Thursday, March 05, 2009

Depression as BioFeedback

What a tough week it's been. My body is great at biofeedback. I guess some people get sluggish, sick, or injured when they've pushed the envelope too far. For me, I get cranky first. Okay, downright DEPRESSED. I guess it's good. If I scale back when I get really down, I avoid illness or injury (which is always right around the corner). Whenever I'm really depressed for seemingly no reason it's usually one of three things: I'm hungry, I'm tired, I'm getting sick. And if it's a combo of the three? It's downright diabolical.

I started that tough ride last Saturday already depleted. My legs felt wobbly and glycogen-depleted from all the weekly Spinerval workouts I had been doing before I even stepped into the saddle. Not good. After the 63-mile ride (not even that long really) unsuspectingly annhilated me and ran off with the last shred of pride remaining, I woke up the next day and stumbled to meet my running group for an 8-mile trail run in Mission Trails (my plantar fasciitis is feeling MUCH better--yea for the "sock"!).

The run took even more out of me than the bike. I started shuffling down the trail as the other fit, able-bodies runners took off, leaving me to eat their dust. Luckily, my friend Ann ran diligently by my side. She reminded me to be happy just to be out there, running, healthy, and in such a beautiful place, no matter how slowly we trudged down the trail. I was so grateful she was there. She really helped me push that ego-sucking devil off my back. Amazingly, the farther we ran, the better I felt. I felt my legs loosen up after a few miles, and after that, I found a comfortable rhythm. I felt like I could go forever (I'm not good at speed; however, I think I have a gift for going long). However, when we finished up, the fatigue that I had been running from had closed in on me; I was happy to be done.

I spent the rest of the weekend sleeping, stretching, and eating. I couldn't help but feel humiliated. Why was everyone so much faster, fitter, and stronger than me? Even worse, why were these workouts absolutely killing me when a year ago, these distance would have been a recovery week? I couldn't believe how much fitness I had lost; it was a hard pill to swallow. Even though I knew I had been preparing for an Ironman only 6 weeks away last year, it was difficult to accept how far off the wagon I had fallen. In addition, reaching my prior fitness (and surpassing it) by August began to seem like an insurmountable goal.

Needless to say, deep depression had set in by Monday. I couldn't shake it. I just didn't have that superhero feeling anymore. Quite the contrary, I had the Garth and Wayne, "I'm not worthy" feeling. I added up my hours and analyzed my training plan (see sidebar). I hadn't realized that I had been hitting it so hard for 3 weeks in a row. Looking at the hard, cold data made me feel better. After a 2 month off-season (which I had planned), I had been training 4-6 hours/week for 10 weeks (and about 50 miles/week). For the last 3 consecutive weeks, I had unwittingly doubled the volume to 10 hours/week and 100 miles/week, a far cry from the recommended 10% weekly increase. 10% increase, Rachel, NOT 100%. I began to feel better. No wonder I was so tired! The numbers consoled me. They indicated my body is right where it should be. Also, they indicated they I needed a well-earned recovery week.

It's been a tough week. The depression I've been dealing with is simply my body's way of telling me I'm EXHAUSTED. Lo and behold, after much sleep and eating lots of junk food (shame, shame), I'm feeling much, much better. And the depression? Slipping away. I know when I resume my next block of training next week, I will be stronger, faster, and well-motivated to attack my challenges.
Now, it's time for SHOW and TELL!
Goldfinch at our feeder in the backyard.
Hummingbird at feeder on other side of backyard. It's a little garden of Eden!
Balloon landing in field behind our backyard at sunset. We see this every evening.
Sasha, trying to make a run for it.
10 Fast Facts about Sasha:
1. She LOVES the outdoors.
2. She thinks I'm her pincushion. Ouch!
3. She wants to be the #1 bunny in the household.
4. She loves jumping on tabletops and chewing buttons off remotes.
5. She also loves pulling books out of bookshelves and shredding the pages.
6. She has adoreable blue eyes and looks like a little princess but she's actually the devil.
7. She would rather run around and play than come inside to eat her dinner.
8. She's so smart, we sometimes wonder if she understands English. If I say, "Brent, close the door before she runs outside again," she promptly turns and runs outside before Brent even has a chance to blink.
9. She bites when we pet her, stop petting her, give her attention, stop giving her attention. She just bites.
10. Anyone want a free bunny?
10 Fun Facts about Taz (left):
1. He's married to Babs.
2. He's almost 100-years old.
3. He coos so loudly at night, he wakes me up. It's so cute, I can't bring myself to tell him to stop.
4. He loves to lick my nose.
5. He loves treats and food more than anything else.
6. Getting petted is his 2nd favorite thing.
7. He doesn't know how to bite.
8. He's the only thing that cheers me up when I'm feeling blue.
9. He has the softest fur of any bunny I've ever felt.
10. He's the best bunny ever.
10 Fun Facts about Babs (right):
1. She's kind of chubby, even though she eats less than Taz. Poor girl.
2. She's a worrier. When I'm upset, she gets upset.
3. She would rather get petted than eat.
4. She gets depressed when she hasn't gotten enough attention.
5. She LOVES basking in the sunlight.
6. She loves having her butt scratched.
7. She flops over onto her back when she wants attention.
8. She also rings her toys with bells on them when she feels unnoticed.
9. She's very shy around people she doesn't know but she's great around me, Brent, and Alec (so is Taz).
10. She's very sensitive and responsive to the sound of my voice. She's my little girl (even though she's 90).


Grey Beard said...

Reminds me of the scene in "When Harry Met Sally" where Billy Crystal is lying in bed in the middle of the day, half-heartedly reading a book and says "that's the great thing about depression, you get your rest" :D

Diana said...

Who would have thought a year ago when really getting into training that I need to learn so much about my body with numbers and the such. It's almost too hard! I too have been enjoying the comfort of just plain old "comfort" food! Even if I put on a few pounds-oh well, my body has been so depleted this past February.
Love Sasha-she looks so cute sitting by the door? Does she ever make a bolt?
The hot air balloon...OMG, that is such a thing I want to do, meant to do it last year, that year came and went....maybe this year.
Enjoy your rest!

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

Yours is a perfect example of why it is so important to log all of you training as an endurance athlete. If you hadn't been able to look back and find the cause, you might have kept on training like that until you really got hurt or sick. Rest up and I'm betting you will be back better than ever in no time.

Sara said...

Your bunnies are so cute!

I agree with Chad - keeping track of your numbers is so so important! You have definitely pushed yourself too hard the last 3 weeks (weird so uncharacteristic of you ;)!). You will definitely be there for August b/c at the end of the day you are an amazing triathlete!!

hstryk said...

Reread this post after a disappointing weekend. I definitely feel my depression creeping back on. I hate that it affects my training mindset, I too felt "not worthy" and felt my few miles were junk. I guess it helps alleviate some personal pressure when I remind myself I'm not the only one that feels this way sometimes.