I’m Finally Recovered From My 50 Mile Run

On my run this morning along the Charles River, I decided I was finally recovered from my 50 mile run on 4/7/12.  The end of my run brought me by the Hatch Shell and I smiled, even though it was muggy, cloudy, and there were too many people around.

I’m now sitting in the Ritz Bar (they now call it the Taj, but that doesn’t work for me) a few hours later with Amy doing some writing while she reads. I took a break and decided to write up how the last seven weeks have been for me emotionally.

Basically, they’ve sucked. I wrote The Physiological And Emotional Fallout Of My 50 Mile Race two weeks after the race. I was tired, struggling with depression, but feeling like I had turned a corner. It was a nice fantasy – after a month I was still having wild mood swings, feeling very tired most of the time, totally uninterested in running, and generally feeling overwhelmed by my travel, work, and all the people around me.

I’d been through this before in my mid-20’s when I was very depressed for several years while running my first company. This was different – I haven’t felt depressed, but it was just over the horizon. Instead, I had a steady low grade anxiety all the time which would spike up for a few hours before dissipating. I’d feel ok and then suddenly be exhausted and want to take a nap. Or I’d just feel like canceling all my meetings and going home. I knew the feelings would pass, so I just rolled with them when they came up, but I didn’t deny their existence.

Other than sleeping a lot, Amy tells me that I’ve been fine the past seven weeks. Low energy, but not noticeably in distress, crabby, or difficult. I haven’t done a survey of the people I interact with on a regular basis, but I’ve been open about how I’ve been feeling and I assume the people close to me have been giving me some space. I’ve been keeping up my typical work pace with one exception – I’ve been sleeping in many mornings as I just haven’t been able to drag myself out of bed at 5am.

I felt something noticeably shift two weeks ago. Amy and I had a couple of wonderful days together in Chicago and then I flew on Sunday to New York. I spent the afternoon with a close friend whose wife is very ill, just sitting, talking, and enjoying being together. I went out to dinner with two CEOs we’ve funded and then had a good night sleep. I woke up Monday morning feeling a little flat, but by mid-day I felt normal and attributed it to being sad for my friend and his wife. I felt fine during the rest of my NY trip, I flew to SF for an extremely enjoyable dinner, and then spent the past 10 days in Boulder.

While it has been very busy and there is a lot of pressure coming from different directions, I’ve felt very normal the past two weeks. I’ve had a few anxious moments, but they are all tied to specific events and easy for me to process. My normal temperament is very stable and mellow, even when the shit is flying everywhere, and I’ve felt generally back in that zone. I’m running again and enjoying it and I haven’t felt like curling up in a ball in the corner of the room in at least two weeks.

As I’ve written before, running the 50 mile race was an amazing experience. But I’ve decided not to do it again while I’m working at the level and intensity that I work at. The training was too much but more importantly the recovery has just been way beyond what I feel like I want to process again anytime soon. So – it’s back to marathons for me, which I know makes Amy smile.

  • http://MeetInnovators.com Adrian Bye

    thats an insightful learning

  • Yariv levski

    Great Piece, smt to think about while trying to make up my mind re new race.

  • http://www.samedaydr.com/ Rich Weisberger

    So now we can bug you again :)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      As much as you’d like.

  • http://www.filingwatch.com/ roykaller

    As always, sharing your experiences encourages your readers to pause for their own
    introspection. Thank you! One of the most substantive changes I’ve had to make over the past 20 years has been to force a healthy mix of work, exercise, eating right and relationship building on a 7-10 day window instead of the 30-90 day window. The “week off the grid” or “seasonal sports training” model seemed to work in my 20’s and 30’s, but the swings from low and high (energy, mental acuity, happiness, etc.) would be unsustainable today.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      My cycle seems to be 7 / 30 / 90 / 1 year / 10 years. I’ve been using this cycle since I was 30 and at 46 it seems to work to have them all running in parallel.

  • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

    Is this totally psychological or partially a chemical or physical fallout of the run & preparations?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I don’t know but I’m going to guess there is a big chemical component.

  • CliffElam

    Glad you are feeling better.

    The human mind is an amazing thing.

    _XC

  • jerrycolonna

    Hey Brad…I’m just back from an intensive 12-week period of traveling–last week I was in Krakow and Warsaw…talking about the ways in which we all ride the roller-coaster. My point is to try and stand back, watch the roller-coaster; don’t ride it.

    The hard part, of course, is doing just that. When I read this piece, this line jumped out at me: I knew the feelings would pass, so I just rolled with them when they came up, but I didn’t deny their existence.

    I think that’s the key to the whole strategy: using your adult brain to remind the rest of your brain that it’s gonna pass. And most important, though, don’t deny their existence. It only pisses off the demons in your head.

