The lad’s out of town, and as you might suspect (given my many antisocial rants on here) I love a good Woman-Alone Weekend! Unfortunately this is not a good one, as it’s crammed full of annoying errands. Bah humbug! But I did set three goals for my actual alone time: 1) conquer my fear of bread-baking, 2) make a croque madame that’s as good as one I’d pay too much for in a restaurant, and 3) go for a bike ride (it’s so nice that my calorie-loading and calorie-burning hobbies balance each other out like they do). I can tell you’re getting restless, so I’ll save all the riveting details of 1 and 2 for my future food blog and just skip to #3. The Surly has been in the shop for the past couple days, and before that we weren’t getting along very well – it was having some shifting issues, and I spent most of my last few rides fighting to keep it in the gear I wanted. So stubborn! But I’m happy to report that we’re BFF’s again, and today’s ride was smooth sailing. It was a different kind of ride for me. Since I was going solo I didn’t plan or map it out – the lad is the Man with the Plan, not to mention the ability to read a map. I’m the one who took back roads all the way down to Olympia once, thinking I was on my way up to Bellingham (ps, don’t ever ask me for directions). So I just set out and explored a weird web of back roads. I didn’t even know there were more back roads around here! Turns out there are, and they are HILLY. They’re also dog-infested, and I’m pretty sure I saw some of Cujo’s offspring. So I did lots of sprinting, and lots of climbing, and a fair bit of where-the-heck-am-I-ing but somehow I managed to find my way home. Without ending up in Olympia! That, my friends, is a victory.
(Warning. Plenty of whinging).
It can’t be denied. I’ve been in a funk. Depressed. Under the whether. Stupid with the grief of inactivity, and other griefs. Signal moments from the last of these three weeks of this non-biking jail term: 1) Surlylady and I watching TV (I’ve watched more TV in the last three weeks than in the last year, I swear), sharing two cupcakes, one a quadruple-Dutch chocolate, the other a carrot cake, from a bakery in Shoreline, and upon finishing feeling just absolutely ugly, awful, stinking full, like what an addict must feel waking up to all the strewn aftermath stew of paraphernalia and unknown blankets I imagine are the hallmarks of a non-Hallmark flophouse (and really I know it’s just a cupcake, and I’m not all Jenny Craig-ing out on this, I hope, but in this case, in this timing and context, it wasn’t just a cupcake but a localized metaphoric totem cupcake); the other moment, in the elevator on the way out of the cubicle crucible late on Friday, replying to co-worker’s query “when can you ride again?” (is it that obvious?), hearing myself say without almost thinking about it, meaning it’s the most truthful, unvarnished thing you’re likely to sputter in a span of days, “You know, I realized today that I can’t do this job without being able to ride my bike to work. Without that two-and-a-half hours of meditation…” and I sort of trailed off, and he sort of didn’t make eye contact for the next few floors.
I tried doing the elliptical earlier last week, and managed 15 minutes but it was a fairly painful 15. A week after the accident I’d gone on a mile or so hike at St. Ed’s but the jarring motions sent me nearly over the edge. Triangulated between these two scenes is the sad conclusion that it feels like centuries since I’ve exercised. For a while now I could feel the slow sinking, like a tingling, bad-TV psychic sense (got to stop watching so much TV) that each day I was gaining more pounds in all the wrong spots, simultaneous to losing muscle mass. All the splendid efforts of the last year, year and a half, shrinking (and gaining) away from me… enough to make me outwardly and inwardly sob like a blubbering slob. The night of the cupcakes (good song title) sort of snapped me out of it. I realized that one of my main problems over the last 20-ish years (if not the main one) was that I can be an emotional eater. I don’t mean I get all groovy happy when eating ice cream or crying when eating asparagus, although both examples are somewhat technically accurate. With all that’s been happening and the frustrations I have been ‘letting myself go’ while ‘letting my guard down’ and the more you do either of these things in subtle degrees the degrees become even more subtle. The more such thought sequences become habit, neural pathways with repeated visits beating back the overhanging ferns and clutching blackberry branches, the easier the rationalizations and then the less of the need for rationalizations and then more of the plain old misery submission and non-miserly subjugation. Well I’ve been down that road before and, again, that night, I recognized that old familiar highway sign (Obesity, Exit Ahead, Jack in the Box to the left, Taco Bell to the right) and I sort of had one of those snap out of it moments. Interestingly, in the intervening five days I’ve lost four pounds, without anything greater than walking the four or so blocks between work buildings a couple of times.
And it’s not really a diet thing. That’s the thing that’s been the most surprising of all over the last year-and-a-half; actually, yes, it’s diet, but not Diet, not Fad-Come-Lately or Weight Watchers etc, just little things, like salad for lunch instead of a big sandwich, like yogurt instead of scones. Having a regimen, and applying reason, and having a reason, these comprise the framework. The biking and other activities filled the interstitial parts of that framework, sort of tied it all in together. So the lesson of this last week was, from the poundage perspective at least, I need not automatically despair – even if I lose an arm or leg someday it’s not entirely impossible to maintain an equilibrium.
On the emotional side – phew. What’s there to say. Trapped, frustrated, angry, irritated. Horrible sleeping doesn’t help. I wake constantly, on my back, dying to roll over and forcibly refraining. Work… work has never been so much that word, ‘work’ as it’s been the last couple of weeks. I can feel it, that thin, flexible sanity veneer that formerly helped me sail through the crap (like arm warmers on a cool morning ride, or shoe covers on a rainy one), I can feel this veneer being scraped away by the merciless fingernails of every persistent email, every hallway ambush, every veiled or not-so-veiled threat of leverage employment, every somewhat fainter thread of unemployment, the familiar moves and counter moves of the stupid game we play, the tactics of pretending to talk strategy when we’re all just pushing stupidity noises into the communal air to mask over the smell long enough to distract from the fact that everyone’s trying to get what they need done knowing it has to be at the expense of someone else not getting what they need; in long if not in short, it’s that 3AM-in-the-morning video game buzz you feel after battling forty frenetic fires with half a dozen developers sharing one, maybe two hoses, that’s nearly polished off my protective, Prozac-like veneer.
If you’re still reading at this point, first, what are you, sick? Sheesh. Secondly, here’s the triumphant cliché of a final wrap-up paragraph, where the precipe, while flirted with, has had a back turned on it in favor of returning to that original, crucial, two-wheeled recipe (my favorite cliché by the way is that clichés are clichés for a reason). Thus. Our front room is especially pleasant when windows can be opened, with bird noises far and near, stealthy cats padding across the patio, the sound of blackberries bristling, the sun tipping over to shine a little further on the hardwood floor signalling afternoon. In today’s case Surlylady was off to the store and I was sitting back in the recliner, chuckling over the succulent similes found in Special Topics in Calamity Physics and dozing off for pleasant pauses when my head literally whipped up – coming down the road in front of our house (there’s a slight grade in the northward direction) was the unmistakable sound of a freewheel. I quickly craned leftward and saw a kid flash by on a bike. The noise, stronger when parallel, lingered for a small second and then was gone. Wow. I felt clarity, and a strange conclusion. Cranking the chair upright, snapping the book shut, like a preacher-touched ailer I suddenly had no pain in my shoulder. Sitting there for a few minutes I chewed over a couple of fragments that had been hidden in the beard of my subconsciousness over the last couple of week when I suddenly had a vision for THE THING that will, plot-wise, break open the logjam on the novel I’ve been writing (and obviously I can type a lot better now). Then, looking back outside to the street in front of the house, I could sense the gravity involved out there, the application of mass and force and rotational rationality and then I envisioned re-wrapping the bars on the Poprad with winter-ready black preparatory to the teensy eensy possiblility of pulling on the bike socks, the bike shorts, the shirt, the helmet the glove the shoes the pumping of the tires in a rush to get to that one-legged push off into freewheel freedom. I need outsideness, I need to be around people and get out of this selfish circularity charity and with that…
The haiku is my favorite form of communication right now. This makes meetings at work extra fun! I’ve also found they’re a great way to distract my brain from this week’s work stress during the commute. Here are a handful from today’s ride:
O, almighty Jeep,
your driver appears to be
asleep. Or stupid?
Surly, stay wild like
an unbroken pony. But!
Please stop jumping gears.
Your hairlessness makes me feel
like an ape on wheels.
Self, while we’re on the
subject—time to shave, hippie!
Those legs could grate cheese.
And with that, I think my haiku canon is complete. Maybe next week I’ll move on to limericks?
