I’m not surprising anyone when I say 2020 appears to be the year of challenges. Wait, don’t stop reading! This isn’t about politics. This is about the plethora of other potholes in the road that my life has traversed this past year. Most I’ve written about already. I’m not here to rehash the past. I’m here with a new “opportunity”. My fervent hope is that the universe is finally satisfied with the lesson(s) that it’s been trying to teach me ‘O’ these past few years.

As regular readers, you’ve tracked my “progress” through torn hamstrings, broken ribs, a cracked sternum and a broken neck. Because I’m too stubborn for my own good, I recovered from every one of them and gone on to race again. My mantra has always been “one small step at a time.” I’ve been able to set goals and keep them firmly in my sights as I moved closer to them every day. I frustrated my wife more than once (sorry Caren) and caused my children no end to theirs. My oldest daughter has finally stopped asking me when I’m going to stop riding and racing because she knows the answer.

Lee Waldman looks forward to sunny, warm and virus-free race days. photo: back to basics

Lee Waldman looks forward to sunny, warm and virus-free race days. photo: back to basics

However, until now, I haven’t told you about my latest and greatest. On Monday the 14th I went out for an easy recovery ride. The roads around my house were finally dry following our last little snowstorm. I was looking for some snow to ride in so I decided to head towards the cyclocross course that we maintain about 30 minutes from my front door. All was going well. I was feeling good. After two days stuck inside on the trainer, riding outside was what I needed. The day was cold, but sunny and life was good, until . . . this patch of snow covering no more than a meter of ice.

NYC Snow Day 2010 014

You can probably guess the rest. Even good cyclocross tires don’t track well on ice and before I had a chance to catch myself I was down…hard. Standing took my breath away. But, my wife was working and I knew that the only way I was going to get home was to ride.

Interestingly enough, it hurt less to ride than to walk. Finally in my driveway, 30 minutes later, I struggled to lift my left leg over the top tube. Limping through the garage, grimacing with every step I collapsed on the couch in our basement.

“Are you ok?” Caren asked. Usually, I can minimize my injuries. Not this time.

“I hurt myself”, I said. She was down the steps immediately. At this point, unassisted walking was definitely out of the question. After a few minutes of “discussion” we made the decision that the ER was the next step and 4 hours later, after an x-ray and MRI, I found that I now have a cracked pelvis. As I said at the beginning, a perfect ending to a “perfect” 2020. They sent me home with crutches and directions to minimize weight-bearing activity. The story gets better though. Not only am I on crutches, but so is my wife, the result of stepping into a hole getting out of our car and breaking her tibial plateau.

Our holidays might be hobbled, but we’ll be as active as we can. Perhaps we’ll need to make so crutch modifications like this to stay hydrated:

Crutch mod

We have a blackboard in our kitchen where my wife is in the habit of writing motivational sayings. Ironically, here’s the latest one: “Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some actually come to clear the path”. Maybe someone out there who reads this column can help me here. What exactly is the path that the universe would like me to follow? Because it feels like I’ve weathered enough storms in the past few years. I’ve been forced to temper my basic stubbornness with a good dose of patience. I thought I’d learned that lesson, but maybe not. I also thought that I’d finally reached the understanding that life really isn’t under my control; that there’s some force out there that has control over me and that I’m truly “under” the control of whatever that force is. I guess I’m still on the path.

My conscious living meditation for today did nothing except reinforce that lesson. It was also about control; who or what has it and what I can do about it. I’m sharing this with you because at some point in your life you or someone close to you, may be in a similar situation, faced with a challenge that’s out of your control. Maybe my learning might help move you forward a bit more quickly and with less grief than has been my experience.

Here’s the way that I’m trying to look at my situation now. If it helps you, then all the better:

First: recognize with my logical self that the universe has its reasons. This is the easy part. Intellectually it makes sense to me because I know that I don’t listen well. Before I left my house to start that fateful ride my gut told me that I should just stay inside on the trainer. True to form, I ignored it. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20.

Second: recognize with my emotional self that the universe has its reasons. This poses more of a challenge. I struggle mightily with the concept that being an athlete means being able to meet every challenge. That’s what’s come back to bite me in the butt more than once. My decision to ride was just another in that long line of decisions that were driven by emotion rather than logic. It was cold and I knew that there would be some dicey spots on my route. I went anyway.

Third and finally: recognize with my physical self that the universe has its reasons. I guess that I hadn’t been listening carefully to my body telling me that it needs a rest. And because I wouldn’t listen, the universe put me in a position where I’m now forced to listen. I wish there had been a kinder and gentler way, but knowing me, that was never going to happen.

Here I am now, pedaling easy for the next month at least. Skate skiing is on the back burner till at least January. Riding outside, the same. The next four to six weeks are going to be long ones. Send me energy, I’m going to need it. Lucky for me the euro cross scene is accessible on YouTube and I’ve already penciled in gravel rides and races for next spring and summer. They say that visualization is almost as effective as the real thing. We’ll see.

I said at the beginning that I wouldn’t bring politics in but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try to put this into perspective. There are over 300,000 people who have lost their lives due to the pandemic.

A little thing like a cracked pelvis pales in comparison to losing a loved one. My advice to you: learn from my sad story. Listen to the universe. It’s under control, you are not.

Now go for a ride, but be careful with the ice.