Biking

 
 

Back in the Saddle, Again

June 14, 2016 Tuesday  ~ A month after my bike crash.

I woke up to a debate in my head.

I was tired and so I thought maybe I could justify not going out on my bike because of that. But I knew I’d feel better psychologically and physically if I rode. I tried to tell myself I’d exercise somehow at home. A bike ride sounded scary, potentially dangerous. My face remembers hitting the sidewalk; my head remembers the pain that lasted several weeks. My whole body remembers feeling out of control and suddenly, inexplicably, thrown to the ground.

I somehow have to push past all of that and make myself get out of bed, dress in my biking clothes, put my necessities in my pockets, fill a water bottle, tie on my shoes. I remember to leave the bedroom door open so if I have to call Lynn he’ll hear the phone ring. I put on my helmet, tighten up my chin strap a bit, since I remember the helmet coming off after hitting the sidewalk, or at least it seems like it did. I set my phone to track my ride distance and speed. I roll the bike out of the garage; push the button to close the garage. I adjust the pedals; I walk to the end of the driveway with the bike in hand. I look both ways down the street.

Bicyclehelmet_da_060713

Not my helmet.

And then I’m riding. Every push on the pedals feels awkward, I can’t get comfortable on the seat, and my grip is too tight on the handlebars. My knees remind me that they took a hit and aren’t quite fully recovered. I’m on high alert for any tiny obstacle, extra careful on turns. I’m tired already after only half a mile. I remember that the first mile is just to loosen up. I try to relax and start to get a rhythm.

I turn the bike south, the sun already too warm on my left; I push through and start to find I’ve settled in to the seat. I start to remember the exhilaration of moving under my own power, although I’m certainly not riding at any speed to remark about. If a runner came by they’d probably pass me.

I told myself I would only ride four miles and not cross any major streets. And yet, I find myself at a major arterial road and wait, probably longer than I need to, for traffic to clear. Then I ride past my own personal boundary line. A half mile later I turn and ride back to the same road, take my time, cross back, negotiate a curb and ride north an entire mile. At that point I’m sensing the bike react to every nuance of the terrain beneath me. I lift myself off the saddle to negotiate a large bump in the path. The bike manages through some rocky terrain as I turn south again. My hands squeeze the handlebars too hard and go numb. I shake the feeling back into each one, hesitant to let go even briefly. I regret this unpaved section, with its unpredictability and slippery sand and varied rock, but I remember that I’ve ridden this path dozens and dozens of times without incident at a much higher speed.

I turn, I negotiate another sidewalk to cement, and then cement to sidewalk and I don’t slam to the ground. I finally remember to breathe, although I’m sure I’ve been unconsciously breathing the whole time. I roll into the driveway, hop off the bike; punch in the garage code, back my bike into its parking spot.

I remove my helmet. I look at my phone and the app tells me I rode four and three quarter miles. Not much, not far, twenty-five percent of what I was doing with frequency only a month or so ago.

I report in to my cousin with a text.

Her response heartens me, makes me feel like a champion.

I did it.

I can do it again.

There’s no guarantee that a fall or crash or some craziness won’t happen again. In fact, it’s probably inevitable. But I’m more mindful now, less cavalier. I know there’s a lot I don’t know about the sport that only experience will teach me.

I know I can’t give it up. It’s one of the major things that keep my mind alert and my depression-prone psyche on an even keel.

