Getting Out of Your Own Way aka You Can Do Much More than You Think

(Thank you, Sean.  Post today inspired by a friend asking me a question this morning.)

As some of you may know, I’m back on the road bike.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”

Although I have been an active, athletic person most of my life (although a clumsy one, I cannot lie) I have certainly had my fair share of ups and downs, injuries and accidents, surgeries and setbacks.  I detailed a bit about them in this post, but in case you don’t feel like reading that here’s the Cliffs Notes:

  • Rode horses
  • Got hurt, had knee surgery
  • Rode bikes
  • Got hurt, had knee surgeries
  • Lifted weights and wore high heels
  • Got hurt, had more knee surgeries
  • Finally got cleared to ride the road bike again, started riding and having fun but not training too hard or much
  • Dislocated my elbow
  • Scheduled follow up MRI showed that the patches that have been surgically placed in my knees look good, but there is  a new area of damage in the right knee (this area appears stable at this time, and we are going to follow up MRI in 6 months and see what happens.  There is no good surgical solution for repair in this area which is the central tibial plateau of the right knee.  We also still have no clue why this damage keeps occurring.  There’s been no trauma, I do not have widespread arthritic changes in the knees, but pieces are cartilage just keep shearing off for no apparent reason.  Very frustrating.)
  • Decided what the hell.  The cartilage keeps disappearing anyway, I may as well see if I can train harder and get better.
 This last point is the most important one.

Prior to about the past 2 months (since I got cleared to ride again after my elbow dislocation) I always rode in very organized, controlled, paced groups.  It was fun, it was social, it was exercise.  But I wasn’t really pushing my limits or seeing what I could really do.  But, for the first time in my life, I was riding my bike without knee pain.  It was pretty amazing.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have discomfort, but it was nothing like the debilitating can’t-get-up-from-the-couch-dammit pain I’d had in the past.

My husband and I talked about the whole situation, since I was incredibly disappointed to learn that there was more damage in my knee.  Thankfully, it is not causing any symptoms for me.  We decided that I may as well do what I wanted to do, train how I wanted to train on the bike, since what I was doing (being cautious) was obviously not helping.  Why not?  I really had nothing to lose.

And bless the Goddess, after 10 years that incredible man of mine still knows my abilities way better than I do.  I had preconceived notions of what I was capable of doing and how I was capable of riding.  He did not.  I’d never really tried to ride fast.  I just thought I couldn’t.

He didn’t hold that limitation to be self evident.

There’s a fast ride around here, it’s referred to as “Mike’s ride” because back in the day there was actually a Mike’s Cyclery shop that it started from.  The shop’s no longer there, but the ride is, and it’s an infamously fast ride.  Never in a million years did I think I could do this ride.  And Jeff, knowing me so well, knew the best way to get me there was to trick me.

Had he said “Let’s go do the Mike’s ride” I would have said he was out of his ever loving mind.

So instead he said “Let’s ride to the ride” (where the ride starts from.)  Then it progressed to “let’s ride with them until they start going fast, they go slow for a long time”, then “let’s just ride up to Hillsboro.”  I did, and I made it with the group, and I rode fast, and I was shocked.  Basking in surprise and success, I quit while I was ahead, turned around and went home.  Positive reinforcement for the win!  Next time, I went a little further with the group, until shortly I was doing the whole ride.  Shocking.

But here’s the real kicker, the real turning point.  One Sunday not too long ago it was ungodly windy, as it is so often here in South Florida during the winter and spring.  We went to do the Taft ride, another infamously fast ride.  And it was windy.  If you’ve ridden a bike in the wind, you know that a windy day can make the difference between a lovely ride and a gut wrenching suffer fest.

This ride was hard.  Really hard.  It started hard and got harder, and then got even harder.  The group of riders, which had started huge, completely splintered apart in a crosswind across a highway.  We were riding so hard I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack, or that my lungs were going to come out through my nose.  Snot was running down my face, I was gasping for air, my heart rate was pegged well over 180), and I was suffering like a dog.  This whole time my husband is sitting out in the wind, working twice as hard as he could have been just to keep me as sheltered as possible from the wind.  That day, I didn’t finish with the first group (not many people did) but I rode in with a big group of people.  I finished.  I did it upright (until we stopped, at which point I promptly almost fell down and sat on a curb for a while.)

