I realized the deepest beauty cycling gives me. It has taken me a lifetime to understand the force that compels me to turn the cranks of my bike for hours on end. I frequently ride with a large group that maintains a small group of core riders. I am not one of those core riders, but I’ve been with the group long enough to know who is. I watch them disappear or hear through the Strava grapevine that they were hit or crashed. Usually it’s pretty bad. I was never the person hit year after year. And then, on a quiet Sunday afternoon that changed and I found out I could not dodge that collision forever.
I was rolling down a country road just outside Folsom when an SUV hit me from behind. It hurt. It was scary. The police were coercive. Everyone was against me—the cyclist. I was afraid that if I sat down I would never get back up. My body was torn up and life slowed down. At first, everyone was concerned and it was like I had fifteen minutes of fame all my friends and family. After a few days, there was silence as I struggled on. The days rolled into nights. I looked at my bike and after a few weeks I tried to put my hands on the handlebars only to find I had deep bruising in the exact shape of those bars. And the waiting continued.
I read online to try stretching my leg—excruciating pain. I eventually could climb the stairs. I started walking without a limp. I climbed on my bike on a Wednesday morning and took off for school—a twenty-mile ride. Halfway there I changed my mind, but it was too late. I let my leg spin like dead weight, using my good leg to propel my bike forward and move the bad leg up and down. Crawling along I made it. Limping back I made it back home at the end of the night.
The next day I convinced myself that if it hurt I would turn back, but my bad leg felt pretty good. My bad leg could push down on the pedal. My good leg shared the work and for the first time in a month I felt hope. I felt normal. I felt freedom as the wind shifted and swirled around the riverbed as I rolled a long at a faster speed than before. However riding held a different meaning as it became linked to so much more.
Now when I ride I feel the air hit me just before a big truck passes me inches from my back and I shudder. I hold my line and force the demons out of my mind. I force the memory of the side of that ill-fated traveler instantly colliding with me. I shut out the image of the side of the road coming at me while I was upside down and in the air. I feel the next car coming upon me and I repeat the same process. So what does all this have to do with beauty?
After someone has been hit in the cycling club it is almost as if there is a ghost in their place within that group of riders. Some times that ghost turns back into a rider as they pick their bike back up again and sometimes it slowly fades into nothingness. I found the secret meaning hidden beneath spring days, sharp tan lines and splendid journeys—I am not a ghost. I felt my feet spinning revolutions and I understand I got back up again. I look down at my purple knee pumping next to my frame and I lifted myself back onto the saddle. I look into the memories of my broken marriage and I know I will stand back up again. I look at my torn childhood and I realize I will not break my daughter’s youth. I am more than my experiences. I am bigger than the small moments that try to define me and shatter my world. I feel that rush of air behind me and I hold my line because I am not afraid to fall down.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Ahhhhh, getting hit by an automobile. I think I have some dark days a head of me. I wrote an incredibly optimistic post about how nothing could be worse than 2013--yeah, so perhaps there was a little bit of ironic foreshadowing in that one.
I'm watching some of the wounds turn into scabs but its what I can't see that's scaring me. Two days ago I could barely move my arms, now I cannot sleep because my leg hurts. It feels like a knife is tearing through my leg. It feels like every step makes it worse. I hopped up after I slid to a stop following the collision, and was almost running around. Now I tell my child I can only go up the stairs one time.
When I do sleep I dream I'm riding my bike. Since 2009 I have never quit moving. I stopped running because marathon training forced me to take breaks, and those weeks of inactivity were too much. I am in so much pain that I wonder if I will pedal again.