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The Mystery of the Invisible Legs

I started riding in a weird, drizzly mist. I was soaked immediately. I pedaled and went faster, then I pedaled a little harder, and continued going faster. While physics was justly confirmed, my confusion mounted. “Shouldn’t I be dead-legged?” I wondered, given my lack of sleep or anything approaching regularity in the past couple weeks (my hours of sleep over the past week: 5, 0, 10, 6, 4, 4, 9).

Yet my legs continued to go faster. There was a vast mismatch between the feeling in my legs — happy — and the speed at which I was moving — much above normal. Based on the past month or so, I shouldn’t have been going this fast. I’ve been wrecked, scrambling to find energy and consistency, surely the result of gloriously overdoing it during my week in Death Valley — no regrets about doing it.

After my massage on Monday, in which my friend is slowly undoing years of damage to my steel-belted left IT band and myriad other horrid knots I’ve tied myself into contorted in front of a computer or on a bike, I could barely shuffle up or down stairs. I felt looser, but my knee refused to calm peacefully. I have no doubt that going from the massage to sitting in front of a computer for 27 hours or so didn’t help.

As a consequence of having too much work, too little sleep, and a grumpy knee, I didn’t touch my bike for three days. Thursday, the sun came out, and I gained a bit of time, so I went out for an short and easy two hour ride. I couldn’t push hard at all, my heart rate stayed low, and I had some knee twinges. However, being outside was glorious, and I smiled for the whole two hours.

Friday, I again snuck out for a quick 30-mile ride before heading to campus for another work binge. My knee felt much better, and I could ride a more respectable pace. I was up until 3:30am and up again at 8:30am, so there wasn’t much rest to really keep recovering.

Last night, I was mentally and physically fried, so after a night of playing some of my favorite original NES games, I crashed hard. Nine hours later I woke up cuddled up next to the words of Edward Abbey — thankfully unbent, even in sleep I respect my books! A super-productive morning led to ride time. The rain from the morning persisted into early afternoon, so I donned my cycling cap, tucked a rain jacket under my jersey and headed out onto the road, experience what I described above.

I can only guess that the forced rest, even if haphazard, finally allowed my legs to actually recover. In general, I’d rather ride a little slow than not at all, so forcing myself off the bike for three days almost never happens. But my worries of over-training seem to be the more usual case of under-recovering. Hopefully, I’ve turned the corner on the fatigue just in time for the start of the Midwest ultra season.

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