Sometimes a Ride is Just a Ride

Sometimes a ride is just a ride. I start a good weekend day with a ride. I get up, get dressed in my kit, get everything sorted and hit the road. It’s become enough of a routine now that I rarely forget too much and one ride blends into another. I don’t always go the same route and each ride brings something new, but I honestly couldn’t tell you which ride I saw the red fox near the trail. He was the first fox I have seen on a ride and he ran along the trail with me until he headed into the woods. I don’t think I will ever forget thinking “That’s a fox. I thought I knew what one looked like, and I know I have thought that some dogs looked like a fox, but I was wrong”. I couldn’t tell you what ride I saw him though. It was one this summer, but they really do blend together to a point. I might realize that I kept good pace on one or that another was a huge struggle, but sometimes a ride is just a ride.
Sometimes a ride is so much more than just a ride. I have a friend that tore his rotator cuff. He had surgery over the winter to fix the damage. He put it off for a while, but he finally gave in and had it done. Everything went well and he began his recovery and met with his doctor for instructions. He heard news that he wasn’t prepared for: no running, cycling, or any physical activity other than what he did in physical therapy. The doctors would re-evaluate him later, but at the first meeting they told him six months until he could be active again. This was a huge blow. My friend ran a few times a week and was one of a few people that I rode with on a regular basis. He routinely runs local races and we normally have a pretty full schedule of charity rides throughout the summer season, but not this year. The timing of the surgery and recovery precluded any of these events.
My friend knew why his doctor imposed the limitations. Any pressure on the joint had the potential to damage it further or to effect the healing. Worse, if he fell he could actually cause more damage and be back in surgery again, restarting the whole process. He went to physical therapy throughout the spring, being as dedicated as he could, working toward the next step of his recovery; being allowed to go to the gym. Once there he was allowed to walk on the treadmill and ride the stationary bike. It was a far cry from being outside, but it was activity. He knew that each step brought him closer to getting back to the things he loved to do.
My friend still had a couple of goals for the fall season. He knew that if he kept working hard and if he continued to heal the doctors would clear him to resume full activity in the late summer. If he could slowly increase his conditioning he could still participate in the end of season rides. Each year we ride together in the Hartford Park Tour. We have also made Cycle Martha’s Vineyard a new tradition. Both rides were well within his conditioning level in past years. He normally had to slow himself down so he didn’t lose me as I tried to get into shape. This year his goal was just to make it to the rides. He also wanted to run his leg of the Hartford Marathon Relay Charity Run and be ready for the Manchester Road Race. He has run the five mile Thanksgiving day race ten years in a row, he didn’t want to miss this year. All throughout the spring and early summer he went to the gym and the doctor’s office with those goals in the back of his mind.
Finally the doctor said he could resume outdoor activity as long as he took it easy and protected the shoulder as much as he could. My friend jumped on his bike and rode eight miles. I think he was upset that was all he could accomplish, but I also know he was excited to be back out on a bike. He knew that the exercise bike in the gym wasn’t the same as riding a real bike and he was prepared to struggle, but I don’t think he really knew how different it would be. His first eight miles reminded me of my first bike ride when I started getting into shape. I never knew how long a mile was until I had to cover it on a bike gasping for breath. No matter what, the most important part of a first ride is completing it and making sure that it is a first ride, not an only ride. He worked and rode and continued his therapy until the doctor finally told him to go ahead and start training. He signed up for the two rides and started to push his mileage up. He went ten miles and then twelve. This weekend I asked him to go for a ride with me.
My friend was concerned about riding with me. Our roles were reversed from the time that I started riding. Without him having to say anything I knew what he was thinking and what his fears were. They were the same ones I had when he asked me to ride with him two years ago. He was concerned that he wouldn’t be fast enough or that I would push too hard for him. He was worried that I wouldn’t get enough out of the ride. He didn’t want to look weak or to be a pain as we rode. He was annoyed with himself for having to think about any of these things. I can remember how worried I was when I started riding with him. I assured him it would be fine and that we should make his first ride back an occasion by trying a new trail. That way we would be exploring and not pushing hard at all. It was a holiday weekend and it was the perfect excuse to take our time somewhere new.
We got to the trail and set off slowly. It was a perfect day to take our time. It was the type of day that you would never want to ride unless you were a cyclist. It was 80 degrees and humid. Our clothes were already sticking to us at the car. Once we were rolling the wind helped. Being on the trail helped. We started looking at the surrounding scenery and the other people using the trail. We talked about past rides when I was struggling to keep up. We reminisced about the time that we were on an unpaved rail trail and a college cross country team ran up a gradual 4 mile hill as fast as I could ride up it. We just rode and enjoyed the day. I could see my friend slowly lose his worry and find a little peace in the ride. The trail didn’t have any real hills so he didn’t have to struggle much. It was just a nice way to ease back into distance training.
We decided to turn around after 7.5 miles but we overshot that by riding to the next trailside bench. Wed brought protein bars for a quick trailside snack and we wanted to sit and look at the Farmington River while we ate. We had an unexpected visitor as well; a hummingbird decided to sample some flowers a few feet off of the trail as we watched. No matter how many times I see one I am constantly amazed at how fast their wings beat to hover in the air. I am also amazed that such a little bird can expend so much energy just to hover at a flower for such a little benefit. We got back on our bikes and rode the almost eight miles back to the car. I could see the relief on my friends face when we got back, not that the ride was over but that he handled it as well as he did. There was finally light at the end of the tunnel for him, he could see that all of his hard work was paying off. He was able to ride almost sixteen miles and enjoy the ride. Sometimes a ride is more than the mileage, the elapsed time, the route or the suffering of training. Sometimes a ride is just a ride, but this ride was a signpost on his road back to being the athlete he was before the surgery.

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This entry was posted in challenge, Epic Rides, fitness, life skills and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sometimes a Ride is Just a Ride

  1. yceblu says:

    Once again you touched the heart.

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