Naming it

Depression.  Addiction.

There, I’ve given more specific names to this “funk” I’m in.

The specific symptoms that are used to diagnose depression are listed here and many other places.

This “condition” is not new for me.  A few years ago I felt it.  It “went away” then came back last fall.  Now it’s back again.

As I read more about depression, I realize that it’s not like a broken bone or a cold.  Long term, it might go away.  But more likely what I was experiencing was simply the ebb and flow of the condition.  Its effect might lessen at times, but it frequently comes back.  That’s what I’m experiencing now.

And now I realize that my prior approach to dealing with depression was flawed.  I was trying to “get rid” of it, in the same way that I’d get rid of a flu bug or a sinus infection.  That ain’t how this thing works.

No, I realize now that this will be with me for a while.  It’s more like diabetes or asthma.  I need to deal with it on a daily, maybe even hourly basis.  That sucks, but at least I know.

Like depression, addiction can be diagnosed by looking for a specific set of symptoms (this post outlines some).

I’ve always been hesitant to call my problem with eating junk food, particularly sugar, an addiction.

But after my experience over the past couple weeks, I think it just might be that.  My experience with trying to reduce my sugar intake has been enlightening.  Definitely feels like addiction.  I can no longer eat just one small piece of junk food.  Eating just one results in many more to follow.

I suppose you could argue that it’s just a lack of discipline or willpower.  And I probably could resist junk food.  But the effort required convinces me even more that I’ve got some sort of dependency issue with sugar.

The fun part for me is that depression and eating and addiction all work together nicely to form a little vicious cycle.  I feel like crap, so I eat.  That makes me feel worse.  So I eat more.  And so it goes.


This post is not meant to be a pity party.

Giving a name to these things I’m dealing with is the first step to addressing them.  Now I have a framework for defining the problems so I can deal with them.

I see this as a complex problem solving exercise, and I’m good at that.  I’m good at defining the problem, figuring out the root cause and fixing it.  That’s the way I plan to address this “funk.”  It may be a more complicated problem than I’ve ever had to solve, but I know it’s possible.

Of course, some things will need to change.  As I figure out the mechanisms by which this depression and addiction work within me, I will need to make adjustments to improve my situation.  Running could be one example of that.  For now, I need to eliminate any expectations that I have about a particular race or workout.  Just focus on getting out, and be happy with whatever the result is.  Worrying about whether I am running fast, or whether I’ll be ready to run a PR at Pikes Peak in August just makes things worse by lowering my self-esteem.  So I need to adjust by eliminating the source of worry.

I expect more of those kinds of adjustments going forward.

At the end of the day, I don’t see depression and addiction as insurmountable problems.

I expect to come out of this better than I went in.  With more self-awareness, more emotional strength, more appreciation of all the great things I’ve got in my life.

I know it will be work, hard work.  But the results will be worth it.


Week in review: April 23-29, 2012

Nothing much got done this week.

It’s not useful for me to assign a “good” or “bad” value to the week; the only thing that matters is the numbers and how I feel.  Right now the numbers are low and I feel even lower.

  • Runs:  1 for 18 miles, 2 hours and 36 minutes
  • Rides:  1 for 35 miles, 2 hours and 11 minutes

That’s the third lowest weekly total for me this year and the lowest in 6 weeks.

My eating was ok for the first few days but poor towards the end of the week.  I slept enough hours, but it’s easy to do that when I don’t care when I get up and I don’t have any workouts planned.  I just sleep until 6 or 7 am.

I blew an opportunity to put in a good amount of volume before the coming week, which I know will be difficult for me from a fitness standpoint.  This week I plan just to run for enjoyment.  No specific workouts, just running for the fun of getting out and seeing places.  I’ll be traveling, so I’m hoping to see some new sights and cities.

Right now, fitness really isn’t on the top of my mind, nor should it be.  I’ve got to deal with this crap feeling that I’ve got.  And it isn’t even physical, it’s more emotional and mental.  I don’t think it will “heal” like a broken bone, so I need to work more seriously at it.

I think it’s time for me to acknowledge that there is something bigger going on here, something more important that’s wrong.  I’ll be writing more on that in the very near future.

Below is the detail on my week in fitness.  It’s a short post.

