Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hitting the Wall

Saturday started great. I awoke at seven and immediately started making breakfast. A simple meal: oatmeal with fresh raspberries and sweet maple syrup. Mango-orange juice. I turned on CBC Radio One, catching the latest news. The radio also helped me keep track of time.

I went to my daughters' rooms and gently woke them up. Told them that I had a warming meal for them, that it was time to get ready for dance class. They got out of bed easily, without the need for me to call out to them, over and over, with my volume rising at each call. We had a great breakfast.

Off to dance class, and then home, where I cleaned the kitchen and then sat to process the photos from the night before. A late-night photo walk downtown, which ended on the Alexandra Bridge, which was abandoned, closed due to maintenance, though there was no sign of workers. The photo walk got me home just before two in the morning.

When both girls were finished with dance, I took them to the Walter Baker Sports Centre, where my eldest and I were going to start a swim routine: me, training for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour; her, training for a Try-a-Tri race in May. It was a simple swim: 400 metres for her; 500 metres for me.

Meanwhile, my youngest daughter visited the library and then watched us swim from the observation area on the floor above.

The snow storm was pretty much over, by the time we were done, so we drove home, where I spent the next hour shovelling the driveway. Though it is officially spring, the cruel snow is not yet done with us.

An afternoon of housecleaning before an early dinner, to celebrate my eldest's recent birthday, her entrance into teenhood. A large table with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. A great table at a favourite restaurant.

On the drive home, I felt heavy, tired. I could feel my energy levels wane. Though it wasn't yet nine, I wanted to go to bed when I got home. It had been a busy day. A busy week, for that matter. Late nights and early risings. The most I had slept in one night was about five and a half hours. The least, two. Most nights, four.

I was hitting the wall.

I know some athletes hit the wall when they push themselves, but they overcome it to finish their challenge. When I cycled to Kingston, last year, I hit the wall just past Westport. I wanted to give up. But the only thing that kept me from quitting my ride was the realization that I had nowhere else to go. I was much closer to the end of the journey than the beginning.

When I arrived home on Saturday night, my body had hit its limit. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My brain was unable to cope, and it was only sending me one message: sleep.

With my wife's encouragement, I fought to stay up as the kids readied themselves for bed and we did a final cleanup of the kitchen, which had become messy again after preparing a birthday cake.

But as much as I pushed my body, my body pushed back.

I had flashbacks to when I was three and we had just moved from Montreal to Ottawa, how I was underfoot as Mom and Dad, my aunts and uncles, unpacked in the evening, how I was tired and unfamiliar with my new surroundings.

I tried to get words out, but my brain failed to make connections with my mouth. I started a sentence and then stopped. A random word came out but it was the wrong word, or a word mispronounced. Sometimes, I wasn't even sure that the word I used was even English. My ears didn't hear what I was trying to say, the sounds didn't even sound like my own voice.

I had trouble standing. I was dizzy and I felt a huge weight on me, as though the air itself was too heavy, that gravity was pulling me downwards.

As soon as the kitchen was finished, I gave one final push. I managed to indicate to my wife to turn out lights before she came upstairs. I grabbed onto the bannister and pulled myself up the stairs, willing myself to get into the bedroom.

I have vague memories of pulling off my pants, letting them fall where they may. I took off my shirt and then fell onto the bed with a weighted crash. My final memory was pulling the duvet over myself.

I slept for 12 hours.

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