Riding with the fear

So! It was a big weekend in bikeland for me. The weather is finally starting to warm up, and I know that as nervous as it makes me right now, I both want and NEED to get back out on the road.

Saturday afternoon I took my lovely Cervelo in to the Geneva Bike Center, where Mark and Chad looked over the bike to make sure everything was ok. I also stocked up on tubes, chain lube and a couple of embarrassingly basic bike maintenance tips. And chatted with the rest of the bike shop crowd; they truly are a special bunch there.

Sunday I had a 90 minute endurance ride on my training plan, and I decided to do that in the early morning, on the trainer. I knew that when I was outside my attention needed to be on how my hip was tolerating the extra balancing and sudden movements of actual (non-trainer) riding and where the hell the cars and potholes and fluffy white dogs were. Had a solid, sweaty trainer ride while watching Despicable Me – which is delightful if you haven’t seen it!

Had a recovery breakfast, did my laundry laps (which in this apartment really are laps – to parking lot to retrieve car, up stairs, down stairs, up stairs, down stairs, to laundromat, from laundromat, repeat stairs part, knock over godforsaken decorative plant on precariously balanced plant stand on landing, get yelled at by cranky neighbor lady for plant crash, try to apologize, continue getting reamed, start crying because I didn’t TRY to knock over her plant nor did I ask her to put it in the SHARED hallway, get the damned vacuum, vacuum mess and rest of steps, make friends with cranky neighbor lady who finally decided that I’m not a self-centered twit like the other “young people” who live here). Sheesh.

And after some toast and banana, it was finally time to try the bike outside! My goal was a half hour spin, easy, no pressure to achieve any heart rate or wattage or distance. Just keep my head up and wheels down. Wow, was I scared. Had to literally talk myself through the last few steps of getting out the door. (“Get your gloves, helmet on, keys in pocket, down the stairs, get on bike.”) I did all of those, as directed, and rolled out.

A little shaky at first! A little hard to remember how to clip in my left stack of cleats on the fly! (I have a stack because of my shorter left leg; the good folks at Geneva have spent literally hours dialing this in, and my pedaling mechanics are comfortable and apparently effective.) But I slowly navigated out of town. Stopping at stop signs was the hardest part, both because it requires twisting to unclip my right shoe and simultaneously extending my right hip and leg to the ground. This little move hurts! But we’ll have to train the bod to tolerate it, since it is, um, essential to stopping while remaining upright.

I was scared to crash. I’ll say that unequivocally. I’m still not quite over the physical pain of the last crash (although today is my 9 month crash anniversary!), and the memory of the pain can literally make me wince; maybe it acts as an intangible buffer to keep me aware. Anyhow, I gave myself the talk. I can only control myself; the safest way to ride is alert and confident; riding scared and jumpy is as dangerous as riding recklessly. Find the focus in between overconfidence and fear. Deep breaths, chest open, go.

I rode about 15 minutes out, which was my plan. There are hills in the real world! Imagine that! They make you work on THEIR schedule, not yours! So even though I kept my pedal resistance pretty light, the ride was definitely – as I knew it would be – more challenging than the trainer. My hip ached a bit, and I knew that I shouldn’t push my luck. The last thing I wanted to do was end up half an hour from home and have to shred my hip to get back in.

So I turned around, caught some crosswind on the way back, and got back home. Unfortunately I never got far enough out of a populated area for the traffic to let up. I didn’t flip out with the traffic or potholes or anything; but I was definitely hyperaware. Nervous. I caught myself with my shoulders tight and forward, trying to protect myself.

When I got home, after 28 minutes and 5.14 miles – all upright! – I felt relieved, glad I went, but kind of unsettled. It wasn’t really fun. There wasn’t that release I usually find on the bike. It was partly because my hip hurt and I was trying not to overdo it, but it was mostly because I was scared. And riding scared is no way to ride.

So – where do I go from here? I want to keep riding. I love it. I love the wind over my body, exploring new roads, the rhythm of the pedals, pushing myself, riding with friends who feel the same things but might not need to say them. I don’t have to give that up. But this fear probably isn’t going to just go away. I don’t think I can bully it out of my mind or will myself to “just forget it.” I will have to let it be there. Notice it, ride with it, realize it’s there for a purpose – to keep me safe. But I can’t let it drive. Real safety comes in the balance between overconfidence and fear; I learned that after I rolled the farm’s refrigerated truck and then, after having it set upright by the truck shop guys who then dubbed me “Crash,” had to drive it home.

I wrote to my coach, Mary Eggers, when I returned from the ride that I’m glad I have three whole months to get ready for my first triathlon – Tri in the Buff on July 2. My body needs some time to adapt to outdoor riding, and my head does too. This will not be easy. I was awake last night for a while wondering if I could get back the great feelings I remember on the bike. I hope so. But my goal can’t be to find the old feelings. The new feelings will be different, and they’ll fit a different me and a different reality.

But I’m ready for the process and for it to be hard. It will make me face myself, fear and all, and I’m finding that’s really not such a scary thing after all.


About solveighanson

I'm a (late) thirtysomething Plant Breeding Ph.D. student, daughter / sister / auntie, vegetable fan, yogi, sometime cyclist, and enthusiastic if infrequent baker. I started this blog in the summer of 2010 to trace my recovery from a pelvic fracture sustained in a cycling accident. That healing process was truly transformative, and since then I seem to have written mostly about the transformations that have followed. And hence the title of the blog: Don't call me a butterfly, because I'm not done changing.
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One Response to Riding with the fear

  1. Ruth H says:

    Wow! who knew that recovery encompasses so much! Mind, muscle, spirit, will—and fear. “Knowing” that joy comes between the balance of over confidence and fear, is now more than an intellectual “knowing”, it is a physical experience, a new reality. This is a kind of knowledge not easily gained; knowledge that challenges every fiber of your being. Thank you for sharing your journey, so that I, and others, can learn important lessons vicariously—although we cannot know them as well as you, for it is only through “the doing” that true knowledge comes.

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