It’s the End of the Blog as we Know It.

And I don’t feel fine.

If you’re one of the gents whom I ride with on a regular basis, do me a favor and skip this post.

I started the blog for two reasons…to flap about cool bike things, and to talk about my experience as a then newly-diagnosed celiac.  As time has progressed, I’ve done a lot of bike flapping, to the tune of some 200 posts and about 100,000 views, and not a lot of talking about being a celiac.

What was intended to be a cathartic release of angst about celiacs has strayed from that course.  I’ve been riding intensively for two years.  I’ve been working out intensively for eight months.  I’ve been cramming down calories like it’s going out of style.  I’ve been incredibly, unbelievably diligent in monitoring what I eat, strictly adhering to a no gluten/no dairy diet.  And yet my cycling hasn’t been that much improved.  My general physique, while certainly tighter than it was a year ago, cannot be described as anything short of scrawny.  And while I was hanging onto the last rung of the weight ladder, trying to hold 150-155 pounds, I’ve now decidedly fallen off, having dropped to 145ish for 3 weeks.

To add insult to injury, I just received back blood test results showing that, notwithstanding my diet and the fact that I’m taking enough iron to be able to forge train tracks in my gut, I have newly discovered health issues–likely directly related to celiacs–that are causing/contributing to my weight loss, inability to build mass, and general malaise.  And I’m mad about it.  So mad.  I’m not even angry mad–it isn’t the kind of mad where you can focus aggression on someone or something and be constructive.  It’s sad mad–the unfocused helplessness of being pulled out to sea by a riptide stronger than you can overcome.

As I’ve gotten those results and started understanding what they mean, how they’ve impacted me, and how they are going to impact me in the days to come, a lot of things make more sense.  On top of that, I’ve realized just how lazy my doctor is.  About the best analogy that I can come up with is that the situation is akin to bringing your car to the mechanic because the car is making a knocking sound.  The mechanic comes out and says, “it was out of oil, so I refilled the engine with oil.”  That’s the cure I’ve been working with for the past year–trying to refill my engine with oil.  The problem with that diagnostic approach is that you’re not looking at the real problem: why is the engine constantly losing oil?  Maybe we should look at the massive crack in the block and try to figure out what caused it, and how we should fix it.

I’m much better at dealing with other people’s problems than I am at dealing with my own. If this was someone else’s problem, I could be objective and look for the best solutions.  Because this is my problem, I’m stuck at the “should I have second-guessed the doctor and pursued other ideas” phase of analysis.  I’m wondering whether I should be more of a medical expert than the doctor.  If I ran my professional life with the lackadaisical attitude that so many doctors do, I’d be out of a job.

So where does this tale of woe intertwine with the blog?  It’s simple: self-censorship.  I already self-censor in a lot of ways.  If I go out and have a hard ride and don’t ride well, I spend time analyzing why it happened.  Did I eat right the day before?  Did I get enough rest?  Did I do something wrong?  Was it just a poor performance or was it something related to celiac’s?  You see, when you have something objectively, palpably wrong with you, the temptation is to always blame everything bad that happens on that objective wrong.  Go on a group ride and get dropped?  Must be celiac’s.  Get randomly ill in the middle of the summer?  Must be celiac’s.  I’ve been the kind of person who has worked hard his whole life–who has never had to deal with blame issues because I’ve worked to avoid failure.  So now, when I encounter failure, I don’t know how to deal with it.  I don’t know if it is something that really and truly relates to being sick, and if I should cut myself some slack, or if it relates to some failure to apply myself with enough gumption.

On the blog, because others read it, I tend to not talk about failures.  I don’t talk about the nights I get dropped for no apparent reason…I just talk about the nights when I ride hard, and ride well.  I do this because I don’t want the guys I ride with to think about me differently.  I don’t want to be treated differently, I don’t want to have someone second-guess my performance and wonder if it relates to celiacs.  I’d rather people just think I’m not trying hard enough.  Fundamentally, I’d much rather have my failings be the result of something I can control–be my fault–rather than the result of a disease that has clearly demonstrated its mastery over me.  At least if it was my fault–if I wasn’t pushing hard enough–it would suggest that there are things I can do to stop failing.  I started this post by asking the guys I ride with not to read it, for two reasons: 1) I don’t want them to treat me differently; and, 2) I fundamentally know what great people they are, and don’t want them to be offended that I’m in my own head this much about this issue.

I don’t engage in this kind of honesty on the blog.  I conceal, censor or simply ignore these issues, because I don’t want to talk about them.  Because I don’t know how to talk about them.  Because I don’t know what the answers are…nor do I know if I want to know what the answers are.  On a personal level, I’m reaching the end of my rope in dealing with these health issues.  I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess, I don’t engage in any bad health habits.  I haven’t had french fries in a year.  I exercise 5-6 times per week.  Religiously.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand the why of what is happening.  And instead of being a catharsis, when I write about health issues on the blog, I spend my time overanalyzing how others will respond to what I write.

So the blog will continue, but it’s just going to be about biking until further notice…I simply cannot write about some things–or perhaps I should not write about some things, with the reason for that should being that writing hasn’t been the catharsis that I hoped it would be, because I’m unwilling to be a brutally honest as I should be.  Were this a completely anonymous blog, perhaps it would be different.  But frankly, I couldn’t write an anonymous blog if I tried.  I wouldn’t read an anonymous blog, because anything written that a person is too embarassed to ascribe their own name to–well–it simply isn’t worth reading to me.

I’ll go back to hypothesizing about geometry and hydraulic disc brakes.  I’ll write about great rides and amazing bikes.  I’ll talk about the great friends I have, and the support of the two people that motivate everything I do.  It will be more riding, and less grain.  We now return you back to your regularly scheduled bike tech fanboy talk.

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4 thoughts on “It’s the End of the Blog as we Know It.

  1. Hey dude, love the blog! Especially the great product reviews and analysis. This site has been a great resource as I am fairly new to cycling and I am also dealing with a GF lifestyle. If anything, I would love to see more advice on how to integrate Celiac/GF lifestyle into cycling. From a health perspective, It sounds like you need to seek out a better doctor/specialist. You may have to travel but it will be worth it to receive care from someone who understands the disease and will inspire confidence. Not sure exactly where you live in Illinois, but you should check out docs in Chicago or St. Louis. Thanks for all you do, keep on keeping on, and remember that part of what makes your blog special is the fact that there are no other cycling-specific blogs with this type of focus. John (Ohio)

    • Thanks, John. I’ll keep it in mind. I’ve received a surprising number of similarly supportive emails…I’ll try to keep an open mind on the blog’s coverage, but it’s a pretty tender subject right now.

  2. I also have celiac disease, I understand where you’re coming from – I’ve been there.

    I was racing at an elite level and was suffering from similar symptoms as yourself (weight loss, stagnant performance, etc etc). In hindsight it is clear that I was over-training.

    Over-training is a viscous cycle – you get poor results, so you train harder, your results stay the same or get worse, so you train even harder, the results get worse….

    Give yourself a short (physical and mental) break. Active recovery – try a different sport for a month. And when you get back in to it, train smart, not hard.

    Good luck.

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