I learned this word from Baby Seal. It is the perfect description of what happens when someone comes apart on a bike ride. It fits me to a T.

This morning Kristie and I left Austin; we were shooting for an LCRA park about 15 miles outside of La Grange, Texas. Total distance 90 miles via Bastrop and Buescher state parks; the longer, hilly, scenic route.

The pre-ride it was perfect. It began with warm Shipley donuts. But that was the high point of the day. As I began riding I felt really bad and went from there to worse.

This has characterized the whole trip. I’m a day away from Houston and feel about as rotten now as I did on the second day, when I came unstitched in Alpine, CA. I keep waiting for that day when I will have the kind of magical legs I had this summer; when I will finish the day tired and reawaken completely rejuvenated. Instead what has happened is that I have finished each day exhausted and re-awoken the following morning equally or even more exhausted. The occasional day when I feel good is followed by continuous days of lethargy.

Food, sleep, and rest days have not fixed the problem.

Kristie has a simple explanation. “You are profundly fatigued.”


“Yeah. You have been riding nonstop since July, combining that with the brutal lifestyle of a homeless person, living in a tent, feeding on scraps, making and breaking camp as often as an outlaw on the run.”

“I took six weeks off after getting back from my trip to the Canadian border.”

“You did nothing of the kind.”

“Of course I did.”

“You did a 3-day, 300-mile ride with camping to Santa Barbara. You rode between 40 and 70 miles every single day you were in Los Angeles. Many of those rides you did with a fully loaded pack. You rode 140 miles to Rancho Cucamonga to buy a tent. And don’t forget the ride you did with Eric and Miles.”

“That was a fun ride.”

“You couldn’t walk the next day.”

“Yeah, I guess I couldn’t.”

“So with zero recovery from three months living out of a tent and clocking 3500 miles, you immediately decided to ride and camp your way to Texas. In the winter. On a route that takes you over the Continental Divide. With a 30-pound backpack. It would be a tall order for a healthy, fit cyclist in his 20s. You are almost 60. You have worn yourself completely out. You are done.”

She had a good point, or rather, she was right. After our 74-mile ride today to La Grange, she felt fine. I was too tired to make it a mere 15 more miles to the campsite, so I got a motel room. After checking in I crawled into bed, shivering. “It sure is cold in here,” I said.

“No, it isn’t. It is about 75°. You are shivering because you have zero body fat and you are completely worn out; too worn out to even maintain your core body temperature without three blankets.”

We still have 108 miles to get to Houston. I am pretty sure I can do it, but there is no way I will be able to get on my bicycle and ride back to California.



18 thoughts on “Unstitched”

  1. Edward Hasbrouck

    It’s a tradeoff with body fat.

    When I was 20 and started riding seriously (and got my first fast bike, a Miyata 710), I found myself keeping up with the leaders on Sunday club rides with the Charles River Wheelmen.

    Partly it was that I was 20.

    Partly it was that my Monday-Friday daily commute was 15 miles each way (inlcuidng “Heatrtnbreak Hill” on the Boston Marathon route, FWIW, whihc isn’t much), which was way more “training” miles than most weekend club riders whio didn’t commute by bicycle could get in.

    But partly it was that was 5’11” and weighed 135 lbs.

    I’m still 5’11”, but I’ve gained on average about a pound a year for the last 40 years.

    I don’t need as many blankets at night. I don’t start shivering with hypothermia as quickly if I get a flat tire and have to stop riding. I don’t get bitchy as quickly if it’s further to the next meal than I expected.

    But I’m a lot slower carrying that extra weight — and not just because of my age.

  2. Edward Hasbrouck

    (Sorry for the typos. I can’t figure out how to edit my comment to correct them.)

  3. +1, as they say on bikeforums.net, which is where I think I first met you. New Jersey-born, Texan (Alice & Rio Grande City)-married, globe-trotting for work cyclist. We stopped racing because we realized riding for “smiles per mile” (Thanks, DenvrFox) is the way to go. We rode from SF-Santa Barbara on a tandem, from Austin to Cuero in 2010, when Google maps for bikes didn’t get that a road bike can’t navigate gravel and sand) on the same tandem, and around Abruzzo, Italy, on ½ bikes. Full marks on taking on these challenging rides in very challenging times. We cancelled out 2 trips to Italy and ride locally. And +100 to Kristie for calling you on your nonsense. Listen to her!

  4. Christy is probably right, but have you considered a trip to a doctor, maybe a once over and some blood work by a good GP? I recently found out that there are health consequences to stressing your bod beyond anything reasonable. I used to look at the fact that some of the things I did didn’t kill me as evidence that I would live a long life, but now I’m discovering that I may have been premature in that assessment. Just a thought.

  5. It’s almost like you forgot you’re an old worn out shoe and bag of bones!

    I agree with K that the miles, the lifestyle, the weather, the food (type or lack of) have taken a toll.

    And the headwinds. My god, the headwinds. Those are basically endless climbs that destroy body and spirit.

  6. The thing about being unstitched is that it’s only one more step to unraveled. A looksee by a doctor would be time and money well spent. I don’t like the notion that you rode to Texas in order to be buried near to where you grew up. Listen to Kristie – she is wise.

  7. I hope you reach the point where the self flagellation has paid for your perceived offenses in full.

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