Sweat creates Rorschach
blots on my jersey; I see
cold beer and ice cream
My new goal, pet goal, named George, the Ride Around Puget Sound (RAPsody) George is officially a no go. As recently as yesterday I was feeling somewhere around 70-80% back to normal; was harboring secret thoughts of an amazing comeback, maybe even riding this coming weekend or at least the next; maybe even thinking of trying to tough out RAPsody, or at least toughing out a new bike rap; I was skipping around the house, walking the dog, using my right arm expressively in conversation.
Then I woke up. To an amazing level of pain. I could feel the broken ends of the bones grinding against each other with every slightest move of my torso. I can only guess that I slept on it weird. Went to work because had a doc appointment to check on it anyway, downtown. On the walk to the doc from my building I alternately felt like puking or passing out; Surlylady met me on the way and helped navigate. Doctor said no surprises, that these can be the most painful breaks etc, but nothing was obviously wrong that Percocet couldn’t fix. And so, one-armed with a new prescription, the ‘Lady drove me home with a stop at Bartell’s drugs and soon I was in a Percocet dream state. Whoa. That stuff is crazy.
All this is by way of explaining why there’s not much bike talk on the blog lately. Now it looks like at least another couple of weeks before there’ll be any more. Over the last week I’ve found myself looking over at the Poprad or the Sarthe every time I go out to the garage and bike room. They seemed almost foreign, benign. Today I walked over to the Poprad and placed my left hand on the bar, wrapping my fingers around the tape, feeling that familiar shape, with the snaking cables underneath, the foamy grip feeling, slightly tacky with sweat and grime and exultation and exertion.
Soon, my pretties, soon.
Overall it’s been a very bad couple of weeks for the household. Last Friday we had to take one of our dogs to the emergency vet. I was working from home that day to keep an eye on him as he’d had something like eight seizures in a little over a day and a half. He had another one, in fact, just as the Surlylady was on her way to catch the bus. When he had another seizure around 9:00 and was looking really, really bad, I’ll never ever forget that feeling of absolute frustration, powerless, helpless frustration, that I couldn’t pick him up to take him to the vet because of this damned broken shoulder. He was at the emergency hospital all that weekend and just kept getting worse and then on Monday we had to make the call. And so I just feel so constrained and drained and will savor the freedom of being able to ride again, I can almost taste that smell of the air on a commuting morning, motes of tire rubber floating amid notes of cereal and milk and anxious preparations and then that coalescing moment when you’ve pulled on the second glove.
Accident on Sunday, recreation of scene: “Need to go to the Emergency room?” “Nah.” [repeat]
Tuesday: In ‘big’ meeting with ‘big’ boss (who’s cool, BTW, not ‘big’ as in bad but big as in org-chart big): “Are you okay?”
“Why? Because sentences having problems? My formulating?”
“Right… I think you should go to the Emergency room.”
“Nah.” Shrug. Ouch, wince, grimace. “You okay right maybe.”
Therefore I found myself undergoing the bemused pokes and prods of the on-call doc and an intern nurse (I may have been her first Tylenol dispensation victim! How charming!) at Stevens Hospital’s Emergency Room (bemused because I was the ONLY patient who came in that day without a festering wound or complaints along the lines of “Hey there, I got a little psychosis going on… got anything for that?”)(or, bemused as in just a normal mountain biking accident). And turns out the collarbone, it is broken, as broken as my sentence structure those days much later we understanding.
The principal reason for going to the E-Room was worry about my concussion, which seemed to be reverberating on in the pain-and-pressure department longer than expected; in retrospect the fact that I had a broken collarbone and yet still insisted on painting the living room ceiling and rounding out a side in the neighborhood badminton doubles tournament and getting boxes of cereal down for little old ladies at the grocery store and therefore was in constant pain and couldn’t sleep more than a couple of hours a night might have explained the whole pressure headache thing. As well as the fact I had to go to meetings with the ‘big’ boss… every day…
Therefore, be it resolved that I was ordered to suffer the slings and arrows of a sling for 3 to 6 weeks. Sober appraisal conversation of doctoral assessment:
First question: how many days before I can ride a bike? First answer: that depends, maybe you’re a tough guy like Hincapie. Maybe not.
Second question: are you sure you’re not a lawyer? Second answer: let me ask my lawyer how I should answer that… while we’re waiting please sign this waiver.
