Sunday, June 13, 2010

Equanimity vs. The Troll in My Spine

Nice Spot on the Canal Path

Why am I sitting on the couch watching a replay of the 2009 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Hot Saw finals from Columbus, Ga, on ESPN, eating cold pizza and spicy shrimp rolls on a Sunday afternoon when the weather is incredible (87F on June 13??), instead of cranking some high-mileage epic bicycle ride? Back pain, an old story with me, is the main reason. So, first off, congratulations are due to Jason Wynyard for pulling out the overall victory even though he DQ'd the hot saw. 

The back problems, to summarize/justify: low back pain from low-grade spondylolisthesis, arthritis, inflammation, history of bulging lumbar discs, with microdiscectomy back surgery a couple of years ago. Bicycle riding and physical activity in general, particularly walking, helps more than anything else, so I am going for a short "enjoy the weather" ride to activate those lower back muscles and pump some fluid through those discs. Disc dessication is one of the issues, so I am hydrating like crazy to try to get some fluid in there. I had to have the surgery because of unremitting, excruciating 8-9 pain and some loss of function that was progressing from the ruptured disc impinging on my nerve. I hated the idea of surgery, but in this particular case, I needed it. No more disc problems, but I am still bothered sometimes (like today) by the other things. Bothered to the point that it's sometimes a challenge to not become an insufferable grouch to those around me. I tell my kids that there's a grouchy old troll who lives in my spine. He sleeps for months, then wakes up once in a while, wraps ropes around my spine, tightens them, and starts whacking on my spinal cord with his pick-axe. I think it helps them understand a little better what's going on with me. It also reminds me not to become the grouchy troll myself. When the troll wakes up, I expend extra energy trying to achieve or maintain equanimity, to seek balance and emotional control even when the pain ratchets up. For me, riding the bike helps with that. It's a centering technique when the troll tries to pull me off my game.

So a nice, easy ride along the canal should help, as long as I don't overdo it. As I rode along, I realized I haven't put many pictures up of the Biltmore resort, even though many canal rides take me past it. This hotel has a long history, from being inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright in design, to hosting the McCain/Palin concession speech on November 8, 2008. Here's a shot of the front, below.

Arizona Biltmore, Piestewa Peak in the Background

In the hot saw competition, they use these high-powered chainsaws to cut three perfect disks off a fat pine log as fast as possible. They only have so much log to work with, and the disks must be full, with no flaws caused by incomplete cuts. Wynyard DQ'd in the hot saw because they said one of his disks was imperfect, that it had a chunk cut out of it. I know how he feels. He had enough points from the other events to win anyway.

I Don't Know How This Works In Practice

I took it easy on the ride, enjoyed the weather and the beauty around me. The clouds were throwing shadows across Camelback Mountain, which kind of took my breath away when I paused to watch them, I'm not ashamed to admit.

Clouds Playing with Shadows on the Mountain

I need things to take my mind off the troll in my spine, no doubt about it. An easy ride along the canal on a perfect day is just what I needed. The activity did help some, I think, but more than that, set me up to move forward with renewed equanimity. Screw you, spinal troll. Go back to sleep. I've got miles to ride, smiling miles, hours where the challenges that come along are just another part of the ride. Good night, un-sweet troll, good night. Until we meet again, I have a little mantra I employ: Get up. Go ride.

Just Keep Riding


  1. I can relate to that. Mostly mine is old age creeping up but I just keep on keeping on and it doesn't get any better but what else is there. I'm leaning more toward drugs because I don't see why an old man should live out his old age in pain. Walking is out for any distance so riding is all I have left. I do like riding. It always feels like I'm getting away with something.

  2. I know what you mean about getting away with something Oldfool. Even today when it was kind of hard to walk at times, riding was good. Although that kind of thinking might lead to a recumbent eventually, and I don't know if I would go THAT far... :) ok I probably would, if need be.

  3. Of course, you know, JRA, that my main ride IS a recumbent: Bluetiful. However, I didn't buy it because of back problems. It was a desire to be free of the discomfort of that Proctologist's Joy: The Common Bicycle Saddle. Yup, and it IS as comfortable as the La-Z-Boy back home in front of the TV. (Also, there's just something about a recumbent that appeals to the radical techno-geek in me.)

    And, like you Oldfool, walking is out for any distance: this summer marks the 30th anniversary of my first plantar faciitis inflamation. When I was younger, the prescription orthotics allowed me to hike and backpack, but not anymore.

    Riding doesn't bother my feet. Actually, it seems to help. And nobody can tell you have bad feet as you flash by them at 20 mph!

  4. I've been fortunate never to have back problems. Riding seems to help with most other aches and pains. I LOVE that shot of the mountain. All it needs is some snow, but then it wouldn't be June.

  5. BluesCat I'm pretty sure there's a recumbent in my future, maybe still a few years out, but they appeal to me for several reasons. Including the rad tech geek in me, too (which is why I dig Sinner Mangos).

    Steve if I ever get a good shot of snow on Camelback, I will post it, but it's a pretty rare event.

  6. Wow! the Wrigley Mansion is the chewing gum dude!
    Pay what you think is fair?
    Dinner for two is double your trouble.
    Get out, get those endorphines flowing.
    Hope you feel better.


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