Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's Just Like Riding a Bike

Sports have never been my forte. Even the simplest childhood activities were difficult.  I always marveled at my baby sister who would careen around the yard on her bike with mud splattering up her back when she would ride through puddles. Our parents pleaded with her to stop ruining her clothes. It was only then that she started riding her bicycle in a swimsuit. When weather would turn to snow, we would ride our bikes in the barn. For someone who already had difficulty turning her bike, the proposition of turning a bike in the 10 foot wide aisle contending with obstacles of hay, wheelbarrows, dogs and a sister, it seemed insurmountable. I’m not sure if I was ever able to deftly maneuver around all this without stopping, standing and pivoting the bike below me.

The Midnight Ridazz at one of their night-time cycling events.
Several years ago, I purchased a bike. It's nothing fancy, just  a regular bike from Target. Despite my best efforts to pedal and stay erect, it seemed that whoever came up with the adage “It’s just like riding a bike” should be shot.  Riding a bike as an adult is not as easy as it was when I was a child, and considering I had a very difficult time all those years ago, my frustration only continued to grow each time I would take my bike out. I had spent some time looking for the optimal size bike and settled on a children’s bicycle. I considered ways to make it easier, like getting the brakes reversed so I would be able to use my left hand on my back brake. (Apparently, getting brakes reversed is a benefit of growing up in a small town because the bike shops in Los Angeles refused and went as far to say that changing the brakes to do this in the states is illegal.)  Once I had the bike and made my peace with having to brake with my right hand, combining pedal movement, forward momentum and staying upright was tough…. I would wake up early on the weekends and take my bike out before the cars started revving their engines and the roads would be filled with the din of LA traffic. Each time I took my bike out, I would get marginally better… but only marginally. That is, until today.

Tour de France map.
Still lacking in confidence to ride with the big kids down the road, I peddled up and down the dead-end road by my apartment. Bigger than lacking confidence, I lacked something else, that two-inch brain tumor. You world be surprised how much easier bike riding is without this thing getting in the way, misshaping my brain and causing it to swell. The only thing swelling now is my ego. The speed was slow. The distance covered was not vast. I have now realized that stories kids come up with while riding or phrases they tell themselves like “crisis averted” come from near misses with bushes or luxury cars.  Today was a step and each time I take the bike out, it will get easier and easier.  As the laps increased my grip on the brake loosened.  I’m not in a hurry to get out there and commute to work on my bike, but the idea of one day being able to ride several miles with friends just ‘cause will become as easy as running 10 miles with friends. Both of these are far away right now… after looking at all the Hal Higdon half marathon training schedules, it seems that the best one would be with cross-training built in. This program will not only get me to my next half marathon, it will turn me into a cyclist. I don’t expect to join the local club the Midnight Ridazz, but adding one more thing into what I can do is pretty exciting.

I never thought I would look at several laps on a dead-end road as anything remarkable, but on today, on my first bike ride since brain surgery, it is a huge victory.

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