fear, plus some plant metaphors

Back in the saddle this morning after a few weeks (yikes!) of riding the trainer or missing group rides.

Perfect weather: overcast, but not raining, 71 degrees.
Perfect company: Emily.
Perfect route: mostly bike lanes on Southern.

I really enjoyed myself! I feel incredibly strong on a bike. It’s nothing for me to get up to 20mph going up a steep hill. I’m a confident climber.

However,

I suck at doing downhill. And making turns. Because I’m scared.

Uphill and headwinds (when the wind is working against you) are good for me because I am strong when I’m in control. Downhill is terrifying because it feels like chaos. I focus on all kinds of things on the road I wouldn’t normally. I flinch at an approaching car from a side street. A stick on the ground makes me tense.

And then things like this happen to make it worse: We are headed west on Southern, a side street comes up on our right. A car headed east on Southern decides to turn left onto that street, and straight into me. Fortunately , I just had a tune up so my brakes were in top form and I was able to stop quickly instead of clipping the front bumper. Emily thought fast as well and didn’t plow into the back of me. The car stopped within inches of us (Emily, am I exaggerating?). I really did almost get hit by this idiot.

My whole family has been cycling for a long time. My dad was in a terrible accident in 2007 where exactly the same thing happened to him, only he was going a lot faster and got hit. Or rather, his bike stopped and he flew into the car. And spent four days in the med. That was the worst, but really just one of countless accidents that my dad, brother, and boyfriend have been in.

I’ve never been in a truly bad cycling accident, but I’ve been in a few bad enough to shake me up. And from these experiences comes a weed-like fear, growing fast and deeply rooted. This all started with varsity soccer.

I’d played non-competitive, church league sports for a couple years and had a chance to play competitive soccer for my high school in the 10th grade. We were a rag tag team and there was no great try-out or vetting process to be a member. Regardless, I was there! Training like an athlete! And then I broke my leg. In practice. Have I talked about this in a past post? If I haven’t, or even if I have, it will surely come up again. This was a seminal event in my active life.

Out of the season, in a cast for two months. I couldn’t wait to get back to it! Except that I never could. While my leg muscles had atrophied in a full leg cast, the fear weed grew wild in my mind. Every time I tried to play soccer after that I had a PTSD-like experience. Where once I had been fearless, falling and wrecking myself and bouncing back against girls twice my size, I became tearful and reactionary.

I believe this has in some way laid a pattern both for my athletic endeavors and my anxiety levels throughout life.

I began riding a bike regularly, often commuting, in 2008. I all but stopped in 2010 after one literal wreck and a bunch of emotional wreckage rendered me that sniveling 15 year old who couldn’t face a soccer field once again.

I don’t want to be that person anymore. But I still see her in my downhill and turn speeds. What to do?

No shrewd answer has come to me just yet. For now I am practicing. Practicing going fast on the downhills, preparing to give up just a little control.

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