(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.
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?
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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