Thursday, June 08, 2017


Toward the end of Cross season last year, I decided to try a little experiment.  I had my new bike and everything, so I felt silly not doing whatever else I could to go faster.

I always knew intellectually that I drink too much beer to not have it hurt my performance.  

I had never actually done anything about it other than wake up slightly hungover on the morning of a race and punch myself in the face for being so fucking stupid.

It would go like this ...

Friday night before the race I would get everything ready to go. Once that was done, I could relax with a nice cold beer.  I get pretty nervous before races, so the calming influence of the alcohol was wonderful, and what could one more hurt?

Well, now that I've had 2, what difference does it make if I have a third? That's still less than my normal 5, so I should be great for tomorrow after I drink this 4th beer.

And so on.

Well after I got my new bike, I did a couple of races the normal (carbo-beer loading) way.

Then one day I decided to not drink any alcohol for the entire week before the race.

The result was unexpected.

I didn't really do tons better in the race.  But there was a huge difference. I was not nearly as tired after the race.

So I tried it again. This time was the Iowa State Championship cross races.  I did the Cat 4 and the Masters 50+ races back to back.

I don't remember which was first, but I got 5th place in one and 2nd in the other.  I felt just as good for the second race. 

That was the difference from a week of no beer.

So as Winter was settling in this year, I decided that if my races were being hurt by drinking, my training probably was too. I mostly quit drinking the day after the Super Bowl.

Not that the Super Bowl had anything to do with it.  That's just how I remember when it was. And Oh yeah - Fuck Tom Brady.  

Anyway - I struggled for a while (and still do - somewhat) with the lifestyle change of not drinking.  I had quite a habit.  But I felt physically better right away. I dropped a bunch of weight without changing anything else.  I think this might partially be from the higher quality training.

I have long talks with Jill about my observations after quitting. I do this to help reinforce my decision to quit. I have the occasional beer, but I need to be careful with that because I notice a craving for more beer for a few days afterwards.

In three months after quitting, I dropped 15 pounds and stabilized at around 175.  That's right where I want to be for racing.

But this post isn't about quitting drinking.  That was relatively easy.

This post is about addiction. Physical addiction.  When I stopped drinking beer, I had no withdrawal symptoms.

So I was reading this book by a pro cyclist. He was saying that early in his career, he had a training partner who had found a simple way to cheat his training.

The coach had given him specific target heart rates for his workouts. The cyclist found he could easily reach those targets if he guzzled a bunch of coffee before training. The result was predictable. Poor fitness when racing started.

That got me thinking. I drink a lot of coffee.  Maybe, I should cut back for the sake of better training.

So I started filling my daily thermos with half regular and half decaf.

When I started feeling dizzy for the next few days, I came to the 100% wrong conclusion. I didn't make the connection that I had reduced my caffeine intake. I thought maybe I was still drinking too much coffee, so I tried to stop completely.  Big mistake.

I went to work on Monday and could not concentrate. I couldn't focus my eyes.  My vision was blurred. My balance was off.  I was having difficulty listening to people. I felt tongue-tied.  My words were coming out wrong. The whole day was miserable.

I tried again on Tuesday and it was worse.  Finally, I went over to Starbucks and got a small (tall) cup of coffee.  I drank it down and about an hour later, I felt a lot better.  Still a little dizzy, but most of the brain fog was lifted.

I realized that since I have to work, I can't just quit drinking coffee. I'm going to have to carefully measure how much I take in and slowly reduce it.

But why? 

That has been the question I've been hearing. Why would I need to cut back on coffee?

Well first it was because I wanted to train without the artificially elevated heart rate. But now that I see what the withdrawal is like, I'd like to completely get away from the dependence.

Not in a million years would I have guessed that it would be harder to quit coffee than beer.

I like beer so much more, but coffee has me physically jacked up.

The main reason I don't want to be dependent on coffee is in case there's a Zombie Deal. I know everybody says, "Zombie Apocalypse" but that word seems wrong to me.  I think "Zombie Deal" is a better phrase. Or maybe "Zombageddon." Yeah - I like that. It sounds a little like a pasta dish with brains in it.  But yeah - When (not if)  Zombageddon happens, you know Starbucks is going down first.  Then all of the people who can't get their caffeine fix will be walking around like zombies and promptly getting their brains blown out.  

So now if somebody asks me why I'm cutting back on coffee, I just say, "Because. Zombies."

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