Bicycle hazard sign, Portland OR, a photo by Salim Virji on Flickr.
In the past, I’ve kind of lumped together my “bike and swim phobia” as if they were equivalent. Having gone swimming yesterday, I am realizing that my feelings toward these two activities are in no way equal.
The swimming felt initially very refreshing and nice. At first, it felt good. Then I started getting tired and having breathing issues. But I feel confident that with some decent training, I will eventually get better at this sport and I am open to the idea (even looking forward to) of even one day enjoying it. I feel like chances are good that this could happen. I still have some anxiety that I’m going to have some major panic situation and drown during the tri, but hopefully I can manage my way (mentally) out of that idea. I did have a near-drowning experience in the Outer Banks of North Carolina when I was about 16. I was rescued by a bunch of sailors who made a human chain to rescue me against the riptide. I’ll never forget that experience and I’m hoping that this tri will be a way of “taking back” open-water swimming.
I also had a bike accident when I was 13. When I was little, starting around seven, I had a super cool bike with long handlebars and a banana seat. I used that bike to go all over my neighborhood to visit my friends. It was like having a car (independence!) in the 2nd grade. I feel such pity for the children who don’t have the freedom to do this nowadays. (including my own, who didn’t learn to ride literally until she was 16)
But when I was 13, a bunch of my friends were going for a bike ride. My friend (taller than me) let me borrow her bike (my own bike had been welded to a frame and transformed into an “exercise bike” in the basement). It wasn’t set at the right height and I remember the fear of not being able to touch the ground with my feet.
We were driving on the one trafficked street in our town, the “main street.” I remember swerving too close to a huge truck and losing my balance. I panicked and kind of flung myself (and bike) onto the ground in fear of running into it. I ended up landing UNDER the truck, and the bike was a twisted mess. I had gravel and concrete burns and ripped the skin off my whole leg from ankle to thigh. That was the last time I got on a bike for about 20 years. Since then, it’s been few and far between and I ONLY bike on bike trails that are flat and have no traffic. Or like they do in Golden Gate Park on Sundays – they close the road to traffic and let the skaters and cyclists have the road. That is my kind of biking. I’m not exactly sure what I”m going to do if we have to train on ROAD roads. I might need hynposis or something (I’m not kidding).
I have an almost hysterical fear and loathing of bicycles on roads where cars also drive. If I’m driving a car, I’m anxious that I’ll hit a biker. If I’m on a bike (hypothetical, since I’d never do this) I’m anxious about being hit. I have often said that I think that bikes on car roads should be illegal. I realize that this is a MUCH bigger mental obstacle than I’d realized and I’m going to have to deal with it if I’m going to accomplish this tri.
Mr McBody just went to pick up Junior’s bike so I can use it to start my training. Part of me is hoping it will fall off the back of the car and get crushed before he gets home. Gulp.
July 4, 2011 at 7:04 pm
Good LORD you inspire me Susan.
July 4, 2011 at 7:05 pm
Um are you serious? I am such a freaking nervous wreck right now!!!!!
July 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm
You inspire because you’re facing your fears!!! HUGE INSPIRATION!!!
I don’t want to exacerbate your bike-riding fears but I have the same ones because I too had a bad bike accident when I was a kid (around 11 or 12). I was side-swiped by a car….thankfully I wasn’t injured all that much. It could have been a whole lot worse.
I am looking forward to more posts!! More please 🙂
July 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm
I’m sorry had such a terrible experience and I’m glad you’re facing your fears. I want to assure you though, your accident when you were 13 wasn’t because you were on a road, it’s because the bike was too big for you. If you’re riding a bike that fits and you are able to control, you can manage the little complications of roads and hills and cars just fine.
FWIW, when I was in grad school, I used to bike to work, across the city (Washington, DC) through traffic. There were no bike lanes so I worked out a route with the least traffic and went with it. It was quicker than the bus and good exercise. One day, I was riding from my office to my University building at rush hour. I was run off the road by a taxi, and I broke my hand in the resulting accident. I also had road rash all over my face. I stopped riding to work, but I didn’t stop riding. When I lived in CA, I trained for and rode in a couple metric century bike races. All the training was done on roads, no trails. Some of the roads were pretty narrow and I had to learn to get over my fear of cars and trucks and share the road. In the end, although it seems counter-intuitive, to be safe on the road, you need to take up more of it. Don’t ride in the gutter, ride on the side of the road. You have a right to be there and a bike is a vehicle, just like every other vehicle on the road.
If you really believe bikes don’t belong on car roads, I don’t think you will do this. Once you realize bikes belong on roads as well as any other vehicle, and get a bike that is fit to you, you can do anything.
July 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm
Phobias…oh lordy do I know that heart stopping anxiety…I have it — honestly — with anything that pushes my heart rate up beyond high comfort. I have had many of the same fear induced stopping blocks…bicycles..last real time was as a teenager when I hit the brakes and flew over the handlebars and still have scars…my adult daughter fell off her bike at age 8 broke her arm and BOTH of us just got back on a bike last year..Both of us started off with a cruiser..no hand brakes..big seat..comfortable to ride slow on….(all was inspired by little princess getting over her fear of taking training wheels off)
Second fear…swimming pools…love to swim but emotional comments stopped me until last year…
and lastly tunnels, elevators, and any claustrophobic atmosphere…those I sing to myself to get me through it…
sorry for the long comment but the gist of it is…Susan..you can do this..small incremental steps…use your tools for preparing for one of your acts or even how you prepare your meals..just make it a plan on the bike. Start off on a track or a trail…then one block on the street…small easy steps.
July 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm
All of your comments are really really helping me! Thank you.
July 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Wow, you got material to make a galore of NSV!
July 5, 2011 at 11:10 am
You are so brave!!
July 5, 2011 at 11:15 am
You may surprise yourself once you get on that bike for the first time. I recently biked for the first time since my childhood and it was the most liberating thing I’ve done in awhile. Knowing I COULD do it and I didn’t FALL doing it was such a relief! I plan on picking up a used bike from my aunt this month!
July 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm
The bike is scary. For me, it’s maybe the scariest part of training. I like to bike but I don’t like sharing the road with cars. This gets easier the more you train though. I’m still in awe of bikers in my area that go out on the main roads and highways (I stay as local as possible), but I’m getting a little more comfortable and daring every time out. I’m just super-vigilant about the cars around me because I’m not so sure they are as careful about me.
Thank you for your comment on my TnT race report! I hope it didn’t scare you too much. The bottom line is I finished! And I have another race lined up.
If I can do this, so can you! If you ever need someone to panic with, just shoot me an email. You’ll be great!
July 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm
i didnt learn till i was in 3rd grade, partially because there was no good place for me to try and learn. once i did, i never was very good at it and the area around our house was hilly, not neighborhoody, so i just usually went on walks rather than rides. i havent ridden a bike prob since i was around a young 13 myself, though i never had an accident like you. i did used to get really nervous when i drove around bikes as well. i get nervous walking round bikes cuz theyre more likely to try to run me over. but i think that bikes are a better for the environment way to get around, so there need to be more bike lanes to make it safer for walkers/drivers when those scary bikers are around!