I felt like two people sharing the same body.
There was the groggy, embarrassed and melancholy Ryan who was flustered after being startled awake at 5:30 a.m. by Trudy, arrived to the Fortius group ride (pictured) late, busted his tube while trying to put air in the tire, and established a new Fortius team record for the slowest tire change (14 minutes!). Not to mention that four hours on the bike without much conversation was proving fertile ground to recycle and re-analyze the details of my defunct relationship with my ex-girlfriend.
But there was also the strong, confident and experienced Ryan who is finally mentally getting over the effects of last year's bike crash, seeing dramatic improvements in his fitness and is learning much more about effective pacing and nutrition on long rides.
In fact, today's ride, much like yesterday's run and the swim earlier this week, was perhaps the best cycling I've done yet. I felt strong on hill climbs, my heart rate remained mostly below 150 bpm even on grades as high as 11%, and I surprised myself climbing the fabled "7 Minute Hill" off Mulholland Drive in just over 11 minutes. Coach Gerardo thinks I can hit seven minutes by the time my Ironman rolls around in November. We'll see about that.
Be that as it may, if you were to shuffle all the feelings described above like a deck of cards and scatter them rapidly across the blackjack table randomly, you could gain a glimpse into the frenetic innermost workings of my overly active mind on a crisp, sunny Sunday morning.
They all converged though when I realized the parallels inherent in recovering mentally from a harrowing bike crash and recovering from a tough break-up.
Of course, this exact thought entered my mind as I was hurtling around the corners down "7 Minute Hill" at speeds I haven't attempted in several months. But I was comfortable. I wasn't going for speed, but rather efficiency on holding a line. The speed was just a fortunate byproduct of confidence, more hours on the bike, and a healed psyche. I truly, for the first time ever on a bike, felt like I was One with it.
Corny as it sounds, I truly felt a deeper connection with my bike today. Like my bike would protect me if I trusted it the way the kid trusted the horse in Black Beauty. Or any other movie involving a headstrong kid and a stubborn horse!
I digress. My point though is that healing takes time. This feeling of Oneness didn't happen overnight. Far from it. I've only learned what Oneness actually can feel like by toppling down Santa Susana Pass last April.
Healing, no matter how hard you try, can't be forced. You have to proceed cautiously for a long time. You can't rush healing. It has to happen in baby steps, and a process has to be trusted. You also need people you can lean on for support, people who help you improve and grow. Then, one day when you least expect it, you're "healed." Sure, you remember the pain, the suffering, the anxiety. You never forget it. But you also gather the experience and become better, faster, stronger.
Right now, my relationship scrapes are pretty fresh. No more bleeding, but the bandages are still being changed out. I am up and moving forward, but must accept doing so cautiously. I can't just rocket around the next dating corner automatically. There have to be baby steps first. A process. And, as frustrated as I am about it all, none of this can be forced.
Even though this realization may not change how I feel emotionally, it offers me a framework for dealing with the grief more effectively. For understanding where I'm at, independent of that oft-used DABDA acronym (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) quoted by the TV psycho-pundits. And what's still in store for me on this windy road ahead.
Strangely, I find that context soothing.
I never imagined that crashing my bike would teach me so much about the importance of getting back on it. Literally, and metaphorically speaking.
297 days and counting.