Sunday, July 26, 2009

No pain, no gain

Not long ago I was asked what my passion in life was. Other than God and family, I thought for a moment and answered cycling. While I am by no means an 'avid cyclist' (prior to my herniated disk diagnosis in January 2008 I averaged about 1000 miles per year; I know lots of guys who do 2 and 3 times that), I still receive great pleasure from a good bike ride. The strength and rhythm of a good cadence over a flat stretch, the sense of accomplishment after a decent climb and the sheer exhiliration of going downhill at 35 miles per hour ... these are feelings I can get nowhere else in my life. After a ride I always experience the 'runners high' affect (without the sore knees!), and my energy level and enthusiasm for life is greatly increased.

That is why the disk issue has been such a downer for me. Last year I was limited to less than 300 miles, virtually all of it from rides of just 13 miles. My goal was to get back to rides of 30 to 70 miles, and to participate once again in the annual Multiple Sclerosis 2 day fundraiser ride in September (65 miles each day). Earlier this summer I was making progress, getting in several rides of 30 to 36 miles. However, every time I ride, I have to stop and stretch every 12 - 17 miles because the pain in my back and down my left leg make it impossible to go on. This alone prevents me from doing any group rides, no one wants to stop and wait while the cripple works out his back problems!

So all this leads to an interesting dilemma. On Saturday mornings I like to get up and have a leisurely breakfast, drink coffee and read the paper. I also want to go for a ride before it gets too hot. However it can be difficult to get up the motivation to ride when I know how much it's going to hurt. My wife is great, she encourages me to go, partly because she knows how much better a mood I will be in when I finish! If I can convince myself that the pleasure will outweigh the pain, then I can get up the energy and desire to go. This puts an interesting spin on the line that our high school gym coaches used to yell at us ... "No pain, No gain"!