Getting Back to Riding

Today, I was able to get out on my first ride of greater than 40 miles since the accident in which I broke my elbow. It’s been a long process to get to this point, involving some twists, turns, and setbacks. Some of my biggest struggles have been with self-management. I seem to be one of those people who just falls apart if they can’t live life at 200 miles-per-hour.

Unfortunately, during the time that I was healing and was limited physically, I lapsed into using marijuana heavily and passive pursuits such as Netflix and video games. When I had first gone on medical leave, I’d told myself I would try to make my time productive.

Sadly, I already had some bad habits waiting in the wings. At times, it feels that my active lifestyle is the only thing that keeps this stuff at bay. With that gone, I was at the mercy of my vices.

View from the trailhead at Goldengate Canyon State Park, where I set out to do a 25-mile hike.

I actually pulled myself out of my malaise after a couple weeks for a 25-mile hike in Goldengate Canyon State Park. Unfortunately (again, misfortune is a running theme—but that’s life, eh), I got a bruised heel that was excruciating by the time I finished the hike.

After that, I pretty much lost hope on staying active, and I sank back into heavy marijuana use until I got back to work mid-August. I eased myself back into work, as the job is quite physical.

In early September, I finally got back on the bike—which I’d barely had a chance to ride before I’d broken my elbow. And then, before I’d gone on a ride of any length at all, my bike was stolen out of the shed at our house.

Oddly, I wasn’t really upset. I just wanted a bike to ride. I think, ultimately, I was most annoyed that my front light and clip pedals were stolen with the bike.

The bike I purchased posing along with the seller’s dog.

I got out the weekend after my bike was stolen and bought a new bike from a man down in Parker, about an hour’s drive south of Denver, where I live.

The new bike is a bit of a tradeoff. A triathlon bike, it doesn’t have as easy of gears for mountain road climbing as the Trek had, but it is super aerodynamic and flies down hills like a mother.

After getting it set up with a few necessaries, I started riding the bike on longer rides, getting used to the feel of it and building my strength.

Luckily, I had my old half-clip pedals from my old Fuji Newest, my first bike (which I’d donated before the Trek was stolen), so I was able to use my clip shoes.

Riding along a bike path in Colorado Springs, CO.

Today, I got up thinking I might go on a ride, but I wasn’t totally convinced. This isn’t that unusual for me, actually. I’m usually thinking about turning back the first 5 miles or so of every ride. Then I don’t want to stop, ever.

I was thinking about a ride to Boulder, if I was going to ride. I almost didn’t go out for a ride after I looked at the weather app and it said there was a 30-percent chance of rain in the early morning.

It’s funny because I’ve ridden through cold, rain, fog, light snow—you name it—but when the brain is looking for reasons not to do things, logic has no place.

Thankfully, I looked out the window as the sun was rising and saw that it was a clear and beautiful morning. Rain, schmain. I finished getting my stuff together and got out on my bike.

Bradburn Blvd runs between the Little Dry Creek Trail and the US36 Trail, linking the Denver and Boulder trail systems.

I was quickly treated to some really wonderful autumn scenery. It took a while to get my legs under me, as usual. But once I did, it was so nice to be out on my bike.

As I connected with the US36 Trail, which winds its way to Boulder up and down hills with spectacular mountain views, I wasn’t sure exactly how far I was going to ride. I had a loose goal to ride about 40 miles, which I figured would be roughly the distance if I followed the trail to its end in Boulder.

It’s funny to pass by places that you constructed as obstacles in the past. At about 10 miles, I arrived at the point where the trail passes the Flatirons Mall, which sits outside of Broomfield, about halfway to Boulder.

The first time I’d tried to ride to Boulder, there was a detour at the Flatirons Mall, and I’d decided to turn back because of it.

In retrospect, in the many long rides I’ve been on, there’s almost always at least one detour—and often challenges, to boot (flat tubes, I’m looking at you). It’s funny because riding the other way around the mall might have added a couple miles to the ride, which isn’t that big of a deal when you’re riding 40.

Anyway, after stopping outside Flatiron for a snack, I continued riding to Boulder. I was feeling good by the time I got to the top of the hill outside of Boulder, where there’s a scenic overlook and a blessed, blessed potty.

The view from the scenic overlook along US36, looking down into Boulder, CO.

By this point, I think I had pretty well decided that I would branch off and follow the South Boulder Creek Trail when I got to the bottom of the hill. As it happens, I had set Strava to follow a route that goes from my place through Boulder and up into the mountains to Ward. So all I’d have to do is follow that route.

After getting off onto the South Boulder Creek Trail and riding a couple miles, I was treated to some nostalgic trail, which I’d ridden much of last year with a friend who lives in Boulder. It was nice to think back on pleasant memories of a time when I was growing a lot as a rider.

The South Boulder Creek Trail was positively idyllic with autumn color as I rode along with views of the mountains off to the west.

I ended up stopping when the route started getting into road riding, as I remembered that I still don’t have a front light. I didn’t feel like I wanted to road bike without all the equipment to be as safe as possible.

A view along the South Boulder Creek Trail, in Boulder.

I finished the ride back feeling fantastic, ending up around 53 miles. To me, there’s nothing better than the feeling of adrenaline flowing through you, your body totally activated, while surrounded by expansive and majestic scenes of nature.

It was so very wonderful to get back to cycling.

At the moment, most of the whiteboards in my room are covered in my reasons to remain sober. I feel that balance for me involves erring and correcting myself. I know that I am not now a perfect person, nor will I ever be. But there’s nothing better than getting the chance to get outside and live your joy on a beautiful day.

Published by Miles of Mindfulness

My name is Mike Bragg. I'm a Denver-based cycling enthusiast and a big advocate of mindfulness. I enjoy the outdoors, and I use mindfulness practices to help myself be more present with my adventures. I like to read challenging material, and I have a keen interest in ancient history and natural sciences.

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