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Why I cycle through pain.

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Why I cycle through pain.

Old 09-18-08, 07:15 PM
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Why I cycle through pain.

I've been in significant chronic pain from my back since 1999. I've been riding daily with that for 3.5 years now (I took large doses of oxycontin with doctors' blessings for the pain before April of 2005). I smashed my arm and hand pretty good last Saturday when my crank arm snapped, it's all black and blue and I can't do much with that hand/arm, it's turning colors in places I didn't expect now that the swelling subsided after five days. Still, I did a 30 minute TT last Sunday. Didn't bother me much. I have a massive aching tooth now that's driving me nuts. I'm going for root canal re-treatment tomorrow at 11AM, the first root canal apparently failed, and now it's killing me. I'll ride 50 miles first as long as the Advil can take the edge off the tooth pain. My arthritic knee was so swollen and stiff two weeks ago on the weekend that I could barely get the crank to turn. I worked through it, the knee loosened up over a 30 mile ride and a 50 mile ride the next day and felt OK. Finally had to take a couple of days off the bike Monday and Tuesday after that weekend. Didn't want to.

Does this mean I'm super-tough? No. This means that my back (and anything else that's physically hurting me) generally feels much better after the daily endorphin dose cycling provides. It's that simple. I stop riding when I'm convinced the riding will make the condition worse (like my knee) or if the injury makes it too painful to ride. So far that latter circumstance has not come up since I started cycling again.

People I tell my story to (some in my own family included) think it's amazing I ride so much after what I went through with my back. They don't really get it. I would have blown my brains out if I had been relegated to oxycontin and inactivity much longer. I was close. Cycling gave me my life back. It saved my life. Every ride is a total gift. That's why riding in the cold and rain doesn't phase me.

I had been back on my bicycle riding daily for about two months when I took my road bike on a family vacation to Germany and England in 2005. On a ride in Berlin, Germany I crashed (an old front hub detonated and pitched me to the tarmac @ 25 mph) and wound up regaining consciousness in the ER of a Berlin hospital. It may have been the strangest experience I ever had. I was sitting upright on an examining table when I came to. The doctor told me I was in the hospital, OK, with a concussion, but that I should be alright. I had horrific bruising and road rash on my face and arms, but wasn't in much pain. My first thought was 'I could have been killed'. My second observation was that I felt oddly peaceful and totally unafraid (I wish I could say the same for my wife and kid, they freaked pretty good). My very next thought was 'I would have died happy'. I have really not been nearly as fearful of death since that day, and it was oddly liberating.

Sometimes you really do have to lose something to understand what it means to you. And that's why I'm such a bicycling lunatic. And why so many of the posts I read here seem like hand-wringing over nothing. In the Big Picture, the aches and pains of life and the weather aren't such an impediment to riding my bike. The ability to see the Big Picture is one of the greatest gifts you can receive. Unfortunately, you sometimes have to go through some nasty stuff in life to get your attitude properly adjusted. Oddly, once you've been there, you realize it may have been the best thing that ever happened to you. Which may be how Lance feels about his bout with cancer. And maybe that's why his story is so compelling to somebody like me.

My philosophy is very simple: if I do the ride, usually everything else takes care of itself. And it always does.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:19 PM
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:applause:

Wow. That probably had to be the best Zen cycling story that has ever hit BF.
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What's frightening is how coherent Hickey was in posting that.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:20 PM
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Like you, I am in pretty constant pain. From 2 broken hips, a broken foot, mucked up knees, arthritic hands and fingers, a shoulder that tends to dislocate, and a multitude of other joint problems.

Riding helps. Puts it into perspective, so to speak. Also gives me time to think, talk to myself, and work out whatever issues I'm dealing with.

Good stuff.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:22 PM
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Pcad is tougher than Tyler Hamilton. He is tougher than Floyd Landis. He makes Thomas Voeckler's pain and effort look like a freaking kid riding to school on a BMX rig.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:24 PM
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I needed to read this today, thanks.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:24 PM
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Word.

Great post Mr. pcad sir.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:27 PM
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Dang, now I have to say something good about PCad.... now that is suffering...

In all seriousness sir, a very well done post. And it is so true, so true.

So you are sort of like the guy who kept hitting himself with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped?
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Old 09-18-08, 07:31 PM
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Pcad is tough

Tough |təf|
adjective
(of a substance or object) strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling

• (of a person or animal) able to endure hardship or pain; physically robust

• able to protect one's own interests or maintain one's own opinions without being intimidated by opposition; confident and determined

• demonstrating a strict and uncompromising attitude or approach
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Old 09-18-08, 07:35 PM
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ty for the insight. your post may help me... assuming I am not yet beyond help. at least it might dissuade me giving up. I do not have the courage to reveal so much about my own struggle, not yet anyway.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:40 PM
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But it's not about toughness at all. What ever gave anyone that silly idea?

