The Bike Withdrawal Chronicles

04.13.2011 | 4:52 pm

A Note from Fatty: If you’re planning to do the Fourth Annual 100 Miles of Nowhere, it’s not too late to sign up. Click here to sign up for the men’s (i.e., to get a men’s t-shirt) category, or click here to sign up for the women’s (i.e., to get a women’s t-shirt) category. While the first 500 registrants got dibs on the swag boxes, you’ll still get the oh-so-dapper event t-shirt, as well as the race plate, so you can tell people you totally won your category in a race, and have the race plate to prove you were there.

I am currently in the middle of an intriguing experiment. An experiment I am conducting, oddly enough, on The Runner and myself.

We are finding out what happens when people who usually exercise every day (in my case, biking; in The Runner’s case, biking and running and P90X) stop exercising — pretty much cold turkey — for nine days, while on vacation at The (second?) Happiest Place on Earth(tm).

That’s right. We knew we’d be busy most every moment we were awake, and we knew that this busy-ness would be to the exclusion of three-hour bike rides.

Plus, we were trying to keep the luggage down to a minimum.

Since this experiment is still in progress, I do not yet have the data I need to draw a final conclusion. Still, I am pleased to present some intriguing observations I have made.

Day 1: We (The Runner, me, and six kids) got up at 4am, and spent the day going from car to parking lot to shuttle to airport to airplane to airport to airplane to airport to shuttle to car rental place to rental van (a massive Ford yacht that seats 8) to rental house. By the time we arrive, any thoughts of exercising that day are gone. We just want to go to bed.

But first — but first — we decide to go to a grocery store to buy a week’s-worth of groceries, so we can both save money on food and not gain as much (or, ideally, any) weight by not going out to eat all the time.

But there’s a problem: we bring The Runner’s 20-year-old son (The IT guy) with us when we buy groceries. And The IT Guy loooovvvves ice cream. Drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, multiple cartons of different flavors of ice cream, italian ice, Blue Bunny single-serves, ice cream on a stick.

I am not exaggerating or making any of this up. If anything, I might be forgetting a couple of things.

Suffice it to say that in the space of a single trip to the grocery store, the freezer went from empty to very full and ridiculously tempting.

And suffice it further to say that I don’t have much in the self-control department.

Day 2: We spend the day at Epcot. For most of the day, I have a nagging sensation — something is missing. What is it? I can’t figure it out, but something’s out of place; I don’t feel right.

And then I figure it out: This is the second day since I’ve been on a bike.

I ask The Runner, “Have you had a weird sensation, that something’s out of place?”

“Yeah,” replies The Runner. “The whole day. What is it?”

“We haven’t ridden or run in a couple days.”

“That’s it,” exclaimed The Runner. Then she was quiet for a moment before asking, “Has that ever happened before since we’ve been together?”

“No,” I replied. “Not even close.”

Day 3: We get up late, having been exhausted from the previous day’s exhausting marathon session of walking, standing in line, sitting on rides, and eating very expensive Mickey Mouse Ice cream bars. We decide it’s a beach day, and that we will go on a run on the beach.

But by the time we make sandwiches, pack the ice chest, gather the kids and slather them with sunscreen, and drive to Cocoa Beach, it’s about noon and 102 fahrenheit. (Not that I’m complaining about the heat — it’s snowing back in Utah).

“There’s no way I’m running in this heat,” I say, as I eat another handful of Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies (by Nabisco).

“Mmmmff,” says The Runner, chewing a Rice Krispie treat.

Day 4: We’re up early and at The Magic Kingdom by the crack of dawn, or at least by 10am (Hey, if you’re herding 6 kids, 10am is basically the crack of dawn).

The Runner and I are each in a foul mood, and not because we’re cranky about being in an amusement park (neither of us are the types of adults who sneer and turn up our noses at theme parks; our kids have fun there, and so do we).

We’re cranky because we’re suffering withdrawal symptoms. Irritability. Headaches. Inability to concentrate. Shakes. Short temper, which I guess is actually just irritability, but we’re really irritable, so it bears mentioning twice.

Day 5: We spend the day at Hollywoodland, or whatever it’s called. “I’m feeling better,” I tell The Runner. “The impulse to exercise is fading quickly.”

“I think we’d better run or something tomorrow morning,” replies The Runner.

“But you know what’s weird?” I observe. “Even though I’m exercising a lot less, I find I’m actually just as hungry as ever! Which reminds me,” I then say, “We’re just about out of ice cream. We should get more since we have a few more days left in our vacation.

