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Agony & the ankle

What I'm about to say probably won't surprise anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time. I understand the value of rest days, and how one should not ignore taking them on a regular basis. But being off my bike — even for just one day — feels very unnatural to me. It's like my mind and body are out of sync with reality, always looking for that missing piece that will make me whole again.

So, imagine being off your bicycle for 56 days. I, honestly, couldn't do it. No way!

Fortunately, this left leg doesn't belong to me.

But it's what my friend — and primary pedal partner — Jon has had to endure while he recovers from badly needed ankle surgery. The last time he was on his saddle was June 4 on his Jamis gravel bike for a 20-mile off-road scoot around Brunswick, Maine.

In a normal cycling season, he would easily have 3,000 miles by now. The agony — both physically and mentally — is beyond my comprehension, as an almost every day bike rider.

When I asked Jon what's it been like not being able to ride, his response was immediate. "Basically, it's been hell. Very difficult. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I didn't have a choice (on having the surgery)."

He continued by saying, "I cycle to create endorphins." I understood what he meant, but I "Googled" it anyway just to make sure. Endorphins act on the opiate receptors in our brains, they reduce pain and boost pleasure, resulting in a feeling of well-being. Yes, bike riding can do that.

Being a little more reflective, Jon said, "To be honest, I'd grown a little bored with road riding. I really enjoy gravel biking, as it's more relaxed and there's less traffic. So hopefully my desire to ride every day will return." I'm sure it will.

In the meantime, he's been doing a lot of reading — he's currently on his 17th book. Jon hopes to be back on his bike by his birthday, which is Aug. 9. I can hardly wait to hear "What's happening, dude?" — Jon's signature greeting every time we get together for a ride.

Don't mean to rub it in

When Jon does resume pedaling, he's got some catching up to do. I surpassed 4,000 miles for the season the other day, hitting the mark six days ahead of last year's pace.

In reviewing the 2021 season, so far, I achieved 1,000 miles on March 3, 2,000 miles on April 22, 3,000 miles on June 12, and 4,000 miles on July 28. All while staying upright, which — in my mind — is a more important goal than piling up the miles.

'Thought for the day'

"Things look different from the seat of a bike carrying a sleeping bag with a cold beer tucked inside." — Jim Malusa, author of "Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents"

From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)

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