Maybe next time the pre-ride debate will be shorter. And the time after that, or two or three, maybe there won’t be a debate at all.

~~~~~~~

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”   ~Dale Carnegie

 

 

 

Categories: Biking, Mental Health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do I Hold On or Let Go?

While out biking a few months ago I discussed the following question with a friend of mine.

“When you’re falling off your bike do you think you should hold on to the handlebars or let go of the handlebars?”

Bouncing the question around got us no where other than she had a story to tell about a friend’s husband who chose to take a steep path downhill when the rest of the group decided to carry their bikes around the obstacle. It didn’t have a very happy ending, short or long term.  I think she said he held on to the handlebars, but that didn’t have much bearing on the painful long-lasting consequences of a plain old bad decision.

I even asked my cousin, the super athlete, for her opinion and she said it didn’t really matter and that it depended. Which at the time I thought was a lame answer.

This morning I came to understand her answer.

FullSizeRender-3 copy 5Woke up long before the sun kissed the horizon today and planned a quick six or eight mile ride to round out the weeks mileage to at least forty. I was on the trail hoping to avoid crowds. A gloriously cool morning after a 100 degree day yesterday, I reveled in my freedom and the glow of the sunrise. I was making good time, for me, and enjoying every minute of it.

Making the transition from gravel onto the sidewalk, which I’ve done hundreds of times, my wheel caught the edge and refused to pop up over and instead threw me to the ground.

It happened in this slow motion super fast way I can’t explain. It’s like being in a dream where your brain just can’t quite process what’s happening because it’s so out of the norm of your experience doing this easy thing.

What I remember most is thinking: this is my face smashing into the concrete. Everything is going to be broken and shattered and I am in deep trouble.

Here’s the answer to the title question. I had no idea where the flip the handlebars on my bike were or where my hands were.

Shock is the first thing that happens. So I just lay there. I might have rolled over on to my back. I could taste blood. And everything hurt, especially my head. I felt my face and came away with a handful of red. Oddly my glasses were still on my face. That’s how I knew my helmet saved my brain and most of my face.

I hoped someone would come along the trail but didn’t have a lot of hope for it that early on a Saturday. Lo and behold a friend of mine rolls up and says, “Hi Kami, what are you doing down there?” Or something equally hilarious if you aren’t the one on the ground. “Stan?” I said. “Am I ever glad to see you!”

He did a quick assessment and pulled me up off the trail of ants I had landed in. (Surprisingly didn’t get bit!!!)  Brushed the ants off of me, got my bike out of the way and told me to sit tight while he rode back and got his truck to drive me and my bike home.

A couple minutes later another friend happened to jog by. When she was sure I had help on the way and was okay to be alone, she suggested I use the ice in my water bottle on my face to keep the swelling down.

Another friend called a mutual dentist friend later in the morning who came by my house and made sure I hadn’t really ruined any teeth even though they hurt a bunch.

Needless to say, I felt like a crew of angels had been dispatched after I learned my lesson to not be so cocky on my bike, be more careful of transitions, and make sure MSH can hear a phone ringing if I’m going out riding alone. Oh, and the lesson to always, always, always wear my helmet.

Everything hurts everywhere almost ten hours after my fall from Grace. (Isn’t that a cute name for my bike?) I feel way worse than I look, which isn’t saying much, I suppose. My knee feels swollen, I have bruises that I can’t explain.

Oh, and the bike is okay. Some scrapes on the right side of the bike even though I fell left. The handlebars must have turned completely around to face me. I’ll get her a nice tuneup at Global Bikes next week, just to make sure I didn’t do any permanent damage. I’m not going to be riding for a week or so, I’m guessing. But I’ll be back out there again, for sure.

For today at least, I’m sucking meals out of a straw and hanging out on the couch bingewatching stuff and alternating Ibuprofen and Tylenol and icing the knee and mouth.

I’m also counting my blessings that I can still walk, and talk and laugh about all this.

Biffing it just aint fun.

So hold on. Don’t hold on. Just stay safe while having fun.

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A Mother’s Day Gift from my Son and Daughter in Law. Perfect!

 

 

 

Categories: Biking, Exercise, Outdoors, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

New Wheels, New Outlook

When he was young, my son used to test run shoes when he needed a new pair. He’d ask me if I thought one pair was faster than another. It was difficult to tell. Some shoes had serious speed factors, while others looked fast but might not run at top speeds. In the end the fastest shoes were always the shoes we bought. I loved that.

I think I stumbled on something similar in myself recently. Stay with me on this one while I mosey over to my point.

Want to see a sad photo I took while I spent time in snow country a month or so ago?

IMG_5514I know, right? Perfectly good bikes stuck in the snow going no place for a long time. They’re maybe even accumulating some rust, and weather related wear and tear. Poor, forlorn bikes.

It’s sad to me anyway. A big portion of the country lies buried or is shoveling out from under this white stuff. And bikes spend half the year in a dusty garage or shed corner, or left outside like these, unused, unridden, forgotten and silent. Blessedly, we don’t experience that here in the desert southwest.

Which means I get to ride my bike all winter long! In fact, it’s the best riding time of the year. Cool temperatures, sunny skies, dry trails, light breezes.

Want to see a really happy photo I took recently?

IMG_5667I’d like to introduce you to my new mountain bike. I wish I knew her name, but she hasn’t told me what it is yet. She’s a bit shy.

I’m extra happy about this new addition to my life because, well, it’s my first bike ever that isn’t a hand-me-down from someone else.

I shopped, and researched, and took six months to prove to myself how committed I felt to biking. Turns out I logged a bunch of miles from July to December last year. I rode over one hundred miles in October and November! Not too shabby. I fell in love with biking more than I thought possible. Getting around under my own power gives me a feeling of freedom like nothing else. It’s a bit addictive.

