Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Death on wheels

I'm learning to rollerblade. Apparently I so miss the pain and humiliation of snowboarding that I had to find a summer activity that would offer the same amount of torture.

I first tried to rollerblade home from work one day. I knew that I didn't want to be near traffic, so I walked down to the path by the lake. I put on the rollerblades and all my protective gear (conveniently already purchased for snowboarding). I had specially padded shorts, wrist guards, knee pads, and a helmet. After a few really sad attempts at getting moving, I was doing okay where the path was smooth and flat. I wasn't very steady on my feet, but I was managing to stay upright. The only problem was that I had no idea how to stop. My solution was to glide on both skates until I slowed way down. Not nice form, but it was working.

Then came the hill.

I had no idea that there was a hill between work and my area of town. I hadn't gone up a hill, so I guess that the centre of town is higher. Who the hell knows? All I know is that suddenly I was at the top of a cliff-like hill.* In addition to being faced with a hill, the path sometimes is near the lake, sometimes goes through a more park-like setting, and sometimes is right beside the road. This was a place where it was right beside the expressway, with not a fence in sight. Fences are nice because they are good for clinging to as a substitute for learning how to properly stop.

I knew there was no way that I would be able to get down that hill without serious injury. Somehow I managed to get to side of the path. I sat down and considered my options. Death by flying into traffic? Pain by falling on my face? Completely becoming a hazard to other rollerbladers and to cyclists by flailing around and being out of control? I just couldn't see any of those as viable options. Then I thought of those game shows where you get to call a friend for help.

I opted to call D. as unlike me, he is coordinated and knows how to rollerblade. His advice was very sound...for people who have any clue of how to rollerblade. I heard something about making turns to go down the hill in a controlled manner and then he added, "just like in snowboarding." For me, he may as well have said, "I recommend that you go down the hill by doing faceplant after faceplant". After all, that was my experience with snowboarding. I realized that no matter what legitimate advice he could give me, going down a hill on rollerblades would require skills I just didn't have.

I finished talking to him and reconsidered my options. I felt that the best course of action would be for me to take off my rollerblades and walk down the hill. The only problem was, I soon realized that I couldn't get them off. I didn't know how to release the bindings. It was at this point that I truly began to panic. I was trying to think of friends with cars who could come by and carry me over to their vehicle and drive me home. I envisioned myself having to inch my way down the hill on my butt. Luckily I eventually did get the skates off my feet.

At the foot of the hill I was so grateful to be back on flat ground. I put my rollerblades back on and felt like a pro gliding along the flat path. I was almost at the bridge that would take me to my area of town though and so my nice ride was short-lived. I changed [once again] into my running shoes and walked the rest of the way home.

From that time I've been getting gradually better, but I still have to stick to trails. My dream was to be confident enough on side streets to be able to roller blade to work.

Fast forward to this past week-end...

D. bravely offered to spend Sunday rollerblading with me. As we had practiced stopping one night, and I had managed to rollerblade from the safe trail up to my workplace (about 10 minutes on city streets), I decided to rollerblade to his place. Unbelievably I managed it. I even had to cross streetcar tracks near my house. In retrospect though, that was the easy part.

Then D. and I went down towards the lake. This meant that we had to negotiate Lakeshore Blvd., which is quite large. We were on old cracked sidewalks and leading towards a small section of the highway. I was so scared of not being able to stop and sliding into traffic. D. was trying to help me so he skated ahead, and then turned to face me to make sure I stopped in time. I tried to stop, but I was so panicked about the traffic that I discovered a new method of stopping quickly: let your legs go flying up and then crash straight down to the sidewalk on your butt. I also managed to land on my left hand. It didn't break because of my wonderful wrist guards, but oh man, from my fingers to my shoulder I was in pain. Oddly enough, my butt didn't hurt at all. Probably due to all the 'natural' padding I have there.

This was followed shortly after by complete drama of me lying on my side and screaming. Until I realized that I wasn't really hurt. I was very shaken up though. To his credit, D. didn't laugh at me. [I would have died laughing after seeing a friend fall like that - after ensuring that they weren't paralyzed].

It was hard to get back up and continue rollerblading after that, but gradually I got back into it. We went to the lakeside pavillion and had a beer, and then rollerbladed home. I even conquered the cliff-like hill. I fell one more time, but that was a relaxed fall where I fell forward and landed on my knee pads and wrist guards. Not a big deal. Apart from the fact that my left hand hurt for the rest of the week-end, it was a perfect day, and most importantly, starting tomorrow, I'm going to be able to rollerblade to work.

*I was describing the hill to a coworker and she asked how large it was. I admitted, "Well, when I say 'hill'..." She interrupted me and said that reality didn't matter - from now on the hill would be described as cliff-like.


St. Dickeybird said...

You're inspiring. I've got to start doing stuff sometime...

Snooze said...

Snowboarding and rollerblading have been terrific (but painful) experiences for me.

Freak Magnet said...

You've got the right attitude, which is 90% of it. I'm sure you'll be the picture of grace in no time at all. Isn't it amazing, though, how it suddenly becomes 100 times more difficult to skate across roads?

CoffeeDog said...

Oh, glad you weren't hurt!

katrocket said...

I laughed so hard at the phrase "faceplant after faceplant"! That's kinda my style of skating (and skiing), too. It sounds like you're improving every time you go out, so you'll be one of those speedy and self-sufficient commuters that we now envy.

Snooze said...

FM: It's true that roads make the terror factor increase by 10

CD: I learned the hard way in snowboarding that it pays to have good protective equipment

Katrocket: Believe me, I never look steady on my feet.

Dantallion said...

I swear I had tears streaming down my face I was laughing so hard after I read For me, he may as well have said, "I recommend that you go down the hill by doing faceplant after faceplant".

I'd never wish pain on you, snooze, but do you blame me for taking an itty-bitty bit of pleasure in you letting your legs go flying up and then crash straight down to the sidewalk on your butt.

This was a great post.

madamerouge said...

Hills. Cars. Breathing in pollution at an accelerated rate. Size 13 feet. These factors work against me ever owning a pair of in-line skates.

Tickersoid said...

Congratulations on having the determination to stick with it. I feel a little inspired. Maybe I'll try this out as an alternative to the gym.

Snooze said...

Dantallion: Aw hon, I would have laughed at me if I could have seen the crash myself. Now just don't you be crashing on your gorgeous bike.

MadameRouge: Nonsense! Get rolling!

Tickers: Yes! Do it! It's so much fun.