Curious thing: I greatly enjoy walking if I'm just out on a leisurely stroll, or a hike, or if I'm enjoying a day out with friends or loved ones. As a form of transportation, however, it seems to lack a certain ... je ne sais quois. In fact, I really don't like it at all.
Of course, at the moment, walking is pretty uncomfortable, and I have grown used to riding my bike everywhere. The bike is fast. There are a good many trips I can accomplish more quickly by bike than I could by car (thanks to alleys, MUPs, and other shortcuts that let me avoid stoplights). On foot, it seems like everything takes fifteen times as long — especially right now.
Last night I decided to drop in on my friend Martha, who works at my church. I called to make sure she was there and let her know I was planning on coming by, and I suspected she was thinking about offering to come pick me up, so I manfully (read: stupidly) stepped in and said, "I'll grab the next bus and..." My leg was feeling reasonably okay, all things considered, after all, and it didn't seem like all that far to the bust stop, or from the other bus stop to Saint Adnrew's. So I gathered up my bus fare and headed out.
Little did I know that the trip to the bus stop — roughly a minute or so by bike, and no more than five minutes or so by foot on a 'normal' day — would become a 15-minute long study in the subtle nuances of leg pain.
First my knee hurt (it appears I have strained some tendons or something like that). Then my calf began to hurt. Then the locus of pain made its way down and settled somewhere in my shin. Then my ankle, tired of being left out of the pity party, decided it had had enough and began to ache.
Likewise, the slog from the bus stop at the opposite end of the trip to church was less than joyous. I don't think I could've been more relieved to see the sanctuary doors if I were a fugitive with a horde of inquisitors hot on my heels. By then I had learned my lesson: when you've bunged up your leg, everything is two or three times as far away as you think it is, and you should accept any offer of help that's extended, or that might be extended, instead of trying to tough it out.
This whole experience is really pretty humbling. I am used to being pretty self-reliant, and right now there's a lot I don't think I could do on my own. Or, rather, I could, but it wouldn't be worth the cost. Walking hurts, but I can handle that — it's the lingering pain and increased inflammation that follows it that I'm finding surprisingly hard to take.
Like most young guys I guess I don't have a terribly keen sense of my own mortality. There's a part of me that basically feels unbreakable. That part is closely allied with the part of me that really likes to go fast (a part that, irritatingly, also doesn't appear to plan well or listen to reason).
Likewise, the fact that I've experienced several major illnesses but no major injuries (rather surprising, given my catalog of potentially injury-inducing hobbies) makes it hard to comprehend the fact that I can actually get hurt.
In fact, it's hard to comprehend that I actually am hurt. I realized this morning that Denis is right — my leg is going to take a while to heal. Not that I doubted him, but there's that difference between knowing and really knowing.
The bruises are just beginning to really surface -- yesterday, there were a couple of purplish spots and half my leg was sort of yellow. Today, the purple spots are larger and more numerous. My ankle is ... errr ... more of a cankle, right now, really (and looks really weird next to my other ankle). The malleoli (those bony bumps on either side of your ankle) have been subsumed in the swelling. There's some kind of strange and interesting pocket of inflammation and bruising happening on the inside arch of my foot. I look at my foot and it kind of gives me pause. At least it doesn't give me paws :)
I have been offered crutches by about thirty-seven different people. I am seriously considering sucking it up and taking the offer at least for Friday evening, since we're going to Abbey Road on the River. Like most cyclists, I'm built like a T-Rex (huge legs, huge appetite, tiny little arms), so crutches and I don't really get along. The only time I've had to use them, I found using them more painful than not (though it did resolve the painful and mysterious foot affliction I had at the time, so I'm not really complaining). However, I'm pretty sure AROTR is an on-your-feet kind of event, and some support might be a good idea.
All the excess walking last night has left me with an uncomfortable reminder of my own essential human frailty. My leg was in better shape yesterday than it is today. I am going to take it easy today. Also, I really wish I could walk around the office without shoes, because walking is more comfortable that way. However, management appears to frown on that particular practice, for some strange reason :)
We are all breakable, and so many of us have trouble remembering that. However, it is in our most fragile moments that we often see the best in each-other. Everyone I know, both online and off, has been extremely kind to me. What I believe I'll remember most, when all is said and done, is all the people who winced in sympathy even while they laughed at my epic crash story (I believe love really does conquer all, but humor comes a close second), all the people who helped me out in all kinds of ways, how concerned everyone was for my safety and well-being, and most of all how glad everyone was that I came out of this situation as well as I did.
Well, that and the fact that not a single person — not one — has taken this as an occasion to get up on a soapbox about how 'dangerous' cycling is. It's possible that I've managed to head that off by pointing out that this accident was in every way my own fault, but I really don't think that's the case.
Instead, from pretty much everyone, I've heard the following questions:
1) Are you sure you're okay?
2) Is your bike okay?
3) When do you think you'll be riding again?
I really, really appreciate that. It kind of renews your faith in the human race.
P.S. Last night, for whatever reason, I dreamt about riding the Allez in Denis' neighborhood, which is even hillier than mine.
Guess you have to get your ride time in somehow :)