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Road Cycling, Fear, and Dealing with something I can’t Unsee.

September 2018
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I was 👌 that close to writing a fluff piece about cycling today, but…

I couldn’t.

I had a mini, two-second panic attack out on the road last night, riding with Chuck.  My first ever.

A car passed us, just a little closer than normal – maybe 2-1/2 feet instead of 3′ – something that normally wouldn’t even phase me… that has to get down to inches before I even think about getting nervous, and even then, it’s gone pretty fast.  I don’t know why I am blessed so, I’m just glad that I am.

We rode by the site of that motorcycle accident from the other day and I saw the bloodstain on the asphalt with the paint outline. I can’t unsee the look on that poor guy’s face. It was an expression that showed half “oh, $#!+… I’m F***ED” and half “wait, why can’t I talk, I need to get back on my bike and get out of here” bewilderment.  The vehicle passed us shortly after that, and that’s when I had my little moment.

54,000 miles and I can’t remember, not once, ever thinking I didn’t want to be on the road until last night. And it sucked.  

That face is starting to blur around the edges, though, and I know what I have to do. I have to keep getting my butt back in that saddle until I’m back to my normal self.  I have to keep talking to friends about it, and I’ll probably have to write about it a time or two until it’s gone – but it will go, because that fear is irrational and most important; I want it gone.  Too often we let our fears define who we are.  I won’t say anything about anyone else, but in my world, that shit is a choice and I won’t accept a life of being defined by a fear.

The reality is, I’m happiest when I’m working my recovery program, putting effort into my marriage and family, and cycling.

Just something to kick around.

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17 Comments

  1. unironedman says:

    Hi Jim. I know you know this already, but that’s a perfectly normal reaction to have. Or, as they tell us peer-supporters in training, it’s a normal reaction to an abnormal event. At the heart of it, I always take the positives out of these things: you stopped and did the right thing, you helped a fellow human being, and it shows your empathy levels are well in the black, where they should be.

    That strange feeling will pass. As you know, I am not a religious bloke, but I certainly follow the agnostic equivalent of “there but for the grace of God go I”. In any case, nothing will keep you off that bike. Ever. 🙂

  2. theandyclark says:

    I understand the reaction. Every now and then images of accidents flash through the back of my head. Probably a few times every ride. The effect of these is that I focus more. Fear is not a bad thing – it’s how you choose to manage that fear that can be bad. Sounds like you’ve got a good plan.

    That said – I really like a ride on a nicely separated trail every now and then.

  3. msjadeli says:

    From what you’ve described here of your experience, you have most likely had an acute trauma episode and are having flashbacks. You’re taking the right steps as you describe above to dissipate the trauma. So sorry that poor guy was injured. Every time you go past the spot it refreshes your memory of it.

  4. Stay strong, brother! Keep those pedals turning and wheels rubber side down.

  5. windswept007 says:

    I have been watching too many reality tv shows about hospitals, bike riders feature a lot. It put me off for a while but now I am okay. We should be careful and cautious, but not to the point of giving up.

  6. Archetype says:

    Yup, you have to dig a bit deeper than the average bloke Jim to suppress the imaginary emotion of Fear. Sometimes, it is not easy. Sometimes it’s damn hard. But that is what separates those who do and those who don’t. Meaning, those who will not dare to engage in something they themselves deem as ‘risky’ that is outside their own comfort zone, out of their imagined fear.

    Fear, Risk and Danger are strictly perceptions. They don’t exist in a concrete form. They are only imaginary emotional and psychological thoughts. Of course on a very ‘base’ level, they can be survival instincts. The ‘fight or flight’ reactionary process. And as we know, sometimes those flight responses are unnecessary after rational, logical analyses.

    “Managing” our perceptions of fear, risk and danger is sometimes counter-intuitive. Because our instinct wants us to flee, to get away from the perceived danger. But often our brains cannot process the information quick enough to make a rational determination. In the case of riding and racing, we only have fractions of a second (maybe even a full second) to make decisions.

    So, for the perhaps, timid, this process can be overwhelming. Even for the not-so timid. It takes will and resolve to overcome the instinct of fleeing or not even trying something. BUT, there are also other factors at play. Let’s say, you have the fortitude part down (not you personally) A strong mind is the product of a logical thinker. And now the next part of the equation requires the person to be mentally sharp and PREPARED for the perceived risk and danger. This is yet another aspect of Situational Awareness and how affects almost every decision we make.

    The 3 facets of S.A.; Anticipate, Recognize and React are very key in managing the perceptions of fear, risk and danger. This is why active pilots continually practice S.A. skills. There is much more to it than meets the eye brother. It is for this very reason why men like Rossi, Marquez, Dunlop, Hutchinson,Harrison (moto) Hamilton and Vettel (F1) and the like can not only be so damn fast, but so damn successful. You’ll be fine, you’ve been through ringer. This is a normal human emotion and reaction. The difference being, you will not allow it to take over, to cloud a logical and rational mindset. I’ll leave with you this buddy…

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  7. JL1297 says:

    Sorry to hear this, had a very similar experience myself a few years back. It does go away with time. Keep up the good work Brother.

  8. Dorothea says:

    Hi Jim,
    I went through a similar incident this past summer. It took about a month for things to feel back to normal, to be able to go by the spot with a quite momet of reflection, but without the panic, but it does go back to normal. As said above, keep the wheels turning and don’t lose that empathy.

  9. Sandra says:

    Yes. Be safe.
    SOOO many people hit and seriously injured or killed on our roads just a couple years ago and I pretty much quit riding the roads. I bought a gravel bike instead and ride the trails and gravel roads. I’m too scared to die. I get that. But it doesn’t keep me from cycling, like you, just do it elsewhere–away from cars that go 70 or more. BE SAFE! And wear that RoadID!

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