fighting with my starter
I made my first starter in October of last year. It seemed quite happy, mostly doubling within 4-6 hours. Baking with it never resulted in much success; most loaves were dense. I'd always feed it 2x a day with 50/50 white KA AP and KA white whole wheat, mostly at a ratio of 1:1.5:2. I went on an 8 day trip in November, left it in the fridge, came back, fed it, and it woke back up nicely. Then, more recently I fed it 100% white KA AP and went on another 8 day trip, so I put it in the fridge again after feeding it and waiting for 4 hours. I came back to a bad smelling corpse (no hooch, no mold). For a whole 7 days now I've been doing CPR on this thing, and have had some success especially after having fed it a pinch of sugar and 2-3 tbsps of rye flour; it smells much better, almost like before, and is bubbly, though not hugely. But it'll take ca 5-6 hours after feeding (2x a day, 1:2:2, in the oven with the little light on, temp at 75 24/7) for it to start rising.
This has me so confused. I'm wondering whether it's just never been in the greatest of shapes to begin with, which would explain all my bricks. And now that I almost killed it, it'll take forever to bounce back because there's still something that's consistently causing it unhappiness. What could this be?
I thought of starting over, but then I'd still run the risk of just facing the same troubles again.