Friday, August 24, 2012

who are you?

What defines you? I sometimes wonder. Before I moved to Alaska, before I met Jon, I would have said I was a hiker. I enjoyed hiking. But Alaska introduced me to a different kind of hiking; and Jon introduced me to mountain biking. Soon, I was identifying as a cyclist. My loves: mountain and touring. My desire: mountain touring. I have a short list. Then I placed it on hold.

My shoulder injury and eventual surgery have given me a little perspective. I've slowed down. Looked around more. Hiked places where bicycles aren't permitted. Trails I hadn't hiked before. A few friends have joined me, but most of my biking friends are doing what they love: mountain biking. Something I've told myself to not even think about for the last several months. Then, last week, I brought my snow bike home from my friends' house.

I'd loaned it out during the winter for a couple friends to try out and so it wouldn't be here in the house tempting me to go riding when I shouldn't. Before I put it in the car for the trip home, I pedaled it around on their street. It felt odd, stretched out, awkward to control. Once home, I pulled it out of the car, told Jon I'd rode in circles and he gave the only comment I could have expected: prove it! So, I again rode in circles, practiced my steering, feeling the stretch and the stress on my right arm.

Carefully riding in the cul-de-sac.

I still felt a long way from riding very far on the bike. Meanwhile, my occupational therapist had just released me from our twice-weekly sessions. I had an exercise list for getting stronger and increasing my mobility. I'd gone swimming and running in an effort to increase my strength and fitness. And I continued hiking.

Watermelon berries along a trail.

Pixie eye primrose, I believe. On the trail to Hidden Lake.

Last Saturday, I was hiking with my friend on the Rabbit Lake trail, one of my favorite hikes in the front range of Chugach State Park. We wound through a narrow wiggly stretch; I mentioned that it would be really fun on the bike. Returning from the lake, I noticed a slight blip on the trail and noted: this would be a good place to catch air, if I was the kind of person who caught air, that is. This is when my friend told me I was getting better; I was ready to start biking. I was reading the trail like a mountain biker, noting the grinding climb, the winds, the rocks.

She was right. I am ready to think like a mountain biker again. So yesterday, I decided to take a little spin around the neighborhood. Since the Mukluk (snow bike) is my most upright-fitting bike, I adjusted the seat and took off up the hill. I rode through streets I've walked many times in the last few months. I'd forgotten how much faster I can travel on the bike! I'm not sure how long I was out riding - not very; maybe 20 to 30 minutes - but it feels like I just overcame another tall hurdle in a series of hurdles. Getting so much closer to embracing one of those things that, much as I sometimes pretend doesn't, helps to define me. I am a cyclist.