biking to work – finishing a trip started ten months ago

Yesterday I rode my bike to work.  It was a beautiful day for a ride, much like it was last July the first, when I didn’t complete the trip.  My excuse for doing this was that it was National Bike to Work Day.  But the real reason I wanted to was to complete the trip I couldn’t ten months and a half ago  -both literally and figuratively.  Throughout recovery, I’ve marked a number of milestones.  Many of them are relatively small things that people do every day.  They’re things I wouldn’t necessarily have even mentioned before, but they mean I’m closer to recovery.  Closer to ‘normal’ again.  That’s what this milestone was about for me.

Getting on a bike again was not really a physical challenge.  It’s an emotional challenge though, another step in putting the bike accident into the past for me.  Closure.  A statement that I wouldn’t let my accident define me, or limit me in any way.  A key step along this path took place a few weeks ago, when Kayla got me to do a short ride.  The whole family climbed onto our bikes, and we rode around the neighborhood.  Kayla and I rode together, venturing onto a couple of high-traffic roads, because I wanted to understand how that would feel.  I remember when the first car passed me – I was very aware of it, but not too nervous.  A good sign.

Then last Saturday, I did my first ride of any real length.  I rode from home to the kid’s school, to attend their annual art festival.  A bite-sized ride. Only about 2 miles, along a road that didn’t usually have much traffic.  After spending most of the afternoon at the school, I rode from there down to Enatai Beach, taking a mostly low-traffic route I’d ridden a fair number of times.  Lots of hills, which made the workout efficient :).  On the way back, I ventured up a steep hill about a mile south of home.  A couple of times going up this hill that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it up, but I was able to tough it out.  Kris pointed out that it might not have been the brightest choice to try this hill on my first ride back, because I could have ‘stalled’ and tipped over (unable to unclip my feet quickly).  But it felt great to be able to do this.  The ride was about 23 miles all told, not fast – but challenging.  Because of the sparse traffic, I was able to experiment a bit – trying some faster downhills to see how I’d feel.  I definitely felt a bit nervous, but was able to push myself through.

So when yesterday rolled around, I knew that the only real challenge would be convincing myself to climb on and ride to work.  Symbolically, I chose the same route I’d ridden the day of the accident.  Aside from a couple of miles along Old Redmond Road (where the accident occurred), the traffic isn’t too bad.

I got ready, but found myself stalling to get out the door.  Just after nine, I kissed Kris goodbye, and she told me to have a safe ride.  I climbed on the bike, and rode up the hill on 60th.  About a mile and a half into the ride, I turned onto Old Redmond Road.  This is mostly downhill, and there’s a steady stream of cars coming from behind.  The irony of being hyperaware of them is that this wouldn’t have helped avoid the accident at all.  The problem was simply that the driver made a bad choice, and cut me off when making a right turn.  I had about 1 second to respond, which wasn’t long enough to avoid him.  So maybe it’s strange viewing it as something I couldn’t really have avoided, but that actually helped temper my nerves.  There’s nothing I could have done about it, ergo, there’s little to be gained by worrying.

I passed the corner of 144th (where it happened) with a lump in my throat.  But that was it.  I smiled as I headed down the hill and made my turn.  From here on it was easy.  What happened, has happened.  I have lots to be thankful for.  And it was a beautiful day.

The trip home was actually a bit more difficult, due to higher traffic.  I was motivated to take the same route home, because it allowed me to visit with Bob, Amy, and Mark, who met to run near Bridle Trails State Park.  They’d spent lots of time with me, both in the hospital and after.  It felt great being to ride up to them and visit.  From there, it was an easy mile home.  I rolled into the driveway and unclipped, feeling good to have this behind me.

Before the accident, I could not have imagined how long this recovery would take, and what would be involved.  I posted to Facebook that I’d done this, and got a bunch of nice messages from friends.  One of them asked me "is there anything (you) haven’t done yet?".  Honestly, I don’t know anymore.  And that’s very good, because it means I can think less in terms of the accident. 

The next ride to work, will just be a ride.  And that’s the way it should be.

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3 responses to “biking to work – finishing a trip started ten months ago

  • Edward

    Congratulations .. To you and to your support group!

  • Feisal Visram

    Hello Paul. I did a search on BING and came across your blog. It seems to the closest thing I have been looking for. I was involved in a serious bicycle accident riding into a stationary car at a relative speed. The reason I did this is not clear. I could have suffered a blackout or just lost concentration. I was airlifted to a specialist hospital in London and suffered internal brain injury including bleeding on the surface of my brain and deep in the Pons area. The accident happened on 20th June in the afternoon. I was a fit cyclist at the time and was finishing a 40 mile training ride on my way home.

    I have been recovering over the last 4 months and now back at home. I broke my jaw which is now fixed and I have a light sensation on the left side when I move the muscle in my arm, calf and base of the spine. This fortunately does not send confused messages to my brain and I am able to handle it in day to day activity.

    I am a single gay man. Unlike you my family have been unhelpful in effective support due to their selfishness except for 2 cousins. I have replied on good friends to help be emotionally and practically. Being self employed meant I took a bad hit financially and am now selling my apartment.

    As part of the mental change I experienced from the accident I now recognise the major mistakes I made in my personal and business life.

    I have focused on getting physically fit (running and other aerobic activities) and getting the practicalities of life sorted out in terms of where I live, finances and job. I will get back to the gym and swim in a few weeks. I intend to start cycling in January next year and taking a leaf out of your book on how to approach it. I do not wish the accident to define my future.

    Your blog was a dose of reality and made me feel that I am not alone. Your experiences are not identical but are certainly ones to which I can relate. It has also given me the springboard to begin my own blog as I am sure this will help. Thanks for your blog. Feisal

    • paulcdavid

      Hi Feisal – you are definitely not alone. Sharing our stories with each other has the benefit of helping others, and writing about my experiences proved to be very helpful to my own emotional recovery. The act of writing one’s goals and feelings down can have the effect of brining some clarity and perspective to us. Recovery from brain injuries can be a wild ride, so perspective can really help.

      It’s great to hear that you’re focusing forward on recovery. Keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing. Best to you – paul

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