It's about perspective.
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Old 09-18-08, 07:52 PM
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Thanks for sharing Pcad. It's this kind of post that endears us to you......like it or not!
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Old 09-18-08, 08:01 PM
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Read Jack London's life. Hit some Kerouac up.

HTFU and get busy with something.

I dig Pcad's take on riding to get through physical pain. It's so true. Trust me, if you're under 50 y.o. and feel like dropping the riding and other exercise - forget it - you're setting yourself up for the front porch in a rocker before you know it.

I hit 60 y.o. and picked the pace up after I watched my buddies (generally younger by a few years) flake off and start slowing down. Forget that sheit - you'll find out later that it's a lot harder to get back into physical shape as you get past 55 y.o. if you dropped off your routine in your early fifties. Cutting your 40 mile ride to 15, surfing for 20 mins. instead of the usual 90 - when you start that kind of stuff you need to get focused and face the fact - the more you work at something the easier it gets....just don't stop!

We all have injuries and age issues - just quit looking for excuses and find something you can hammer down with all the time.


(Pcad: when will your book be published and will you do a west coast tour in support of same?)
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Old 09-18-08, 08:06 PM
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They don't call it Pcad Cycling Zen for nothing obiewan. When my book is published and I'm on the book tour, I'll sleep in the back of my car like a genuine pro cyclist.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:10 PM
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I can relate.
I've had chronic back pain for over twenty years...I was in a bad motorcycle accident when I was 19 and have never been the same since. But, I can't give up.
I used to run. But, I've had three knee surgeries so now, my running days are over.
I bike because it's really the only thing that makes me feel better. It "de-stresses" me too.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:11 PM
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Since my car accident, My back has been jacked, Burst and hearniated discs and broken bones.. I ride. 62 pounds later, Im going stronger and pushing myself through the pain on a daily basis, determined to beat it.

I mean, if Pcad can do it and hes like 90 and old... a 26 year old can ... right?
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Old 09-18-08, 08:12 PM
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PCAD can fight chuck norris with one hand and leg tied behind his back.

In all seriousness, I agree with you PCAD. Its all about perspective. My cousin is going through 16 cycles of chemo to get to an inoperable tumor. When I am suffering on a hill and ready to soft pedal, I think of him and get my micro dose of HTFU.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:17 PM
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I ride through emotional pain while composing angst ridden poetry. the only colour jersey I own is black.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:22 PM
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there is always a second or two in life where all choices are made

you sit on the edge of the bed and battle yourself

and then you go ride

or you sit on the edge of the bed

and then go to work because everybody depends on you

so you don't ride

maybe you can ride tomorow
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Old 09-18-08, 08:34 PM
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Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Some poems rhyme.
Not this one.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:37 PM
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Nice post. I can relate. On the way to take my ride today I heard a radio interview with a woman who has severe MS. 5 years ago I was misdiagnosed with MS and had doctors asking me if my house was wheelchair accessible. Fortunately, they were wrong and I have mostly recovered from the sudden paralysis that brought on the diagnosis.

Each time I found myself struggling to climb, I thought "at least I CAN still ride a bike."
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Old 09-18-08, 08:38 PM
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Good form, Pcad. I knew I liked you.

I'm chronic. . . and the pain from riding is the pain I control, not the pain that controls me.

It's that simple.

And if I don't move for a day, I give up some of that control.

Beth
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Old 09-18-08, 08:42 PM
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there's no question that cycling - or whatever physical activity floats your boat - is good for your body/mind, especially if it's in some kind of pain.

recently a friend of mine had an abscessed tooth as a result of a failed root canal. it was awful. i hope you're not in the same boat, pcad.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:44 PM
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Ironically, introspective capacity for seeing the so-called big-picture (instead of letting oneself get bogged down by everyday trivial matters), sometimes only comes after difficult life experiences +/or middle age.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:47 PM
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Pcad's back story reminds me of McCain's POW story. No offense, it's an inspirational story but it just seems like I've read it numerous times over the last year.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by dark13star View Post
Each time I found myself struggling to climb, I thought "at least I CAN still ride a bike."
I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but I'm a solid Cat IV level racer, and was all through the 1990s (mostly rode Vets 35+ races with faster guys). So my first group ride back (I had been riding daily for about two weeks and I was 25 lbs heavier than I am now) I go out with the local Bike Touring Club's 'B' ride (now I go out with the racing dudes). We get to the first climb, a .7 mile hill I now train on sometimes. I got dropped by EVERYBODY. Middle aged women, 60 year old men, EVERYBODY. I think there was maybe one fat guy behind me at the crest of this modest hill.

I really didn't care. I was happy to be riding anywhere. Ecstatic in fact. But it was a fitness reality check. I figured it would come back. And so it did. This year I raced with some regularity and even helped my team on occasion in the 35+ races.

P.S. I wound up on that same 'B' ride early this year, I wanted to go easy that day. The closest person to my wheel at the top of that climb was 200 meters behind me. But this time I almost embarrassed that I bothered to jam up the hill. Almost. I owed them for that ride in 2005 where they all dumped me : ).
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