Day 6 (today): We set the alarm and get up before anyone else, then go on a five mile run in the morning.

It’s about three miles into the run that I make an astonishing discovery:

In the space of one short week, it’s possible, with concerted effort, to completely erase any fitness gains one has made up to that point in one’s life.


  1. Comment by Jake | 04.13.2011 | 5:27 pm

    I hope I can get to the point that a week without riding will make me feel out-of-whack! Right now it is more like fun torture getting on the bike every other day.

  2. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 04.13.2011 | 6:14 pm

    Glad you exercised on day 6. I’ve heard the withdrawal symptoms are horrid on day 7. Ice cream starts sounding like a reasonable breakfast food. Hallucinations of skinny jeans dance in your head. Or maybe that’s just me. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  3. Comment by Tracy W | 04.13.2011 | 6:26 pm

    Boy, I know your pain. It only takes me about two days before the sweet wife is shoving me out the door with instructions to ride until I get happy again!

    And, the older you get, the quicker you lose it!

    Say ‘hi’ to Mickey for me.

  4. Comment by The Los | 04.13.2011 | 6:39 pm

    Oh yeah? Try being down for the last 6 weeks with a badly broken clavicle.
    Oh, and make it the [I]last[/I] 6 weeks of decent weather before 8 months of sucky, 95 degree+ Texas summer.

    DUDE. You have my sympathy. Seriously. I hope you heal soon and that you keep your sanity during your recovery. – FC

  5. Comment by LIz | 04.13.2011 | 7:16 pm

    Is this what I have to look forward to? I am taking my son there this summer. I was thinking all the walking around the parks would make up for the lack of bicycling and poor food choices. I guess that is too much to hope for, huh?

  6. Comment by Rob M | 04.13.2011 | 7:24 pm

    I gave up Ice Cream for Lent.

    And this post was torture.

  7. Comment by The IT Guy | 04.13.2011 | 7:27 pm

    Well you did forget one ice cream item. I grabed 2 boxes of Mexican Popcicles. They have big strawberry chunks in them, and they are spectacular… I think I will have one right now.

  8. Comment by Obstinate Roadie | 04.13.2011 | 8:04 pm

    I was thinking by day six you’d be vacantly wandering around Disneyland asking, “has anyone seen my bike?” That would have been funnier.

  9. Comment by rich | 04.13.2011 | 8:58 pm

    Yep, I know the feeling….I miss a few days and my wife is begging me to go for a ride or at least get out of her hair…

    Have a fun time!

  10. Comment by Jim B | 04.13.2011 | 9:25 pm

    It’s not all bad. The nice thing about being out of shape is that it is easy to get exercise.

  11. Comment by Alison | 04.13.2011 | 9:51 pm

    So Fatty is in o-town. I thought I felt a disturbance in the force. I ran 5 this morning, too. Heat sucks, doesn’t it? Should have been I’m Miami this past weekend for the Olympic tri. my run there was a success b/c I didn’t leave in an ambulance (which is more than I can say for some poor souls). Now that was hot. Well, have fun- glad you are here!

  12. Comment by aussie kev | 04.13.2011 | 9:53 pm

    Welcome to my nightmare !!!

    glad you enjoyed your holiday

  13. Comment by Jonathan | 04.13.2011 | 10:54 pm

    Yeh, I sympathise. Been off the bike for 3 weeks and for at least another 3 from now. Recovering from an operation to remove a testicular tumour. Looking on the bright side though, when I come back I have no reason not to win 7 Tours de France: am I right?

  14. Comment by Anne | 04.14.2011 | 5:21 am

    Mmmm, ice cream yummy!!

    And yes, you are completely right on the feeling of lack fitness gain after just one week. The good thing is, it will come back soon ;)

    I never go anywhere for a week or more without my running shoes. Even just 30 min. of running can help you maintain the fitness level you had before going on vacation.

    Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

  15. Comment by bart (nl) | 04.14.2011 | 6:10 am

    two weeks holiday in florida : I lost 2 kg muscle.
    just found them back, but they miraculously turned into fat.

  16. Comment by ChrisL905 | 04.14.2011 | 6:13 am

    I finally got back on my bike after being away for 5 days. I totally understand the feelings of unrest and the unrelenting hunger but thankfuly one short ride has me feeling normal again.

  17. Comment by Anthony | 04.14.2011 | 6:20 am

    My wife experience this pretty often if I don’t get out for a run or a ride every other day. For the past few days I have been singing Queen’s Bicycle Race at the top of my lungs. She finally got the hint, I’m riding after work today!

