Is it an addiction? An escape? This morning started with promise. Overcast but warm. Eli and I planned to mountain bike after lunch. I drank my coffee and ate Golden Grahams. I kicked back on the couch to read the news with an espresso. About that espresso: Susan has harbored a love/hate relationship with coffee since her pregnant years. For fourteen years, she gutted through a daily cup for the caffeine.

Early on, we swapped the drip-pot for a stove-top percolator. Susan thought the drip coffee tasted like water, and she needed at least two cups to get enough caffeine. The stove-top deal is really an espresso maker. It brews two large cups of coffee per pot. Nothing weak about this coffee. If it had legs, it would kick you in the head. It’s an excellent delivery system for caffeine, but she doesn’t like the coffee any better than the watery stuff we used to drink. She just needs less of it.

A couple of months ago, she bought herself a Nespresso machine. It’s like a Keurig only the coffee tastes good. Her mornings improved, coffee is now a pleasure. Often, she has two. I like it too. On most days, I get by with just the pot of stove-top espresso, but sometimes as dessert, I’ll drink a Nespresso. Today was one of those treat-days. Espresso and news. I felt relaxed.

Around mid-morning, Susan and I went for a walk. As we left the house, a few raindrops fell. Three minutes later, things settled into a steady rain. We cut our walk short, came home and changed, I watched my afternoon mountain biking drown in the rapidly forming puddles outside. That’s when I noticed the edge. My relaxed feeling was gone. In its place, I felt agitated and aimless. The feeling stuck with me all afternoon. This happens every weekend. If I don’t have a wilderness outing planned for the day, a chance to get out into nature, I feel off. I have trouble focusing. I sit waiting, but for what, I don’t know.

Saturday, after lunch, I drove to Dead Woman Hollow, an extensive trail system in the local state park. I went for a run. Eli and I have been riding these trails weekly; I’m starting to know my way around. I put together a remote wooded loop and ran for ninety minutes. I judge the success of a run by how few people I see. Yesterday I saw only one. Bliss. I came home energized. I broke out the power washer and tackled several jobs.

Losing my Sunday outing derailed me. By mid-afternoon, I was feeling depressed. Susan corrected me: “You have a depressed feeling. In this moment.” The rain stopped, and with nudging from Susan, I went out on my bike. An hour later, back home, I felt great. Is it the solitude? The exercise? Breaking out of quarantine? Am I addicted, or am I running away? It’s a pattern worth watching. Several recent weekends have been disrupted by this feeling. If I only need a bike ride to set me straight, that’s a nice thing to know.

22 thoughts on “Wilderness

  1. A few years ago when I was walking 5-10 miles a day, I noticed I’d get irritated if it was raining or really cold or some Life issue tried to stop me from my walk. I walked in pouring rain. I think we get addicted to the endorphins.
    If you have to be addicted to something, exercise induced endorphins isn’t bad😉

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  2. I would rather call it a good habit that gives one the reason to go on, something to look forward to, more like a purpose which gives a sense of achievement when accomplished. And it’s great to be high on life!

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  3. The way you are so appreciative of your wife is such a joy to read. She sounds like a great person. I’m with her on the coffee sitch. I actually weaned myself to decaf (press) over a period of a couple weeks (starting with mixture of caf/decaf then sliding up the decaf ratio over time until caf was no longer needed (to avoid withdrawal headaches). By the end it was decaf only and I realized I was drinking shit water. I would love to say I’d switched to morning herbal tea at that point but I instead hit the caffeine bong again… in my usual press (near-expresso strength). Mmmmmm. Happy times. :))

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  4. Good ol’ Susan identifying the moment so well. I woke up this morning with an edgy sad feeling. I can’t settle into a good running routine and I want to run more which means I am going to have to get outside. This also means if I am going to get outside I can’t run my regular paved trails without a mask. So, it’s trail trail running away from people. The edgy sad feeling came when I started to think of how long I was going to have to do this. I’m thinking a long while and it gets me down. Or, maybe it will make me a kick-ass trail runner? Better to be positive, I guess.

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      • I’m always afraid of twisting my ankle on a tree branch or rock. And then I worry about how fr out I may be with a twisted ankle. The good news is that all of our new walks have led me to a lot of different trail options – so thank goodness for that! I just need to pick the best option and give it a try.


        • I may be overly cavalier about the possibility of injury on a run. I tell Susan where I’m going but she doesn’t know the trail networks well. I feel better about it all when the weather is warm and I know I’m not going to freeze to death if I’m out all night. That probably didn’t help, right?

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  5. Yes, you are addicted. So are most runners, bikers, hard-core exercisers. We need that hit of dopamine we get from our exercise, just like you can become addicted to caffeine. I am restless if I don’t run but I have kicked my caffeine addiction. I didn’t want to deal with the headaches when I didn’t drink coffee.


  6. I think it is an addiction to something that has become a part of your identity. Like any addiction — caffeine included — breaking it means going through a period of withdrawal that is defined by edginess and, for me, a bit of cranky. I experienced that having to give up my gym sessions because of “the ‘rona” as we call it in NYC. I still really miss lifting heavy and get a bit cranky when I think about how I might have to wait a very long time to do it again. At least rain delays are better than quarantine!

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  7. No riding in the rain? I guess in these parts, if you’re not willing to ride in the rain, then you’re missing a lot of riding time..
    Bike therapy! It’s totally a thing. And in the rain, it’s extra therapeutic. There’s something about coming home covered in mud freckles and mud that’s joy-giving.

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    • I worry that riding in the rain would be hard on the trails. So parts are always wet, so I’m not worried about those. Is it generally accepted as fair game to ride in the rain? Of course, Saturday wouldn’t have worked anyway. It was raining too hard and it was too cold. It would have sucked. By the time it cleared up, it was too late to make the trip.


      • It is here, but a lot of our trail builders are meticulous about drainage and rock armouring, with the expectation that people will ride in the rain. There are a few delicate trails ppl know not to ride in the wet, but they’re few and far between..

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