Sleepless in Corvallis

Once again, I played the game of “Spence the Psychiatrist/Doctor,” and lost.  One of these days I’ll get it right, and actually consult medical professionals when it comes to medicine and prescriptions.  In this case, it has to do with my new Achilles heel, sleep.

Ever since resigning from the hotel last June, and tackling the venture of starting a new business, I haven’t slept soundly, maybe getting 5-6 hours of sleep per night.  Perhaps it’s the stress of financial insecurity, or that my training has doubled since then, or maybe it’s the effects of returning to Prozac.  One thing’s for sure:  I’ve learned to understand that if I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to prescriptions and medicine, I need to shut up and realize that I really don’t.  Shut up Spence.

Back in December, after returning from the North Face 50 Miler, I had finally given up on the restless nights of sleep.  I went back to my psychiatrist and tried to come up with an effective plan.  The solution was to alternate nights of sleep between taking Trazodone and Lunesta, two prescription sleeping aids.  Trazodone used to be known as an anti-depressant but it now more commonly used for insomnia.  After about a month of this practice, when it didn’t really seem to work, I quit both meds cold turkey.  I had heard a podcast around this time that dealt with the effects of sleep and some natural things I could practice to help me sleep more soundly.  I quickly adopted meditation before bedtime, magnesium, and some super-herbal sleeping remedy that I picked up at the Co-op.  In one week I had gone from taking some pretty stout prescriptions to going all natural.  Tip:  Don’t do this. It didn’t help anything, in fact it made it worse.

Once the all natural practice didn’t work I quickly reverted back to taking Lunesta and Trazodone sporadically, along with massive doses of melatonin and Advil PM.  After about a month of switching around the four different methods I gave up again.  I started to actually do some research on what might be the cause of this.  I reached out to several friends, that I trust,  in the endurance world, and beyond, to get their takes.  After numerous conversations and research it hit me…why don’t I try one thing for a while rather than creating all of these asinine concoctions that I had no clue about.  With the guidance of my doctor, and friends that I had consulted, I landed on the solution to perhaps increase the dose of Trazodone and just keep it simple.  Novel idea huh?  Spence the medical expert strikes again.

Last night was the first night that I took an elevated dose of Trazodone (for me 100mgs).  And wouldn’t you know, it worked.  I slept a full 9 hours, the first time in over 9 months.  Unfortunately one of the side effects of the elevated dose was a hangover effect this morning.  While riding this morning  I felt groggy and tired, maybe my body had just been craving a full nights sleep.  I’m sure it’ll take a couple of weeks to adjust.  Unexpectedly it did remind me of what a hangover feels like, which brought up some gratitude knowing I don’t have to deal with that shit any longer, if I maintain my sobriety.

Sleeping for me is extremely important on so many levels.  For one, I’m more creative and productive with work.  Two, I’m more at ease during the day, less agitated by people, places, and things.  And three, I recovery from training more efficiently.  I just hope I’m able to keep the sleep going.

Yet again, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.  Most importantly I truly am understanding that I’m not a doctor…nor will I ever be.  I’ll leave that up to my smart friends.





Expressing Creativity

I was born with the creativity gene.  My mother and father are both badasses in the their own creative right.  Mom, as an artist, and Dad, as pianist/composer.  They both received their college degree in their respective disciplines.  As a kid I displayed creativity with the help of Lego’s and my Trombone.  In fact, in middle and early high school, I could rip a jazz Trombone solo at a school concert with the best of them.  As I got older and became more involved with endurance sports my creativity took a back seat, or so I had thought.  I explore the question today because I am beginning to learn how my creativity manifests itself on a daily basis.

As I’ve described in the past, endurance sports mean a great deal to me.  However, in the past I did not completely understand why this was.  For me, there is nothing better than going for a long run in the woods or a long ride on the scenic roads of Oregon. Early in sobriety I did indeed transfer one addiction for the other for a brief time, because being active was all I thought I knew how to do when I took away the crutch of drugs and alcohol.  Now, as I’m two years into the journey of sobriety, and a bit more conscious of who I am and what I do, I’m finding that being active is my new way of expressing creativity.

Recently, I heard a Podcast from one of the people I truly look up to in athletics and in recovery, Rich Roll.  His latest “Ask Me Anything” podcast featured a question from the audience that basically asked how he and his wife Julie are able to do what they do, and make wellness their career/lifestyle.  The resounding message that I took from their answer was simple.  If you connect and follow your hearts message, figure out what you absolutely love doing, and connect with full authenticity to that love, everything will fall into place with time. Other items in the message include being of service, ridding yourself of the negative-ego, and embracing a full sense of truth. The closing to the answer reminded me of a great possibility: If you follow your heart then the universe will conspire to help make the lifestyle you dream of, a reality.   To hear this clip in its entirety check out: .  In particular, check out minute 28 to 42.

After hearing that Podcast I headed out on a road bike ride.  While riding down the scenic Soap Creek Rd, adjacent to my beloved Mac/Dunn Forest, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Right then, I realized, with 100% certainty, that my love and passion is, in fact, training my ass off running in the woods and riding my bike.  I’ve been struggling with the notion over the last 9 months of having the flexibility to train as much as I do, perhaps it’s from  a continuation of unwinding from the rigid corporate schedule I kept for 13 years.  I’ve felt extremely guilty at times, going out for a run at 10AM on a Tuesday when everyone else is working.  Wherever this guilt came from, it had finally vanished.  For the first time, since resigning from the Hilton last June, I felt free of the guilt about the amount of time that I spend training.

For me, running in the woods and riding on the roads lets me explore who I really am.  It’s a “vehicle of self-discovery.” No more I am obsessed with achieving a certain result in a certain race.  Sure, I enjoy being fit come race day and accomplishing race specific goals; endurance sports is now a huge part of my lifestyle, it is what I do.  And I fucking love it.  Furthermore, training, in a real sense, helps me to express who I am.  Sport helps foster my growth as an individual, to be a better person to my friends and family, and ultimately, to myself.  Now knowing this, I feel that much more comfortable in my own skin.

As an athlete I’ve been accused by some of my peers as unhealthy and overtrained.  Sure, I have pushed the limit over the last couple of years.  But, why not?  I no longer hold any resentments for these notions because I finally know the true reason as to why I spend so much time doing what I do.  I understand there are some limits to this lifestyle (injury, sickness, etc), and that is a big reason I have a coach who monitors what I do.  He pulls in the reigns when they need tightening.  However, if I look at it objectively, I would have become much sicker and much more injured, even dead, if I had kept drinking and partying like I used to.  Am I choosing the lesser of two evils?  Maybe, but I choose to look at it as though I’m choosing life rather than the inevitable jail cell that I was heading towards.

Today, when I enter the forest for a trail run, I’m overcome by a sense of creativity.  It’s fun for me to put together a route, take pictures, and review the places I’ve been on a map during a run on any given day.  It’s creative for me to find routes that mimic future races and help in designing workouts for athletes that test physical and mental fortitude.  I truly love it. With that, I am happy to find that I have, in fact, put my creative genes to use, in my own distinct way.  I may not be an artist or a professional musician, as my parents had done…but that’s okay, I’m finding my own way.   And so the process continues….