On September 2, I crashed on my mountain bike. Now, I’ve crashed a lot of times on my mountain bike. Plenty of bruises, blood, lumps and bumps. But this one was different. Going down a hill, around a right hand corner (that I’ve ridden hundreds of times), the sun and the moon lined up, and the bike slid and flipped me onto my head and shoulder, and I ended up with a grade 2 AC separation (tore the ligament connecting the clavicle and scapula). A few weeks of no exercise to let it heal up a little just left me with even less fitness than I had this summer (which was very little). It has put another undetermined delay to my return to swimming (so far I have not been able to swim since April because of a different shoulder injury – to the same shoulder!). Most of all though, it left me with fear. Not shock and horror fear. But the kind of fear that sits in the back of your mind and keeps you from putting yourself out there. Keeps you from taking risks. Keeps you from having fun. Keeps you from doing what you had grown to love.
Five weeks after the crash I got back on the mountain bike. It was a slow ride. Cautious, tentative, filled with anxiety. Then I went out again. And again. And again. The improvement in my fear was not noticeable to myself. I still felt anxious. I still rode slow and cautiously. This past Sunday I was out again on the trails. I keep forcing myself to go out. Hoping that one day it will click and I’ll feel like my old self. Part of the ride I was with Meredith, who is a superb technical rider. So my goal was to stick to her like glue. I followed her choice of lines. I shut off my brain and just hung with her. And what do you know, I did it! She did not drop me, even on the long semi-technical, off camber descent. Now I know she was not riding hard, but her skills are so good that she can still haul ass down hill and on the corners, and as we neared the bottom of the hill, me just a few feet behind her, I had a smile a mile wide. I am back! Well, I am coming back. And it feels good.