Third question: will this valium stuff mess up my training regimen? Third answer: honey, if you have to ask…
So today I’m getting fat and sassy wearing a sling and then losing those Dorito pounds worrying about the pup (see ‘Lady’s post). In order to remain skinny and supplicant I will soon be jumping on the trainer. Perhaps I will try out my… new wheelset! (shrill music of The Price is Right… fades…)
As for the aero-spokes: got a new Neuvation wheelset yesterday! The M something something, the ‘strongest ones they have’ – military grade strong, stronger than your GMC pickup truck you chump, strong enough to wipe up that entire kitchen spill in one pass. Uh. I’m loopy.
Getting a new wheelset the day after getting a sling for a broken collarbone makes Johnny very very impatient!
I’ll keep it short as it hurts to type. I wrecked. Big time.
For the first ride ever we tried out some Speedplay Frogs on the mountain bikes. What a difference! It took me most of the ride up Iron Horse and most of the way back down to fully get used to it. By that I mean I noticed right away the superior power transfer, the feel of a luxury leather interior… wait I just trailed off into a BMW commercial. Let me start over.
The superior power transfer was nice. Odd too, on a suspended bike; when sprinting the bike sort of worked in a weird rhythm with me, rather than just under me. Being clipped in seemed to lock in my pedal stroke in sympathetic synchronicity with the front suspension. I can only imagine what it would be like on a fully-suspended bike. Even when sitting on the saddle I got into a ‘groove’ that I never had with flats. However, it all felt a little weird. I was fighting it while sensing how much better it was.
It was only toward the end, on the downhill part, that I felt the little LED light go off over my head (I only warrant an LED, no 60 watter for my dull cranium): oh yeah, this is just like on a road bike. Snap the ankles, full circles, scrape at the bottom, get those knees up, engage the core — sweet! Lost in this road-bike reverie I then made the brilliant move of trying to carve a corner right at the turn off to the Cedar Lake parking lot. Just like I would on a road bike. On solid ground. Carve, as I say, a corner at 30mph in gravel… on a mountain bike… by picking a line, leaning over and… crash. It happened so quickly (they all say). But in this case it really did; there was nothing I could do. The back wheel went skittering in the gravel; the front wheel snapped left and caused the back end of the stem to hit the ground at the same time as my right shoulder hit the gravel. A micro-second later my helmet hit the ground with a smack. I knew right away I’d need a new one as I could FEEL the helmet crack. I skidded several feet. So, in quick succession, near-shoulder separation, concussion, road rash. I got up after a few seconds, panicked at the inky blackness that was swirling around my head. There was a weird, high pitch/freq noise in my ears. I took a few steps and almost passed out, everything was dizzy, nauseated, tweety birds were spinning around my head, that inky blackness was back. I stopped and sort of held it. The moment passed and I continued walking around in a daze and a few seconds later I truly almost passed out as it all came back in an even bigger wave. No way was I going to pass out on a trail and make SurlyLady worried. I held on! Phew.
Sat for a while. Sort of didn’t know what was going to happen next. SurlyLady cleaned a few of the worse-looking scrapes — one spot on my arm below the elbow was huge, bulging out, and I thought when I first saw it I had a jagged broken bone but I guess it was just a blood pooling thingie. Anyway, checked the Kona, looked okay, unbelievably, ‘cept for the chain which I popped back on and then rolled the 500 ft or so to the truck.
SurlyLady stopped in North Bend to get us some Pepsi and ice cream and the world started feeling better. Got road rash up and down the right side, the head feels woozy, but worst of all is the shoulder. Can hardly move it without crying out like a big baby. The thing that pisses me off the most is that I broke the one rule of mountain biking I have: no injuries that preclude road riding! So now all the work I did on the Poprad yesterday to get ready for commuting this week is moot. I just hope it’s not going to endanger the ride I’ll be taking up Hurricane Ridge soon, or the Ride Around Puget Sound (RAPSODY).
Well – up until the crash it was a marvelous day, as SurlyLady’s pix attest. I liked the butterflies the best. All day I had this song in my head, and post-crash the refrain “if there’s anything I’ve had enough of it’s today” made a little more literal than background sense (love the video BTW; reminds me of Eric Rohmer of all things; been on a serious Fiery Furnaces kick lately, due to my inclusion/link to them in the 103 degrees post the other day).
I’ll be back in the saddle soon!