03 May 2012

I'm free!!!

Look, Ma, no cast!

I didn't realize how much my 60-mile-day streak meant to me until I was on the verge of unwillingly ending it.

For five weeks, the old adage about getting back on the bike right after a wreck haunted me. I knew I would have to rebuild confidence as much as I needed to rebuild strength and endurance.

On August 15, 2001, I was hit by a car while I was riding my bike home from work. I was not seriously hurt, but it took me nearly 18 months to work up the courage to ride on the road in traffic again.

After my most recent spill, the first time I tried getting back on the bike, with the hand specialist's permission, of course, I couldn't operate the front brakes, and I couldn't put weight on my right arm.

The second time I tried getting back on the bike, again, with permission, I got on the trainer in the basement. I pedaled for five minutes. I made sure I could reach everything. I leaned on my arm for a full two minutes. But trainers are not like riding in real life. I knew I would need more. More strength. More endurance. More time in the saddle.

According to Ride the Rockies training recommendations, I should be comfortably riding at least 150 miles a week by this week. I was to that point a month ago when my training was abruptly interrupted. Would I be able to build back up in time? Would I really be able to ride 60 miles in a day before the end of April???

I missed so much. I missed this year's pink blossoms, an annual cycling photo opp. I was running out of April. The streak was looking bleak. Cross-training was looking more and more appetizing.

the bike path last spring

Friends Mike and Kim joined The Lizard and me for a 15-mile round-trip day hike into Rattlesnake Canyon. I had been there before, so I knew I could do it again. What I didn't remember was the number of three- and four-point contact scrambling we would encounter going straight up sandstone beneath an arch to enable the three of them to prance across the top of the arch. Mike and Kim had never done such a thing before. I encouraged them to take the path less traveled because I thought I could do it. I had done it before.

But not with a broken wrist!

Nevertheless, The Lizard literally got first-timers Mike and Kim and old-timer me up the sandstone. I did not traverse the arches but took plenty of photos of my hiking companions doing so. My wrist was achy, and my fingers kept swelling. But I did it. I hiked the entire 15 miles. I didn't need an ambulance at the end of our 12-hour day.

Rattlesnake Canyon

Rattlesnake Canyon

The following day, I was stiff from the waist down, and blisters had found comfortable resting spots on my feet. Yet I had more strength in my arm and wrist! The challenge had been worth the effort and the discomfort! Well, and so were the photos...

A few days later, after the blisters healed, I knew if I didn't get back on that bike - soon - the streak, impressive even if soon to end, would die. I wasn't ready to let it slip away.

I mounted my bike extra early because I knew I would be extra slow because I would be extra scared my first commute back in the saddle, at dark to boot, in the hope I could make it to work on time and pedal the entire 30 miles both ways.

I had many options. The Lizard could drop me and my bike off at the halfway point in the morning. I could pedal to the halfway point and take the train the rest of the way. I could easily take the train from anywhere along the final 15 morning miles. In the evening, I could pop my bike aboard the train at any point for 15 miles and have The Lizard pick up me and the bike anywhere I asked. No pressure other than keeping my streak alive.

My predawn speed was slower than ever, but not because I couldn't ride faster. I was nervous about encountering obstacles. I feared falling again.

About a mile into my ride, a mule deer trotted alongside me for quite a while. That took my mind off my fears. Suddenly it burst in front of me, into my headlamp beam, then bounced off into the river. Boing, boing, boing! Because I was going very slow, I had plenty of time to stop and allow my unplanned pace companion go her own way.

Mule Deer

Before the sky began to lighten, I encountered the very same split rail fence where I had wrecked nearly five weeks earlier. I was nervous. Until out of the corner of my eye I spotted a squirrel racing along the fence beside me. The missing fence sections provided ample hurdling opportunities for the furry friend, who displayed wanton determination and scampered up and down seemingly effortlessly to beat me to the end of the bike path. He then posed atop the final fence post and chattered at me, as if to say, "Nanny nanny boo boo! I-I-I beat you!"

Sunrise Squirrel

The darkness forced me to buck up and be a woman. The deer and the squirrel provided unexpected entertainment that redirected my nervous energy just long enough to get me through the dark and scary spots. The sky slowly faded to pastel hues tinted by warming solar rays, and my confidence slowly, very slowly, began to breathe new life. 22 miles of bike path made the ride pleasing and satisfying.