  18. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 04.14.2011 | 6:24 am

    Don’t worry…the fitness will come back really quickly if you get right back into it. One week won’t kill you. Just don’t let those weeks start piling up by more than say…2. ;)

  19. Comment by CBJ | 04.14.2011 | 6:55 am

    “In the space of one short week, it’s possible, with concerted effort, to completely erase any fitness gains one has made up to that point in one’s life.”


    That should be engraved on a stone somewhere…

  20. Comment by fult23 | 04.14.2011 | 7:16 am

    I highly recommend Snickers ice cream bars! (I have heard…)Peanuts are protein, so it’s almost like health food.

  21. Comment by Christine | 04.14.2011 | 7:21 am

    May I just say that I got up at 5:00 am on Monday to make sure I registered in time!

    I could have slept in!

  22. Comment by nolemom | 04.14.2011 | 7:38 am

    I’m an hour south of you. If you can’t stand it anymore, we can find a bike for you! There is beautiful riding in central Florida.

  23. Comment by Angie | 04.14.2011 | 7:52 am

    Look at it this way…. you had a nice rest week for your big event. Now you’ll be fully rested and ready to win your next race (when you ride with your friends…because every ride is a race).

  24. Comment by Anonymous | 04.14.2011 | 8:49 am

    Ahhh Fatty…you are still a ‘young-un’. @ Tracy W said it right “the older you get, the quicker you lose it!”, and you can add to that ‘the harder it is to get it back’. I had a near 2 month layoff from bikes recently… mid Nov to mid Jan (travel, holidays, sickness, weather, laziness, you name it). Only managed a very few rides during that timeframe, and BOY OH BOY did I lose it. I’m STILL fighting to get back where I was last Oct, and quite honestly I’m not sure if I ever will (the saying “the older I get, the better I was” really is true btw).

    Have fun over there in FL, just watch out for the cars! Seems there are 2 kinds of drivers there…those going too slow and those going too fast (trying to get around those going too slow).

    And you think it’s hot NOW? You should hang out there in July/Aug/Sep sometime! (I don’t live there but have work out at the Cape now and then). Ice cream is totally acceptable as a survival food in the heat… justification not required.

  25. Comment by MattC | 04.14.2011 | 8:50 am

    oops…that last ‘anonymous’ comment was me…didn’t notice that I somehow lost my creds in my last pc power-loss/reboot.

  26. Comment by Jason | 04.14.2011 | 9:20 am

    Check out Playalinda beach not far from cocoa in titusville.. Its very pretty, secluded, and non-commercial. Super beautiful beach without the condos, and stores, and traffic.

  27. Comment by Squirrelhead | 04.14.2011 | 9:29 am

    I don’t know Fatty, just walking all over the mouse’s kingdom is a workout in that heat. I would say you had less workouts than you are used to but you can make up for that once you get home. Any vacation that includes 6 kids would drain your energy and keep it low the whole time. I think I read somewhere that ice cream is one of the few things that can bring that energy back. You should have a few more of them so you have the energy to make it home.

  28. Comment by bikemike | 04.14.2011 | 9:36 am

    hey, it may be hot as holy heck down here in florida, but at least it’s humid.

  29. Comment by Haven-KT | 04.14.2011 | 10:06 am

    Hey Jonathan (up-comments from here): I think you can win 7 Tours de France after your recovery is complete. With Team Fatty behind you, how could you lose?

    Fatty: I know the feeling; I was off bike for 6 months. I’m back on again, and it almost feels like the first time. Lucky for me, I still got some exercise in that time frame so I’m not completely starting over from zero. But sometimes it feels like it.

    Mmm. Ice cream!

  30. Comment by cbuffy | 04.14.2011 | 10:29 am

    Yup – here in Central Florida we have some really nice trails. Flat. But nice. I have 750 acres right out my back gate. You haven’t ridden until you’ve tried sugar sand. In the heat. And the humidity. (And you have to factor in the humidity in your less than stellar results on this morning’s run. Takes extra energy to breath through a straw.)

  31. Comment by roan | 04.14.2011 | 11:01 am

    Hummm, 3 months of not really riding much, maybe 1-2 X a week at best, make that 1 time/week. Cranky. Irritability. Headaches. inability to concentrate. Shakes (Jerks !), short tempers…irritability…BEARS mention twice. I knew I wasn’t riding enough but in my case just not ‘feeling’ right, I thought it was because of people at work (JERKS !…bears mentioning twice). Now I really need to ride somewhere.