Monday (April 23)

Zero.  No interest in running today.  The weekend was fun, but it was past.  This was just a lack of motivation to get out of bed and into running.

Tuesday (April 24)

Three days between my last workout and this one.  I was interested to see what would happen.  18 miles by doing 4 loops in Schooley’s Mountain park.  This time I added a twist.  The first two loops I’d run at MAF intensity, the last two loops I would run hard.

The first two loops were slow.  I did not feel good.

On the last two loops, I was weak.  I had very little strength to run hard uphill.

For every loop, on the downhill and walking portions (there are lots of rocks), my heart rate went super-low.  I have no idea why.

Average HR 144 for the whole run, including the hard parts.  Two hours, 36 minutes.

I have no idea what to make of this workout.

Wednesday (April 25)

Got out for a bike ride today, 35 miles.  I felt ok, not sluggish.  But again I just could not generate any force, power or speed.  It was a very different feeling compared to the past few weeks, where I was either sore or sluggish.  This just felt weak and slow.

Turns out that it wasn’t a terrible ride, but it just did not feel good.  Two hours, 11 minutes.

Thursday – Sunday (April 26-29)

Four straight zeroes.

No motivation whatsoever.  On Saturday and Sunday, I forced myself to at least get out and split some wood.  But it was really hard.

Darkness and Fog

I’m in the middle of a pretty deep fog right now.  The last couple times I felt this bad were in the spring of 2009 and late summer 2011.  I don’t know if I ever made it fully out of those.

It’s a little bit of everything.  A big jumble of emotions, physically feeling like crap, mental distraction.  No interest in running or riding.  Lots of eating.  I just really want to lay around all day and do nothing.  Well, maybe just watch TV.

It just kind of came on.  No real trigger that I can identify.  Last weekend, I decided to completely give up junk food.  I was thinking I might be addicted to it.  So I went off it cold turkey.  I struggled but stayed off it for a couple days, and I started feeling better.  Then on Wednesday I re-introduced some.  Thursday I went into a pretty complete funk, and I’ve been stuck there ever since.

I’m torn between two different paths.  Should I completely ignore these funky feelings and just move on?  Or should I “lean in” to these feelings and just see where it takes me.  There’s a quote that keeps running through my head.  It’s from Sir B. H. Liddell Hart and it goes something like …

“If you wish for peace, understand war”

I just wonder whether the best way for me to really get out of this funk is to really explore it fully.  To “understand” it, recognizing that it’s the opposite of what I want.  I have no idea how to do that.  But I definitely don’t want to keep slipping back in.  So rather than rushing to get myself out of it, should I instead just let it be, just try to figure out what it’s like and what’s making it happen?  It sounds counter-intuitive.  But maybe if I let myself fully experience this darkness, I would eventually decide that I am done with it.

I know that letting the darkness be would be costly in the short term.  I wouldn’t run my best Pikes Peak in August.  I might feel crappy for a little bit longer than I would like.

There are some things I’m not willing to compromise.  First and foremost, my relationships with my wife and kids.  I’m doing everything I can to preserve those, to not let those slip.  I also don’t want to affect my job.

Sometimes I think the whole fitness thing is a major contributor to this funk.  Is it stress from worrying about how I’ll do in August?  Or stress about wanting to lose weight to run faster?  Or the time that I spend working out, which robs me of time to do other things?  Part of me thinks that my job performance would increase if I spent more time on that and less (even no) time on workouts.

But then again sometimes I miss working out so badly that I can’t stand it.

Should I spend some time exploring it?  Like not working out for a week or so and seeing how I feel?  Would I regret it?  What would it feel like?  Would my only concern be that I’m not training for August?

I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do to get out of this funk.  Stay in the moment.  Every moment.  It will be a fight to get out of this funk, no matter how long I stay in it.

I just wonder whether I should be in such a hurry to get out.  Or should I take a look around?

Week in review: April 16-22, 2012

This week was supposed to be a higher volume week, but my weekend family obligations sort of derailed that.  And I’m ok with that.  Caitryn had a once-in-a-lifetime event (first communion), and we had 30+ people to the house for a celebration of that plus 3 other birthdays.  So a big deal.  I traded volume for making sure I didn’t screw that up.  And 12 hours of workout time for the week should be enough for me to make progress.  Expecting more might be a bit greedy.

