The eyelid twitch is back, and this week it’s been worse than ever. The eyelid twitch started in April or May, right around the time my back pain got out of control. I chalked it up to an aberrant systems malfunction, the rebellion of a stressed out body trying to hold itself together while I played the waiting game running the physical therapy gauntlet, arguing with insurance, and finally proving my need for major surgery.

In the interim months, the twitch resurfaced every now and then but didn’t always correlate to pain. I’ve decided now that the twitch is more tied to a combination of stress and lack of sleep — it makes sense why it would have started with the pain, and in the past few weeks work stress and over-training (over-training!!) have pushed me to the edge.

That aside, do you know how great it feels to think that I may have actually made it to “over-trained?!” Granted my multiple hours a week of cycling have all been on a trainer to spare my back muscles, but I’m still working my lungs, circulatory system, and my legs fairly hard. My quads are getting absolutely massive, probably larger than they’ve ever been. I may be at odds with my back and jelly-like core, so I’m focusing on the positive and being overly narcissistic about the size of my quads. Trainer miles are no substitute for outdoor training, but at least they can make my legs look good.

When I was in high school, I distinctly remember often looking down at my legs, hating on them, and wishing they would be smaller. I embarked on an ill-advised and rapid weight loss plan and the rest of my body complied, but my legs were still much bigger than those of my classmates. This was even before I was “athletic”, and in hindsight my legs were tiny compared to their girth today. Like usual I have trouble finding a place of moderation, so instead of quad-hating I’m overly vain and have launched on a campaign of quad-selfies. Yes, it’s come to this.

Meat-cannon definition, even visible through denim.

Now that I’ve become self-aware enough to know I’m hitting the over-trained / burn out zone, I’m working on taking guilt-free days off the bike and brainstorming ways to mix it up. The obvious answer is to cautiously attempt outdoor riding again. On deck for tomorrow is a leisurely fat bike ride and post-ride beers. I need to focus less on number of miles, and more on “quality” training, both mentally and physically. The goal is to find things that will restore and give me some energy back, as well as help me increase core strength so I can hold myself up while riding.

I’ve also taken to Zwifting, even joining a virtual race team. It’s been fun to work on fitness that way — racing in fake criteriums, bridging across groups, towing teammates when needed, being the lead-out, cheerleader, and “team car” rider monitoring the race pack and providing tips via headset to the riders. My other focus has been to motivate others to ride more and meet their own personal goals, meeting them where they’re at and trying to nudge them along the way. It’s fun to give back.

Crashed out on the floor, post-Zwift session. Trying to smile and embrace the good!

For 2018, I want to get back to long distance cycling and point-to-point rides. I love journeying across the countryside on an all-day ride, crossing state lines on paved or gravel roads. When I was spending most of the time in bed before and after surgery, when I daydreamed about cycling my thoughts would always go to the all day adventures. I fondly remember looking up into an angry sky as rivers of water cascaded down a gravel road, holding back the tears and feeling hopeless as I pushed my loaded bike up the steep hill. It’s funny that I miss some of those very dark moments the most, the ones that help you appreciate the light so much more.

I signed up for the Day Across Minnesota (DAMn) again. It’s insane, maybe only barely achievable considering my current fitness and nerve problems, but dammit I need a goal out in the future to help me push through the dark months ahead. Here’s to more riding in 2018, a healthier body and mind, and a renewed love of cycling.

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