Monday, June 25, 2012

On not falling down...

I wrote recently about visiting cycling coach Jessica at CycleU, trying to learn how to stop falling over still stuck to my bike. She said, You've got to commit to getting your foot out of the clip. And I did so commit.

However, last Thursday, I came around the corner on my bike, turning right from Dayton Av onto 80th. I knew there'd be a short uphill climb ahead, so I downshifted.

But good grief! How down can you shift? I was spinning madly and getting nowhere. Until, of course, I fell down. Turned out my chain came off the doodahs.

Fortunately, I didn't really get hurt. And in an odd way, I didn't feel like a complete failure. Because it wasn't that I couldn't unclip: I didn't even think of trying.

I was doing one thing Jessica suggested: trying to find a way out, trying to pedal through. I never even thought of unclipping.

I was too embarrassed to tell anyone but Mom, but I did send Jessica an email. She kindly responded, saying it sounds like I need to practice unclipping from a dead stop.

Oh! You'd think with all my supposed insights about the importance of paying attention to exactly what is going wrong that I would have thought of that, but I didn't. Of course it's scary to "practice" by stopping dead in the street and then trying to unclip, but I worked on it in my mind, and, with caution, on my bike.

One of the difficulties of learning how to react smart in an emergency is that emergencies are, by definition, rare, and we certainly don't want to make them less so. Nevertheless, I'm grateful that I had another emergency on Saturday.

Once again, I was turning up a hill. Once again, my chain came off. (Right, got to get that looked at.) But this time, I just stopped pedaling and unclipped and got off and put the chain back on, and pedaled off feeling good.

Ah, life. It just keeps coming at you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Howard Hughes Kind of Monday

I had to talk myself out of bed this morning. Then talk myself into the shower. Why bother? I thought. I'm just going to get dirty again. I could totally understand the later years of Howard Hughes, except I really don't like it when my fingernails get too long.

I decided to employ the happiness strategy where you act the way you'd like to feel. You act energetic and enthusiastic in hopes of a kick-start.

First job: plant my kale seedlings. And you know what? I found myself liking it. I thought, Anything you're liking, Ms Davies, you better just go with it.

So I started moving around this plant and that out in the front bed of my condo. I met my new neighbor, Austin, said hello to a friendly young jogger, chatted with neighbor Brin, a medical resident, who thought my pathetic excuse for a day sounded heavenly. My perspective began to brighten.

Then I made tea and toast with jam and stood out front reviewing my handiwork.

Now it's 11:25. I'm going to change the sheets on my bed and do whatever other chores I can before noon, then eat my leftover quinoa/roasted beet salad, then go for a bike ride. What Seattle weather is doing lately is persuading the forecasters that it's going to be bad, so I figure I can't really do much without getting wet, and then it turns out warmer and dryer than predicted.

So I'm just going to go for it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

You've Got to Commit

In 1999, my then-husband and I were winding north on a rolling, rural highway in a 22-foot Toyota Dolphin RV. He was driving. We were heading uphill, leading a line of cars around a logging truck that had pulled over to let us go.

Suddenly, at the top of the hill ahead, a huge, empty, orange CalTrans dump truck came around the curve, moving fast. I don't know why this happened -- at the time I thought a bee must be stinging him -- but the driver braked and swerved and then his truck flipped and began to roll toward our windshield.

In the stretched-out moments that followed, I had plenty of time to believe we were going to die. My husband, though, my husband acted. Instead of shutting down, his analytical faculties showed up in the full "on" position, and he calmly calculated the path of the rolling truck and drove us around it.

Everybody walked away.

This is the image that came to mind last Saturday when my cycling coach said to me, "You've got to commit to not falling."

It cost me $80 for that hour with Jessica at Cycle U, which seemed like a lot in prospect. Now though, I think she's probably saved my life.

I was there chiefly because I want to stop falling down and hurting myself because I can't get my feet out of my SPD pedals in emergencies. But let me be more specific, because I can, having thought a lot last week about Yogi Berra's maxim, "You can see a lot just by observing."

For example, I learned I have a left foot problem. Huh, now that I think about it, it's always my left hand I hurt. And, oh yeah, even on the trainer in my dining room, it was hard kicking out on the left pedal. And when I got out in the parking lot with Jessica to practice, I saw that even with a free foot, I'm not confident landing on my left.

So, because of that unrecognized ineptitude, half my recourse in case of emergency was unavailable to me. (Maybe I was smart to panic.) I can fix this, with practice. I've already started.

Jessica also said, "Where your eyes go, you go." I know this. It's how I avoid the rocks on the pavement, by looking to the side of them. So if I'm looking down at the spot I expect to hit when I fall, that's where I'll go. What if I look toward where I want to go?

And she said, "You've got time." There's time to stay relaxed in your upper body, to look around for an escape route. I can even practice escape routes, turning to the side when an uphill stops me, balancing for the moment it takes to get a foot unclipped and to the ground.

It all comes down to, how committed am I to not falling?

In the larger picture, how committed am I to finishing the course, to making it up the hill, to escaping an intruder or mugger?

It all seems bigger to me than bikes. It seems like life.

Burnt Fingers

I'm writing a post this morning that means a lot to me, what I learned from my cycling coach, but before I do, I thought I should just admit, openly and honestly, that I'm writing with the fingertips of my left hand in a cup of cool water because I burnt them grabbing a cast-iron burner thingy on my stove in a moment of quicky cleaning enthusiasm. I just thought I should put that out there since the piece I'm writing is all about how wise I am becoming.

Oh well.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Getting Back On

I was eager to get outside again with my bike, after my April 10 fall, when I couldn't unclip from my pedals, and broke my wrist. I was chomping at the bit, especially because I have a bike tour coming up on June 7.

And yet. I was scared. Really, there's no time I head out the door to my bike that I'm not a little bit afraid, of traffic and wet streets and that moment of inattention that produces tragic results.

But I'm back on my bike. I don't yet have the stamina for distance, but I feel like my form is better, like I'm using my body smarter, and that's because of the work I did on the trainer in my dining room, which I thoroughly hated until I started spinning to Geno Delafose and zydeco music.

Because I fell and broke my wrist, I got more attentive about what exactly was making it so hard for me to unclip. I now realize, it's only the left foot that isn't working. Tomorrow, I see a bike coach at Cycle U and get that handled.

Because it's easy to say, when the weather is threatening as it was this morning, "Hmm, maybe I should turn back early and not ride around Mercer Island," I had some practice in willpower. I notice that what works for me is thinking how great I'll feel if I make my goal. And I did.

Because the signage is pretty crappy on Mercer Island, I got a little lost finding the bridge to Seattle, which gave me the chance to use the maps feature on my iPhone, and I actually found my way.

Adversity builds character. It's not entirely a happy thought, though, is it?

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies