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I didn’t expect to love riding my bike around the city streets. I didn’t expect to feel like a kid again (ever, forget while pedaling through NYC). I didn’t expect to draw parallels between what I loved about running and what I have come to appreciate about biking.

But I do. All of these things, I do.

I am not a fast cyclists. I am not a pretty cyclist. I am not fearless, or graceful. I still use my left foot to give me a push or two when I get going from a complete stop. Pretty much every other cyclist on the road passes me. Every now and then I get to pass a really old guy on a rickety bike, or some dry cleaning delivery guy pedaling a wagon full of button shirts up a hill on First Avenue, but then I just feel like a heel.

After work today I pedaled from my office at Fulton & Broadway to meet my man for dinner at 55th & 6th. I went up the West Side Greenway in my black pencil skirt, wedge sandals, and belted blouse. This is not normally how I dress while on my bike, but I couldn’t very well turn up at a fancy French restaurant in technical fabrics. After two glasses of rose and the best damn profiteroles I’ve ever eaten, I put on my shorts and t-shirt and headed home across my bridge. Yesterday I got my bike tuned up. so she’s silent and smooth again. In the dark, with just my blinky lights, I feel like a submarine slipping through the water, silent and stealthy.

Here is where the biking intersects with the running: the freedom. When I’m on my bike, I feel like I could pedal anywhere. I feel strong, and powerful, and intrepid. I can pedal to Coney Island! I can pedal to the Bronx! I can pedal to the beach! I can change course in the middle of my trip home and go somewhere else! This is how I felt when I was a runner. Sure, normally I ran in a big circle, but I knew that in case of whimsy or emergency, I could run to brunch at Park Slope if I missed my friend, or home from work if the subway was derailed. My body could do it, my spirit could do it. When I’m on my bike, nearly any destination seems possible.

On Sundays, I ride from Queens to Manhattan and spend the day popping around the city running errands, meeting appointments, and exploring. Admittedly, I enjoy the scenery and placid roads when I ride through Vermont, Pennsylvania, or the Jersey Shore, but roaming the city streets on my wheels, with all of my senses in high alert, is just so satisfying. New York City is mine! I live here so ardently that I must personally propel myself from place to place.

Another thing happened tonight on my ride home that made me want to write on this blog again. As I was pedaling over my bridge, I encountered an old feeling. Over the rails to my left, the East River stretched around Roosevelt and Randalls Islands. The water was shiny and variegated, like a bolt of black satin that had been gathered up and left in a heap. The city lights glinted off the tips of the waves. Traffic groaned past me on the north side of the bridge. These details are so familiar in all of their various ways that my heart swells with joy at their mutability. I was filled with a profound sense of well-being. Through sun and fog, dawn and dusk, on foot or on bike, making this crossing under my own power is a reminder of all that is good in my life.

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Lest you misinterpret the aforementioned Pu Pu platter approach to a movement program I’ve cooked up for myself–a little bit of swimming, a little bit of stationary biking, a little bit of PTing–I feel the need to list the reasons why it is NOT my bid to become a triathlete.

  1. I deliberately chose the word “movement” instead of “fitness.” I’m not expecting 45 minutes of biking thrice a week and 30 minutes of swimming twice a week to approximate the glorious endurance I had in January.
  2. There is no way I will ever bike on the city streets or in Central Park. I am not afraid of death, but there’s no reason to stand in front of it and make faces.
  3. Gear. I hate gear, and I even dislike acquiring non-gear items, a.k.a stuff, property, space-takers and dust-collectors. I do not want to own tri gear. Period.
  4. Race fees. Ridik!
  5. Multisport training seems like a logistical nightmare that would cut into time I allot to other things, like making ice cream, drinking wine, sleeping, and drinking wine.
  6. I still can’t run, eliminating a critical part of the triathlon’s athletic, um, triumvirate.

I haven’t told you about my exciting and romantic bike crash! I will tell you, as it will illuminate Why-I-Won’t-Tri (take that pun or leave it, I don’t really care) Reason #2.

I was riding a borrowed Schwinn 3-speed along the meandering Marvin Braude Bike Trail that runs along the Los Angeles beaches. It was the first hour of my vacation. I was set up in a friend’s beachfront apartment, the sun was shining, it was a Saturday afternoon and the beaches were teeming with happy, relaxed people. I was one of them, grinning from ear to ear as I took it all in, feeling free and easy (#twss). I rode all the way to the Manhattan Beach Pier and was nearly back at my friend’s apartment when I broke entirely too hard. The bike stopped and fell to the right, while I kept going.

I landed hard, and ended up with huge bleeding scrapes on my right palm and inner elbow. My right leg and hip, and the inside of my left knee, were pretty banged up and bleeding, too.

