What Doesn’t Kill You Leaves You Bruised

30 Apr

If I was remotely normal, when finding myself lying on the ground with 2 bikes and 1 biker on top of me, I would have thought: “Am I hurt? And why do I bike?”

Instead, I thought “I’m glad I rolled under the bike so it’s not damaged. Getting back on my bike in the middle of this hill is going to be horrible.  What just happened? And I’m so glad I’m not wearing my Curious George jersey as that would probably have scarred the kid in the minivan for life.”

It all started out so well, too.  Well, except for breaking the cycling rules.

1) Just like you don’t serve a new dish to guests, you don’t make your first bike ride of the year a long one with another biker.
2) Don’t go on your first long bike ride of the year the day after you run 9.5 miles in the hot sun at noon.
3) Eat a big breakfast beforehand. 

I was a failure on all counts.  And nervous about keeping up with A.  The first few miles included my least favorite, but often biked, hill. One that keeps turning corners and continuing to climb upward.  My poor legs were aching by the end. But I decided to treat the ride as a personal one-on-one training experience.  When he changed gears, I changed gears. When he tucked himself into downhill ski position to ride more aerodynamically, so did I. By concentrating on form, rather than speed and how tired I was, I managed to keep up.

Until I decided to stop and offer water to the poor kid struggling up Hill #2.  I also decided it was a good time to take off the lightweight windbreaker. But I couldn’t roll and stuff the jacket into my  jersey pocket very easily. So I took the approach of taking the jersey off, and stuffing the jacket into it, while sitting on my bike next to the highway in a sports bra. Classy, I know. It was a real shining moment. It was at the moment I realized I was biking with someone, who was in charge of leading the way, and I had no idea where he had gone. Luckily, I eventually saw him in the distance, biking back towards me, no doubt worried I’d collapsed on hill #2.  Which he promised me was also the “last big one.”  Ha!  Never trust a fellow cyclist.

Bike conversations are always fun. Unless you are biking side by side on a quiet path, talk only happens at traffic lights or water breaks. Which means you may start your sentence in one town and finish it in another.

Him: Oh, so you’re not a real cyclist yet. You haven’t embraced the spandex.
Me: Oh, so you’re not a real cyclist yet. You haven’t embraced the beer branded jersey.
Him: I prefer to drink it, not wear it.

(We pass five guys with matching team jerseys.)
Him: Wow. There is no reason to ever wear matching bike outfits.
(We pass a couple wearing matching outfits and matching bikes.)
Him: Wow. That should be outlawed.
(We pass a couple on a tandem bike with matching everything.)
Him: Are we the only sane people out here?
Me: (Starts singing Daisy, Daisy)
Him: Am I the only sane person out here?

That entire thought-provoking, riveting dialogue took about 45 minutes to complete.

But the weather was perfect, the McMansions were huge, I passed the Mary Baker Eddy homestead at a brisk 17mph, and somehow arrived back in Boston in one piece. So I guess it was pride and optimism that made me agree to riding “the Beast” before calling it a day.

The Beast is a horrific hill in Brookline that is called, online, the “San Francisco of Boston.”  It’s bad, really bad. I was told it was bad but still felt unprepared.  We made a right turn and there it was – the hill that I couldn’t see the top of. I could see one couple struggling up it with a baby carriage (they were both pushing – bad sign?). A took off at a fast clip and I began my ascent. And quickly realized that I was biking at such a steep angle, that were I to stop peddling for a second, I would start going backwards and then fall over.  The fear of falling was the only thing that kept me peddling. I had stopped breathing about 1/4 of the way up.

And then another cyclist, barreling down the hill on the opposite side of the street, skidded, turned hard, and landed on top of me. It’s like I have a homing device for accidents.

It wasn’t a bad accident. I hopped up and gave the kid in the minivan a big smile and thumbs up, to reassure her that I was perfectly fine and that she should not have biking nightmares. Hopefully she didn’t see the bleeding leg and bruises. I think that may have counteracted my cheerful “just a typical biking adventure!” smile. 

But I survived. I survived biking to the top of the hill. A survived me telling him I wouldn’t wish that hill on my worst enemy. I survived the descent which was at 35 mph and ended abruptly on one of the busier roads in Boston (thank God my brakes worked. And yes, the tears in my eyes when my bike finally came to a halt at the bottom were due to pollen and not sheer adrenalin mixed with pain mixed with a healthy dose of fear).  I survived carrying my bike up 3 flights of stairs. I survived picking chunks of asphalt out of my leg. I even survived a horrific hockey game afterwards.

And by the time I was rubbing antibiotic cream into my cuts, I was already plotting my next bike ride.  Still no spandex.  I will always hate The Beast. But I plan on conquering it again, and again, and again.

Fighting the fear, the numb butt, the wind, the hills, the traffic, (and mocking all matching outfits), one pedal stroke at a time.


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