This past weekend produced another sunny San Diego Saturday. Usually such a splendid Saturday morning would be spent on my bike with the best of friends, logging essential miles in preparation for June’s AIDS/LifeCycle. On this morning, however, I found myself writing instead of riding, my new bike sitting idle in the garage while I sat idle on the couch reading up on the latest obstacle to my training: iliotibial band syndrome. To steal the title of Gilda Radner’s autobiography to describe my recent frustrations with missing out on miles, “It’s always something.” Over the holidays, the rain washed away multiple opportunities to ride. The morning of Christmas Eve when I thought folks were too busy to ride, I saw a friend’s facebook post from a ride around the South Bay. Turns out a missed text was the culprit. The next week, abdominal pain sent me to urgent care thinking I might have appendicitis. And now this.
Of course, Gilda’s “something” was her battle with terminal ovarian cancer. My “something” is simply a nagging injury that is keeping me off my bike, spiking my anxiety because I can’t seem to develop any consistency to a training regimen that must be my life for the next few months. Stressed and depressed is how my Saturday began.
Enter Carol. She and her daughter had morning plans for a trip to dog beach in Ocean Beach. She encouraged me to go along, to leave behind my disappointment about missing training, shelve my injury concerns and open up to the possibility of finding joy in another realm. I was reluctant. When I’m struggling with something like this, I tend to withdraw and want to be by myself to go through my process. Gently she pressed, pointing out that while I had no control over my injury, I did have control over the day that could be. And that I had never been to the beach with Birdie, never seen her really run. Carol’s gentle cradling of my heart melted my reluctance. I wiped away my tears and opted for some family time at the beach.
It was a gorgeous day to be outside. Sunny and 70 in January, a true blessing. As my bare feet sank into the warm sand, I could feel the muscles in my legs begin to relax. I wasn’t going to attempt wind sprints, but moving my body slowly and deliberately felt good. We let the dogs off leash and they ran wild, playing with each other at first and then moving on to investigate other dogs. Birdie ventured into the water a time or two, but she really wanted to run and play. I so admire dogs’ ability to live in the moment. Joy. That’s all they seemed to know on this playground. Dogs exhausted, we headed to get some lunch. We found a place where we could eat outside so the dogs could be with us and we could soak up more of the spring-like weather. Turns out it was a beautiful day spent with loved ones, a day I would not have experienced had I been out on my bike or stayed at home working through my process.
I’ve never had knee problems. Tens of thousands of squats assuming the position of catcher in my youth gave me strong legs which in turn protect the knees. Ankle injuries – now that’s an entire blog post in itself. Since taking up cycling in ’98, I’ve never really been sidelined with an injury, so this is a completely new reality for me. It doesn’t hurt when I’m riding, but shows up the next day as pain, burning and a general tightness that is just plain uncomfortable. A trip to the chiropractor revealed tightness at both ends of the IT band so deep tissue massage and foam roller torture are in my future the next few weeks, but I should be back on my bike soon.
Earlier this week, everything fell into place for a spontaneous dinner with friends and AIDS/LifeCycle teammates, Carin and Tammy. Spontaneity does good for the soul of someone who’s a planner (read “anal retentive”) like me. We shared a long, slow dinner filled with laughter, a few tears and some serious conversation around recent challenges we’ve each faced with our training. For me, it’s all about adjusting my expectations. In training for past events, I’ve been consistent and physically able to get in all the miles leading up to the event. The result: I’ve completed every mile of every event. I’m proud of that, and therein lies part of the problem.
AIDS/LifeCycle is a different event on so many levels. It may be that physically, my body won’t be capable of cycling an average of 80 miles a day over seven days. It may be that the goal is to ride every mile completely rather than to simply complete every mile. It may be that being present and open to all that is possible in any given moment over the course of those seven days is the very essence of this event, this cause, this human experience. Already, we’ve met some amazing people, been touched by stories of tragic loss and inspiring triumph and been blessed with the support of friends, family and colleagues far beyond our expectations. Goal?
As our dinner wound down the other night, in the midst of my monologue on preparation and disappointment, I had an epiphany. My ability to complete all 545 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles is not a measure of me as a human being. That I have opened my heart to doing this – riding, fundraising, increasing awareness, fostering understanding, touching lives and being touched – is. So now I’m working on acceptance. And my ego is learning there is much, much more to the human experience than a 545-mile goal.