It was a week that went from dark to light.
Woke up from a dream in which I was riding some kind of very tall clown bike around town. The seat was about twenty metres off the ground, and you had to operate a complicated hand-lever system as well as push on the pedals. Humiliating, but it was my only mode of transport. I think I can trace the dream back to seeing a man riding a Brompton-like bike that had very small crankset at the bottom and a super-long stem. It messed with my head.
Got on my bike and trudged into an earlyish grey morning. We have entered the time of weather. Weather is going to be going on, half-heartedly and constantly, for the next few months.
My left leg and foot are still numb from my slipped disc, so I’m a bit lopsided. But most of my pain has gone, so I’m back on the bike, slogging, squinting, cursing, inching ever forwards.
Rode home. A car honked at me at the top of Kelburn Pde, on the steep bit. I must’ve been going through too slowly. Instead of reacting normally, I yelled, ‘What do you want?!’ Experienced strong desire to cause a scene. What if I just lay down on the road and howled? Managed to pull self together, but fumed all the way home – the kind of rage that feels like it is surely visible from space.
Was cheered by a Barbie-looking sky, pink and blue eyeshadow.
No bike ride today, but I did buy a new jacket for riding in the rain in. It’s been years since I have bought a rain jacket. This one is a violent shiny green.
Got on the bike earlyish in dark grey drizzle. Tarsealy sky. I haven’t missed going up the dark hell of old friend Raroa. Cars blasting past, hi-vis runners sprinting downhill with bare legs.
Today my rusty bike lock kept jamming, and I nearly got stranded twice, jostling the key frantically in the lock. Made mental note to spray CRC into it – the most satisfying, the most primal of the DIY tasks.
Incredibly, I rode home after work. Incredible because it was nearly impossible to rouse myself to get on the bike. My leg was aching again, I was tired and severely cranky, and I didn’t want to ride in the drizzle. Somehow I managed it, going uphill in the lowest gear, then lay on the floor, aglow, triumphant.
Suddenly, a beautiful morning ride. Buoyed by sharp sunlight, cold air. Everything glittering. Sparrows. A man out walking a tan miniature dachshund.
Rode home at lunchtime for the rest of the day, and something exciting happened: my new myofascial release tool, THE CLAW, arrived.
CLAW TALK INTERLUDE
In terms of bodily composition, I am mostly knots. You could use me to tether a yacht to a dock or secure a tent in high winds. Partly the knots are from curling over a desk each day, but mostly it’s that I was born tense. As a newborn I should have been foam-rolled immediately. Over the years I’ve amassed various ‘myofascial release’ tools, from foam rollers and trigger point balls to a percussive gun and a thing that is shaped like a big peanut. Some have been useless; others have been quite good; a select few have been exceptional but I haven’t been good at using them diligently. A brief rundown on these, before I get to the business of the Claw –
Spiky ball: The spiky ball looks like it should do something, but it doesn’t really do anything for me. I dislike the spiky ball. It’s both too large and too small, and it’s also too … spiky. I think this might be more of a me problem than a spiky ball problem. I keep mine on my desk at work, where I can stare at it and not use it.
RAD Centre Ball: ‘the only ball designed for visceral release’. I can’t quite remember why I bought this inflatable thing. All I can tell you is sometimes when I have indigestion I lie on top of it and roll around. It’s effective.
Percussive gun (the one I have is called VYBE Percussion Gun): This is fine. But it’s also noisy and heavy. I realise now that maybe it’s a bit useless. Too easy to miss your muscle and accidentally hammer your bone with it. Don’t use it on your face.
Soft foam roller (Trigger Point Grid 1): Like a hairdresser you’ve been going to for years, it will give you what you think you want but not what you really need. I go to this roller when I am seeking comfort and reassurance. It has a hollow core and I’ve read of people accidentally breaking their rollers in half, but so far mine has held steady.