I bypassed the train options. I made it into all-one-way streets downtown. I took a deep breath once again and opted to stay on the bike, in rush hour traffic, instead of walking the bike four blocks to the office.

I have three blocks of designated bike lane alongside traffic and two blocks of sharrows downtown in the morning, and one block of sharrows followed by 11 blocks of designated bike lane alongside traffic after quitting time. The afternoon commute isn't too bad unless there is a game (basketball, hockey or baseball); motorists in such circumstances tend to be more focused on finding the cheapest parking spaces than watching for cyclists, especially when many cyclists ignore common laws such as stopping for traffic lights and riding on sidewalks where pedestrians are present. But that's a rant for another day. The afternoon ride typically is much warmer and lighter, so I do okay with my p.m. commutes.

sharrows

The morning commute, however, features cabbies loitering in the designated bike lanes, oblivious to oncoming cyclists, or worse, opening their cab doors into the designated bike lanes without looking first. My first day back on the bike was no different.

I cruised to a slow halt in heavy one-way traffic, hoping the cabbies would make room for me to pass. But they didn't. They looked over their shoulders at me and continued gabbing as if I were invisible. I stopped, and I waited. And waited. And waited.

Typically, when a motorist behind me blows the horn, I jump sky high. Most motorists think that's funny.

My first day back in the saddle provided an emotionally satisfying variation of the morning bike lane game. I wasn't about to jump out into traffic to get around these guys, but I was shy about asking them to please move, too. A motorist behind me must have noticed what was going on, waited until just the right moment, then laid into that horn as if transporting a pregnant woman with contractions in slow-moving gridlock. You should have seen those cabbies jump! Um, and vacate the bike lane! The driver then smiled and waved at me, and I was happily on my way again. I was grinning ear to ear.

dedicated bike lane

BLOCKED dedicated bike lane

That afternoon, I made it all the way home without incident. I'd done it. 14!!! 60!!! The streak is alive!

The next day, I was pretty stiff again, my shoulders and saddle were sore, and the hand was once again achy. But the body withstood what I put it through.

My streak now stands at 14 consecutive months of at least one 60-mile-or-better day per month. Organized cycling events in May, June, July, August, September and October will give me an automatic 20-month streak. If I can keep from running into things or panicking when I hit the brakes. Oh, and IF my derailleur holds out! Beyond that, I don't know what to hope or expect. After two bone-chilling rides in January and February this year, I thought I could let the streak go when the snow flies again.

Now I'm not so sure.

This streak may be yet another Pikes Peak for me. Another way to prove to myself I can do something difficult. Another way to prove no arthritis, bone chips, blood sugar, broken bones, saddle spills, brutal winters or deteriorating bike parts can hold me back.

braced

10 comments :

  1. Congratualtions. I rode my bike around the block 3 times. My knee muscles protest, but it is a good way to build them up. Keep on truck'n.

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  2. Sounds great :).

    Love the squirrel ♥.

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  3. Yeah! Congratulations!!

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  4. Oh happy day! great photo of the hands too! Love that! Such a gleeful expression too! You've driven a tough road, but thank goodness that you had that route, better than the ill-fated luck some have had. Even before biking to work was really common, and before we had a mega amount of bike lanes installed even people walking down the streets of Minneapolis had to beware,especially from the busses! They felt, they had the right of way no matter what or who may be in their path! Stay safe!

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  5. Good grief! Well done that woman! That is so impressive. And the deer and the squirrel were clearly gobsmacked!

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  6. Incredible, what a ride! You're one tough cookie and I love reading and seeing your journeys.

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  7. Congrats. May the roads be filled with joy this summeri

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  8. Oh frabjous day! Calloo, callay!

    SO glad to see you back in the saddle. It's so very nerve-wracking to get back on the bike after an accident, but your determination has carried you through.

    Now if only that derailleur will hold up....

    :)

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  9. Yipee!!!!! I was hoping to find this news on your blog. I am happy happy happy for you!

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  10. You are amazing! I am so happy that you are getting back in your groove.

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