First off, I would like to dispel any rumors that I am dead. T’was only a flesh wound!
In fact, I have not been on a bike in a very long time… probably over six months. This will seem odd, as I run a bicycling website and own three-and-a-half (still counting The Shogun, darnit!) bikes. But a combination of things is responsible for this sad period of inactivity, and like many difficult situations, everything sort of built upon itself as time went on.
First off, I got sick. Now, if you have spent several years following me (and who hasn’t, really? At least in spirit?), you know this is not an unusual occurrence. I have described a few whopper-doosies of illnesses before, including dedicating a page of this site to my chronic illness. So what was different this time? Well, let’s start with that chronic illness.
I should note, before I go any further, that my disease name has changed. I used to have “Benign Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.” Now I have “Joint Hypermobility Syndrom/Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type.” Because that just makes it so much clearer!
Among the many things that JHS/HEDS (no, really) causes are subluxations. This is sort of like a dislocation, but less severe because it mostly corrects itself. Think of pulling your joint out of the socket and then immediately popping it back in, like snapping the shoulder joint on an old-fashioned doll whose joints are connected with rubber bands.
I’m showing my age, aren’t I?
I’ve had a few subluxations over the years, mostly to my fingers and toes. They resolved quickly, leaving just bruises and swelling. But this winter, something new happened. I threw my left shoulder out… in my sleep. Unlike past subluxations to minor joints, this didn’t resolve itself. I had to have it popped back into place (which makes it a dislocation? I think?). Then it popped out again. And again. For several weeks, my shoulder dislocated or subluxated every night.
My disease comes in phases. After a few weeks of popping out constantly, my shoulder decided to stay in place. But then the numbness began. My entire left arm started tingling and then loosing sensation. My right hand soon joined in the fun, though it was never as bad. I lost feeling in my fingers, particularly my thumb. My feet also began to experience long periods of burning and numbness. The area between my shoulders became a wall of burning pain. With the pain came chronic fatigue, nausea and lethargy. I found it hard to get up in the morning and get going. I stopped doing any exercise, for fear of more pain. I gained nearly 15 pounds over the winter, sitting on the couch and moping (okay, I was working, too). On the plus side, I watched a lot of British television!
They look vaguely disapproving, don’t you think? Like: “Bloody Americans, wasting their lives away like stupid twats.”
As the numbness and burning increased, so did my sense of physical dislocation from my body. This began as a vague surprise that my hand was responding to my brain’s commands, and progressed until I felt as though my brain were the only “real” part of myself, and the rest existed only as a sort of fleshy suit.
At no point did this remind me of Silence of the Lambs, or anything.
Needless to say, it was unnerving. I spent months dealing with all of it, including visiting several doctors. In the end, no one was sure what was going on (it was not the result of an obvious candidate, like MS), but the symptoms have eased up a bit the last few months. I started to feel better about a month ago. The fatigue lingers, but even that is slowly lessening as the seasons change. The fact that this has been one of Seattle’s rainiest winters has not helped.
So it took awhile, but I was finally ready to ride. I’m working odd hours: part-time at a local high school and part-time tutoring privately. This leaves me with lots of daylight to burn. I first tried to go for a ride a week ago, but after spending 45 minutes angrily tearing up the garage looking for my pump, I discovered that it was in the trunk of The Handsome Fella’s car. Since he was at work, this was not good news. I drove to the store and bought another cheap pump, since I have always found my current pump hard to use. Then I drove to the trailhead, and learned that my new tires and tubes… had Presta valves. I couldn’t find an adapter. I decided that the Fate I Don’t Believe In was conspiring against me (shut up, I know it’s illogical!). I drove home and sat on the couch. I may have watched a movie featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t actually remember what I did, but statistically, that’s a reasonable guess at the moment.
Today, however, I had new adapters from REI (a reputable source!) and a sunny day and time. I set out to pump up my tires.
The new pump broke within seconds, collapsing into a ridiculously twisted hunk of useless metal. I probably should have foreseen this, as it cost less than $12, but I live in eternal cheapness and optimism. Fortunately, I had the old pump back, and as it was not $12 to begin with, it held up to, you know, pumping stuff. But then, I couldn’t get the adapter to work. I was perplexed. Was I doing something wrong? I tried YouTubing what to do, but the video tutorials were surprisingly involved for such a simple operation. I found myself more confused than when I started. Again, forty-five minutes later (I could have ridden The Raleigh, you understand, which has Schrader valves like any sensible bicycle should, but I was On A Mission by this point), I was shrieking with frustration. Were all my pumps broken? Was there something wrong with the valves? Was I destined to sit, alone, on the damned couch, watching poncy English actors?
Then it occurred to me that it might be the adapter. Now, many of you will have seen a Presta adapter. It looks like a screw, essentially. There are no moving parts or rubber gaskets to fail. It screwed neatly onto the valve, like it was supposed to, and fit neatly into the pump. It just seemed unreasonable that the adapter was the issue. But the REI pack came with two, so I figured it was worth breaking out the other one.
Five minutes later, I had pumped up both tires and thrown away the faulty adapter. Then I opened up my saddle bag and my Emergency Zip Lock Full of Crap… and there was another adapter. I had owned one all along.
There may have been some anger.
At this point, there was nothing for it but to head out onto the damn trail and let bicycle bygones by bygones. I chose the Cedar River Trail, as it was close to my house and flat and I was a: 45 minutes behind schedule and b: pathetically out of shape.
It was beautiful. The bike performed perfectly, the trail was near empty, and the sun shone the entire time. There was nothing to complain about, and nothing really to note. I didn’t have any trouble hitting sixteen miles (though I noted that I was significantly slower than in My Prime), and my butt only hurt a little bit at the end. My saddle had not grown magically less annoying, but I suppose that after six months, I had to expect some level of discomfort no matter what. Otherwise, it was the same trail I remembered, with a few added smiles from the rider in question.
It was glorious and vaguely anti-climatic, all at once. Much like my blog! And my life!
Most importantly, the tires stayed pumped!