Isaac Newton’s first law of physics is that an object at rest will tend to stay at rest and that an object in motion will tend to stay in motion unless acted upon. I’m no scientist but the very definition of a scientific law dictates that under the same conditions the same result will occur 100% of the time. So objects in motion WILL stay in motion unless something stops their motion and resting objects will live out their couch potato days until they discover a dollar in between the cushions.
With this in mind, autumn and winter are incredible seasons for motion. And in Virginia we have had an amazing “Indian Summer” where the climate has been unbelievably conducive to getting outside and indulging our wildest fall fantasies. Additionally some of the coolest festivals and some of the most amazing events, all take place in the fall. We recently had the Roanoke GoFest in my town. Over 200 free outdoor-themed events took place that weekend and come Monday morning more than many felt like they had thoroughly “fested themselves”, exhausted and yet still buzzing with the feeling or camaraderie and adventure that time outside brings. I certainly remained in motion that weekend! Monday brought profound fatigue, aching feet, and maybe a bit of a hangover.
Weather is cooling, leaves are falling, and many of us carry killer fitness from an incredible summer of activity. We carry forward planning and doing. We put high powered lights on our mountain bikes to continue riding into the night. We plan indoor gym time, or spin classes, or “dawn patrol” rides and runs. We generally continue running ourselves ragged until winter and cold temps literally force us to quit, for our own safety and relative comfort.
And even then there are ski trips that have to happen. To many of us, myself included, the pace of activity is cathartic. I personally work from home and so my outside time is eagerly anticipated. My personal outside pursuits often represent escape from both work and life stresses and duties.
What I have found this fall is that the momentum I have built throughout years of activity has created an endless chain of activity that while invigorating has been hard to break. I say hard to break because this fall, for the first time in years, I’ve made an effort NOT to keep going.
To stop. To rest. To try to be at ease more often than not. My wife and I have been travelers throughout the Southeast for a few years and while its been an amazing journey and adventure its also built some prolonged fatigue. A couple of injuries this season caused me for the first time in years to pause and acknowledge the importance of recovery. Both physical as well as emotional and mental. Those injuries were the catalyst to stop my motion. My force of movement and activity had been met by an equally powerful force—in my case the far side of a gap jump and Georgia gravel at 30 mph. Both did their job in stopping my motion rather effectively and caused me to reset with periods of inaction.
Following a local wheel through local trail is usually the best way to experience a new trail. In one particular case the swell trail got less swell when that wheel failed to call out a well obscured jump over a drainage ditch. I scrubbed just enough speed to sail clean into the far side. It knocked me cold, broke a bike frame, taco’d a wheel and made for one very casual ride to the emergency room. I learned first hand that a concussed brain is no joke and that helmets are our friends.
The finale of the National Ultra Endurance series at the Fools Gold 100 in Dahlonega, GA is a fan favorite and a race I know and love. I had even taken the time to recon the course this summer because it can often be the pivotal race in a long season of racing. Unfortunately my race ended shortly after the first climb when something halted the bike and forced the back wheel to jump 90 degrees perpendicular to me, tossing me far and fast as I descended chunky gravel.
A string of expletives, and a friend bunny hopping my rolling form all made for great spectating, I’m told. I went down knee first and rolled hard on the rocks and Georgia clay. Less than an ideal race start and one of the only DNF’s I’ve ever had. I just couldn’t continue and fortunately didn’t need to, having already locked up the series.
Both injuries were “merely flesh wounds”, but they kept me off the bike and out of action for longer than I would ever self-impose. This time was so good for me personally. It reminded me of how good it felt to NOT go. How great it was to connect with my family and friends outside the context of riding and racing mountain bikes. I wouldn’t trade our lifestyle for the world, but sometimes a long walk in the woods with our trail dog is the best medicine and all the of activity the body needs. I spoke to a friend recently who confessed that it was really hard to turn it off after his first season of endurance mountain bike racing. And it absolutely is.
Like tweaking drug addicts, endorphin junkies keep seeking the high that only the outdoors, that epic undertaking, and amazing experiences can provide. We jump right off of one mountain top down to the topo map to find the next! Surfing the wave of adventure wherever it goes, and in whatever form we can get it.
This is not an indictment of outdoor pursuit. Quite the opposite! It’s just a personal account of the fatigue which can result from years of those amazing experiences. When I had some mandatory couch time this summer a lot of things came into perspective. Looking at a fall in a more permanent residence for the first time in a few years, I’m realizing and remembering how amazing it is to be still.
The quiet moments are amazingly refreshing. Sometimes it serves us well to take our time. To relax. To bring family with you on a shorter version of the epic hike you were planning. The quiet is alarming when you just sit and be. Prolonged recovery is the recipe I’ve followed much of this fall and already I can vouch for the intensity the recovery has brought. Old activities, tired routes, and experiences dulled by over-use have been brought back to life. Fatigue has been met with rest and invigoration.
Once my body had physically recovered from the wreck at Fools Gold, my recipe for recovery was lots of time catching up on projects. Plentiful naps. Ample hiking and trail running with no goals in mind; one epic day of 7 peaks without pace in mind. A dash of bike racing with little expectation and less stress on performance and nutrition. I felt like every time I touched the pedals, laced shoes, and packed the car, it was for the simple quiet and pure joy of the activity and almost never for any direct performance gain or benefit. No focus in a place where I usually bring tremendous focus.
I set into this fall in preparation for my biggest and most exciting season of racing and travel ever. I start it off in early February by racing The Pioneer 7 day stage race in New Zealand then bumping right off to the Epic Rides 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. The time I took off this fall and winter is already proving a good investment. My body is ready and my mind is right. I’m having better workouts and more vibrant experiences on the bike and off. For me the body needed to rest.