Eighteen years ago I had a bad motorcycle accident. Eighteen months of more than a dozen surgeries, attempts to save my leg, infections and things no one should go through. I didn’t walk for a good portion of 2 years before being fit for a prosthetic. I had complications and more surgeries after the amputation, which delayed my being able to walk. I just kept my sights set on another motorcycle. Yes, another Harley. 🙂
Four years ago I slipped into a Spin class just to start getting into cardio shape again. Little did I know what an adventure this was going to be. There was a sign-up sheet for The Santa Fe Century on the wall. It was 2 months away. I thought I could do it. All I had was a mountain bike that I bought myself after getting that prosthetic. I didn’t ride it much. Too freaked out after falling too many times on it. I had NO idea what cycling was really. I signed up for the 1/2 century and bought a hybrid bike. I was wary of road bikes and wasn’t convinced I could ride one. I rode spin classes to learn the basics from instructors who were cyclists and great, caring people. I started riding 10 – 15 miles at a time on the road. I knew I had to start working up to 50 pretty quickly. I did. I completed my 1/2 century that mid May. I kept riding my hybrid. This time, I had my sights set on the full century for the following year.
Three – two – one. I rode that full century each of the consecutive years. I bought a starter road bike the following year and started riding, really riding. My mileage that first year was 8,000. I kept it up and kept learning. Then, I outgrew the first road bike. I got another. I was riding nearly 12,000 miles this past year. Someone put a bug into my ear about two big rides last fall. One of them was Rough Riders 200 in Angel Fire. It was a double century two weeks before the Triple Bypass. And, of course, the other ride was this one! I have completed all of them this season.
I registered for this ride in February. I was pretty unsure. I thought I really had just stepped into another world. I watched YouTube videos, I was visiting my bike shop a lot for training and nutrition advice. I started charting out these few months and deciding how to work out and get my strength up. My disability requires that I really take care of my limb – I am a lower left leg amputee. There are a lot of issues, from special bike fitting, gearing, components, pedal spacers, adjustments to nutrition, pain control and the prosthetic itself. It’s a lot to adapt to and learn about all at once, especially when one graduates into higher mileage and more demanding rides. I just kept riding every chance I could and praying the ski area would melt to I could start doing those rides.
When I completed the Angel Fire ride the second weekend of July, I had more confidence going into this one. Yet, I was still pretty filled with anxiety about it. I knew this was a much bigger and more demanding ride. I did have that ride going for me because I was fresh off that conditioning, so I knew I still was pretty strong. It also taught me a lot and showed me certain things that worked and didn’t work – such as having to have my saddle cut out under my sit bones. I also learned via my physical therapy sessions that it demands about 35% more work from my body for the same results as a cyclist with both legs. I have to train and eat accordingly. I’ve learned to take care of myself and learned down time is really a healing force. Because, it is difficult not to ride when a beautiful day dawns.
Two days ago I was starting with a group around 5:30 for the Saturday ride. I was so tired, yet I was so excited and unsure. This ride demanded so much of me and it took me longer than I wanted it to; but, it didn’t matter. Each difficult pedal stroke was joy. It represented all these years of the unknown. I didn’t know if I could have a sport where I could really push myself, be outdoors and feel the freedom I do with cycling. This past Saturday taught me so much about myself. I had more people wishing me well, wanting to speak with me, shake my hand, pose with me for a picture than I could imagine. It’s unexpected. I don’t do this for anything but wanting to really feel what I can accomplish. This was one of the best experiences of my life. To many people, it’s another century type ride in the season. To me, it was a huge event. I knew dropping out wasn’t an option. I registered to finish. I’m a different person than when I started riding this winter. I’m a different person than I was before July rolled around. And, I’m certainly a stronger, more confident person from riding The Triple Bypass. I am grateful to be able to enjoy this. I embrace it for so many reasons and it gives me such satisfaction and joy. Seeing the Colorado Rockies has been one of my life’s favorite things from a young age; to be able to ride through them on a bicycle is mind-blowing. I can tell you that The Double Triple is on my radar for next year.
Santa Fe, NM
Karol wanted to give a shout-out to her bike shop: SpinDoc – to Kirk and Chandler, the owners who got her into this mess to begin with!