I am now in full-on training mode for the City of Oaks marathon, which I got clearance to do on my trike (want to run the half or join one of our Team Drea relay teams? contact me!)
So last Sunday, I convinced DP to drop me off at a trail nearby while he ran some errands. For the local folks, I was on Beach Drive near
Cinderella’s castle the Mormon Temple. For the non-local folks, it’s a beautiful place to ride – the trail winds between tall trees creating almost a full canopy. Since it was late in the day, rays of sunshine streamed through from the setting sun. One on side of the trail is a lazy tributary to Rock Creek, the other side is two-lane road which has more bicyclists than cars on Sundays. If it weren’t for the ongoing hum and occasional air brakes from the Beltway, it would have seemed like a ride through deep woods.
I was riding along enjoying myself when I saw her. The perfect running specimen. Calf muscles tensing, arms pumping, ponytail swinging. Not wearing the shapeless race t-shirt and mesh shorts I was in, but a strappy fluorescent orange spandex top with sweat on her shoulders and fitted black shorts showing off her cute figure.
I couldn’t help it – I followed her. I followed her, even though I knew better. I felt the ache of my wound that won’t heal and tasted the bitterness in my mouth. I’m better than I used to be. For six months after I stopped running, I could not see someone jogging without crying.
I watched in awe at the grace of her feet that innately knew to push off the ground, her ankles carrying them effortlessly through the stride, and toes naturally flexing just enough to position themselves to hit the asphalt at the perfect angle again. Ah, the rhythm of running.
And yet, she wasn’t thinking about any of it — the motor neurons firing, the muscle fibers straining. She was listening to music through her headphones, thoughts undoubtedly far from the neurological glue holding her together, making this evening’s run possible. I never thought about it either.
I chased her for awhile, feeling very much unglued as I tried to keep up with my uneven pedal stroke and legs shaking uncontrollably as I bounced over little tree root earthquakes in the trail. Eventually, I watched sadly as she turned off down another path, even though I knew it was for the best.
Left alone again, I pulled my thoughts back into the trike and actually had a pretty good time. The deepening shadows matched my mood and I tried to focus on my own journey. The ability to be outside using my muscles in any form was a gift, and I knew it. A deer and I had a brief staring contest. She won by snorting. I jumped and laughed out loud.
I cruised back and forth on the trail within a couple of miles of our starting point so I would be close by when DP came back to pick me up. When that got repetitive, I ventured into an adjacent neighborhood and came upon a hill with a long incline. It looked steep but doable so I decided to try it. I changed gears and settled into cranking up the hill, using every part of the stroke to press through my quads and pull up with my feet. This is my favorite kind of riding (and living) – working hard but feeling the satisfaction of getting to where I need to be. It’s a rarer feeling these days.
The street was mixture of ranches and modest homes with wide lawns, all neat and tidy with freshly cut grass and shrubs maintained by the family gardeners, not professional landscapers. It reminded of my neighborhood growing up.
Up, up, up I went, from one intersection to the next until I was afraid that DP would be mad that I’d strayed so far from where we’d agreed I would go. So I looped around to check out my accomplishment. I was sweating, breathing hard, and happy.
On the way back down, I let myself go. It felt just like the billy cart my dad made be 25 years ago – basically a plank with 2’x4’s at either end and four lawnmower wheels. No engine, no brakes. We were supposed to sit upright and steer with our feet, but most of the time my friends and I lay down on our stomachs and steered with our hands, our faces inches from the pavement as we whizzed full speed down the hills in our neighborhoods without helmets. Life really comes full circle, I thought. Even if I was happy I had brakes this time.
I was back on the trail starting mile 7 when DP called to say he was back with the takeout and toilet paper. As I pulled a U-turn for the last time, I saw the pop of fluorescent orange. The perfect running specimen! In the distance, I could see DP waiting for me, lifting the hatchback of our Subaru to load the trike. For once, I didn’t feel the ache. This is my journey and I wouldn’t trade it. No way.