    “The ebb and flow of life is not unlike the sea. Sure, sometimes it’s calm and serene, but at other times the waves can be so big that they threaten to overwhelm us. These fluctuations are an inevitable part of life. But when you forget this simple fact, it’s easy to get swept away by strong waves of difficult emotions.”- Andy Puddicombe, “10 Tips for Living More Mindfully” http://bit.ly/LlTqgE

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      When I was younger I was very aware of the negative / depressive emotions and my intense desire to have them end. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to do exactly what you describe here – I simply let my adult brain observe them and it reminds me that they will pass eventually. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier in the moment, but it makes the moment more “real”.

      • http://twitter.com/CEOCoachJeremy Jeremy Robinson

        Jonah Lehrer makes a nice point in “Imagine” quoting substantial brain research that sadness can make us more attentive. “When someone is immersed in melancholy, it’s easier for him to linger on a poetic line….” Freud wrote that he did his best work as a psychotherapist when he was depressed. Interesting if we accept all the sides of ourselves and see what they contribute.

  • http://twitter.com/CEOCoachJeremy Jeremy Robinson

    Your piece “I’m finally recovered from my 50 Mile Run” is a wonderful example of self-disclosure and your humanism. I’ve been running for almost 45 years and helping people for almost the same amount of time. The metaphors, and the mileage add up in a good way. The riddles remain & the good intensions are what we take home with us. Thank you.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx! The riddles are part of the wonderment of being alive. I’ll keep exploring them until they put me in the ground.

  • http://twitter.com/parkercloud Rick Parker

    Do you think endurance sports or at least a medium level of exercise helps with depression? Really appreciate the article and your comments on twitter

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yes absolutely. I believe my 30 to 40 miles a week has a huge positive impact on my psychology and physiology.

  • DaveJ

    It was noticeable; and agreed you seemed much better this last week!

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yay!

  • Ricardo Diz

    Interesting post. Probably the one that feels most “candid writing”, from the articles I’ve read from you.

    Concerning the topic of running, have you read “What I talk about when I talk about running”, from Japanese famous writer Haruki Murakami? I confess I haven’t read it yet (I actually just bought a copy), but it does seem interesting… Just a thought.

    Cheers

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It’s an incredible / beautiful book.

  • http://twitter.com/chigoodrich Jason Goodrich

    Welcome back, Brad! Thanks for the daily dose of inspiration and humanity.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It’s nice to be back. It’s been a hard month and a half.

  • http://twitter.com/NicholasBLee Nicholas Branden Lee

    Does this mean no Colorado Trail this summer?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Correct – no Colorado Trail.

  • DJ

    Curious: have you ever heard of adrenal fatigue? Last summer I went through a similar multi-week blah and my doctor suggested it might be adrenal fatigue, which apparently is common in entrepreneurs. He put me on a regimen of vitamins and supplements. A few weeks later my energy level rebounded to a level I haven’t felt since my teens (I’m serious).

    Adrenal fatigue is a controversial diagnosis (I was skeptical too), but I can’t argue with the results.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – several others have suggested it.

    • panterosa,

      I seem to have suffered adrenal fatigue as an entrepreneur as well.

      I have a fab acupuncturist who also does PT. I have been divorcing, moving, closing a business and building a new one all without pause for 5 years now. My PT told me at some point – you have so overextended your adrenal system that I will only treat you if you promise to heal and chill, and not use the treatment like a shot of Red Bull. I listened.
      That was a few years ago. Since then, I have taken many steps to not get back to that place. The anxiety and related depression took such a toll on my body, besides my psyche, that I felt my true passion at work and my role as a mother would never be awesome if I weren’t mindful. PS I would have never managed without a great coach either to juggle all that.
      I am curious, what were the supplements you took?

      • DJ

        Here’s what I’ve been taking for adrenal fatigue:

        DHEA 15mg in the morning, 10mg at dinner (built up up to that over a few weeks)
        Rhodiola rosea 200mg in the morning (started at 100mg for first week)
        Vitamin C 2000mg twice a day
        Vitamin E 400iu twice a day
        Zinc picolinate 15mg twice a day
        Copper 1mg twice a day
        Vitamin B5 40mg
        Vitamin B6 200mg
        Vitamin B12 10000mcg
        Vitamin C 2000mg twice a day

  • jMacl.

    Brad,

    Welcome to the Post Ultra/Ironman Syndrome…everyone experiences it. Huge training blocks + regular work, months of mental focus/visualization, 12+ hr event for the average human being (that means going through 3+ body cycles), the euphoria, then…..two weeks of depression and the “Now what?” dilemma. Crazy how it works but we eventually keep coming back for more.

