Mountain biking is a lot like veterinary medicine

When I first began practice as a veterinarian, it took all of about three months before I got tossed out on my own. This was not by choice, mind you. My clinic had opened up a satellite office and sent my ‘mentor’ over to staff the place, leaving me at the main clinic with a couple other part time vets. To be frank, I was glad to have a break from the guy. He was a nightmare. Within one week the entire staff at the new clinic threatened mutiny if they were forced to work with the vet in question one more day, so off I went to be a solo practitioner, an agreement that, had I known what I was getting myself into, I would never have agreed to.

Trial by fire: a tale as old as time. And the outcome is usually the same no matter what, a sort of horrified bemusement in retrospect, the realization that That Never Should Have Happened, and a great relief that you survived. Or in this case, my patients. My patients all survived.

Granted, I have a bad habit of rushing into things by myself without the benefit of guidance, mentorship, or advice. That’s how I would up in vet school in the first place, and that worked out ok. That’s how I ended up hiking to a 14K foot peak in Africa with a group of strangers and 0 camping experience. I’ve decided that being the overly cautious risk aversive type that I am, when faced with adequate information, the only way to take a chance in life is to go in with inadequate information- I call it the “too stupid to know better” approach- and hope for the best.

I realize that this often results in people dying. But for now, it’s working for me.

 It was in this spirit that I decided to take my new mountain bike out for a spin yesterday. I needed the exercise. We live in an area with a nice bike trail loop. I’ve done spin classes for a while. How hard could it be?

As I circled the driveway six or seven times with my shiny new wheels practicing gear changes, it occurred to me that there was a good chance I would end up pushing my bike back home with either a flat tire or a broken ankle, but it was a risk I was willing to take, because I’m not quite sure who would have the patience to walk a novice through bicycling in the first place.

I learned many things out on the trail this sunny morning.

 

  1. “Steep” is relative. When pedaling is involved, “gentle incline” = steep.
  2. Taking Brody along in our current condition would be a suicide mission.
  3. I am so glad no one was following me with a cameraphone. Because that scene was ugly.

I spent a good amount of time huffing, puffing, cursing, and screaming at branches I mistook for rattlesnakes as I skidded by them. By some miracle I emerged, dusty and unscathed, 50 minutes later having covered probably a mile or so of San Diego’s finest amateur trails.

I spoke about my misadventures with a friend today, whose husband is into mountain biking. She told me he bought her a $1500 bike and took her to a flat lake area, where he proceeded to chastise her bad form for so long he eventually left her behind as she sat on the curb, crying. She hasn’t ridden it since. That is a perfect analogy for many of my colleagues who have since left the veterinary profession, convinced of their insurmountable inadequacy. Sometimes it’s better to muddle through as you go without the benefit of knowing how badly you are doing.

So far I’ve done a ridiculous amount of things the wrong way- raising kids, writing about vet life even though vets aren’t supposed to blog (“Conventional Wisdom 2008” in action), mixing white wine with red meat, you name it, I’ve messed it up. That being said, constructing life without an instruction manual has been immensely rewarding for me, so I guess I’ll just keep on soldiering on and seeing what happens. Though I do suspect I would benefit from a tire repair kit somewhere along the way.

 

 

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  • Sue W.

    I totally admire you for going out and trying new things. I really think there is no *right* way…just the way that is most widely publicized. Especially with raising kids. The best advice I ever got was “Good enough is good enough.”

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      I love that quote! I’ll have to remember that one.

  • carolinegolon

    A great way to live. And that photo above made me almost spit out my coffee. Very true with SO many things in life. :)

  • Cathey

    I’m thinkin’ there are a bunch of us out here that think you’re doing it JUST RIGHT – otherwise we wouldn’t be coming back here morning after morning. Keep doing what you’re dong Doc, cuz it works – you’re my hero!!

  • GrannyBeth

    So true, So true. I recently decided to hop on my mountain bike after a tune up after not using it for years. I walk. I hike. I work out. And yet “gentle incline=steep” . And like you “So far I’ve done a ridiculous amount of things the wrong way-”, I thought that age would improve my track record but…..

  • JaneK

    Hahaha! This was about like my first and only mountain bike experience! I was in tears, pushing my bike, and my boyfriend bewildered why I was sobbing!
    I love this quote from you: “Sometimes it’s better to muddle through as you go without the benefit of knowing how badly you are doing.”
    You make me feel much better about my approach to life. As a matter of fact, I was just sharing your matchbook craft story yesterday!

    Rock on Dr. V, rock on!