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.
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