As a storyteller and author, the art of telling a tale is something that I hold dear. I tend to do things in a slightly unorthodox, but nonetheless effective fashion.
When I sit down to craft story, I start at the end and work backwards. I know how the tale usually begins, but I need to know where I want the story to end; for myself, telling a good story is about connecting those two rope ends together with intrigue.
The story of my own life, however, is still being written. I do not know how this story ends, but I can tell you about the time when it almost did. That will be at a later time. Right now, I am going to tell you of who I am in the current.
I do not believe that I am anyone special or unique. I do believe that I am someone who has lived a life filled with a myriad of varied experiences. Much of what I write in this space will be telling you these stories of my life, what I learned from it, and how it shaped me.
If you were unaware, I was one of the finalists for the 2015 Shorty Awards, for the category of Athlete. Even this is a story to tell that may not be like others you have heard in your time. When I am not working on writing books, I am an endurance cyclist and it turns out I’m pretty decent at it. Endurance cycling was never a thing that I had a particular personal interest in, but like many major life actions there was a catalyst.
I live with a condition known as Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome, as I pointed out in my previous post. CPPS specifically, is a condition that affects men. The very short version of this story is that certain medical complications and reactions to antibiotics is what put me in this state. I have lived with this condition since I was thirty years old, going on 4 years this year. Sparing you the more unpleasant and needlessly descriptive portions of my condition, I can tell you that it is something that I fight against and struggle with on a daily basis. Like other pain conditions, it waxes and wanes; on my best days in the Summer months I feel completely normal, while on my worst days, particularly the winter months and rainy days, I may not be able to get out of bed. To live with chronic pain is to live with an invisible tormentor, one whom punishes you constantly. This torment is different, though; it comes from a different place – within. The one thing that you have had with you your entire life, your body, has betrayed you.
In the beginning of my 3rd year living with this condition, I was arguably at the worst I’d been. The mental and emotional stresses of living with this condition are numerous, and I had fallen to a little more than 100lbs. I was weak, and incredibly frail. I was not sure how much longer I was going to be able to last.
Chronic pain is a thief. It steals your life away from you, but slowly. It can be exhausting in all ways physical, mentally, and emotionally. However, I experienced a powerful awakening and deeper understanding of my situation.
“You are in pain. You will likely continue to be in pain for the foreseeable future. It’s time to stop mourning the death of your old life. Your life has changed, and you must adapt to it.” It was then that I decided that my own life was something that I had to fight for. I asked myself an incredibly simple question, one that has brought me this far:
Can you move your legs in a circle for a long time?
I was able to answer that question in the affirmative. A few days later I ordered the thing that would completely change my life, a Retrospec Speck SS folding bike.
The early days of my cycling were as you’d probably expect. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in over 20 years, but the old adage was proven true. Once you learn, you never forget. My muscles were becoming atrophied due to the lack of activity, and riding a simple quarter-mile was exhausting. But I kept riding and every day I became stronger. My body ached in pain, but I reveled in it. My condition makes me suffer multiple levels above any typical exercise pains, and I was able to push myself physically much further than I might have in the past, but in a healthy way.
Soon, I would be going for 5 mile rides, then 10, and then 15. My body began to change in ways that I hadn’t seen in years. I was filling out with weight again, muscles were becoming incredibly defined and prominent, and I had a new spring in my step that I couldn’t remember the last time having. I began to eat like a workhorse, consuming all around me. My interest levels continued to rise in my newfound activity and would be at the forefront of this counterattack against my own failing health.
I would spend hours every night researching into bicycles and understanding how they functioned. I had never had any prior interest in most mechanics or vehicles, and so all of it was a rich learning experience which did suit my overall interest of “knowing things which are worth knowing.”
I would continue to stack on the miles on my peculiar bicycle, and cover distances that I never believed were possible. At my peak in that first year of becoming a cyclist, I would max out at a half-century (50 mile) ride and would cover over 1000 miles on my bike in the first 3 months, with no signs of stopping.
Later on in 2014 I would become known for additional reasons in the social media space. As people came to know me and what I did, they would learn of this very story that you read, that of me fighting back against my demon. It was not something that I expected, but it moved people. I, whom was inspired, would become the one to inspire others. It was because of those people that heard the story of my pain and my refusal to bow down to it, that I ended up as a Shorty Awards Finalist by way of public nomination.
Because of the training that I had done in 2014, I did make it through the winter in much better shape than before. Every day I get to talk to others who suffer in pain as I, and I am so fortunate that they look up to me as a role model of taking control of their lives again, to take back their soul from this beast that saps you of it.
I did not win the Shorty Awards for this year, but I don’t think that that was the point. I was already the winner to hundreds of people; The people who told me that I was their hero because I did the things that they did not believe were possible, and made them believe that they could do it too.
I have no intention of ever stopping cycling. My pain, the thing that has haunted me for years is becoming the thing that drives me. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but my chronic pain was actually preparing me for the activity of endurance cycling: How much can you take?
My strength is my pain.