Here are stats for the week:

  • Runs:  2 for 26 miles, just over 4 hours, including the most intense run I’ve done in 6 months
  • Rides:  3 for 143 miles, 8 hrs and 21 minutes
  • Strength:  1 session that I probably won’t be doing again (more on that later)

If I had figured out a way to get the runs in this weekend, it would have been a great week and exactly to plan.  But I’m not going to go nuts thinking about it.  I’m just going to continue on Monday, trying to make things work.

I probably should report something about my efforts to “stay in the moment.”

From the not-a-surprise department, it works!  I am having much more fun putting my kids to bed, especially Callista (the two-year-old).  She’s crazy like any two-year-old who is just starting to figure things out.  Soon she’ll be running the house.  I used to stress out during that 60+ minute routine of putting her to bed.  But I’ve discovered that it’s actually pleasant when I just focus on that instead of trying to get it over with so I can do whatever I had planned to do next.

But it is hard for me to always stay in the moment.  This week, it was especially true for work, where I’m currently doing some computer-based training that’s pretty boring.  I (re-)learned that when I’m bored, I eat.  I expected some bumps in the road to focus, and overall my focus was better this week than in the past.  So progress there.

Details are below.

Monday (April 17)

This ride eliminated any concerns about the effects of few days off every once in a while.  It was the strongest I’ve felt in a long time.  63 miles in about 3 hrs, 30 minutes.  And while I realize that training workouts should not completely be measured by performance (they’re more about trying to evoke a response from your body), it’s nice to see an improvement in performance every once in a while.

Tuesday (April 18)

Went exploring today in Teetertown nature preserve.  Several of my runs include the ravine part of the reserve, but there is so much more to it.  My recent fishing trips with the kids motivated me to explore more of the preserve, as it is really interesting.  There are a few different types of workout I can get in this place, including:

  • Flat to rolling runs over longer distances in open fields
  • Trails with medium degrees of technical difficulty and short to medium but steep hills
  • Gravel surfaces for longer hills with medium grade inclines:  something like 1+ miles on a ~6% incline
  • One extremely steep trail section (12-15%) that is a tenth of a mile or two

In short, this place will be great for a bunch of different kinds of workout over the next 4 months.  I have no idea why it took me so long (almost 5 years) to discover this place.  Maybe it’s the sign that said:  “Caution:  Hunting allowed from September through February.”  But since it’s now April I’m not so worried about that.

Total time was about 2 hours, 47 minutes.  I’ll call it 17 miles but I don’t have any idea how long it really was.  I kept the intensity at MAF level.

Afterwards I did a strength workout that I regretted until Saturday.  3 iterations of:

  • Jumprope:  60 both legs, 25 each one leg, 60 both legs
  • Step-ups:  30 each leg
  • Single-sided stone squats:  7 with the stone on each side (total of 14 per iteration)

As the picture below suggests, I have a million rocks on my property, of all shapes and sizes.  So I have a ton of choices.  And does anyone need any rocks?  The rock I chose is in the center of the picture below.

I have no idea of the weight of the rock I decided to use.  That should have been a red flag.  My legs were sore for the next 3 days.  I need to re-think the objective of strength training for me, now that I’m about 16 weeks out from Pikes Peak.  I don’t think I should be doing anything new or crazy with strength workouts.  As I discovered this week, it might not help that much and could really disrupt my other training.

Wednesday (April 19)

My legs were really feeling sore from the workouts yesterday, so I cut short my planned ride.  Went 35 miles in 2 hrs, 12 minutes.  Given how sore my legs were, I tried to focus on easy gearing and high cadence.  That helped for a while, but I really suffered in the second half of this workout.

Thursday (April 20)

My legs were still sore, but I was ready to get some intensity in today.  I think yesterday’s bike ride really helped with recovery.  Enough so that I could do something today.  I returned to a staple training workout for my 2010 Pikes Peak effort, but I modified it slightly.  The workout was 3x over and back one of the hills in Schooley’s Mountain park.  The degree of technical difficulty on this trail is much less than the one I’ve been running on Schooley’s.  Each “over and back” includes:

  • About .6 mile hard effort (mostly uphill, some downhill).  Each of these lasts about 5 minutes.
  • About .3 mile recovery (downhill).  Each of these lasts 2-3 minutes.