  32. Comment by Justin | 04.14.2011 | 12:14 pm

    Hey Jason, Isn’t Playalinda the nude Beach? Thats just mean to tell Fatty, the Runner, and six kids to go there ;)

  33. Comment by GJ Jackie | 04.14.2011 | 12:20 pm

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one with motivation issues. I’m not on vacation but have still managed to blow off biking for the past 4 days. My bike is calling my name so I’d better go heed the call.

  34. Comment by Scott | 04.14.2011 | 1:34 pm

    It gets worse! You’ve also squandered a lifetime of acclimatization to the heights of your home elevation. Upon your return, you’ll be huffing like a smoker, breathing through a snorkel — just to walk across the lawn.

  35. Comment by Jim Morehouse | 04.14.2011 | 2:36 pm

    This is an experiment I don’t think I would survive. I hope to never have to experience what I went through in 1982 when I was off the bike for a couple of weeks because of a broken collar bone. It (and I) wasn’t pretty.

  36. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 04.14.2011 | 3:53 pm

    We don’t have anything here in Central Flordia like you have in Utah, but I bet you both would have enjoyed the West Orange trail. Just don’t go out to Apopka. Do the County Line Station to Horseman’s Park section which is a 30 mile round trip.

    There are bike rentals at the County Line Station.

  37. Comment by Jill2 | 04.14.2011 | 11:25 pm

    @stuckinmypedals – icecream IS a reasonable breakfast food any day of the week, bike withdrawels or not.

  38. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 04.15.2011 | 2:31 am

    @Jill2-I agree with you more days than not. In other news, my clothes seem to have all shrunk. I’m beginning to think there may be a correlation. ;)

  39. Comment by Mike Roadie | 04.15.2011 | 5:10 am

    Welcome to my life. This is exactly what happens when you travel for work. Like right now, I am sitting here typing this when I should be at the hotel gym. At the end of the day, you are just exhausted and hungry or have to meet with clients.
    So, I am going to try to go to the gym now….if I can make it past the breakfast room on my way there!

  40. Comment by SDM | 04.15.2011 | 12:31 pm

    Someone’s 100 Miles of Nowhere will be timed with a calendar…

  41. Comment by Paullus | 04.15.2011 | 12:36 pm

    If you are over 40, aren’t you suppose to have a recovery week for every two weeks of training? Don’t be so hard on yourself! So what if you felt bad on your early morning run. Those funnel cakes take a long time to digest. Besides, deep inside you prefer to roll, you only run to spend time with “El Runnerlissima” not because you enjoy it! You probably could use a little more sleep too. I’m sure your form will be great once you get back home.

  42. Comment by Fletch | 04.15.2011 | 12:59 pm

    Try breaking your back and wearing a body brace for three months. The summer riding body went out of the window, replaced by the sad old man gaining thirty pounds and buying bigger pants body. Now it’s time to get in shape for this 100 miles of nowhere – where did I put those P90x dvds?

  43. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.15.2011 | 1:51 pm

    @JimB – This cracked me up – “The nice thing about being out of shape is that it is easy to get exercise.

  44. Comment by Rob L | 04.16.2011 | 6:46 am

    At least you guys are getting nice weather, I know the heat has been bad this last week or so from my folks there.

    If you go to Sea World make sure to also hit the water park Aquatica. I did that while down in march, it’s a blast.

    If you go back to Cocoa beach go down to Lori Wilson park about 5-6 lights south of Ron Jon, it’s my favorite park without going down south of the AFB in the area.

    Going uptown/downtown to downtown orlando can be neat also. Lake Eola is a pretty park. The planitarium is also nice.

    Or rent bikes and hit the greenway or go up to Santos MTB trail in Ocala FL (90 mins from Disknee).

  45. Comment by Ryan | 04.17.2011 | 12:47 pm

    I am a little upset that you did not boast about being recognized by a reader on the backlot tour at Hollywood studios.

    It sound like your vacation pretty much mirrored ours. I went with every intention of working out every day. Instead I ate every cream filled churro in Disney world.

    It turns out that rushing four kids under 9 to ride after ride you can eat whatever you like. I was down 1/2 an lb. when I returned.

  46. Comment by Ernie | 04.18.2011 | 6:14 am

    Several years ago when I first took up running and was going almost every day, the last day of running was on Friday, and then storms came all weekend. And into Monday. And Tuesday. By Wednesday, my running buddy and I decided that it wasn’t raining all that hard, and went for a 5k in the pouring rain, during a thunderstorm! It’s just something you HAVE to do. Non-athletes don’t get it.


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