Immediately two guys who were playing soccer came dashing over to help me up and make sure I wasn’t badly hurt. Aw. Once they saw I was well enough to walk myself home they sent me on my way.

The chain had been knocked off the gears, so I wheeled the bike into a bike rental joint that was luckily right nearby. They not only fixed the chain but were so alarmed at my gashes they sent me straight over to the lifeguards to get bandaged.

That’s right: LIFEGUARDS.

Did you know* that in Los Angeles the lifeguards are part of the fire department?

That’s right: FIREMEN.

I would have much preferred to have had a one-on-one encounter with a lifeguard/fireman while wearing heels and a maneater dress rather than showing up with bloody palms and knees, but hey, sometimes we take what we can get. In this case, I was mostly grateful that there was someone to give me basic first aid (if not mouth-to-mouth). Mostly. I would have been 100% grateful if he hadn’t been wearing that windbreaker. Abs are nice, she said.

Anywhoo. More than a week later and the wounds on my hand and arm still haven’t healed enough for me to get back into the pool. The bummers are: 1) I had to miss last night’s swim lesson, 2) my cheap one-month pool pass is now an expensive two-week pool pass, and 3) I showed up for a date that Monday with black and blue legs and bandages on my arm.

So kids, what have we learned here today? 1) Everyone wins when there is neither facial nor cranial damage in a bike crash. 2) I will never bike in the city, or even in the country on a fancy bike that goes fast. 3) Lifeguards are always better without their windbreakers on. 4) TK needs to break her habit of objectifying men.

¡Viva la bicicleta estática!

*And if you knew, why didn’t you tell me this amazing fact?

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So what if it’s been six and a half months since I could run? So what if it’s been six and a half months since my favorite dresses and pants fit me properly? So fucking what, indeed.* It’s not like I’m a cripple, or a cow. I’m still mobile and beautiful. (Also smart, funny, helpful–and did I mention humble?)

Honestly, this tale of woe about my plantar fasciits and “inability” to exercise has gotten pretty [insert profanity of your choice here] boring. Whah whah whah? It’s more, “Blah blah blah.” STFU, TK. Get over your shit and do something.

It’s not like you can’t. Not knowing what or how is no reason to ignore the problem. Heck, you didn’t know how to get a divorce or change a destructive pattern of behavior but you figured those things out and are happier for it.

I get it, TK. I remember what you’re like. Nothing happens until you are completely and utterly done with whatever the bullshit is.

So finally you have given up on the stubborn insistence that you have no viable options over your pernicious case of plantar fasciitis. Good! It only took six and a half months, that’s nothing compared with how long you used to put up with asshead boyfriends, two-faced friends, and your numb reliance on all sorts of vices to escape from imperfection.

Since no one’s perfect, you’re off the hook TK. The days of all or nothing are far behind you, which means: a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

We like that lawn a whole lot better, now don’t we.

So: swim a little, PT a little, use the bike at the gym a little. Who cares if you’re not good at anything? At least you’re moving. Have a little less wine, and your little bit of dairy can come in the form of your homemade ice cream.

Now get after it, before I kick your ass.

*If I use “fucking,” do you think the “indeed” is redundant?

IT’S ALL NOW TO YOU/THERE AIN’T NO BEFORE. — Elliott Smith

 

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Then.

Back then, you believed I could be faster.

You got me. I know, because of how you encouraged me.

You inspired me to write love letters, and post them publicly.

You not only ran with me, you stood next to me.

You pulled me forward.

Running. Running. I never thought you’d be the love of my life.

You are surprising.

But: what now, that I can’t have you?

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National Running Day

On this, National Running Day, I have this to say: I am taking up swimming.

I use my training log solely as a place to track my weight.

My Garmin 405 has sat uncharged on my desk for months. Tonight I’ll finally hide its blank-faced shame in my dresser.

Running shoes are now my fashion faux pas. As in: worn with a skirt, all day long, at the office.

For half a year I’ve told myself I would heal up quickly. I refused to be resentful, complaining, impatient. I cheerfully went to PT; I swung on the elliptical and read manuscripts. I thought, time not spent running can be dedicated to other projects. I tried to see my forced benching as an opportunity to look elsewhere, not as a view from the sidelines.

In reality, I slept in, worked longer hours, and drank more red wine.

I can no loner push aside the pangs of longing I feel when friends tell me about races and training. When men and women ran by me during my two weeks in Italy, it was like a punch in the nose: it stung, and brought tears to my eyes. I was a foreigner, and the single most connecting thing I could have done in Italy was denied me. It was my only remorse while there.

