The Stress (relief) of Moving

One final family picture in front of our LA house

"I hate packing". No, wait, that's an understatement.

"I LOATH packing." Nope, still doesn't do it.

"Packing is the devil." Still doesn't quite sum it up properly. 

In reality there really are no words in any language in the world to adequately describe the extent to which the mere thought of packing will cause anxiety to make my blood pressure rise and a heart attack feel imminent. I can't pin point a particular reason why packing bothers me so much. Perhaps it's because I sometimes border on OCD when it comes to my need to maximize my organization and efficiency in everything I do. If just diving in to cleaning up my room as a kid would have taken 2 hours to just attempt randomly, but creating a plan of attack for 90min and then I would have spent 45min actually cleaning, I would always choose the latter because it "felt" more efficient. I'm not sure why but this is just how my brain has always worked. While being this organized certainly has it's advantages in day to day life, it can feel quite crippling at times when it comes to a project as big as moving across the country.

Previous to this move across the US, I have "relocated" from coast to coast 6 times in the last 6 years. And I have been stationary for 4 of those 6 so do the math on that one! Looking back at the other moves I supposed they were all comparatively easy in the sense that I always called my childhood home my residence and was merely planning a series of extended training camps in a different location. As I always stayed with friends on my travels, I never needed more than the clothes on my back and my bike. Therefore I had never acquired more "stuff" than I could fit in my car or easily ship from place to place. But on my 6th cross country drive that brought me from east to west in 2012, I was beginning a new chapter where I would set up my own residence with no foreseeable end in sight.

So upon landing in LA, I began the process of creating a new home all my own for myself in my 1 bedroom apartment in Torrance, CA with my loyal pup Dunkin. For the first time I was able to create a living space for myself to my own liking with no one to stop me. Over the course of the next year I created the best space I could to call home and crammed my 1 bedroom apartment as full as I could. Then in 2013 I moved from that 1 bedroom to a 2 bedroom house with a yard and garage and that's when the real problem began...

My first home to call my very own
My first home to call my very own

Finally having some space to stretch my legs, I began upgrading and acquiring 6x the amount of "stuff" that I had in my apartment. In the end I had proudly outfitted the entire house from top to bottom with everything I could have ever wanted. Sounds great right? Well it was until I had to face the music of clearing the whole place out and undoing all the "personalization" I had performed. Given my predisposition to logistical perfection, this task seemed impossible. Even with 6 weeks of time to undo everything, I couldn't wrap my head around how to complete everything in time. I felt a growing tightness in my chest and found myself grinding my teeth 24/7. For someone who already has borderline high blood pressure, this was less than ideal.

Enter my moving savior: Missy. It became apparent quite quickly that we were going to have to dramatically downsize our belongings as well completing a deep deep cleaning of our residence. All while organizing and preparing all of our belongings and travel plans to our new home in PA. With a todo list about a mile long, I was seriously considering changing my mind not moving at all. But lucky for me, I had Missy! Missy was beyond words/out of this world my saving grace of this move. She took command and lead the charge for our downsizing and organization of the house contents as well as cleaning the entire house. Leaving me to focus on the logistics of moving along with my own packing and the repair of all the holes I had loving punched in every wall of the house. We worked furiously for weeks upon weeks through our todo list as the house slowly emptied out and started to look like the day we moved in. In our final week my good friend and BPC's first world champion, Matt Diefenbach, came out for a final west coast visit and was a 24/7 worker bee himself helping with all the odds and ends projects around the house. I can confidently say that without Missy and Matt, I would probably still be in California.

It might look put-on in the photo, but I was genuinely heartbroken. Luckily Missy kept me smiling through it all

But even with all this help, as the moving day of March 28th approached, my blood pressure continued to rise and I felt as though at any moment my head or heart might explode. But on the morning of the 28th, everything just started to click right into place. The movers showed up on time and in force to load all our belongings in to the truck. Now, on a quick side bar: movers are the greatest invention in the entire world. Those guys are worth their weight in gold and the amount of stress they single handedly removed from my shoulders was amazing. Had I tried to rent a U-haul van and load all of our belongings on my own, I probably would have cracked. If I ever move again, even just a block away, I will absolutely be hiring movers. But getting back to the 28th: I was able to fit everything we owned into the appropriate number of boxes and all our other belongings fit perfectly into our Suburban and my Jetta we were towing behind for the drive. I had planned for a noon departure from our house and nearly perfectly on cue at 11:30am we were in the car and our journey began.

All packed up and ready to roll!
All packed up and ready to roll!

One thing I had no accounted for on the day though was just how emotional I would be leaving that tiny little house. Missy probably thought I had lost my marbles as I did lap upon lap around and through the house photographing the smallest of details of things I wanted to remember about our home. I had been so caught up in the stress and process of leaving, that I had discounted the value of my first real "home" of my very own. The life Missy and I had built together in that little bungalow by the ocean with our dogs was as good as we could get in LA. I actually resent the SoCal area even more for having clouded the positives of my life there so much that all I could focus on was the negatives. So in those final moments before I put the truck in "D" and headed out, my emotions and tears let loose as I said goodbye to a place I loved and held quite dear. I still get choked up even right now writing this and probably always will when I think about all the great things we had created there.

The most terrifying part of our drive - the snow covered mountain pass
The most terrifying part of our drive - the snow covered mountain pass

So it was into the car, right on time, that we started our drive with dogs and Jetta in tow, over the Vincent Thomas bridge one final time as we set our corse for the east coast. The next 4 days would become mostly a blur as we fought 50mph cross winds, rain storms and even navigating a terrifying mountain pass in a snow storm with a 2 wheel drive Suburban at 11,000ft. The absolute highlight though was spending 2 nights and 1 day in Durango, CO where Missy went to college, with her friends Allie and Ian Burnett. It was absolutely wonderful and heartwarming to have gotten a glimpse into that part of Missy's life and the people who made it extra special. I'll never be able to thank them enough for the hospitality and time they spent with us while we were there. It was truly a perfect stop off on our trek across the country.

We made it!
We made it!

But alas, after 4 full days of travel, we arrive in PA on Thursday night at my dad's house and limped inside to sink straight into bed (after a long, long shower). I would say we slept great, but the anxious anticipation of seeing our new home the next day made sleep nearly impossible. Anticipation which did not disappoint! Back in February we had happened to come across a 4 bedroom farmhouse for rent not 2 miles away from the velodrome and my dad's house here in PA. It seemed to good to be true as everything fell into place, that I needed to pinch myself when we got our keys. I'll go in to more detail about the house and it's history in a later post, but for now just believe me that it was worth every second of stress from packing and moving and that 4 days drive across the country. But it's actually all that stress that is the reason I wanted to write this post.

Back in November I got a FitBit for myself just to see what all the craze was and to do an assessment of it's value as a training tool. I'm a person who takes every new technology with a grain of salt and I don't hold any one measurement as a gold standard of any type of performance. So I look at a fit bit and how it counts steps as cute and fun to compare from day to day. But for myself and future athletes, I found the biggest value to be in the measurement of sleep and resting heart rate. Over the course of a few months I've noticed that I'm an extremely restless sleeper and while living in LA it was actually quite difficult for me to ever get my goal of 7 hours of sleep, even when going to bed at 9pm. I have also noticed the correlation of my resting heart rate to my stress, fitness and recovery levels. For years I have tried to find a way to get reliable resting HR data but have never been able to get anything consistent. Trying to take my morning HR after my alarm clock scares me half to death left me with a scatter graph that looked like a shot gun fired from 100 yards away. But the FitBit measures and records HR throughout the day and then averages it out across your time spent resting and your sleeping HR to give you and apples to apples HR number from day to day.

What my findings were on myself was that I am currently incredibly out of shape. Average resting HR in LA when I wasn't working out was upper 60's! It was not at all uncommon for me to see a rest HR between 68-72. If I went out and had a single hard training ride my HR would rocket up to the low to mid 80's for a few days before finally trending back to the upper 60's. Just a single hard day! Fast forward to the last few weeks before moving, when I was not working out in any way shape or form and I was averaging somewhere between 66-69 most days. There was a spike in the last week before moving that saw me go into the mid 70's for a few days, but I also wasn't sleeping much then. But ever since arriving in PA my resting HR has dropped and consistently stayed at an all time low between 62-63! Even with all the stress of the cross country drive, the process of unpacking and setting up a new home and running up and down stairs dozens of times a day! My daily schedule and activity list is nearly identical to when I was in LA, the only thing that's different? I'm home.

The moral of the story to me is to never underestimate the effects of your outside environment on your physical health and wellbeing. To me, my FitBit has proven concretely the effects of stress from moving. Along with the value of just being back in a place I truly enjoy living. If I ever had a doubt about this move, I am certain now that it was 100% worth it.IMG_1281