For more than 15 years, I’ve ridden my bike. It started as a practical move to avoid buying a second car, but over time evolved into more than a hobby; it became a passion, a cornerstone of my identity. For me, bicycling has been a port in the storm, a refuge and relief, a way to meditate and dwell in the present moment and let go of the future, a mental health coping mechanism. It was community, friendship, connection, a regular group of people who I came to know and care about. It was freedom and joy and as close to flying as I could get.
I loved cycling.
I’m writing in past tense because over the last six to nine months, it’s become increasingly clear that I can’t keep riding. I did the major surgery to repair my damaged iliac artery in 2019, but I’m experiencing the same symptoms again. The more I ride, the worse it gets.
This week I talk to the artery surgeon again, but I already know that even if there is a possible next surgical step, I’d have to quit riding anyway. Cycling would just damage the artery again. It’s an overuse injury, the kind that causes permanent damage that no amount of rest heals.
Every time I ride hard, I damage my artery a little more. I know me; I can’t ride without riding hard. That means that, to ensure Future Katie has a functional, mostly-pain-free left leg, Present Katie needs to take a very long, possibly (probably?) permanent, break from biking. (And from any other high-intensity aerobic activity that involves long durations of elevated heart rates, sending lots of blood to the legs, such as running.)
Let’s take a moment to listen to my heart break again.
I can’t think about this more at the moment. We’ll see.