It’s Between My Ears, Not Beneath the Knees

There are few childhood milestones more important than the pivotal day in which you switch from a kid’s bicycle to a 10-speed bicycle. Growing up in a neighborhood full of kids, I often coveted the bigger, faster bikes of my older peers. In the weekly summer bike parades around the cul-de-sac, I was always getting passed and ended up the near-caboose of the train, only to be followed by kids with training wheels or tricycles. And the big kids could pedal backwards without coming to a complete and sudden stop and catapulting themselves over the handlebars!

One early summer, my need for a 10-speed bike reached a fever pitch and with a July birthday on the horizon, it was the only thing on my mind. Before my parents bought a bike, they thought I should try one out first. Enter benefit #251 of having an older sister: I could just take hers for a test ride around the cul-de-sac and decide if I liked it.

I thought this was silly. Of course I was going to like it. As I tied the laces of my white and pink tennies and put on my bike helmet, I had visions of my sun-bleached waves blowing in the wind as I passed the little kids on their trikes. I dreamed of the sun rising up over the garage attached to my parents home, the garage door slowly lifting, and there I would stand, at the top of the driveway with my 10-speed bike and it would glisten in the sun. I would stare out over the neighborhood with sheer determination on my face.

My dad helped me scramble up onto my sister’s grey and pink bike, chubby little legs stretching just slightly to reach the pedals. As my pre-teen sister stared on in the way older sisters do when little sisters take their things, my dad said, “Just go.”

And I did. Down our short but steeply sloping driveway, across the widest part of our street, and right into the curb before going end over handlebars into the neighbor’s yard. I heard my sister yell, “My bike!” and my dad shout, “You okay?” and then chuckle. I could not understand their complete disregard for my safety. I could have been gutted by a giant spoke! I could have become tangled in the teeth of the gears! I could have been crushed under the weight of such a collosal bike!

I was not actually hurt in anyway. Not even a scraped knee.

But I was shaken up and suddenly, I liked my kid bike a lot more. After all, it was white with teal and purple speckled paint, which was all the rage in the mid-90s. It did have the white tires that I so badly wanted when we had picked it out. It was comfortable. It was safe. It was easy to steer and stop. It was my bike. My desire to ride a 10-speed bike ever again was absolutely zilch. That one, brief run in with an incredibly stable curb had– at the time– completely freaked me out about the idea of getting back on.

I am at that place right now with my post-injury running. I am happy ‘riding the kid bike’– running 1-2 miles per time, but the thought of getting back on a 10 speed– maybe even just 5 miles (?) has me completely and utterly freaked out. Even though I am signed up to run a 10K in April.

When I looked up articles about post-injury returns, they are all about preventing more injury, how to build up your miles, etc. Sort of like saying to 9-year-old me, “Hey kid, just turn the bike to the left this time and you won’t hit the curb.” Except, you had no intention of hitting the curb the first time, so you don’t really trust that you won’t crash into it again.

I feel like I am in the best shape I have been since the marathon and I am at a great place to really start adding the miles. And it is easy for me to schedule a longer run when I sit at my desk and look at a calendar. But when I lace up my shoes, I am overcome with fear. What if it breaks again? What if it causes problems in my hips or knees? There is a serious turmoil brooding between missing going out for those long runs like crazy and yet wanting to protect myself from anything painful happening, ever.

I wish the day I overcame my fear of 10 speed bikes was as vivid in my memory as the day I tumbled over that curb. But even if I don’t remember it, I do know it happened. After all, I do not complete my triathlons on a teal and purple Huffy.

My legs have been training, I am working on strengthening my core, and I have been keeping up with other endurance cardio in the meantime. Now I just need my brain to get in shape.

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