SPOILER ALERT: this is all about me. It's up front and personal. Um, er, and it might possibly be ever so slightly NSFW, too, but only for a brief moment. It's nothing new, so if you've been here before you can skip that bit.
|Velopalooza 2015 Pop Up Performance ride - the bellydancing stop|
I raced and I trained and I trained and I raced.
|My happy place. This is way better than drugs.|
|2nd overall on the Vets ride: my proudest moment to date.|
I was pretty chuffed with my progress this year, and believe it or not, I was doing everything I could to minimize my risks on the bike. Seriously. I even left races and rides if it got a little sketchy or if I was feeling off in any way. I missed a lot of great miles with the Vets that I would have fought hard to stay in for last year, just cause I knew the consequences of a mistake at those speeds. Saved myself grief a few times, for sure. I was really happy to be doing what I love, and I was thrilled to be writing about bikes and cycling for work, too. Sounds perfect, right? In theory.
I almost didn't care that nobody actually likes me.
Why can't you post spokeNscene on Reddit, for example? Hmmm? You can find my legs on websites all over the place, but I wrote to a couple of them and nobody even bothered to answer back. So lots of folks seem to like my legs, but you won't find a lot of people talking about spokeNscene, nor asking about the bicycle enhanced lifestyle that made those legs happen. People are so strange.
|Hated at large|
Seriously, why are there only 100 of you? And though this isn't about politics I just have to mention to you my peeps the absurd whenever I see it. But then I try to share all of the stuff that matters, not just the stoopid crap our government is doing, all of those crazy, frightening things Harper and his minions have been up to, things which put everybody's future security in jeopardy. Did you think I was exagerating when I talked about Stephen Harper's enemy of the state list, and how environmental activists are on it?? We're all potential homegrown terrorists, or so they say. Don't you think that's BATSHIT CRAZY?? Why aren't people protesting in the streets over the dirty game our government is constantly playing? Why can't people see how downright criminal it is? Why can't we all agree that the planet has a right to life? It's not rocket science. But given thier faulty premise, it makes perfect sense that the federal government doesn't like me, and if that's what it takes to play on The Lorax's team, count me in. I'm good with the Feds hating me if they hate everybody who cares about the planet.
And it's not just the feds, either. On a day by day, living life on the streets, it's patently obvious that a lot of drivers actually hate that I am on the roads. One man used his car to intimidate and scare me yesterday, and then he nearly ran into a group of pedestrians on fourth and vine immediately there after. But then, you'll see that sort of thing once in a while from a velo-perspective. It used to really bother me, but do you know what?
I turned over a new leaf, I am learning to let it go. It just can't touch me any more. You can't spend most of your life being hated by almost everybody without becoming at least a little bit numb to it. I give up, give in. Let go.
|July's sky, 2015: thick with smoke.|
The thing is that spokeNscene is simmering under the surface of things. It's just, well... you know. Time. There are so many important things I want to talk to you about. I want to tell you Don's story, and the history of one of my very favourite Little Bike Shop, or (LBS) Ride on Again, whose link you'll find on this very page. I want to talk to you about how Donny got his start, and about how he rescues old and unused bikes and fixes em up. How he has this amazing crew of people working at his stores, people who work hard to give you what you need at a great price. Plus the service. The service is amazing. The wrench boys are rock solid and they have a great turn around time. It's a sweet little shop, and the place I bring all of my new-to-cycling friends who want an introduction to the world on two wheels. It's also where I go for almost anything I might need as a racer. They don't carry a lot of high end components, but they'll order them in at a great price, so it's worth a day or two's wait, at least in my books. Straight shooting. I love this place.
|my big, fat, 20 lb too big!! arse|
|Lynskey Ti Bike, Campy components, by Ed at Mighty Riders. He's an artist.|
Funny how the universe works, isn't it? K, so I was raised Catholic. Mostly I got over it, though I do think I would make a GREAT Pope. Some little thoughts and parables sort of stuck around, rattling about in this wee tiny mind palace. One my favourite bits of the scriptures is "Knock and the door will be opened unto you, seek and ye shall find." I knock: all the time. I asked the universe to help me find work as a bicycle blogger. It's my passion. And here we are, my ask answered, my seek found. How cool is that?? I am a lucky, lucky girl. Seriously. I love that I can work from home at this time. I love my life.
And yet. There is ALWAYS a Yet, isn't there? The Gods have a bold sense of humour, for sure. Over the years, I've heard their laughter again and again, and I can most definitely hear it now. It is ironic. As strong and powerful as its muscles are, this body of mine is even more vulnerable and weak on the inside.
It's my fault. I neglected the bouncing for decades and now that mistake has come home to roost. Never mind. I never knew... and it's ok anyway. I can fix it, and maybe quickly if I do it right. I gave up alcohol. Well. Almost entirely. For years I consoled myself that though I can't have coffee or chocolate I can still drink a glass of wine with dinner. Very funny. My impact-free lifestyle has made me much, much more susceptible to fracturing than most people. Bikes have been my wheelchairs for many many years, and suddenly (or so it seems) I am ridiculously fragile. That No Impact EDS lifestyle is having a huge impact on my overall health. Yes, I have broken again, this time a collarbone and a rib. And at the same time, my immune system is weakened, almost non existant. It's that I'm ... well... falling apart. (Cue shingles and months of antibiotic use to fight a series of infections. Yuck.) The Gods are laughing cause as much as I am fired up and ready to advocate for cycling safety and infrastructure expansion, my body instead has me laid up and waiting on healing.
Sure you're thinking that I am a klutz, a spaz, and just generally, ridiculously uncoordinated, and in part you're right. But it's oh so much more than that. My body has gone into full meltdown.
This is not Who I Am. I never catch a cold, nor the flu, I haven't called in sick in many, many years, even though I am and always have been vulnerable to all of the little things that most folks don't bat an eye at. At 16, a staph ulcer erupted and left a purple heart scar on my left hip. Staph is in soil and doesn't affect most people, but I have had those skin melting infections a few times. Very strange. I catch the baby diseases like hand foot and mouth. I blister when I eat chocolate or drink coffee, and the list of items my body reacts to is growing. Crazy.
Connective tissue is central to healthy organs and the vascular system, too. It's not all musculoskeletal, though it's easy to see how that system's health and wellness is dependent upon strong connective tissue. This article about Caroline Smith will tell you a little bit about what it's like to live with EDS, and how thoroughly it can affect every aspect of a person's life. Everyone with EDS has neck issues. Many of us require fusion of the vertebrae protecting the spinal column. I have herniated discs in many places along the spine and will most definitely require stabilization surgery of some sort sooner or later.
It's an invisible disability, but it is every bit as taxing as it would be if I were back in a wheelchair. I look very healthy, so you would never in a million years label me disabled if you met me off the street. Well, not unless you see me in a sling
or a neck brace or ski poles or some other form of body support. I am like half baked china. I crumble and break.
The internet has seen my arse all banged up a few times but nobody would ever, ever look at me and assume that I am disabled. Someone accused me of not understanding how serious a business bike racing really is. He meant it. I wondered if he could possibly understand how very well I understand the risks, and I tried not to laugh at the irony. He could never possibly understand how even a slight mishap can quickly become very painful for me.
|Gratuitous ass shot. Daddy always said you have to play to your assets.|
|Meditation gives you another perspective, whatever your situation.|
I like to meditate, in stillness and in movement too. Every conscious breath counts, right? Wherever, whenever, whatever you're doing, it's probably a good moment to be still, conscious and aware. It's always a good time to be alert. I love to be conscious, aware, though rare is that moment of pure, conscious awareness. It's good practise to meditate in a queue or waiting for an appointment, or at least it is for me, because those are the moments when I am most inclined to give in to ego, and become frustrated, out of sorts. It's surprising how quickly those moments add up; what a boon to have spent them in a moment's peace instead of that more self important state of stress and anxiety. If only I had the sage's sense of inner tranquility by nature, so that I wouldnl't have to wage an eternal battle with my big ego. It's an ironic battle, that: the crusade for inner peace.
It's always appropriate to breathe deep into your belly, to relax and seek clarity. Always, and never is it more needed than when you feel you don't possibly have even one moment to spare for anything else. Time is the one thing we can't commoditize (is that a word?) perhaps because it actually is pricesless. Nobody likes to wait, right? That's what makes a long commute so soul destroying! (unless, say you're doing something you absolutely love to do as you're commuting. An avid reader might just adore the long train ride in to the city from Coquitlam, and this mutard loves a good ride first thing in the morning, any and every season of the year.) I don't actually suffer time thieves well, but anger actually suppresses the immune systems. Bikes rock because all of that daily travel time is also a moving meditation time, personal improvement time. I admire those people who handle their life's challenges with out that battle to get to calm acceptance. Adore one of em. You know, the kind of folks who quietly get on with doing what needs to be done, without swearing, or anything. Meditation helps with all of that lymph robbing anger
Certain people think that since I am fit, I am just "putting it on," EDS can't possibly be all that bad if I can ride like that. This assumption is patently ridiculous, and never more so than when the Para Pan Am Games are happening. Worse still are the people who think that I should stop riding, that it is too dangerous. Sigh.
