In his third dispatch on recovering from a broken collarbone, team rider Steve Rousseau gets a clean bill of health and grapples with some not-so-awesome feelings about racing. (See Part I and Part II)
Great news! My collarbone? It’s healed. You can still see the cracks in the x-ray but my doctor assures me that it’s all surrounded by fresh, new bone. My fitness? It’s pretty much back.
So when will I start racing again? Man, I don’t know. I get asked this at least three times a week from well-meaning people — friends, teammates, my parents, my grandmother — and I want to scream and curl up into a ball. Just the thought of pinning up has my palms sweating right now.
It’s not that I’m unfamiliar to injury. In decades of playing soccer I’ve split my eyebrow open, broken bones, dislocated fingers, sprained ankles and separated a shoulder. Not once did I flinch when it came time to jump back into it.
This time feels different. I tap my brakes early and often. I soft-pedal when I shouldn’t. I ride with an overabundance of caution even when I’m my closest and most-trusted riding buddies. Every time I try and push myself out of my comfort zone — an effort to regain my confidence again — I end up silently screaming inside my head, trying to resist the urge to brake or sit up with every fiber of my being.
I didn’t think a freak accident with a raccoon would mess with my confidence but here we are. When you start slowing down for corners you used to rail or riding the brakes on descents you used to scream down, it makes you really question what that confidence was really made up of. Every single time I try to push the envelope my brain defaults to “Wow, it would really fucking suck to crash right now.” It feels like someone flipped a switch in my brain and now I’m running in Risk Aversion mode.
Am I just scared or was that former confidence really just ignorance? How much was ability and how much was stupidity?
Layer that existential crisis on top of another: Is this even worth the risk? You know what really sucked about breaking my collarbone? It was sitting on a bed a week after the accident feeling shitty because there was only a 90 minute window — right after the prescription pain meds started to take hold, but before they reduced you to a blissfully non-functioning mess — in which I could get work done. It was finally feeling good enough to go into the office, but then having to embarrassingly leave before lunch because I felt like I was about to puke from the pain. It was being so tired in the mornings that I had to shamefully sneak naps in just to stay coherent. It was having to put your professional life on pause because you wanted to sneak in one more workout before a snowstorm hit.
I love riding my bike. I love racing. But when faced with the possibility that I’ll have to go through all of this over again — the pain, the anxiety, the frustration, the depression — man, that’s a tough thing to swallow. I just got this new collarbone. You know? I don’t want to ruin it.