So after six months and lots of miles later I researched and shopped and test drove. And then spent a few days of angst and worry, and talking with bikers, and researching again.

Silly, you say. Maybe so, but I’d never spent so much money on a bike or anything else for myself for that matter. So this decision needed to be the right one.

The day I rode her home from the bike shop those two and a half miles felt spectacular. Christmas morning, Valentines Day and Easter plus my birthday all rolled into one couldn’t have topped that sensation!

I took her out for a short four-mile ride the next morning, since that was all I had time for a ride that day. I needed to get used to the newness, the quick response, the slightly wider handlebars, the bigger tire radius, the grippy foot pedals. I got overly confident and smashed my shoulder on a fall, which still has a bruise on it. But it didn’t deter me.

The following Tuesday turned into our official inaugural ride as a team. I’d intended to go less than ten miles. But, it became twice that. Yes! I rode twenty-one miles that day. I felt like a rock star. A personal best! I hope it’s the first of many twenty-plus mile rides. I also hope to take on some more challenging mountain trails as I gain more confidence and muscle.

Here’s the thing I’ve wondered; was it my bike or me that did that?

It’s a much better bike than my old one, well tuned, lightweight, new. Everything worked great, all twenty-four gears, the hydraulic brakes, and the front adjustable shocks. Those monster twenty-nine inch tires made the ride smooth and easy on my back and seat. Gravel, rocks, curbs, bumps gave me no worries at all. I felt like a kid out there with the world all mine to explore and conquer.

I wonder if I’m a bit like my son with his fast new shoes, convinced my bike is faster, when all it really amounts to is my mindset. I’m pretty sure the work I put in pedaling transfers more efficiently, but who knows? Maybe it’s all in my head and not in my feet. I feel pretty fast, though.

My gratitude overflows for such abundance in my life. How blessed I feel to own such an amazing piece of machinery that lets me go wherever I need or want to go, powered only by my legs, my heart and my determination.

Categories: Biking, Exercise, Gratitude | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Foggy and Fifty-Four

Not every day out on the bike feels wonderful. During Monday’s ride I cursed myself for not dressing warmer for fifty-four degrees. Also, it felt like someone filled my front tire with lead. Every single push on the pedal pushed my patience closer to the edge.

This morning I planned better. I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt and covered my legs. Forty-five degrees feels pretty cold when you’re used to eighties and nineties during the day. Still, the humidity seeped in and the wind-chill, even at nine miles an hour, kept my muscles from warming up. I found myself urging the sun to move faster and break over the horizon so I could catch a little heat. Tomorrow I might need to break down and wear a jacket and something to keep my ears warm.

And this time, I’m pretty sure someone filled both tires with kryptonite. Or maybe I just left my wonder woman bracelets at home. That’s probably it. My breath kept fogging up my glasses, too. That makes for an extra hilarious ride. I adjusted my breathing pattern and that problem went away.

It’s possible I need to fuel my body with healthier choices. And I might need to get more sleep more consistently. A new bike would be nice, too. So would a new body, one with less creaks, aches, twitches and padding. Oh well, I’ll do what I can with what I have.

Just me and my shadow, out for a ride.

Just me and my shadow, out for a ride.

Of course after saying all that, most days on the bike rock my world and make the whole day better! That’s the truth.

I’ve set a higher mileage goal for the month of November. On today’s ride I found myself rethinking that goal. How realistic did it seem? Why would it matter anyway how many miles I ride? Who would know but me that I wasn’t reaching the goal? An awful lot of arguments with shoulder angels and shoulder devils happen while riding a bike. I think the shoulder angel won this morning. I did, after all, log eleven miles. Not too shabby.

That abundant self-talk occurs alongside a bunch of anticipation. What’s that on the path up ahead? How am I going to navigate around this four-across walking group? What are that dog’s plans and am I involved in some way? What would I do if I ended up in the canal? Should I carry pepper spray? Why is that jogger going faster than me? It’s a mental workout, too.

I feel lucky to have easy, quick access to so many trails and paths. There are hundreds of miles of canal roads, paved and not paved. My mountain bike can do both, so I’m not limited that way. There’s also plenty of power line trails, with sidewalks and without. There are even some wide paths that follow the freeway in a few places, with a tall wall so I’m not actually seeing the traffic. Sadly, very few people see the landscaping along there.

One reason I’m trying to increase my mileage lies in the curiosity I have about other paths, roads and trails. I’d like to be able to go further, see more, and explore the lesser-seen sides of things. Also, I’d like to kick some butt, get brave and try a few mountain bike trails in the San Tans or Usury Park. That sounds so, what’s the word, youthful and just downright fun. Forget this nonsense of acting my age. In my head I’m still only a teenager. Well, maybe more like a twenty-something.

Foggy sunrise.

Foggy sunrise.

This morning I’d posted a photo on Facebook of the fog today with the comment, “Foggy forty-five degree morning. Perfect for a little ride.” One of my friends replied: “Sounds like my kind of morning! I’m forty-five and a little foggy.” That made me laugh. It also reminded me of one reason I ride. I’m trying to stay clear-headed and happy. I don’t want the fog to move in to my brain and settle there, not for at least thirty more years. Maybe riding my bike will keep that mental fog away. Maybe it will help me feel younger than my middle-aged self currently feels.

I’ll see what I can do about those kryptonite filled tires today. Tomorrow’s ride can only get better, right?

I wish you happy trails and a wonderful journey wherever the path leads.

Categories: Biking, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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