 3 weeks now and enough is enough.   I am not only reminded of Rule #5 but also the only cure for this funk is to get out and work the guns. Thanks.

  9. Thank you Frank. Your article brings some colour to the sometimes grey dance with Life’s ventriloquism, the black dog companion and stifled creativity. My bike time is my reset button, my stable ground, purity and truth.

  10. The season of nasty colds and shitty weather can leave you hanging on the chinstrap of your helmet.

    Managed my first ride of 2017 on Tuesday night. It gets really dark out here in the wilderness and an hour and a half in your little bubble of light is like meditation – although in meditation you don’t usually get covered in shit.

    I’m going to drone on about the TCR again (like @BuckRogers I can make it all about me at the drop of a hat) but if it hadn’t been for this site I can’t imagine that I’d even be aware of its existence let alone considered entering it as I would likely have settled into depressed medicated sedentry middle age some time ago.

    Having @frank explain on the cobbles that I was a fat cunt and should do something about it clearly had an effect.

  11. Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling, Frank, but glad to hear you’re working your way through things partially thanks to this wonderful machine we are all so passionate about. Keep it rolling, bro.

     

    However – there had to be a however, innit? – I’d like to second @Teocalli‘s assessment that this is not a gravestone at all but a town marker on Stage 7 of the ’71 Tour, but only because I’m pissed off that he got to point it out first.

  12. Frank – I’ve been there. There was a time when my whole life was playing and singing in a band; the band started to break up and I lost my voice. All of a sudden I had nothing.

    We’re lucky, however, being cyclists.

    Unless there’s a major mishap we generally have at least one bike available, and on the road, rollers or turbo a means to get on the thing and pedal.

    We don’t need to rely on anyone else when we ride (although sometimes it’s nice to), and although of course there are The Rules about how we should ride, there are no rules to say where we should go, or for how long, or for how far. Even the simplest ride around the park can become the profoundest expression of freedom.

    Since I’ve been cycling I wonder often what on earth I used to do before.

  13. Life comes in waves. Good, Bad, Highs and Lows. Helps to have some bedrock below it all to stand on I suppose. Family and Community is certainly a bedrock. Cycling and everything it involves is another. Combine Cycling, Family and Community ? Well, that’s some damn solid bedrock so to speak. Sure glad to be part of the community. And thanks @frank for building a foundation for this little community. Cheers all

  14. Frank – Sorry to hear you’ve been in a bit of a funk. I know you’ll snap out of it. And I know the bike will help do that.

    When I was young(er) and racing and running a (local) team, I used to say/think, “Cycling is life.” The rest of the saying was, “The rest is just details.” But it really isn’t. Rather, cycling is a metaphor for life. And it can be a big (and important) part of our life for those of us who are Velominati. But it’s not (or shouldn’t be) our whole life.

    Ride to live. Live to ride. But live life … on and off the bike.

  15. Nice one, Frank! Keep on rolling. I’m the same way – when I stop moving and reading and writing and being active, I start to overthink things and get frustrated and depressed. My year has been off to a very up-and-down start – sick young child, snowstorm that shut down the city for four days, not enough riding, the extremely negative energy of a dissertation advisor, and a lack of energy. I’ve caved in to being lazy of late, and it’s a terrible cycle for me. I skip a rollers ride and instead of feeling better for saving energy, I feel worse both physically and mentally.

    Today I’m snapping out of that rut. There is no reason not to AND there is no reason 2017 can’t be my most successful year to date.

    Best of luck to everyone swimming against the tide right now. I hope things improve for ya!

  16. @RobSandy

    Frank – I’ve been there. There was a time when my whole life was playing and singing in a band; the band started to break up and I lost my voice. All of a sudden I had nothing.

    We’re lucky, however, being cyclists.

    Unless there’s a major mishap we generally have at least one bike available, and on the road, rollers or turbo a means to get on the thing and pedal.

    We don’t need to rely on anyone else when we ride (although sometimes it’s nice to), and although of course there are The Rules about how we should ride, there are no rules to say where we should go, or for how long, or for how far. Even the simplest ride around the park can become the profoundest expression of freedom.

    Since I’ve been cycling I wonder often what on earth I used to do before.

    I’ve shared it before, but I was in a similar position. I played ball sports from a very young age, including through college at the DI varsity level. Then I graduated and suddenly at 22 I’d lived my biggest dream and felt completely lost and disoriented. I had a full life, but that sport was the center of everything. I was living abroad and needed to occupy my mental space and creative side. I decided to write a memoir of my life to date. That was now years ago but a friend I shared it with told me he was just recently reading it and, despite some spots of immaturity, the writing is pretty damn strong. It was great to hear that since I haven’t given it any thought of late. I’m glad I put forth the effort to do something creative.

    Also, right around this time was when I started commuting to work by bike. Within a few months I was hooked. Now I’m a full-on avid cyclist and cannot imagine life without bicycles or riding them. I honestly have no idea what my life would be like without cycling. No clue.