    Keep on Trucking.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx – it’s been especially challenging because I don’t have such a long cycle with marathons (usually fine after a few days) combined with a two year bought with depression in my 20’s which I have no interest in revisiting in this lifetime.

  • JLM

    .

    You are being a bit hard on yourself.

    A 50 mile race is an enormous undertaking and your having done it calls for more than a bit of celebration.

    If YOU are not going to celebrate the triumphs of your life, who is? And when?

    Go buy yourself a gadget or other shiny thing to memorialize your achievement and let that thing reflect your accomplishment and absorb all of your angst. Not a huge thing like a G V but a nice little thing you have had your eye on for some time. [Note; not a minotaur.]

    Few people really have an adult brain and rarely does it get used.

    I constantly find myself talking myself down off the ledge when I take counsel of my fears. I am my own best counselor and coach. It is always so.

    Congratulations on the 50 mile face. Well played!

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx for the kind encouragement.

  • Mike Walmsley

    What a fantastic achievement and a fascinating insight… Having never run more than a marathon distance, but contemplated half iron man… Having read your experience, maybe I will stick to 30-40 mile/wk!!

  • http://twitter.com/davidsmuts David Smuts

    Hey Brad- I’m glad to hear you’ve recovered, and well done buddy! I wouldn’t have lasted 5 miles let alone 50!

    As a Psychotherapist in my former life, your story piqued my interest and if you don’t mind, I would like to share a few insights which might be beneficial for anyone reading this story (not necessarily directed to you Brad).

    1) “Depression” is a completely natural human emotion/phenomenon. A depressive experience is one which most every human being will have at some point or other in their lifetime. Sometimes these occurrences are few, sometimes many. Some are brief in duration, others are long. Some are severe in depth, some are quite mild. Some occurrences seem to be directly related to another emotional experience (grief, bereavement, anger etc..,) or even a physical or environmental experience (broken leg, winter blues etc.,) whilst others seem to come from out of nowhere and have no visible link whatsoever. Whatever the circumstance of these episodes, these are natural human experiences.

    2) Credit to you as a human, a man and a successful VC to share not only this experience with your readership at large, but also for having the courage, confidence, sensitivity, honesty, insight and advanced level of personal development, to have explained to your colleagues how you were feeling during this time. All too often, we withdraw as a result of fear and lack of understanding of these episodes and as a result we can become very grouchy, even aggressive, aloof or just not ourselves. Not surprisingly our quality of work and personal relationships can also suffer. And to the person who is unaware of what you are going through, they will draw the wrong conclusions. So again, well done for flagging up your feelings. If only more of us could do this ;-)

    3) Physical exhaustion can of course cause a bout of “depressive” like symptoms and this may very well be the case with a 50 mile marathon. But in my professional experience I have generally noticed that there may be other underlying anxieties/symptoms as a root cause. These anxieties can be masked and subdued through physical distractions to an extent. In fact we all have these anxieties, not all of which would be classified as “depressive”. We also all have an inherent physical ability to subdue or distract ourselves from these anxieties. However the body can only sustain this type of distraction for so long and for any physical body that is sustaining itself and distracting any inherent anxieties, it may find that it’s ability to continue to do so (in a physical sense) is completely exhausted after a 50 mile marathon, or any other extreme physical challenge for that matter. It’s as if the body no longer has any inherent capability left to distract or subdue anxieties and therefore anxieties that were being dealt with, or at least subdued by the physical body, can manifest themselves and become very noticeable and acute when the body shuts down and requires re-energizing.

    So my advice for any one who may feel these type of symptoms after an extreme physical challenge, is that as the body recovers, so too will its ability to treat any underlying anxieties, and one may feel or proceed as “back to normal” post physical recovery. However, one should be mindful of the fact that there may well be underlying or “root cause” anxieties or symptoms which although may be kept at bay through our natural body’s inherent distracting techniques (completely at an unconscious level), will nevertheless benefit from some emotional treatment. The challenge of course for us all is in identifying these underlying causes. Sometimes it’s chemical (what we term as “organic”) or sometimes there is a link to another emotional or environmental experience. But it doesn’t hurt to do some introspection now and then, and sometimes a professional or even a good friend, can be of great help and assistance in this process.

    In any case, look after yourselves and each other!

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx for the long detailed set of thoughts. I think they are right on the money and appreciate you taking the time to write them.

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  • Boulder Massage Therapy

    In your training for this marathon, you often referred to using massage yet I don’t see you mention having tried it during your recovery. Massage helps with not only physical but emotional release.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx – I got a bunch of massages. I should have included them in the writeup. I typically get a massage at least once every other week – often once a week.

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