On Your Left

This past weekend for the first time in more than half a decade, I was spending the afternoon on the bike trail. And admittedly it was thrilling to take in all the scenery that was passing me by… uh, quite literally passing me by. I was passed by teams of spandex-clad cyclists with matching road bikes. I was passed by friends out for a leisurely Saturday ride. I was passed by an overweight dad on his son’s too-small squeaky mountain bike. (Admittedly, at this this point I started looking over my shoulder for grandmothers riding fixies festooned with baskets and bells.) “On your left” was the repeated refrain. And I did not care. I finally was cycling again… with my wife, outside, on a brilliant day.
Sure I was traveling at a speed more accustomed to joggers. I pedaled up tiny hills at such a lazy pace that the sun’s position in the sky visibly changed before summiting. Heck, to keep pace with me when she wasn’t sprinting ahead to get a little exercise, Laura nearly had to pull trick-riding moves to balance on her two-wheeler. In the past, this might have frustrated me immensely. After all I used to be a regular cyclist, even organizing special event rides on this very trail (e.g., Bike for a Burrito, slogan “it’s a gas”).
Over time, though, I’ve learned that when you have multiple sclerosis, there is little to be gained by bundling valuable energies into mourning the body of your past. Savor the present instead, and turn shortcomings into opportunities.
On this afternoon I was going so slowly, I could stare down animals along the trail that in the past would have skittered for shelter as I romped by. I could overhear curious kids squeal to their parents to look, loook, LOOOOK at that cool bike and how badly they wanted one. I could daydream to the hypnotic fishing-reel tck-tck-tck of the rear hubs when I coasted on the flats. And I could marvel as future Olympians steamrolled down the trail directly toward me. Egad, daydream over!
Seriously. Long-distance runners from the women’s 2016 Japanese team were training that day, taking advantage of Albuquerque’s mile-high altitude and perfect 70-degree weather. Coaches, each laden with a half dozen stopwatches, monitored their every step. Members of the squad kindly nodded my direction as our paths crossed. Perhaps one day I’ll have to learn how to say “左手に” to pass these marathoners while speeding along on my trike, but for now I’m quite content to be the slow dude on the right.