So with 3 “over and back” repeats, I got just over 3.5 miles (6 x .6) of hard running in about 30 minutes.

My aim for these is what Jack Daniels calls “VO2max intervals,” which should be 95-100% of your max HR.

HR average for each of these hard efforts was 166-168.  So they might not be at 95-100% of my max HR yet.

I also put in a bit of progression work on the run home from the park, with my HR increasing every 3-4 minutes over the course of 17 minutes.  I maxed out at 175 in the sprint down my street to finish my run.

My legs weren’t feeling great at any point during this workout, but I was pleased with the intensity I was able to achieve.  I need to be able to sustain it for longer though.  That’s a major focus for the next three months.  About 9 miles in just under 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Friday (April 21)

Back to riding today.  My legs were actually feeling better than expected this morning.  The soreness from those ill-advised stone squats was finally subsiding, and yesterday’s interval session caused less lingering pain than expected.  So I added some intensity to this.  Again trying to focus on high cadence, easier gearing.

45 miles in 2 hrs, 39 minutes.

Saturday (April 22)

For a brief moment, I considered trying to sneak in a workout early in the morning.  But I had stayed up late the previous night (preparing for the party), and I was tired, and I didn’t want to take any chances.  So I skipped it.

Sunday (April 23)

More family stuff mid-morning through mid-afternoon.  Callista is in that mode where she wants to skip her afternoon nap.  Given her late bedtime last night (and no nap, and a ton of activity), she absolutely needed one today.  So I decided to make it a team effort – I took an afternoon nap too.

I probably could have figured out a way to get something in today, but I was mentally 0ff with no interest in fitness.  Hoping this is just a passing wave of dis-interest.  Took a zero today on fitness.

Fun with a graph

I’m a big fan of Edward Tufte.  I’ve been to a couple of his training seminars and I’ve got a bunch of his books.  The guy is brilliant.  One of these guys who just thinks on a different plane than most everyone else.  I appreciate his perspective on PowerPoint.  Basically, ditch it.

Or, his invention of the “sparkline,” which is showing up more and more these days.

Sometimes I get inspired to try and emulate Tufte.  Or at least not embarass myself.

This morning I thought it might be interesting to see if I could figure out some way to visualize my workouts for the year.

Luckily, this year I started tracking all my workouts in Excel.  So I have the data.

Here is a graph that I came up with quickly, without much thinking.  I know I have to look at the data more to figure out how to best visualize it.  But this ain’t a bad start.

This graph shows my running and riding for the year.  I normalized my riding into “mile equivalents” – basically I divided my riding mileage by 4 to get something comparable to running mileage.  The riding mileage line is stacked on top of the running line.  So weeks 6 and 8 below are zero or low running mileage but high riding mileage (close to 200 real riding miles per week).  Weeks 13 and 14 are high running mileage but low riding mileage.

What does this graph indicate?

It looks like I’ve had an up and down year.  I recall my foot injury happening during weeks 6-8.  Overall, the up and down wouldn’t be bad – it would indicate a repeating pattern of build up then rest/recover.  However, I think the “rest/recover” periods have been too low and too long.  It’s a bit too lumpy.  Ideally, the blue line would never dip below 20 and the red line would never dip below 40.  And they would only be that low for a week, never two weeks.

I like the upward progression of my volume over the past 6 weeks.  But I don’t think I need to be doing too much more volume.  That is, I don’t think the blue line needs to go much over 60 and the red line needs to go much over 80.  I’d be ok if the red line went higher, but when the blue line hits 70 that’s potential injury time.

I’d like to have more of a steady relationship between my riding and my running.  That is, I’d like the distance between the red and blue lines to be the same throughout the graph, except during rest weeks.  During a rest week I’d expect to ride more, which would increase the distance between the red and the blue lines.

So what’s the point?

I’m not surprised by the look of this graph.  It does give me a better sense of what I should be doing.  Namely, I should be making sure I keep to a minimum number of miles per week, and I should take care not to let the “down” weeks last for too long.

I already knew these things, but it doesn’t hurt to reinforce it through another way of visualizing my workouts for the year.