I learned that my capacity for suffering (which is a good thing in cycling, it means the ability to push beyond your comfort zone and stay there) was a lot higher than I had thought.  I learned that I could ride fast in bad conditions.  I learned that truly, the only thing holding me back from being a faster rider was my preconceived notions of what I could and couldn’t do.

And since then, my abilities have improved exponentially.  I finally got my mind out of the way of my body.  With no knee pain, and my head out of the way, I am riding more (time and mileage) and riding faster than I ever thought I could.

What could you do if you just got your mind out of the way?

No obstacles. Only challenges. 

If you’re here for the gluten free stuff, go check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.  Lots of stuff there.  And don’t let your head get too much in the way of what you can do.

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  1. Melissa says:

    Erin,

    Another great post from you about our ongoing struggle with self-limitations. You blow me away. I love your super-girl spunk and never-give-up attitude. How were you feeling the next day? And what did you do for recovery?

    I did my first mountain bike ride in years on Thursday evening and plan to go again tomorrow morning. Yes, that will be my Easter church service — on a single track trail in the foothills of the Rockies. Very spiritual in my mind!

    Well, as always, your adventures strike a note in my heart. I adore your “stick-to-it-ness.” Go, Erin, go!

    PS You married a wind-breaker! Way to go, girl! =)

    Great post, as usual. Very inspiring (as usual).
    Melissa

  2. Erin says:

    Thanks, Melissa :) I’m convinced we were sisters in a previous life or something.

    I was pretty tired the rest of that day, I seem to remember pretty much laying like broccoli on the couch, interrupted by drinking and eating. The next day was Monday, my circuit training at the gym day. I was surprisingly not sore.

    Recovery wise, legs up the wall, for sure. I like compression socks/sleeves for recovery. Placebo? Possibly, but there is some good supporting research so far. Solid recovery nutrition. Basking in the glow of your achievement is a pretty good recovery tool, also ;)

    I am totally with you on the Easter service. I will more than likely see the sun rise over the ocean on my bike. That’s all the church I need. I have never mountain biked because of the knees (mountain biking here is very rooty and technical to make up for the, well, lack of mountains) but would like to try some easy trails soon. I will definitely be mountain biking in CO. :)

    And yes, I married a wind-breaker. He’s been my nurse, my legs, my shrink, and so many other things. We are extraordinarily lucky to have found each other.

  3. Keep on keeping on, Erin! You inspire! I have a husband like yours, too. He thinks I’m fairly invincible ;-) and has acted as my windbreaker more times than I can recall Literally and figuratively. On the motorcycle, canoe, camping, etc. What a true gift such partners are!

    xo,
    Shirley

  4. Melissa says:

    Erin,

    Great information about recovery and I’m with you on the boost of accomplishment. Glad you’re doing well. YES, legs up the wall is one of my favorite yoga poses for recovery. When I did half the CO Trail a couple of years ago, I’d do legs up the tree while on my thermarest at the end of each day. It helped for sure! I just went and bought a new helmet and some women’s mountain bike shorts (the baggy kind). The last time I was really into mountain biking, I wore boy’s shorts. They didn’t make cute women’s stuff back in the day. I’m so motivated to ride again. Thanks for the inspiration! You are awesome.

    Melissa

  5. Erin says:

    There is so much cute women’s stuff now! I am actually thinking about a new helmet-mine is not too old but I think my noggin is a bit more oval shaped than my helmet, I get a little bit of indentation in my forehead.

    If you want to see a really cool womens’ kit, go check out my new club/team, Rose Bandits Racing. http://www.rosebandit.com. (http://rosebandit.com/a-stylish-2012)

    I can’t wait to hear all your mountain biking stories! We inspire each other ;)

  6. Erin says:

    Shirley, isn’t it awesome to have such great supportive people. I kind of think you are invincible, too :)

  7. Lisa says:

    Oh how much of it is mental challenge right? If I could get my mind out of the way I would knock out every opponent I got into the ring with. I would move in without fear. Be aggressive. Destroy. Dominate. In every fight!

    Now on with it, right? Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Erin says:

    YEAH Lisa!

    Exactly. We have so much more ability than we recognize. It’s there. We just have to let it loose :)

    Yup. Onward. Go get yours!

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