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Warning - this post may be longer than my ride today.  Then again, it
wasn't much of a least, not distance-wise.  In some ways, it
was one of the toughest I've ever done.

A little background:  Back around '97-'99, I was riding pretty regularly.
Never great speed, but usually 100-150 miles/week.  I was fit, skinny, and
actually felt like I looked okay in all my spandex Cycle Geek Wear(TM). :-)
Then a change in living circumstances left me with a 150-mile round-trip
commute every day, and there wasn't much time left to ride.  Maybe it was
all that time spent sitting in a car, but I ruptured a disc in my back
and needed surgery.  Didn't worry me, at first;  BTDT once before, with
no problems afterwards.  This one, however, left me with some nasty nerve
damage that affects my left leg.  3 years later, I still can't walk quite
right;  I haven't got the strength to roll off the ball of my foot, so I
have a pronounced limp.  Also a lot of muscle atrophy in my left calf and
ankle - enough that it's easily visible on the very rare occasions I wear
shorts or skirts.  I had tried riding once since then, just a few months
post-op, and found it very awkward, so my Beauties (Cannondale R800, Trek
7000 and Cannondale Super-V 500) have just been gathering dust since
then.  Gathering dust, and depressing me every time I looked at them.

I won't bore you with all the times I told myself "I really should try
again."  (This is probably boring enough as it is.)  Suffice it to say,
today I finally Just Did It.  None of my old bike shorts would fit any
more, I'm sure, so I dug out an old pair of stretch shorts from my former
fat days.  Shuddered as I thought how I'd look out there, but then I
remembered all the times when I, as a fit and halfway decent cyclist,
would see overweight, middle aged women puffing along on their old Schwinns,
and inwardly I'd be cheering them on.  So I figured that, if anybody
doesn't like the way I look, too bad.  Anybody worth worrying about will
be cheering *me* on.  Pumped up the tires on the road bike (I had given
it a good going-over a few weeks ago, during one of those "I really
should..." episodes, so this was all it needed) and set off, with great

I realized in the first moments how much I used to depend on my left foot,
and how weak it is now.  Instinctively, as I've always done, I put my left
foot on the pedal and went to push off with the right.  Oops!  I forgot -
left foot doesn't have enough strength to stay level.  So I had to try
to learn to do things the other way 'round, which doesn't sound like
much, but it's amazing how much we can get used to a certain way of doing
things, and how awkward change can be.  Same thing happened in reverse
when I came to a stop;  I used to keep my left foot on the pedal and
put my right one down, so I had to learn to do that in reverse, too.
Still, it was an improvement over the last time, when I had to find a
curb every time I wanted to stop, since my whole left leg was too weak
to hold me up. :-)

I also had some interesting moments, trying to clip my left shoe into
the pedal.  Used to be second nature, but, when you can't feel your foot,
it gets a might tricky.  I confess, most of the time I rode without
being clipped in.  I'll work more on that when I get a bit of confidence
back.  And I had to really concentrate on using my left leg;  I noticed,
right away, that I was instinctively using more power from the right.
Guess I've learned to coddle the weak leg when I walk, and that carried
over.  This is going to take some work, I think...But, at the same time,
it feels great to know that I Finally Did It.  Only a few miles, partly
because of my insecurity and one-sidedness, partly because the road
surfaces here aren't great, and there was more traffic than I care for,
which made me even more nervous.  I'm hoping I'll have the determination
to get back out early tomorrow morning, when there aren't many cars on
the roads.  If I can just make myself do it tomorrow, and remember all
the things I learned today, it'll be easier the next time, and the time
after that...I hope.  Anybody wanna tell me I really can do this? :-)

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