Head games: Coming back after an injury.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 06/05/18 •  4 min read

Ten months ago I had a crash on my road bike. I’d never been injured doing any sort of activity, so to me, it was pretty traumatic. Yeah, I did some damage; I sliced the patella tendon in my knee, which attaches your quads to your knee cap, and it took me months to recover (Watch out for those guardrails! They’re sharp!). And though I’m doing well now, I had pretty much decided to put my road biking on hold.

Why? Oh, you know. Head stuff. Even though I’ve made a good physical recovery — I skied all winter — mentally I just wasn’t there.

From what I understand, this is pretty common. Injuries can really mess with your mind. I’ve heard it said that accidents require more than just physical recovery. They require mental recovery, too. And all too often, this is overlooked.

Mental recovery takes time. And while people have told me “you have to get back on the horse,” it ain’t that easy. There’s fear, of course; fear of getting injured again and all that entails. And there’s lack of confidence. Even though what happened was out of my control, it made me less secure in my abilities as a cyclist.

Then there’s this: For me, biking has never been a super high priority. It’s something I do in the off season just to get outdoors and stay in shape. I’d never really considered that I could get hurt in a way that could jeopardize my skiing. Did I really want what I considered a secondary activity to keep me from doing something I’m passionate about?

My initial reaction was no.

But then I thought about it more. And even though this is something I’ve known intellectually for years, it took me a while to come to terms with this emotionally, as well:  you can get hurt doing just about anything — driving, crossing the street, using a pair of scissors. Am I supposed to wrap myself in cotton and stay in bed until ski season rolls around, just to stay injury free?

I don’t think so.

Like it or not, life is a series of trade-offs. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, the sort who participates in high risk behavior in search of thrills. I’m never going to climb El Cap, navigate Class V rapids, or go sky diving or hang gliding. It’s just not in my nature. But to live in a way that makes life worth living — at least to me — you can’t just sit in a chair hoping you never get hurt. Some of the most fun things on the planet have a measure of risk. You just have to accept that, do whatever you can to be as safe as possible, and move ahead.

So a few days ago I got back on the bike and took a nice, easy ride in one of my favorite places on earth: the shores of Lake Champlain, Vermont. It’s very rural, so the roads aren’t busy. And the scenery is amazing, which provided the sort of distraction I needed.

How’d I do? Fine. Sure, I was a bit nervous. Can you blame me? But it was a beautiful day, and we had a great time.

Will I keep it up? Probably. Maybe not with the same intensity as I did in the past — I’m not quite there yet — but hopefully, this wasn’t the first and last time I’ll be on my bike. Stay tuned.

And now, here some pics from my ride around Lake Champlain, VT:

Looking across to the Adirondacks


More scenic beauty.


This style fence is very common.


Colorful birdhouses. And a T-rex, of course.




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