Rest day blues

I really wish I could just keep riding my bike forever, but sooner or later my body starts to complain, and I notice I’m getting slower and more out of breath, and the miles seem longer, and the hills steeper, and the headwinds stronger, and I realize I’m due a rest day.

And I was seriously overdue one when I pulled into Sofia the other day, and realized that I’d ridden through two whole countries since my last shower, and four since I last had a day off. So the following morning I ate several breakfasts, put my head down, and pushed myself hard through the last 100 miles to Plovdiv, where I had the promise of a dry bed and a warm flat for a few days.

But you know what? I actually hate rest days. I look forward to them, thinking how delicious it’ll be just to sit around doing nothing but eating and drinking, but when it comes down to it I just spend the whole time feeling ill and exhausted – more so than I ever do on the bike.

And yes yes, I know this is all part of the process, and that for some biological reason I can’t (be bothered to) get my head round, my body needs to spend 24 hours feeling sluggish, weak and run-down in order to recharge its batteries. I understand that I have to endure this doldrum in order to enjoy the days of power and glory that always follow.

What I don’t get is the insomnia. Why, when I’ve been on the bike for nearly two weeks, crossed some of the most mountainous countries in Europe, slept rough for the past few nights and ridden an imperial century as fast as I possibly could (racing the sunset to Plovdiv) do I then lie awake until 2am, yawning, fidgeting and fretting, desperately bored with my own thoughts and company and persistent consciousness, and unable to get to sleep?

This isn’t a rhetorical question. Will someone who knows please tell me why?

It’s happened before, usually after a day where I’ve ridden a long distance under difficult circumstances, fallen into the clean and comfortable bed I’ve been dreaming of all day, and expected to go out like a light. In the past I’ve blamed caffeinated energy products, but all I ate yesterday was a cheese sandwich and a Swiss roll.

Is it because I’m over-tired? What does ‘over-tired’ even mean?

Whatever the cause, five hours of interrupted sleep last night made today’s recuperation even more tiresome and unproductive than usual. So the long and exuberant report on how wonderful the past two weeks have been will just have to wait till tomorrow, I’m afraid.

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