The theme of this experience with stenosis is definitely a fragility-of-life/transience-of-experience thing. While I’ve derived much of my purpose in these early years of my retirement from physical competence, I can’t deny the slow decline of these capacities. In the studio I stopped jumping, yet still was able to dance with passion and precision. On the bike I couldn’t force repeated hard efforts, but I still could ride my fixed gear bike (a 74″ gear for you nerds) on the 80 mile round trip to Point Reyes Station. I thought the decline would continue gradually, but stenosis has pushed me off a cliff.

But I still can ride my bike. (Check out “Measure Twice, Cut Once” on my writer page for my theory of cycling). In my preferred cycling position my weight is on my sitbones, and the reach of my chest forward helps position my spine properly, relieving the pressure on the nerves, so its pretty much pain-free. The joy that I feel when I get in the saddle is so good, I hardly even care that I only have what feels like half the strength I had just a few months ago. Or that my coordination is compromised enough that my right leg can only pedal in squares. This is more obvious with gears than on the fixie, which has become physical therapy. My left leg can help force my right leg to relearn how to pedal in circles. I practice with diligence; the jury is still out on whether it actually will work or not.

Two hours is more or less my limit, before my right leg starts to malfunction, but those two hours still are a place of relief, of introspection, of directed work, of immersion in the beauty and/or challenge of the day. I hope I will recover, enough for a deep commitment to training perhaps to reemerge. I visualize this, replaying memorized images of past victories–pushing big weight in the gym, turning myself inside out on hard climbs, endless hours pushing my limits down deserted roads that extend into an infinite distance. Depending on the day these are either inspirational visions of a reconstituted future or the lunatic ravings of an aging fantasist denying his present. I don’t really care, though, because for now I can ride. I can ride!

Stenotic Cycling