Animal use only? Please. Pain pills is pain pills, right?
Nasty crashes have some really obvious negative consequences; pain, scars (debatable), hospital bills, time off the bike, unwanted weight loss/gain… All unfortunate, but all part of the game. I’ve made peace with turning parts of my body into hamburger, replacing once-healthy epidermis with swathes of pale, wrinkly, easily sunburned skin-style-tissue-replacement, and I’ve learned to not stress myself sick over my looming debt to the health care system. I’ve even managed to find some back-up hobbies for when I can’t ride, including watching TV, eating pills, drinking booze, and annoying my girlfriend/dog/anybody-who-will-listen with a near constant string of helpless requests, like bringing me more remote controls, pills, or containers of booze. I’ve got a system. After all, being 5 sports-related surgeries deep already, this ain’t my first rodeo.
This most recent ding came with one brand new, out-of-the blue issue for me, though: A complete and total loss of nerve.
As I think I mentioned a few posts back, I got fixed up with a fancy new plate that both secured my broken collar bone and clamped shut my separated AC joint. Thanks to the plate, my recovery was much faster and more simple than it could have been without surgery. A sling was only needed for temporary rest and pain relief, and I was instructed to start using my bad arm from day one to do any task that didn’t require significant force. I wasn’t technically advised to ride my bike until 6 weeks in, when I was to be cleared for all racing activities, but the tone of voice my surgeon used when delivering that statement, combined with his suggestive eye-roll, led me to believe that he understood I wouldn’t wait nearly that long and that he was not overwhelmingly concerned about it. That’s how I chose to read the situation, anyway.
The skin is hosed, but the bone is pretty well bolted together
By week three I was about out of pain pills – taking the remainder of my deceased dog’s tramadol – and going about most day-to-day stuff normally, if not slightly stoned. I could ride with just mild discomfort. Everything seemed to be going great; better than expected, even. With previous injuries, this was the point where I would start writing checks for entry fees and working hard to get some race legs back. This time around, however, it was different. I pulled out of the crit on Swan Island halfway through, with plenty of legs left, under the impression that I couldn’t handle my bike well any more. The thing is, that course is about as close as you can get to a no-corner crit, which in hindsight makes my excuse seem suspect. After that race, I started the Tabor Series race two and race three, and promptly pulled out of both. In one of them, shitty fitness could very well have been to blame, but if I’m being honest, I pulled the plug on the second one because I just couldn’t stop being afraid.
Everybody around me scared me, teammates included. Every twitch and every change of line put me right on edge, and I found myself doing nothing but mentally preparing escape routes for when the racers in front of me inevitably tangled and crashed. When we’d hit the big sweeping right-hand corner at the bottom of the hill doing anything over 35, my grip on the bars was so intense that I probably almost crushed them (if I didn’t possess the hand strength of a malnourished tween)(which I do)(I’m all papier-mache and balsa wood)(but it’s OK, because I hear modern women find delicate man-boys irresistible). Anyway, I couldn’t hack it, and I bailed.
Afterward, I was g-chatting with Playman and she more or less filled me in on the entire history and science behind sports psychology and athlete PTSD. ”Nervous system” this, “pathways” that, “self preservation” all over… It sounded quite thought out and believable (science!), but, despite being both kind of a Nancy and a big fan of interesting things we find out through research and experiments, my knee-jerk reaction was to brush it off as some new-agey anti-macho stuff. Knee jerk reactions are stupid, though, and so am I sometimes. I was just so used to crashing, healing, and racing again without a second thought, that the idea of needing to back off for a while hadn’t really occurred. Sounds stupid, should have been obvious, but, you know, hindsight and all that.
Brain coach, Playman
Anyway, I decided to do what came exactly not naturally to me and just stopped caring about racing. No more workouts, fast wheels moved downstairs to the basement. Went back to commuting on my heavy bike, and doing lunch rides at a snail’s pace, to take in the views a little more. It really helped me feel better, I think.
Jens Voigt’s Army. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?
Last Saturday the JVA boys invited me on an adventure ride (translation: stop a early, stop often, and don’t sweat the schedule) over Lolo Pass out to Hood River, where some of their amazing wives agreed to pick us up to drive us back home. It was the absolutely the most perfect ride ever to get back into the flow of simply enjoying my bike and my bike friends, and also a great opportunity to spend 105 miles getting mad intimate with all of the handling nuances of my new ‘vagen.
Those stays! You can ID a Speedvagen from a mile away with them curvy tubes.
Another relaxed ride with homies on Sunday, and some solo weeknight slow-rolls after work iced that cake, and put me in a place brain-wise where I felt like I could maybe handle some racing again. A handful of rides away from the thoughts of competition seemed to do the trick, and it was time to put it to the test.
And you know what? Tabor success (kind of)! I raced like an out-of-shape idiot, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time about as much as a fellow could be, but I crossed that damn finish line. Fear was minimal, and enjoyment was maxed out. I may have “held down the back of the race” (Thanks Andrea)…
But at least I did it back on my horse.
The Tiniest Sprinter
PS: Now that I can enter the bottom curve on Tabor without grabbing a fistful for brakes, I can confidently say my new frame is on RAILS. So awesome.
PPS: Rap mash-ups always put a smile on my face. The worst ones are still at least worthy of a chuckle, and the best stuff can make you think that the rapper/producer really blew it with the original instrumental (see: Girl Talk). The Q-Unit album (G-unit over Queen instrumentals and choruses) was pretty inconsistent, quality-wise, but had some real gems. This blows those out of the water though:
PPPS: And just for some balance, here’s some rap that’s good cuz it’s good, not because it’s bad and/or funny. Didn’t somebody recently mention El-P here? The second one isn’t visually safe for work, unless you work somewhere totally cool.