Feeling Good Never Felt So Good
On Saturday I got back on the bike for real. I went out with a teammate to go long and slow. Long and steady. My training doesn’t usually call for LSD, so I was looking forward to ignoring the HR monitor and just riding.
I wanted to learn a new route, so I called on the King of SE Cycling Routes, our friend Javad Simonson. I asked for 2-3 hours of spinning and Javad delivered.
I’ve been riding alone for so long that I forgot how nice it is to chat while the miles pass by.
I’ve been riding the same routes for so long that I forgot there were other roads in this county.
We spun. We rolled south and then east and then north. We crossed into Vancouver on the 205 bridge and came back across I-5. We took a sneaky path behind the PIR race track and then another sneaky path to wind through St. Johns.
The sky dampened us a bit in Vancouver but we rolled on, talking and laughing. I was wearing new Castelli bib tights and a rain jacket. I was warm. We washed our clif bars down with cytomax under a shelter by the river.
Forty miles and three hours later we were ready for hot vegetable soup at Palio Cafe.
It was the first day that I’d felt I was myself again. The lungs functioned as they were intended. The legs made obedient elipses in the air. It was only a recovery pace, but for all that mattered, I could have just won the Tour de France.
"I’m back!" I thought.
One of the first things someone said to me when I fell ill was, "Well, this will serve as a good reminder about how nice it is to be healthy."
That was annoying at the time, but the point is now officially taken. How brilliant and wonderful to be in fully functioning order! How incredible to be able to breathe!
This is why we ride – to feel the health of our bodies as it rises to the surface and beats in our chests. To feel the lungs moving oxygen through us effortlessly. We take these things for granted and get caught up in training and pushing and heartrate zones and power readings. We take them for granted until we are forced not to.
I was worried about the rain ride and well aware that the ride could go swimmingly but still trigger a relapse. I was pretty sure that my body was ready for the miles, but you never know.
I went to bed on Saturday night with the knowledge that how I felt in the morning would speak volumes.
In fact, it did not just speak – it roared and beat its chest.
I got up, put on knicker bibs and a long-sleeved jersey, cued up the music, and set out to do a slightly longer version of the previous day’s ride, just to make sure that I could replicate it on my own.
I went out and pushed. I did not baby my body. I did not spin.
I wound it up and wound it up again. I gritted my teeth over the grind of the 205 bridge and then punched it when I hit the sweet residential straightaways on the other side. I ate a sandwich made with flax-seed bread, creamy natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly while I sat for a moment at the end of a dock on the north side of the river.
At a crosswalk near Jantzen Park Plaza, the signal turned to walk and I double-checked in both directions before rolling out into the crosswalk. An old, white Pontiac sped toward the intersection. I looked up at the light. Red. Red red red red. The Pontiac was not slowing down.
That should be me, I thought. I should be there in the middle of that intersection right where that Pontiac is flying through at 40 miles per hour. She never slowed at all. I don’t think she ever even saw the red light. She certainly did not see me.
As she flew through I screamed, "RED LIGHT!!!!"
She did not hear me. She made it through the intersection without causing a collision.
I looked to the other drivers who were stopped and waiting for me to cross. I mouthed, "What the f—" They made "eek" faces at me and I finally rolled across five lanes to the safety of the other side. I looked down and my heart rate was through the roof.
This is why I always triple check and intersection. This is why I never, ever, ever assume that anyone sees me. I make eye contact and wave. I flail my arms if I have to. I make sure I am seen.
You should too.
I rolled home as fast as I could, passing by the memorial for Brett Jarolimek as I went. I thought of how fragile we are on these two-wheeled machines. Flesh and blood rolling among tons and tons of steel. I thought about how I loan the love of my life to these streets day in and day out. How I trust these streets to return him to me in one piece.
Living this loud involves taking risks and I appreciate the fact that Sal continues to push his boundaries on the bike. I appreciate the fact that he supports me as I fly off into these Portland street for three or four hours at a shot. I am comforted by the fact that he, like me, cannot help but send an "are you still on your ride?" text after three hours. The text is code for "Are you still alive?" and warms the receiver’s heart, even as both parties brush it off as silly.
I feel good again and I have slipped comfortably back into the healthy version of my skin.
Last night we flew together to San Jose, where mild air and happy Sicilians greeted us. We ate a "welcome home" midnight meal of braciole, fresh homemade bread, and homemade wine. (I am finally done with my self-imposed 3 month alcohol hiatus!)
Six days of 70 degree weather should put the finishing touches on my respiratory comeback. I am looking forward to some good, long San Jose runs and a little sunshine therapy.
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