Back in the Saddle Again

The trail at the end of the tunnel...

The trail at the end of the tunnel…

I love the feeling of a first bike ride. When I graduated from 6th grade, my parents gave me a Trek 800, complete with matching neon green lycra helmet cover. That summer, I learned freedom. I rode around the trails behind our house to the library, to Shop ‘N Save for popsicles, and to my friends’ houses. Feet on the pedals, the wind in my (neon green) hair. I can still taste those popsicles.

When I moved to Japan, it took me about a month before I worked up the nerve to buy a bike. When I did, the neighborhood bike man, after suffering through my broken Japanese, showed me the Practical Lady (so named for her brand name emblazoned on her side). I felt that same glee coasting down the street back to my apartment. My feet on the pedals, the wind in my (helmetless) hair. I can still smell the streets.

Here in D.C., I’ve been a bicycle and public transportation commuter. I live right near a trail and had an amazing little 12-mile commute to work. Instead of grumbling through traffic, I got my feet on the pedals and the wind in my (staunchly helmeted) hair. I can still cars on the highway, cruising to work.

About 10 months ago, I got a concussion (more on that later) and have been recovering from post concussion syndrome ever since. Basically, after the concussion, I had a limited reserve of energy and brain power. I could exercise, study or work, but I could not do all three. As difficult as it was to quit my job, and as crummy as it was to stay off my bike, I chose to study. I have been working toward starting a doctor of physical therapy program in the fall for the past 4 years. I couldn’t imagine waiting another year. So I focused my brain power on studying. I can still see the page of physics formulas.

Custis 2

I am thrilled that I was accepted into my program. After finishing my prerequisites this spring, I am more than ready to exercise. And finally, finally (!) with the a-ok of my physical therapist, I am back on my bike. I tried a couple of easy rides first, a short trip to the farmers market, a jaunt over to the bookstore (because I can totally read non-textbook books now). But really, I couldn’t wait to get back on the trails. My first choice was to do half of my old commute. I knew I couldn’t do the whole thing just yet, but half way out and back seemed manageable.

The double uphill in the bike lane was much more challenging than I remembered (oh VO2 where did you go?). But once I turned on to that trail, I felt my smile creep up. One downhill later, I was grinning, feet on the pedals, the wind in my (completely over-secured, double fastened, uber-helmeted) hair.