I am done with eating salads and teetotaling and still being 10 pounds too big for most of my clothes.

God fucking dammit I want to fucking run. I want to run far, at a clip, without any pain. I want my heart to pound. I want to feel the wind in my face. I want to get up in the dark and run through dawn. I want to feel my lungs get bigger from use. I want my eyes to sting with sweat and sunblock. I want my pigtails to become whips from tangles and perspiration.

I certainly don’t want to be listed as “non-running captain” of my relay team–yet I am. I certainly don’t want to consider never running again–yet I am. I certainly don’t want to never again feel the buzzy, numb, wrung-out elation of the final mile of a distance race run at maximum–yet it’s been so long, I wonder if I didn’t imagine it.

On today, National Running Day, I tell you this: anyone who says they run to stay in shape is a fucking liar. Either that, or they’re not a runner.

End. Of. Story.

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I would like to write about running. But I haven’t run since mid-January, and have no expectation to run until August. So I have nothing to say to Running except for:

Running, I miss you! I miss you so much. I miss the way, when we’d spend time together. I’d feel so talented, smart, funny and beautiful.I miss the way you used to make me laugh, and how we’d get all sweaty together. I miss how, after a good workout, I’d feel all sassy and omnipotent, hopped up just by being around you. I loved spending time with you–you are so interesting, and you totally “got” me. But mostly, I miss the way you’d make me feel special, and like you loved me more than anyone else.

Wait.

I think I got my love letters confused.

Actually, no.

Fuck you, Running! You fickle bastard.

Here’s another thing. Turns out, love is infinite. So even though I might be ignoring Running now (well, it’s more like this: I’m not returning Running’s calls or texts because it’s just.too.painful to go there), but I can nevertheless feel Running’s love for me. I know Running loves me, the way Running loves her, and him, and you, and you and yes even you, you lazy slob. Running loves us ALL because love is infinite! Love just creates more love.

Running has room for everyone. Even the runners who are so injured and depressed that then can’t run at all. Even when all we can do is tweet stupid shit and drink lots of wine and work 12-hour days and make ice cream, Running still loves us. Because Running knows that as long as it keeps the love there, we will turn back towards it, one day.

I prefer to turn towards love. Even when injured! Even when blogging under the influence of 750 mililiters of prosecco. Even when shopping for size 8 clothes when I’m usually a 4. (That’s when I really need love.)

Being injured sucks, but it doesn’t mean we are abandoned. Running’s love still stands, waiting and ready.

Also: did I mention I’m going to be living in a castle in Italy in a week’s time?

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Craving, and Waving

My days of gazing longingly at the grass on the other side of the fence are gone. (I can grow my own goddamn grass. That’s a metaphor; I’m actually a shitty gardener.) My old hobby of staring into the abyss named “Things I Do Not Have” has since been replaced with observing the absolutely crazy abundance in my life. (Do I even deserve half these material gifts, half these remarkable people who pull me into their lives? The answer is irrevelant; instead I say please and thank you.)

Sometimes though a craving will come upon me for things that I simply can’t get for myself, and there’s nothing to do but ride it out. For example, the soft safety of laying in the crook of a beloved’s arm, not needing to see his face because instead I can feel his heart beating. Or, running so hard and fast I feel like a piston, my heart, lungs and legs all working together to hurl me with such force I become the motion. Or, waking up with the calm mind and the blank slate of a woman who’s got it all taken care of.

This is where reality gently waves at me, and coos, “Patience.” Today, on my drive from the Poconos, I saw a sign for an amusement park called The Land of Make Believe. Indeed? I drove faster. When I got home, I went for a run. It was pretty brutal. My lungs were burning nearly every step of the 2.5 miles, and I couldn’t wait to stop. I was ungainly. I got through the “run” by imagining various scenarios in which my plantar fasciitis-riddled feet would no longer be a problem.

  • Scenario #1: I am the Wicked Witch of the East, and Dorthy Gale’s house falls on me. I am finally put out of my misery when my feet curl up on themselves and retract beneath the house, once and for all behaving with the appropriate shame of retreat.
  • Scenario #2: In a Terminator-meets-Bionic Woman operation, my feet are lopped off and replaced with feet of liquid metal that not only withstand repetitive impact but are indifferent to hot sand or cold ice. I become known as “The Molten Runner.”
  • Scenario #3: While in Umbria for my vacation this May I visit Assissi and by being in proximity to holy relics my pain and injury are spontaneously removed by a merciful, Catholic and Italian god. Miraculous, and convenient; I begin carbo loading immediately.

Despite these amusing fantasies, I’m waving at The Land of Make Believe as I pass on by. And to my craving, I say: you are legitimate, and I will come wake you up when your day has come.

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