I recognize that this first iteration is an extremely limited (at best) view of my training.  It could be misleading.  It is completely focused on volume, or quantity.  There is no representation of quality.  And we know that 55 miles per week in 3 high quality runs is better than 55 in 5 low quality runs.  So I need to figure out a way to graphically depict quality.  Not simple to do.

I’m open to suggestions on how to evolve this.


If I could get only one thing right, it would be…

…staying in the moment.  This moment.  Right now.

There was a time not too long ago when I would be driving to work in the morning, talking on a conference call and eating a breakfast of yogurt and granola.  Literally taking granola out of a plastic baggie and putting it into a cup of yogurt.  I’d be steering with my knee.

I haven’t done that in a while.  But every day I still do things like:

  • Read while I brush my teeth.  I figure reading helps extend the time I spend brushing my teeth, thereby making my teeth healthier.
  • Listen to podcasts or watch TV while I stretch
  • After dinner but before we put the kids to bed, I wander around my iPad aimlessly, reading blog posts or web sites and eating handfuls of junk food
  • Watch TV while I “work.”  I usually have no idea what I just watched, and I don’t get any work done either.
  • Spend 3-4 hours longer on something work-related because I am busy surfing the internet or wandering around my house or reading something.

These are just the simple cases.

Not being present in the moment has a huge impact on every aspect of my life.

If I were to just focus on being present in the moment, every moment, I would probably gain back about 3 hours in my day.  I’d drop a few bad habits (and more than a few pounds).  I’d know what my legs feel like when I’m stretching on a good day as compared to a bad day.  I’d fall asleep faster.  I’d notice little things about my kids that make me smile.  I’d enjoy the air outside on a cool, breezy spring day.  I’d work out easier on my easy days and harder on my tough days.  I’d write more and better blog posts.

I would carry much less stress around.

A couple of months ago I bought a book called A Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Workbook.  I read the first 6 or so chapters, and everything I’ve read so far has resonated with me.  I did a few of the exercises.  About a week ago I tried the “full body scan” right before I went to bed.  It took me about 24 seconds to fall asleep.

While everything has resonated with me, I haven’t put most of the recommendations into practice.  It isn’t easy to perform some of the exercises.  It entails slowing things down to a pace that I’m not used to.  It requires me to acknowledge my emotions and just let them sit.  To not do anything with them.  It requires me to just eat a meal without reading or watching TV.  Just taste the food.

I think I’m also afraid of what I might unearth.  So I make excuses about not having time to do the exercises, or I just “forget.”

Starting now, I’m going to see how often I can just be mindful.  Put the recommendations in that book into practice.  Just focus on one thing and finish it.  Acknowledge my emotions but let them be.  Don’t judge them.  Just let them sit.

I think this is going to be really hard.  Which means it’s probably right.  I don’t expect to succeed very often to start.  But eventually I will get better at it.

I’m curious to see what happens.

Week in Review: April 9-15, 2012

This was a different sort of week for me, a self-imposed rest week.  Or rest weekend.  After two straight high volume weeks, I decided to take a long weekend off.

It started with my decision to take a day off from running.  That felt good, so I decided to take two more off.  Those decisions were partly based on recognizing commitments and obligations beyond fitness and partly based on the need to simply disconnect from fitness.  I think that’s good every once in a while.  My performance had been slipping, so I’m hoping the rest will give me the opportunity to come back stronger.

I felt sluggish all week.  Not sure why, but one suspect is that I donated blood last Friday.  I don’t know how that affects fitness.  Perhaps it doesn’t affect fitness, but it temporarily affects performance.  How temporarily, I don’t know.

One other consideration – I am in process of transitioning to a higher volume approach to fitness.  More running, more riding.  In the past, I would run or ride only 5 days a week, and it was common for me to take 2 days (the weekend) off.  In that context, taking three days off really is not all that strange.

And I did actually manage to still get in a pretty good bit of volume, even in four days.

  • Runs:  2 for 30 miles, 4 hours 18 minutes
  • Rides:  2 for 80 miles, 5 hours
  • No strength work this week.  I will start to regret that if I don’t do it
  • Sleep:  Close to 7 hours average per night, almost 1 hour more than past weeks…so I did get some “rest”

9+ hours of workout time in a “down” week is nothing to sneeze at.