  17.  

    @chuckp

     

    When I was young(er) and racing and running a (local) team, I used to say/think, “Cycling is life.” The rest of the saying was, “The rest is just details.” But it really isn’t. Rather, cycling is a metaphor for life. And it can be a big (and important) part of our life for those of us who are Velominati. But it’s not (or shouldn’t be) our whole life.

    Ride to live. Live to ride. But live life … on and off the bike.

    There’s a lot to be said for that. And I find being organised about training helps. That way, when it’s not a training day I can just switch off, put cycling from my mind (mostly) and certainly don’t worry about whether I’ve been riding enough or too much. Then the next ‘on’ day, is new, fresh and you can give it your all.

    But I fucking love cycling.

  18. An apropos article on Lieuwe and at the bottom, you’ll find links to a number of other articles on cycling and depression.

     

     

  19. I’ve been struggling to find a reason to ride. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but that when the time came I always found other pressing matters that got in the way. Felt ashamed every time – but managed to convince myself that it was only me that saw through the lies. I consoled myself and kept ‘bike fit’ on the turbo and even (whispers) at spinning classes – lots of them. But never a ride, not since 9 July 2016 anyway. Until this morning. It could have been the blue skies and promise of warmth from the sun (but I’ve seen plenty of those since July, so it must have been something else). I think the time is right when it’s right. Today it was right, and I’m adamant that I’ve never felt my bicycle move so serenely and so silently. Didn’t go far, didn’t go fast. But in others ways I’ve never travelled further in 45 minutes than I did this morning.

  20. @Ron

    An apropos article on Lieuwe and at the bottom, you’ll find links to a number of other articles on cycling and depression.

    Yup, I had seen that.  Really hope he can find his way out of the darkness.

    Maybe it is a misconception but it seems that a lot of the great climbers of old suffered from depression and some committed suicide either deliberately or via alcohol/drugs.

  21. @RobSandy

    @chuckp

    When I was young(er) and racing and running a (local) team, I used to say/think, “Cycling is life.” The rest of the saying was, “The rest is just details.” But it really isn’t. Rather, cycling is a metaphor for life. And it can be a big (and important) part of our life for those of us who are Velominati. But it’s not (or shouldn’t be) our whole life.

    Ride to live. Live to ride. But live life … on and off the bike.

    There’s a lot to be said for that. And I find being organised about training helps. That way, when it’s not a training day I can just switch off, put cycling from my mind (mostly) and certainly don’t worry about whether I’ve been riding enough or too much. Then the next ‘on’ day, is new, fresh and you can give it your all.

    But I fucking love cycling.

    Cycling is life – push thru your limit – there is no end – all of the above. And now I’ve added a focused effort on Spring, turkey season as well. Planning to combine all-road { gravel } cycling with scouting for turkey flocks in March.

  22. Thanks for sharing and good to see a glimmer of the old Frank back. Without going into too many details, in 2012 and 2013 life was handing me way more stress than necessary. Without the bike, I have no idea how I would have survived it intact. When the world is seemingly going to hell in a handbasket, a few hours solo pedalling really, really helps.

  23. @Oli

    Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling, Frank, but glad to hear you’re working your way through things partially thanks to this wonderful machine we are all so passionate about. Keep it rolling, bro.

    However – there had to be a however, innit? – I’d like to second @Teocalli‘s assessment that this is not a gravestone at all but a town marker on Stage 7 of the ’71 Tour, but only because I’m pissed off that he got to point it out first.

    Courtesy of my team doing a very long night migration leaving me long gaps to surf.

  24. Been there, and often. However, is my faithful adherence to the power of Rule V that keeps me from returning to the dark vortex. Onward, Frank.

  25. @Simon Balsom

    I’ve been struggling to find a reason to ride. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but that when the time came I always found other pressing matters that got in the way. Felt ashamed every time – but managed to convince myself that it was only me that saw through the lies. I consoled myself and kept ‘bike fit’ on the turbo and even (whispers) at spinning classes – lots of them. But never a ride, not since 9 July 2016 anyway. Until this morning. It could have been the blue skies and promise of warmth from the sun (but I’ve seen plenty of those since July, so it must have been something else). I think the time is right when it’s right. Today it was right, and I’m adamant that I’ve never felt my bicycle move so serenely and so silently. Didn’t go far, didn’t go fast. But in others ways I’ve never travelled further in 45 minutes than I did this morning.

    Good on ya, Simon!

    I have that same feeling…whether I get out for 45 minutes or 4 hours, I always ALWAYS return feeling completely transformed for the better. Keep on crankin’!

  26. I too have felt “dead tired” of late. I’ve always been high energy and kinda able to do as I please – not sleep much, drink and eat as I want, ride as far and as fast as I want, sprint around at soccer twice a week without warming up/cooling down, etc. And I felt great and limitless.

