Friday, October 9, 2009

An intricate form of torture

The Capital Crescent trail drops a smooth 300 feet over seven miles from Bethesda to Georgetown, a slope so uniform, so gradual, that even though I know about it, I'm always fooled. Heading into DC I am blessed by God, one of the elect: he who spins without effort and concentrates solely on safe navigation. Back to Bethesda I am cursed, one of the damned: he who toils by the sweat of his brow (and/or suffers pain in childbirth). It's like a variation on the fundamental attribution error in psychology.

Yesterday, though, there was no illusion, only the matter-of-fact awareness that I am neither blessed nor cursed by the deity, but simply he who has some physical difficulties riding a bike and next to no cycling fitness.

Moving forward under my own power for the first time in months, how could I not enjoy myself? I did, I did, I did! Under a brilliant midday sun, I slalomed through the acorns, beechnuts, and tree branches littering the trail. The sky was clear, the air cool, the bicycle's wheels, frame, crank, chain and cog once again translating my meager metabolic output into relatively lavish quantities of wondrous, thrilling speed.

Yes, of course I enjoyed it. Cycling will never lose its mystery or its joy for me.

But things are different now. Nerve damage in my neck has shrunken and weakened my left arm, so I can't rest much weight on my left hood before that side of my body begins to give way. I have to sit upright periodically or just shift my weight backwards or onto the right hand. Annoying.

Other physical handicaps... My neck is still too stiff to look behind me while riding, even when I drop my arm off the bars. So I'm thinking I should maybe fred up and (*shudder*) install a mirror somewhere. The ruptured ligaments and broken bones in my neck won't fully recover for another few months and until then I cannot risk another accident; a fall could easily damage my spinal cord. So I'm going to limit myself to multi use paths and the safest of road routes. No surfing through traffic. No fast descents. No riding in the rain.

And finally, there's the straight-up lack of fitness, both aerobic and muscular. My physiology will return to its former levels of strength, endurance, and efficiency in time, and yeah, I know, there are guys out there dealing with far, far worse in terms of fitness or injuries, and I could easily have been one of them. But for now, it's still a bit depressing. And motivating.

It is what it is. It's where I am. I work from here.

I hope to review Haruki Murakami's memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running soon, along with other running books I've read lately. Murakami covers not only his annual marathons but his triathlons as well. And it is there that he describes cycling, with its awkward body position and repetitive motions, as 'an intricate form of torture'.

Torture indeed, but why do I miss it?


Calvini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calvini said...

Rocky didn't let brain damage from the ring. Glad to see you're not letting your broken neck keep you from the road, or the blogosphere.