On Saturday Dave took me on the Schuylkill River bike trail for the first time. (Mine, not his.) We jumped on in Conshohocken, road through Valley Forge out to Phoenixville and returned, putting about 25 miles on the odometer and making it the longest ride I have done to date. For Dave, who is training for a half iron man in September, it was a granny ride. But I was grateful to have him along to show me the ropes.
The ride was great and I was feeling very proud of myself. As we came within 3 miles of our end point, I had, shall we say, a little incident. Throughout the ride, Dave stayed in front, signaling directions, pointing out hazards, and constantly looking back to make sure I was okay. At one particular point, there was a very small street that crossed the bike path. I watched Dave look both ways and continue through this little intersection, expecting him to yell back “CLEAR!” as he had done at all the crossings before.
But he didn’t yell “CLEAR.” He yelled “CAR!”
The car in question was about 75 yards away from the crossing. He wanted me to be aware of it. But based on years of training and a four year college education, I interpreted “CAR!” as “YOU NEED TO STOP IMMEDIATELY OR YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!.”
So I slammed on my brakes. Hard. And flipped over the handle bars. While still clipped in to my pedals. In front of an entire line of bikers behind me. Not one of my finer moments.
Dave says he didn’t see the crash but he heard it. I landed on my left side, still straddling the bike. Bleeding, bruised, embarrassed but otherwise okay. Still, it hurt and I couldn’t help the tears from falling. I gathered myself and rode shakily back to the car.
Dave felt terrible for “causing” my accident but I chock up at least an eighth a quarter half of it to my inexperience. I was weary at this point in the ride and not thinking as clearly as I might have been in the beginning. And slamming your brakes suddenly when your feet are attached to the pedals is bad. I have bruises in unspeakable places to attest to this fact. Next time I will try to look a little further down the line than the back of Dave’s bike.
This little accident got me thinking about my summer… and a little bit about my life. I tend to careen hard down the paths I choose to travel. I target a destination and off I go! Sometimes I look up from the task at hand but mostly I’m focused on the road directly in front of me. You may recall that I had a few ambitious destinations for the four weeks the boys are away at camp. Too many, in fact. And as I hit the halfway point of that race, I find myself tired and poised to slam on the brakes. And that is going to hurt on the inside where bruises are invisible but much more painful.I want to get in good shape but working out everyday is starting to take its toll. I want to write the book proposal but feeling rushed is fostering pressure and anger that isn’t conducive to writing light and witty humor. I want to revamp the blog but work is still draining 90 percent of my energy by 5:00 o’clock.
My instinct tells me to power through these obstacles and get to the finish line but the bruises on my knee are screaming something entirely different. So I decided to listen to the knee.
This past week I made an effort to decelerate and look around, out beyond the immediacy of my childless days and nights and to my life in general. And I realized that I am better off slowing down – especially when I come to various crossroads – rather than barreling straight through. It’s safer and I will get to the same place with less chance of pain. So I’m stepping back and coasting a bit for the next two weeks. Its safer, wiser, and and most important of all, I will actually enjoy the ride.