Reflections on being grateful for your body when it’s working well, and more kind to it when it’s not
By Sarah Hansing
I suppose I’ve gone missing for a bit. It’s an easy thing to do, when you’re a whole ocean away. More relevantly, it’s an easy thing to do when you’re supposed to be writing a mountain bike column and you’ve been injured for a month.
And not “I’m going to have to take it a little easier” injured, but “ER, X-RAY, CT scan, MRI and oh by the way you may need to go to a neurosurgeon if this cortisone injection doesn’t do the trick in the next few weeks” kind of injured.
I have no idea how it happened. NO idea.
Like, zero of them.
Maybe a creeper injury from the last crash? Maybe I stood up too fast? Slept on my arm wrong? Tried to wrestle a kangaroo? Lifted too many jars of Vegemite? Danced too much? Attempted to pet ALL of the dogs at the dog park, on a busy day at the dog park? Tried to do a pull-up? (It actually was probably either the last one or the first one, truth be told. But it also could have been the dog park thing, if we’re going to be COMPLETELY honest here. I hope that’s what it was.)
Anyways. Injuries. They suck. They make you feel bewildered and depressed. Because you can’t do what you usually do, in the manner that you usually do it. It’s all I can do to not just look at my right arm and contort my face in an expression of the ultimate betrayal I feel for it. From the outside, no change. But it’s weak and lacks dexterity. I can’t rely on it the way I always have, and I keep forgetting about that. I can’t trust it. My left arm has become the stronger of the two, and when I work on bikes, I have to double check my “elbow torque” using my left side.
It’s been really good for me.
Reality checks are not my favorite thing. I like to fancy myself invincible and impervious to the aging process and the physiological rules the rest of the world has to follow. But I know, deep down, that I’m NOT excused from the laws of life. That doesn’t mean that I won’t try to take them to court to contest them every now and again, but I still know I’m subjected to the big ones.
Actions and Consequences are part of what we do for sport and for fun. It’s honestly what I live for. But I’m having an existential crisis off of the bike, and I’ve had to find other ways to find myself, and to lose myself.
I go to the park and sit in the grass. Swim in the ocean. Pedal around slowly on pavement. Go for a walk. Slow down. Think more. See more. Feel more.
It’s a strange sensation for me, this loss of routine; I always knew that my mountain biking was a HUGE part of my identity, but maybe didn’t know just HOW much … until I couldn’t – and I mean really and truly COULDN’T – do it anymore. My sense of self is discombobulated in every way. But in spite of it all …
I know it’s good for me. I’m mending up relatively quickly. Riding more. And most importantly realizing that I am more than just the two wheels that I know and love so well.
I’ll probably forget that as soon as I get back to California and the sweet, sweet singletracks and redwoods I’ve been missing (because I should be all healed up by then) … but I intend to remember this. Be more grateful for my body when it IS working well, and more kind to it when it is not.
We all love bikes. We should not forget to love ourselves too, even when we’re not riding them.
Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singletrack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)