After over two weeks on the road I have come to learn that things do not always go according to plan. Over the course of a cross country bike trip, these are the tests that either make you or break you.
Today began with the intention of biking 118 miles to Shoshone Wyoming from Cody Wyoming. We woke up early as we knew how long this many miles could take, especially right after a day as taxing as the one we had yesterday. From the moment I woke up, I did not have a good feeling regarding today's trip.
Over the last week, my body, the vehicle that I rely upon to move me closer to home day after day, has been my greatest challenge. Patellar tendinitis has ravaged me knees, making cycling very difficult. Ibuprofen, ice, knee braces -- these have become a daily routine, integrated with the already challenging cycling schedule. Despite these efforts, the same pain continues to create havoc day after day.
Today was particularly special. Leaving the campground, every revolution my pedals made around the gears was met with sharp, shooting pain. After about a mile, we reached the center of town and quickly our first climb of the day. All I could think about was the number of miles we had planned for today. The task became seemingly more impossible.
Like most mornings, I continued to truck through the pain. Eventually, we made it to the main route that would take us to Shoshone and began a steady climb. Every cycle of the pedals was met with a cycle of pain, doubt, and anger in my mind. After a few hundred feet, I felt it necessary to admit to Greg how bad the problem was.
Venting was helpful, and I soon found the motivation to continue on, but the pain was unavoidable and it was only a few hundred feet before needing to stop again.
The first of many thoughts came to mind. "Change the seat height!".
A hundred feet further, "change the cleat placement".
A hundred feet further, "try sneakers instead of biking shoes". I was becoming lost, and my thoughts more irrational. It felt like a nightmare -- trapped. I called my father. Was this going to be the end of the trip?
It wasn't long until my disappointment became anger. Anger towards my body, my bike -- anything that I could rationalize as being a part of the problem. I also felt like I was a let down to Greg. Dead weight keeping him from doing a task he would not have much difficulty performing on his own. This concoction of thoughts was poisonous, but it was the only emotion I could pull from to get back on the bike.
Greg was incredibly supportive and eventually, we made the decision that we would ride back in to Cody. It felt like failure, and I was at fault. We found a mcdonalds and I began to settle down, but still the question lingered... Could I continue?
Thinking of how to make the day productive, we decided to go to a local bike shop and see if I could have my bike adjusted to help alleviate some of the problem. The guys at the shop were incredibly helpful, and got my hope soreing high -- but that was only the first of positive things to come.
In the shop we met another cycler who was traveling from Portland OR to New York City. Upon sharing our stories, I learned that he was an emergency medicine physician, and was riding as a way to heal after loosing his fiancé about a year ago. I found him inspiring. He understood the difficulties, both physical and emotional, of such an intense goal, and used those as his drive to become a stronger person. For me, this was incredibly eye opening. For the first time, I saw that it is not the miles that makes the trip impressive and incredible, but the will-power that makes the miles a reality.
Sometimes, when we are at our lowest moments, we are most open to change -- and this was the mindset I needed to continue. After some tips on how to wrap and take care of the knees, I was determined to make the next day more successful, but I had to be smart about it. At the end of the day, our bodies and our minds determine how much further we can go, and these faculties must be taken care of appropriately. With the support of all our friends, families, and followers -- I am determined to pickup the bike tomorrow and try again.