    Whelp, I’m sure having a new son doesn’t help. Nor hitting my mid-30s. But lately, I feel things catching up to me. Nothing would have stopped me from a long ride in the past, but now I feel tired and second guess it. I’m sore for two days after soccer. If I stay up too late having fun, I have trouble getting out of bed. (I’ve never used a snooze alarm or coffee in my life). But, all of a sudden, I can feel I’m changing. It’s pretty strange to me, as I’ve always had endless energy.

    Oh well, I’m not really complaining. Life is good and I’m in a good state. Additionally, I think this might just be a knock-knock from Father Time. He’s just checking in to let me know that I need to take a bit better care of myself. But, with all of this catching up with me, seeing someone like Jaromir Jagr playing at the highest level in his mid-40s truly blows my mind. My amateur career is catching up with me at a much younger age.

    A good weekend to all! Ride up, rest up, keep on turning the cranks.

  27. So true. I suspect there’s a great many of us that are hopelessly addicted to the sport for that magical moment of calm that descends somewhere mid ride. For me it’s like the bells of Shangri-la banishing anxiety. Whatever was gnawing at me will still be there but the bike has turned it into something manageable again.

    Thank you for sharing that Frank. You are definitely not alone in your sentiments.

  28. A very, very belated ‘Happy New Year’ to all you fine Velominati – and my apologies for the deafening radio-silence from these parts. I’ve been (and still am) in the process of staging a fairly radical career change these days, which has kept me off the streets (and then some). At the ripe old (young?) age of 58, such a change can both be very exciting – and absolutely terrifying, as it turns out. (Details to follow, perhaps, at some point).

    Thanks for the article, Frank (resonated on many levels) – and good to ‘see’ you again. As for riding my bike…. well; winter in Scandinavia, and busy as hell – nuff said. *Sigh*. But something tells me that I’ll be back on two wheels in a matter of weeks. And it won’t be a minute too soon. I miss riding.

  29. Ha! I see that my prolonged absence has caused me to be demoted to ‘Level 1’. Serves me right.

     

  30. @ErikdR

    Hi Erik, best of luck with the career change and good to see you’re still alive and kicking. Best way to change your level is by writing a guest article; that gives you the honorable guest-contributor-V.

  31. @KogaLover

    Cheers, mate.

    I happen to have a little ‘early spring guest article’ lined up, actually: Needs a bit of polishing still, but on its way. And for (much) later this year, I may even attempt to present – in these hallowed halls – a 3D rendering of a virtual project called “The bike-shed of my dreams” (if the Keepers will let me get away with it, that is…). Let’s see how things develop.

    But it’s good to be back.

  32. @ErikdR

    Tell me about it.  I was all the way down to level 4.  I had to contribute a guest article just to cover up the embarrassment!

  33. @Oracle

    Heheh… Y’know what? I actually made a mistake here, I think (which happens a lot – and doesn’t bode well for this ‘new career’ of mine, perhaps…): I had somehow convinced myself that Level 4 was actually the HIGHEST level I’d ever obtained – and that being at Level 1 meant a considerable three steps back – while it’s the other way around, of course (Mild case of dyscalculia here, I’m afraid).

    In fact, I have, so far, never made it past Level 1 (and into the orders) to begin with – so things aren’t nearly as bad as I feared.

  34. I have been spending a lot of energy this winter keeping the Black Dog at bay. A lack of rides, and generally sub par circumstances in life have combined to hand me a shit outlook on things.

     

    Someone posted on our local group about a ride this weekend. The temps were higher than usual, by a good 20 degrees. However it was very damp. My last two rides were damp to downright soaking and I lost the will to push through for more than an hour. Leading to a further spiral downwards. Not feeling good about it I decided to show up anyway. I’m glad I did. Including myself we had three folks set off. After warming up the conversations began. With conversations came jokes, with jokes came laughs, and with laughs a higher spirit.

     

    The last time I remember truly laughing before that was about three months back. Needless to say I’d found a lot of joy that day. I’m still not as chipper as I can be, but I have the presence of mind that things can get better. A context I found myself lacking prior. As the winter rolls on I’ve also decided, in no small part due to urging from my riding partners, to get a fat bike. They ride rain or shine, snow or sun, year round. An alternative to the trainer, or soggy dreary road rides is exactly what I need to stay in the saddle, and out of the Black Dog’s grasp.

  35. “Cycling has saved my life.” I say it all the time. And when I fall back into the rut, one ride pulls me right back out. Stay tough Frank, spring is right around the corner!!

  36. Love your writing Frank. Despite how it sometimes feels don’t think you’re alone in the battle mate. Keep those pedals turning.

  37. Very good and brave text. Thank you! (long ride – cold beer- getting more and more tired: thats the formula)

  38. Oli – say it ain’t so! One upside to having a child: you are too tired and overwhelmed to give much thought to anything more than surviving another day/night. It can make life easier!

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