Sunday, September 07, 2003

It's been a while since I posted anything here, and with good reason. In mid-July my back started to hurt - just a little pain, high up and on the right of my spine. It hurt, too, when I took a deep breath. Which means my climb up Tioga Pass (see previous entry) was a little uncomfortable. Then, a few weeks later, after hefting a heavy camera bag in Mountain Home State Park, the muscles in my upper torso, back, side and front, began to hurt with a vengence. So I spent most of my time off my bike, feeling sorry for myself, and finding myself more and more bewildered as the pain would wax and wane but generally wax. It hurt to sit down or stand up, it hurt to pull a sock on my right leg, it hurt to breathe, to get into bed or out of bed. It was as if my body was at war with my conscious mind, and I began to feel and look like someone quite a few years older than I already am.

One day, when just my upper back and hip hurt, I decided my muscles would simply have to learn to work together. Brute force would prevail. So I made a ride with the Los Angeles Wheelmen, about 30 easy miles from the "Corner" at Olympic and La Cienega Blvds., to the beach and back. (Pics of some of the "Corner" rides are at:

The day prior I rode up Fargo Street. On that one glorious mid-Saturday, bike messangers - from Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco - tested their mettle against the steepest street in the city. Not content to just ride to the top of Fargo Street, the messengers competed against each other in a time trial. How steep is Fargo? It sports a 33% grade, steeper than any street in San Francisco. Thanks goodness it is only a tenth of a mile long.

The messengers were kind enough to allow me to participate in the time trial. In fact, I held first place. That's because I went first. Of course, by the time the second rider had finished, I was in second place. In fact, I finished dead last among those who actually made the top of the hill. But for just a little while, I was 25 again...

(pics are at:

Of course, the Monday following those rides, I could barely get out of bed.

Last Wednesday I made a fourth visit to a doctor. This was after spending not a few bucks on a chiropractor (at the urging of one of the doctors I'd seen - that's Kaiser for you - and the urging of my wife who, like me, should have known better; but then, I was was feeling fairly desparate at this point); after three visits to the chiropractor, whom I think was no better than a high tech faith healer, I felt no better.

So, on my fourth visit with a doctor, I broached the thought that I might have created the pain in my mind, since it was by now so diffuse and seemed to have no logical explanation. The doctor didn't disagree, was willing to talk about it with, and encouraged me to try to get back to my former life. It was time to heal myself, and I found all I needed was the belief that I had been causing my own pain. And by the time I returned home, I was already starting to mend.

By the next day - last Thursday - I was already 75% better. I still hurt a little, and now and then I have a few weird twinges of pain. But, was it really mind over matter? If so, why did I need the doctor's permission to allow myself to believe I had created the pain? Why couldn't I believe in the magic of the chiropractor? Why did I wake up in the middle of the night, or in the morning, in pain - shouldn't I have relaxed while I slept, and so woken without pain? Or was it just a coincidence: did I feel better just because I'd started to heal naturally, rather than from "knowning" I had created the pain?

Whatever the reason, on Thursday afternoon, the day after my visit to the doctor, I rode my bike about a dozen miles. The crux of the ride took me up Nichols Canyon - it's a steep, if brief ascent, perhaps a little over a mile and half and 800 feet of gain, with a few 15% stretches of grade - and, after not riding much over the past several weeks, I felt like I wanted to vomit just before I reached the top.

On Friday I was off the bike, then I rode up steep Doheny Drive on Saturday afternoon, in Beverly Hills, as well as a few other hills, to climb 1000 feet, with grades that reached 16%. I felt better. Today, I rode 33 miles, half of them with the L.A. Wheelmen on their Sunday ride from the "Corner." We headed down the Ballona Creek bike path, and then took the beach bike path south to the Manhattan Beach pier, where I turned around.

Tonight I'm tired, but I'm mostly pain free. And I plan to ride my bike tomorrow.

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