Hard foam roller (Trigger Point Grid X): Like a relief teacher, this roller is harsh and terrifying at first. Designed ‘for athletes with dense muscle tissue’, which is a true but bad set of words. One review I read said, ‘The first time I used this on my shoulder, I screamed.’ Of course, I purchased it immediately and have never regretted it for a moment. As with all foam rollers, the only drawback is that it takes graft. You can’t just lie there. You have to be rolling, you have to be screaming.
Shakti mat (Advanced): This is essentially a bed of nails and it’s meant to help with circulation. The first couple of minutes of lying down on this thing are diabolical, pure hell on earth, and you will want to die. Then gradually a sensation of warmth and goodness washes over you and all is right with the world. Another thing I sometimes do is stand on the Shakti mat (Advanced) to get the circulation going in my feet. This is worse than hell on earth and actually doesn’t get better.
Trigger Point ball: My most-used tool. For feet, shoulders, calves, butt, lower back. I have nothing bad to say about the trigger point ball. It’s a workhorse; it asks for nothing and delivers everything. It loves unconditionally.
Peanut-shaped thing: This competes with the classic Trigger Point ball for most-used tool. It is very good for calves and ankles and butts. It has good grip and doesn’t slide all over the place on a wood floor. I have a lot of time for this thing, whose proper name I don’t even know.
But back to the Claw. I was excited when I came across this tool when googling for things that might help with my back, because it is described as having ‘the hardness of an elbow’ and all you have to do is lie on it and wriggle around. It’s meant to free up the QL muscle – the muscle that I blame for all of my problems in life – in your lower back.
After tearing the box open I found that the Claw looks pretty off-putting – basically a big slab with a sort of knob on it. (In a review someone has written: ‘Feels as good as it looks!’ which I can’t make sense of.) I positioned the Claw on the ground and lay on it while reading the little pamphlet that shows some moves you can do with it – all variations on ‘writhing man’.
I started with the Bruiser and then quickly scuttled back to the Starter. The Claw is intense, and it really does feel like an elbow jabbing into your back. It resulted in a lovely deep sweet achey pain that told me it was doing some important, high-level work.
In conclusion, I feel like the Claw is going to solve all my problems. But I guess I should note that I felt this about all of my other myofascial release tools.
Sun again. I have been experimenting with getting up earlier. I have a feeling that it will solve all my problems.
As I cycled to work, I was worrying about something I have agreed to do in public. Whenever I agree to do something in public, I regret it and tell myself that this will be the last time. This time, on Monday, I’m going on Jesse Mulligan’s show on RNZ. Naturally, I’m terrified. I will be talking about creative writing, a subject that I used to think I knew things about, but not anymore. I had a nightmarish conversation with the producer of the show the other day and when he asked ‘What is creative writing?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’ Cycling is often a good activity during which to imagine better versions of yourself, and I tried to think of excellent, smart things I could say on Monday, but I know that in reality I will flounder before the nation.
Went for a lunchtime ride in the sun. It was a delight to be able to go for a ride at lunchtime again. Suddenly my leg wasn’t hurting anymore and I was able to go up a few hills.
After work, zoomed into town – sky still blue, wind low – to meet a load of poets. Afterwards, late, I ran out of energy to get all the way home and rode only as far as work. One of the poets, Nick Ascroft, lurched ahead on an e-bike. One important strike against e-bikes is that they are simply unable to ride slowly, so if you are riding uphill with a friend on a push bike, your push bike friend will appear weak and useless.
Parked my bike for the night. Walked back to collect it the next morning and had a good slow ride home in the autumny sun. I recommend a Saturday morning ride and need to get back in the habit of doing them.
I don’t like the spiky ball, even the dog doesn’t bother w it. Shakti mat gathers dust, but solid foam roller is the most used! Also, golf ball under gristly knotty arches of the feet! Got 2 golf balls free on the beach. Happy days.
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A golf ball is a great gift to the arches. Excruciating but you know it’s doing the business!
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