The other reason why I took the weekend off was a quick peek ahead in the calendar.

Looking ahead, I’ve got two fairly open weeks followed by a week of travel.  So the plan is to go big volume for the two upcoming weeks, making for two big volume (the past two), one down (this week), two more big volume (next two).

Oh, and I don’t feel pain in my right foot.  How about that.

Making my way through Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  It’s been more difficult than I anticipated.

Details are below.

Monday (April 9)

I had planned a longer ride today, but things at work got a little tight.  So I opted for a shorter ride, which ended up a good thing.  Classic spring day in the form of a rough wind…to the tune of 25+ miles an hour.  I would not have enjoyed a longer bike ride.  Riding straight into the wind felt like I was on a trainer.  No forward motion.  It was interesting to see what happened as I came into open fields (there are lots of those around my house with all the farms)—my bike was almost knocked over.  I felt sluggish on this ride, like I could not find my form.  Not sure if it was the wind or why, but I felt off.  35 miles, 2 hrs, 11 minutes.  Really off from a performance standpoint.

Tuesday (April 10)

Another step towards increasing the intensity.  Just getting slowly back into it.  On the flat crushed gravel of the Columbia Trail, I did 8 x half mile, with a quarter mile recovery.  These felt awful.  Like I couldn’t get going.  Times reflected that, ranging from 3:30 per to 3:39 per.  Including warm-up and cool-down, the total was 12 miles in 1 hr, 40 minutes.

After this run I spent a lot of time thinking about what I really needed to perform well at Pikes Peak.  I’m going to elaborate on this in future posts, but I was happy (maybe delusional) to conclude that raw speed wasn’t super important.  I don’t have much of that right now.  In the future, it will be more important to develop strength and endurance than raw speed.  So if I can only run an 8 minute mile now, it’s OK because when I run up the hill I will be running much slower than that.  More on this in the future.

Wednesday (April 11)

Back into the rocky trail at Schooley’s Mountain Park.  I almost feel like my training mantra should be “hills and trails never fails.”  When in doubt, I should just run a hill or a trail.  Hills for the strength, trails for the technical skills.  I really need to just plan for hills and trails each week.

Four loops on the 3.5 mile trail, MAF intensity.  Felt sluggish again, but at least this time I did not fall.  I did roll my right foot/ankle though.  Not sure if this was the pain I felt on Thursday.  18 miles, 2 hrs, 38 minutes (3 minutes slower than the same route last week).  Average HR 144.  The positive out of this run was that I did four loops, two in each direction.  For each pair of loops, the second was as fast as the first.  I hope that’s a positive…I need something positive.

Thursday (April 12)

Riding again today.  Thankfully, less wind.  45 miles, 2 hours 50 minutes.  Again, super slow compared to what I’ve been doing.  Just not feeling strong like past weeks.  It was a beautiful day and the ride was good for the soul.

Another positive about this ride—I have a real reason for wanting to get into the neighborhood of 3 hours for a bike ride.  I’m anticipating that 3 hours is about how long it will take me to run up Pikes Peak.  So any time I can get 3 hours of workout in, I feel like I’m approaching what I might do on Pikes Peak.  I believe this will help me build enough aerobic fitness to feel like 3 hours is not such a big deal.

Friday (April 13)

No workout today, as I described in this post.

So what did we do?  I took the two girls out Friday afternoon for an awesome day…we

  • Watched softball
  • Hiked through the woods to retrieve softballs
  • Invented some sort of game in the bleachers of the football field
  • Walked around a bit and watched some baseball

No question, the girls got more exercise than if Caitryn had been running track.  And they had more fun too.

Saturday (April 14)

Another family commitment for mid-morning.  I could have woken up early to get out for a couple hours riding, but I decided against it.  Just wanting a rest.

Instead, we went fishing.  Three or four fish (blue gills) in 3-4 hours of time, probably 2 hours of fishing.  If they keep wanting to go, I’ll keep taking them.

After we got home from fishing, I tried to burn a bunch of wood in the outside fire pit but stopped.  Too dangerous with dry conditions and a pretty stiff wind.

Dinner outside on the back porch tonight.  Need to do more of that.  It was nice.

Sunday (April 15)

Day off.  Spent the day with the girls and just reading.  Needing a mental break.