A lot of people have expressed disbelief that I’ve continued to bike, despite my leukemia. While I understand their concern, most of them aren’t bikers. The two guys that I usually ride with haven’t been confused. They’ve both simply offered to accompany me, which was pretty much the perfect response (Thanks Dylan and Dennis).
However, a funny thing happened. Well, less funny, and more painful. I was riding along one of my normal paths. It’s about a 12 or so mile loop that I usually do when I don’t feel like having to dodge a whole lot of traffic. There’s only a few intersections to avoid, and then you hit a trail that runs for about 7.5 miles or so (round trip). So a good portion of the trip is actually spent on a trail, as opposed to biking just about anywhere else in lower New York, where you spend a majority dodging traffic and cars.
The problem was, I was feeling really, really good. I was absolutely motoring along. It was the first day I was able to get outside without a substantial risk. That morning, the doctors told me my platelets were at an appropriate level (roughly 113,000, and you can read more about the medical things on my blog, www.effleukemia.com) that I could do things that might end up with some bruises. Not that I’ve ever been bruised from biking, but there’s always a chance. I hit a personal best time on the halfway point (averaging about 15 mph, despite the way there being filled with lots of hills), and was well on my way back.
I rounded one of the final turns on the path. I was in the zone. Focused, fast, comfortable cadence. I look up. Suddenly, two people, riding side to side in a 2 lane bike path, are right in front of me.
I gripped my brakes. Probably grabbed them too hard. My rear tire slid to my right, and I tried to correct myself. The front tire slipped off the trail, and when I tried to bring it back onto the road, my whole body collapsed to the left. Somewhere in here, I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t been clipped in, I probably could have still recovered. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fully back into the swing of clipped riding, and I slammed into the pavement. Double unfortunately, the part of my head that hit pavement was my face, which isn’t really covered by my helmet.
Using my GPS watch, I figured out that I crashed right around the 46 minute mark. My first memories restart right around the hour and eleven minute mark. So, roughly, a 25 minute black out. Definition of a concussion. Had cuts on my shoulder and knee, bruises along my left side. Luckily, no internal bleeding (which is a risk with platelets that low).
The thing is, though, that I would still go on that ride again. 5 days later, mostly recovered, I went on a short 10 mile ride with a friend’s father. And I went again yesterday, doing a well-paced 13 mile ride with my sister.
It’s like in Batman Begins, when Alfred is comforting a young Bruce Wayne. Why do we fall? To pick ourselves back up.
That was my first bike crash in a very long time. It came at an incredibly unfortunate time. However, the thing about biking that I love the most is that when I’m on my bike, leading a pack of friends down a street or a trail, for that hour or more, I don’t feel like I have cancer. I don’t feel worried about my next round of treatment. I feel so grateful that I signed up for that triathlon, because I’ve rediscovered a love that I had as a kid, but never really continued as an adult.
For those of you that read my background story on my blog, you’ll know that a few years ago, I was kind of just going through the motions in life. I wouldn’t say that I was really depressed, but I would say that I just lacked focus or direction. Then, I discovered snowboarding. Finally, I had a physical focus for the winters. That made winter (a pretty depressing season if all you do is sit inside or alternatively shovel snow) into something I looked forward to all year.
Now, winter is great. But even better are the ¾ of the year where I get to ride my bike