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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Refreshing Evening Jaunt

I've been struggling to get back to pre-bypass surgery form. This is the third lease on life for me: survived a heart attack at 32, needed a double bypass at 43, I can just see the Grim Reaper coming up on 50-year-old me and saying Third time's the charm! I started bike commuting again and got a vasectomy that put me off the bike for a couple of weeks. Then got sick repeatedly while the weather turned foul, but pre-bypass me didn't let weather deter him. I've done 2ºF, 107ºF, raining and 35ºF, the only thing that's ever given me real pause is ice, and that's because I don't have a sumo suit to make falling down all the time no big deal.

Cardiac Rehab perversely affected my riding a little, the logistics of getting there on the days I needed to seemed to dictate driving. And it's so damned easy to fall back into that default driving thing. When your wife crashes her bike and gets a traumatic brain injury that means both she's riding less and needing driven places a bit more, there's another pull to that sedentary lifestyle. One thing, then another, next thing you know it's been a couple weeks since you mounted up. And while I wouldn't diagnose myself with anything like clinical depression, I was definitely getting in a funk, binge sleeping on weekends, having trouble falling to sleep on weeknights, even having some appetite issues, and I knew the likeliest medicine for it was to just ride. Which would also be good medicine for the weight I've gained in the past few months. I haven't seen 300 lbs yet, I've seen the 290s and I have XXL shirts I can no longer wear—which has to absolutely delight that Grim Reaper guy, less than a year post-op and the heaviest I've ever been.

Corinna pointed out that I didn't have to bike commute to ride my bike. Which is true, but less obvious than you'd probably think. When I first trained for a Bike MS, I rode strictly in a way that was pointless except as a build up to riding Bike MS. I thought of my rides as training. I devised challenging routes and went on ambling, wandering adventures. One of those adventures was how I met my wife, actually. But the more I rode as a commuter, the less I rode for the hell of it (and when you log 100 miles in a week without riding for the hell of it, it's hard to see the point of just riding in a circle or out and back).

So I'd taken my bike in to work with me this morning with the plan to ride home and then back in in the morning, back on the commuting trail. But Corinna needs a ride to a doc first thing in the morning, so she asked me to come home and ride from here so I'd have my car at home in the morning. This is not the sort of request the woman I married would ever make, but traumatic brain injury can be a real game changer (he typed remembering he still needs to either find a bike shop that can get him a MIPS equipped helmet or break down and buy the sucker online).

I had been so looking forward to the ride home that when I got home, I wanted to go out riding immediately, no delay. The temperature was dropping and there was a front blowing in with wicked northwest winds, so I figured the sooner I got out the better as far as riding comfort, and besides, if I stopped to eat a dinner I wasn't yet hungry for, maybe do a couple things that needed doing, the next thing it'd probably be seeming to get late, get unpleasant out, and the momentum getting me on the saddle would be lost.

So I basically put on riding shorts under my pants (no way I have the ass callouses to skip that at this point), and saddled up. The wind out of the northwest was pretty strong, so I read that direction, figuring I'd get a tailwind coming back which would be fun. North and west of my house, there's a pretty dodgy neighborhood, and I passed a house owned by the sort of shitheads who let semi-feral dogs run around without a leash or a fence and had to spray this pup four times before he got the message and let me climb the hill he lives on. He wasn't that menacing, but he wasn't 100% benign either, and he triggered all my PTSD type adrenaline issues related to dogs. But having got past him, damned if I was going to let anything stop me from having a good ride.

And past the seedy section, across an Interstate, it gets real suburban and normal. Hilly, too. Going out Georgia, I found myself actually needing my granny gear a couple of times—a ridiculous gear, I think I have 24 teeth up front and 34 in back or something like that. Then up 59th, north of Leavenworth Road, until I got to what might be the highest point, topographically speaking, in Wyandotte County. I can't be sure, there was enough tree cover around me to make it hard to tell, but I sure didn't see how anything could be uphill from where I was. Looking at Google Maps, I saw that the downhill ahead of me probably did indeed go through. Down near the river, around the Quindaro Museum, and eventually over to the Fairfax area more or less, or maybe just to Quindaro.

Decision time: it was a tempting adventure. Some shit I've never seen. But it'd be fully dark by the time I go there, so maybe not that much to see. I'm out of shape, so it might be more miles than I really should attempt. A few rain drops came down and I noticed the temperature had dropped enough I needed to put on a shirt with sleeves, and I did so. No problem, I had my rain suit, too if it got really pissy, but while making this wardrobe adjustment I got a vision of myself riding slowly up a steep hill from the river into the Quindaro neighborhood, in the dark, alone, with a fairly expensive phone and camera on my back. Take one of those risks out of the equation and I'd probably have plunged down the hill—a riding companion, say, or daylight for hours to come, but taken together it sounded like a big bowl of Stupid.

So I turned tail and reveled in both a tailwind and a prevailing downhill. There were plenty of climbs to do along Georgia, but the wind was at my back, and it's not for nothing, that line in the old Irish blessing. I was flying. Around the time I got over by Super Bunny's, it started to rain in earnest, and it was really pretty pissy when I got back (if I'd had an hour to go instead of ten minutes, it would have been rain jacket time). But it didn't seem pissy, it seemed exhilarating and refreshing. I realized that somewhere between when I settled back down after the dog and when I'd almost plunged myself into an epic adventure but thought better of it, the fog, malaise, depression, whatever you want to call it, had evaporated.

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