Friday, June 17, 2011

I've Come to a Realization

Maybe I’m not as tough as I originally thought. Since crashing a week ago I’ve felt cranky, agitated, bummed and even a bit depressed. It’s not so much because it’s painful or anything- that’s what Tylenol is for- but mentally it’s been really tough. Being cooped up is not something I’ve ever enjoyed or handled well. Call it being a free spirit or whatever but I need to do things, go places and explore. I was a leash kid for a reason.

The collarbone is just a skinny little bone that helps make up your shoulder. They break all the time and it’s not a big deal. They heal pretty well and you’re able to get back to “normal” life reasonably quickly (which is never quick enough). So what’s the problem, then? I feel like I’m losing my mind!

Riding has always been an outlet and some of my best thinking happens on rides. I can do something, go places and explore all at the same time! Riding a bike is my way of handling stress and freeing my mind. It’s my escape. When my dad died, when there’s a family issue, when I have trouble focusing, my bike has always been there, ready for a ride. It helps me clear my mind and reduce the stress, anger, sadness etc. that was there before. It’s cleansing. Being outside in the wind and sun, hearing animals, and getting rained on is all very calming.

Frustration can be taken out on the bike, too. You can throttle yourself and somehow feel better afterwards. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the sport. There’s something about physical suffering that helps me straighten out my mind. Yes, it’s a bit masochistic but it’s what works for me.

After crashing, I was given instructions: “Keep your heart rate under 100bpm” and
“Don’t ride outside. You can’t risk another crash.” Well, there goes my coping mechanism! Okay, fine, I’ll just read or watch TV and rest. That lasted about two days. The “vacation” was over and I wanted to get back to work. It was frustrating not being able to use mini arm- I realized how much I actually use it for- but wasn’t the end of the world carrying things differently or driving differently. (This can be a conversation for later- driving stick with one hand to begin with then throwing an arm in a sling to top it all off.) It was a call for patience, something I’m not good at. The Pnu was different because I didn’t have the energy for anything other than sleeping. Now, It’s uncomfortable to lay around, I’m rested and just feel like I’m a leash kid again- held back.

How is it that such a skinny little bone has so much power over me? Craig- my coach- told me years ago “You’re not a real cyclist until you break your collarbone.” Now, after having a week-which, for me, is an eternity- to reflect and think about things I’ve realized something. It’s not breaking the bone that makes you a cyclist; it has to be the rest of it that does. Evaluating where you stand, what the course of action is and what’s a priority- or no longer a priority- for the season and then moving on makes you one. It’s cliché but every so-called real athlete has to get over some type of obstacle in order to truly achieve anything. Nothing is given away; everything has to be earned. Maybe this is just a test. Not like a religious test of faith because I don’t do that, but a test of will. How much do you want it? Considering I spent a morning watching videos and reading articles learning how to tape a collarbone back into place to race, I think it’s safe to say I want it. (I’m not going to do anything dumb, I’m just exploring options.)

As crazy as it sounds, maybe this is exactly what I needed. At the training center, I’m surrounded by athletes that are training to be the World’s best. Each day of easy riding and resting feels like a step backwards. After months, things were finally clicking and going well on the bike. Now, I’m back on a leash. If this is the situation, and this is how things are going to go, then that’s fine. It is what it is. Maybe I'm exactly as tough as I thought. One thing is for sure, when this thing is over and done with and I’m free to ride, it will be on!

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