There was a time in my life when I was riding my road bike about 200 miles a week, waking up for dawn patrol commutes, riding at lunch, and again bike commuting home at the end of the day. 2020 was not this time. Even before stay at home orders went into effect in March of 2020, I wasn’t riding my road bike that often anymore. When I moved from California to Oregon back in 2018 I found myself gravitating more toward my upright gravel bike. The pace of everything in Portland just seemed so much slower, so I decided to go with the flow and roll around on my most comfy ride. Whenever I would hop back on my road bike I began to feel like I was hunched over and uncomfortable, which came as a surprise after having spent so much time on it in my previous California life. We started to drift apart.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in March of 2020, stay at home orders went into place here in Oregon. For the first time in 15 years I wasn’t riding a bike everyday. I no longer had the dedicated daily commute so it was up to me to get out for a spin on my own time. At first I would get out in the morning for a quick ride just out of habit, to get the blood moving and to stick with my long time routine. As time went on, I settled into a new kind of routine and I really came to enjoy the slow quiet mornings with my sweet old dog and hot cup of coffee at home. At lunch I would typically get out for a nice 3-5 mile run, which felt like just the right amount of time to be out in the pandemic world. The coronavirus pandemic has caused me to slow down in many ways, and I have learned to let go of a lot.
My world is smaller than it has ever been. I spend the majority of my time staying at home cooking, running, walking the dog, and cleaning, there always seems to be so much of that. After 6 months of not doing much else, a huge part of my life had gone missing, I was no longer a daily rider. I was fast becoming a sorry excuse for a weekend warrior. Heading into the late summer of 2020 I really wanted to get back on my road bike and sneak in some more lunch rides and quick spins to help make up for my lack of commute, and also just to reconnect with my old road bike. I wasn’t looking to get epic, or to start hitting 200 mile weeks again, but I really missed the speed and the catharsis of the road.
There is something worth mentioning about all of that time I had spent on my road bike in California. I developed an overuse injury in my right leg. I had what was essentially a very persistent and painful knot near my right lateral hamstring tendon. It felt like a golf ball of pain that would gnaw at me and wake me up in the middle of the night. When I quit riding my road bike so fervently, it seemed to finally quiet down. So not being in pain was also a motivating factor in hanging up that bike for a bit. Commuting, running, and scant gravel rides had taken the place of those endless miles on the road.
My lifestyle and my body have definitely seen some other changes since I was putting in all those California road miles. In so many ways my body feels better, I am stronger and more flexible, I no longer have persistent pain in my right leg and I am not consumed by hunger at all times. Another thing is very different though, I have gained about 40lbs. I’m growing older and somehow at 34 I am still earning my Grandma Sindt’s beautiful curves. It has been hard for me to accept because I have been conditioned to believe that thinness equals health, but in many ways, I am healthier than ever.
The weight gain wasn’t stopping me from running further and faster, but it started to become an obstacle in following through with getting back on my road bike. My body felt so different from the body I had when I first built the bike. It felt foreign to be perched atop this delicate machine. I felt like it might suddenly bow to my heft. This exaggeration says a lot about how I was dealing with my new softer side, but it was also a real feeling that I experienced thanks to my old friend, body dysmorphia. It was overwhelming to be so much heavier trying to get back into an athletic endeavor that I associated with my thinness. Everything below my waist seemed to squish and smash into places that were previously well connected.
I wanted to ride my road bike more but when I did I was walking away with soft tissue abrasions and that familiar pain in my right leg. I’ll just keep running instead I thought, I guess I’m just not cut out for road riding anymore. I have gotten pretty deep into a running routine the last couple years, but on extra hot and sunny days running is just not for me. During quarantine daily exercise has been my one reprieve from the confines of my home. The heat of the summer here in Portland starts to get pretty gnarly in late July through September, which makes for terrible running conditions, but great road riding conditions. So, in the late summer in the year of 2020 when there was literally nothing else to do, I had to get back on that road bike.
I blamed myself that my body had changed, I told myself I was no longer equipped to ride this bike, that I had changed and it was over. This was not true, this was the “thinness equals health” dialogue playing itself out. I stopped blaming myself for my weight gain and I started to accept my new, better, hotter body. Yes my fitness had changed, but more importantly, my bike just didn’t fit me anymore. When reflecting on that overuse injury, I also realized, maybe it never really fit? Luckily I knew someone who could help me. Desperate to enjoy road riding again I reached out to my friend Annalisa Fish, PT, DPT, Founder, Physical Therapist, and Bike Fitter over at Endurance PDX, and she set up a bike fit appointment for me. The next step was identifying what exactly the problems were.
Stay tuned for bike fit updates and more truths from the saddle with RoseMary soon!