Any time you want to talk to me about the real danger on our roads, please yes. Let's. In the mean time, trust me, exercise is good for me and I do actually know what I am doing, Bikes are my mobility, doing away with them entirely is unthinkable, at least for here and now. But they are so much more than mobility. They are medicine, and the good they do for me is good for you, too. Don't knock it till you've lived it.
I wonder if people remember Olga the Magnificent and the things we learned about ageing through her. Fitness is the very cornerstone of my health and wellness. Bodies Ehlers is progressive and degenerative, and I have to do everything I can to battle the ravages of age.
It's how I fight back.
I battle unstable joints with stabilizing muscles. A wheelchair is already quietly waiting in the shadows. Well, actually it's hiding in my bikes. but those bikes are also poerful medicine. Riding a bike stimulates the produciton of the happy chemicals you get from a good workout, And, they trigger the same chemicals as many of the prescription medications I am so often prescribed, too. I haven't yet suffered many of the worst aspects of the disease, (namely the episodes which involve internal bleeding and trigger the horrible seizures which are my mum's contribution to my interesting genetic combination.) because I learned to listen to my body's signals. I stay as fit as possible because I learned long ago that the fitter I am the better I feel. Serotonin, Dopamine, Endorphins, all of the brain's happy chemicals tend to flee the brain cursed with chronic and extreme pain. Riding long and hard is the best prescription for re-balancing the happy juice. I groove on that happy juice. Always have.
The honest to goodness truth is that I can't tell the difference between the high I feel from the combination of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and -hopefully daily!- oxytocin (wink wink nudge nudge:) that I get from a red-line workout, and that state of euphoria that makes oxyxontin such a dangerous street drug. They are one and the same reaction in my brain. I often experience extreme pain. I always have and likely always will. That is why I am so well aquainted with the various types of pain relief as offered by the western medical institutions, as well as by the naturopathic and homeopathic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, ayurvedic, herbal, and I even shamanic disciplines.
Sometimes people ask if I am a doctor. I love that. Nope, I am the opposite.
I love doctors, though. and they usually quite enjoy me. Not sure exactly why, but I hear it all the time. My doctor actually thanked me one day he said cause it's always interesting when I come to visit. Never a dull day, he said and he sees a LOT of me. (This is the MD who practices a form of ND and truly heals me.) Perhaps it's because I am that strange and unusual rare condition they studied in med school, come to life. The geneticists who diagnosed me were delighted with my competitive cycling lifestyle, insisting that it is the best way I might have managed to delay the degenerative damage this damned condition has scheduled for my joints, discs, valves and assorted connective tissues.
I have very limited mobility off of a bike because of the damage EDS has already done to my spine, and my hips, but on a bike I can go forever, or so it seems. EDS is a ruthless task master, Just when I figured I had worked out the best balance of life, well, just then twenty five or thirty years of an impact-free lifestyle came home to roost, and suddenly I am too brittle deep down inside, and very fragile. Another challenge, another adaptation. Now I bounce every day, to build my bone density and repair my immune system. It's an important aspect of babble's health K.I.S,S, (that's Keep It Simple, Stupid). Do you remember? I mentioned it last year... I have neglected the second aspect for far too long, but as a checklist the KISS list stands: Move, Bounce, Breathe, Purify, Love a lot, Laugh, and Sleep.
The only problem with the KISS list is that it doesn't address how to address the repercussions of NOT living well for a while. It isn't just the bouncing. I have been taking prescription medications of some sort almost continually since my big crash in June 2014. My body is not happy. Stressed and overweight and burdened with toxic substances. What a combination. I have a way to go before I feel as if I am on top of my game again, but at least I know how to get there from here. And every step of the way is an honour, a blessing. Every day above ground is a good day. Even a hotter than hades, hell-fire-infused, smoke-infested summers' day above ground is much better than the inevitable-for-everyone-eventually, six feet under alternative, right?
Living well is all I'm trying to share via spokeNscene. Sure, it's personal sometimes, but it's also inclusive. If you don't like it, then join the club and just click away. You'll be in great company. Promise I won't take it personally, but I do think you're crazy, you're playing on the wrong side of history. It's good this way of living, good for you and good for your community, too. And again, I've already made almost all of the mistakes it's possible to make, and have learned by them. Ha! I know more than a person really should about altogether too many vices, but I also know the way to an honest to goodness great way of living. There is a huge difference between knowing and doing though. My life actually depends upon taking the best steps forward from here, so you know which path I am on. Please do follow along with me. Give it a go. It's fun. I promise. C'mon... you know you wanna.
|big big babs, hitting the trail|
So... think about joining me on an adventure, will you? Let's see if we can't seek peak performance on the bike path to world peace. I will be back soon with a few of my favourite foods. Till then, keep spinning, and stay tuned. I'll leave you with a video of the whale we saw here in Kits a couple of nights ago, and with any luck, we'll meet again soon.