Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cycling log: Bikes, Pain, and Poetry

An odd title, and maybe not as catchy as "Chocolate, Waffles, and 'Cross," but permit me to explain.

My friend, Jen, is a fine arts major finishing up her Master's dissertation, and has undertaken a project to blog about poetry on a daily basis (full details here). She said she was inspired to write about one of my own blog posts on MySpace last year after my mother broke her arm. I was touched, so I figured I'd re-post the original blog that led to her own piece.

Here's the message Jen sent me on MySpace:

"Heya Mr. CycleNinja,

Yesterday, my magic poem bowl put forth a line from a poem I wrote about you and your mother some time ago. I'm not sure why I never shared the poem with you before. I suppose I was/am hesitant to reflect back any more grief about her and her health than you've already got on your plate. But, that is the job of the poet, no?

In any case, the poem was in response to one of your first blogs/posts about her. I was touched by what you were going through, and I'm just hoping that I'm not adding insult to injury by having you read this.

So when you get a minute and are in the right space, check out the artblog from Day Five.


And know that you are cared about. By all of us.

And for the record, I'm again humbled that people like Jen think I'm worthy of being their friend. I don't deserve them.

My original post:
It's amazing how the term "suffering" is so relative.

For those of us who are relative newcomers to the world of cycling, we hear the term all the time to describe the exploits of the great riders who have come before. It's a word thrown out almost casually in cycling circles. Lance Armstrong made a point of how the capacity to suffer on the bike is one of the most important criteria for a professional cyclist. And there are a lot of cycling-as-zen pieces written about cleansing yourself on the bike through "suffering."

They're all bullshit. Here's what REAL suffering looks like.

I called my mother before I went riding tonight. To recap, she's 78 years old and has had MS for 20 years. She fell and broke her shoulder this past Saturday, and had it replaced yesterday. When I called her, she was really out of it from the painkillers, and was still VERY uncomfortable with that metal grafted to the bone. I was standing there, straddling the bike for 5 minutes, listening to her talk about how difficult it is to eat soup left-handed when you're flat on your back, and how the medical staff said tomorrow would probably be even worse for her. I hung up feeling completely helpless. So I did what I could...I pounded out a training ride for the MS Bike Ride this coming summer. And I mean pounded. 12.5 miles in 45 minutes. That's a 16.5 mph pace for those of you keeping score.

Did I mention I weigh north of 325 pounds?

This is why we ride.

Spin easy, friends.
Jen's piece:
fold & break
-for Paul

your mother in a nursing home
your mother wiped blank, clean
your mother broken

will is
a strange blue flower
folding delicate
folding in on itself
in the end
the will is being drawn

you will break
over this soon,
fold and
Mom's doing lots better now. She's in a nursing home in Johnston, I see her quite a lot, and she's still coherent. She is now confined to a wheelchair because of her MS, though. And I ride all the harder in that knowledge. I still have two functional legs. I won't waste them.

And I won't be broken, either.

Spin easy friends. And kiss someone you love.

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