The best thing about cycling is that it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old again as soon as I get on my bike. The worse thing about cycling is that it makes me feel like 12 years old again as soon as I get on my bike.
The 12 year old me is all about having fun. He doesn’t have the aches and pains of a middle aged grown-up. He just loves the thrill of the ride, the funny feeling he gets in his stomach when he’s riding, the euphoria…
But the 12 year old me is also not very smart and often doesn’t make the best choices. He is impulsive and feels indestructible. He just wants to have fun and doesn’t really dwell on the possible consequences. He hasn’t fallen hard enough yet to know any better. He just wants to go go go…
Can these 2 versions of the 12 year old me co-exist sustainably?
11 months since hitting my head, my symptoms are still ever-changing. I’m kindof feeling better riding on my good days. A few weeks ago I went to Rotary Park to spectate the first Tuesday night Hub City Challenge mountain bike race of the season. One thing that I noticed was that for the first time in as long as I can remember I didn’t feel like or miss racing. That urge that was once ever present wasn’t there anymore. I also felt completely done and exhausted afterwards when I got home. The many conversations and noises around me seemed so overwhelming. I felt dizzy and so very tired. The last few weeks I have been feeling worse when I start riding, but better afterwards (this is new). Social situations were fine in the past, but they seem to have now become too much to handle especially if I am already tired. Again, symptoms continue to be ever-changing and I don’t really know what to expect except to simply accept (wow, that's a tongue twister).
I rode my mountain bike for the first time since my crash last week and was surprised to feel pretty good. I have been having a hard time with movement while riding on the gravel trail and on the road but riding the singletrack was better. Maybe it was the slower speed or the narrow trail? I didn’t ride for long and didn’t push it whatsoever but I still felt like coming back home after being away for so long. I felt more focused while the bike kept disappearing under me. I felt like one with my bike again. I forgot for a brief moment about the concussion. And that scared the hell out of me…
Watching the latest BMX YouTube videos, I always cringe how some of today’s young riders have this “GO BIG” attitude attempting crazy stunts where if you miss the results are catastrophic. Social media has created a generation that puts so much importance on getting likes and views that these two-wheeled daredevils have completely lost touch with fear. Everyone dreams of becoming a hero, a legend and they’re willing to risk life and limb literally in the process. Growing up I wasn’t like that. It may have been a different way of thinking of my generation or just me, but I like to think that I had a very healthy fear that saved my ass oh so many times. I did some dangerous stuff on my bike, but the lead-up to it was very, very gradual and achieved in baby steps. It was a gradual progression guided by what this healthy fear.
In time, through this progression, a certain confidence set in and I felt very comfortable on my bike. I could almost say that I eventually felt the most comfortable when on my bike. And that confidence followed me as I grew older until I crashed and smacked my head. Before the accident, I was never really afraid of crashing when mountain biking. I mean, there was definitely a line that I wasn’t willing to cross, especially on the downhills, but in general I was never afraid. I always rode with confidence thinking that the skills developed over a lifetime of riding could get me out of big trouble and save my ass. This all changed last July. And it really scared me when I forgot about my crash while mountain biking last week. I felt afraid of not being afraid.
In so many ways I feel like I am relearning how to do the stuff that I did again, especially activities involving balance. My physio says that my brain still knows how to do it all, but the messages that it needs to send to the rest of my body get screwed up because the pathways that it uses are still not 100% healed yet.
I feel like many of the people that I know think that I am overthinking and over-analyzing all of this, that I am being paranoid, that I simply need to face my fears head on and begin living the rest of my life. The thing is that no one truly understands how much this injury has affected me. It’s very hard to explain. In many ways it’s kindof like depression and other mental illnesses. It’s invisible and unless you’ve lived through it yourself, you don’t really get it and tend to think that the sufferer should simply snap out of it. At times, I felt so disconnected with outside reality and my physical environment that I didn’t really feel part of this world anymore. Everything felt like a very lucid dream. My symptoms affected every single thing that I did in an ever so subtle way but with such depth that not even simply 'being' felt real anymore. Given the way my physical symptoms have literally changed my life and that they have persisted for so long I feel that I would be missing the whole point by dismissing them. I need to listen to my body. There is no way to just push through this.
Yesterday, as soon as I started my ride, the dizziness came and it’s like I lost the sense of what was underneath me. I felt like the physical foundation on which I was riding wasn’t there anymore. It’s very weird, but when this happens I can either turn around and go home or keep going while being extra careful. Last night I chose the 2nd option. In this case I was very happy to be riding alone because then all of my focus and energy can be put on riding my bike. When I feel like this I can only do 1 thing at a time. And when I’m alone that thing is riding. I can’t really socialize and ride when I feel like this. It just makes the symptoms worse. And that’s why I’m still riding alone for now. Like I mentioned in the last post, it’s not because I don’t want to ride with anyone else, it’s just because my brain is telling me that it isn’t ready for it just yet.
Like Type 1 gaming, injuries are so very humbling. But I do think that their purpose is as a reminder of life’s fragility and an opportunity to develop compassion. And that’s another reason why they must not be dismissed. I believe that they are meant to soften and mold us into better humans. It isn’t easy, but it has to be that way in order to really make an impression.