Those of you who know me personally are aware that in February, 2010, just a couple months before I left for my Transamerica bike ride, I was hit by a truck….while on my bike. The details aren’t really relevant to this post so I’ll keep it simple. A F150 t-boned me. My bike frame was destroyed. The driver’s bumper, which had the arduous task of taking on my left hip, was (and I say this with pride) mangled, and his driver side headlight was smashed out. I went flying several yards and my head hit the pavement hard. There’s a good chance my helmet saved my life. I went to the ER (after refusing the ambulance, because I am wayyyyy to badass for that), and I had no broken bones, just massive deep tissue bruises all over my body.
I was exhilarated. I still am very thankful. I know other cyclists who had it much, much worse.
So my body healed up over the next couple months, I gradually started riding again, and on May 15, I departed Virginia to bike across the U.S. The trip was a success (you can read about it here), but I did notice a substantial amount of neck pain on some days. I figured that was just an inevitable part of riding hours on end, day after day. So I faithfully took my vitamin I (ibuprofen) and brushed it off.
When I got home, I finally had an MRI of my neck to see what was going on, and learned I had two herniated discs in my cervical spine, likely caused by my tango with the truck. This information didn’t really inspire me to make any changes to my daily activities though. The doctor warned me that cycling would probably always cause me discomfort, but that I could keep on riding as long as I could handle the pain.
Obviously this chump didn’t know me and that was probably the worse advice he could have given to a sadist like myself. In my mind, that was the go-ahead to ignore the pain and keep on riding. Pain isn’t a barrier for me like it is for normal human beings. Especially if I think that the pain is actually benign.
Well, over the last couple years the pain has gradually gotten worse. It’s become a normal part of riding for me, but I think it’s sort of like the frog/boiling pot of water analogy. Because it slowly worsened over a long period, it didn’t occur to me as something really bad.
Turns out, it was. Now it has started affecting my daily life off the bike.
I started seeing a new chiropractor and we had a heart-to-heart about cycling. I could see her cringing as I explained the pain and then went on to tell her about the ridiculous mileage I liked putting in on my bike. It turns out that in addition to the two herniations, I also have three bulging discs in my cervical spine, early arthritic changes, scoliosis, and a reverse curve in my neck.
“So basically,” I said to her, “I’m jacked up.”
She shrugged and slowly replied, “yeah, basically.”
“So, are you telling me I shouldn’t ride anymore?” I asked.
“I’d never tell you that,” she replied. “I know it’s your passion. I wouldn’t take that away from you.”
I sat there thinking for a moment. “Sure, I love riding, but you know what I love even more?”
The bottom line is that cycling was crippling me, and if I continued to ride, it was going to cause irreversible damage to my spine. The thought of being severely messed up 10 or 20 years down the line because of my stupidity, when I should still be young and vibrant, made me sick.
So, this is the end of an era for me. I was pretty surprised as I drove home from my chiropractor’s office after that conversation. I expected to feel loss, anger, maybe even some bitterness. But I didn’t. The truth is, I’ve been blessed with so many incredible experiences on two wheels that I can’t possibly feel upset or shafted. I can’t ride anymore (or run… that’s actually even worse), and I’m okay with that. I have my life, my health, my family, and all the things that really matter. Indeed, this is the end of an era for me, but that means its the beginning of something new. And I’m pretty excited about that.
Lovely selfies taken the day after the crash: