Tuesday, August 27, 2013

broken wing, punctured lung

last time I whined about getting hurt when I fell on my bike.  (I didn't really fall off it, as I was still clipped in when I landed.)
I whined about broken ribs, my broken wing, my separated shoulder, blah blah blah.  it's hard to sleep, it's a pain, it keeps me from riding my bike . . . all of that.
and all of that was nothing---well, possibly not nothing---compared to what came next.
what came next was this:

12 days post accident I return to the orthopedic surgeon who fixed my clavicle (back in 2010) for a follow-up appointment, to have new xrays taken and to decide whether or not surgery could best fix my scapula.
we go over the xrays, and he shows us the CT scan taken right after my accident which is a mix of creepy and freaky.  we decide that the bony ridge of scapula that is dangling in a funny place in my back is harmless---at least at this point---and unless or until it bothers me, we are best off leaving it alone.
whew!  no surgery!

twenty minutes later I'm home, excited to start a load of laundry and do a little cleaning, ready to have the accident in the past and move forward.  I sip a cup of coffee and am putting clothes in the washer when I hear my phone ring.  never mind, can't get there fast enough, I ignore it. when I push the "start" button on the washing machine and then move to pick up my phone, I recognize the number as one from the orthopedic office.   no message.
while I'm pondering the phone rings again and it's my surgeon, who says,
in reviewing your films, I see that your left lung is at about half capacity.... I can't believe you're doing as well as you are, and can't believe I missed this while you were here.  will you please make your way to the emergency room?  we'll need to check your oxygen levels and maybe insert a chest tube . . . 

so off to the ER I went, and into the hospital I was admitted, and within a few hours I had two chest tubes inserted and oh my goodness I thought I hurt before . . .

I won't bore you with the next 4 days, and will just jump to returning home yesterday late afternoon.
home is a lovely place to be.
being free of chest-tubes is a lovely way to be.

a friend (?) today suggested that as we age, it takes longer to heal.  hmm.
all I know is that I've gone through many thoughts, feelings, and soul-searching self-questions about how much more pain I'm willing to endure, and at this point, that level is quite low.   quite low.

but as they say about childbirth . . . one tends to forget the pain and difficulty when love enters the equation.  today, it's hard to imagine that I'll ever ride faster than 10 mph on my bike, ever, again.
tomorrow that number might increase to 10.5 mph.
and soon it will likely slip up to say 12 or even 13.
but today, as I showered and re-bandaged the holes in the side of my body, I'm thinking 10 is okay.
and that walking is a lovely sport.

and that's really all I have to say.

Monday, August 19, 2013

take this broken wing

well, I crashed.

I was done with all that, had moved beyond, had already paid the admission price with previous spills.  knew what to look out for, knew to be vigilant and careful and observant and gently responsive.
and then came a descent, a right hand turn, some disguised gravel, a skid and overcorrection, and there I was, lying on the tarmac, still clipped in, my left side screaming underneath me, hearing myself say, shit, shit, shit, shit.

I've ridden close to 40,000 miles on my road bike(s), and by now, I know better.
I've broken my collarbone, chipped my shoulder, broken three ribs:  I know better.
I don't know how this really happened, but it did.

so, they helped me unclip from my bike, and took my helmet off and unloaded my back pockets of the jacket, banana, shot blocks and gu's.  they pumped an air splint around my left arm and loaded me in an ambulance and gave me zofran to ease my nausea.  and took me to the emergency room.
next came an overload of questions, x-rays, people in scrubs with ID's and beepers and that weird voice-thing, and the decision that I should be admitted.  my broken scapula, five broken ribs, and separated shoulder were causing my body enough grief that it was determined unsafe to send me home.


last time I crashed wasn't so bad.
this was worse.

somewhere along the way during those first few hours I heard someone say "your cycling season is over," and those words have been met by some fierce internal resistance by this woman.  yes, this accident happened four weeks before Lotoja, the event I work toward all season, scheduled september 7th this year.  I wasn't going to allow "can't do it" into my brain for a while, and even today, have trouble really incorporating that reality.
I'll be back on my bike by then...  I could at least ride for a while, go as far as I could . . .  
okay, not very realistic.  but heck, there's a lot of season left after Lotoja comes and goes.  september stretches on for weeks, and then october's the best riding month of all, and even november often offers a dozen great days of chilly air and clear blue skies.

today I sit in a place of acknowledging the incredible, immeasurable amount of pleasure cycling has given me, and giving tremendous thanks for the worlds opened up to me through the sport.  I love the me who blossomed on a bike saddle.
but I don't ever want to go through this again.  I hurt.  I look in the mirror and see someone I don't know.  nine days out, I am uncomfortable most all of the time and I can barely use my left arm.  I can walk--thank you, God--but most household tasks (never mind work related tasks) are difficult, draining, or impossible.  the good news is that each day brings improvement (as I told my biking buddy andy, improvements are incremental and imperceptible yet indisputable), and I'm confident that eventually, I will be fine.  memories will fade, and this time of intense anguish will soften around the edges and become something less than what it's been.

today I'm grateful I can use both hands to type.  I'm grateful my balance has returned and my intestinal system is returning to normal.  I'm grateful I have more energy today than yesterday.  I'm grateful what little road rash I had has faded, that no stitches were required, and that my helmet did its job perfectly.  I'm grateful for john being there that morning to take charge and support me, and for nursing me through those first cruddy days and on through to now.  I'm grateful for family and friends who have helped, comforted, empathized, loved.  I'm grateful for my mom, who has shown extraordinary restraint and wisdom by not shrieking at me "have you finally learned your lesson??  are you finally going to stop doing this?"
for the truth is that I've shrieked at myself enough during these past nine days.  and it doesn't do a whole lot of good.

in summary, crashing stinks.
and when I say I don't ever want to go through this again, I mean it.
but neither do I want to give up the joy, the swooping, the thrill, the satisfaction, the powerful gifts that cycling has given me.
so today I'll heal.  I'll focus on breathing deeply, being gentle, being grateful for all the good within and surrounding me.
someday in the not-too-distant future I'm sure I'll swing my leg over the bike and get back on the saddle.  I'll be cautious, I'll be vigilant.  I'll watch out for cars and bumps and gravel.  my first swoops will be mild, but I'm certain I will swoop.

because I love to swoop.

(take these broken wings, and learn to fly again, learn to live so free . . .  --lyrics, mr. mister, 1985)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

advice for riding into the wind

each early morning ride up emigration canyon gives me an opportunity to practice riding into a headwind.  some mornings are worse (or better) than others, and this morning the wind was consistently in my face for the first eight miles uphill.
I've written about wind before, about how it disheartens me, discourages me, wears me out.  I've worked on my attitude, I've worked to become more accepting of reality.  I've taught myself to call a windy ride a "great training ride," for that is the truth.
riding into the wind is difficult, requires more energy, and makes you a stronger rider.
however . . .
it can also drain you both mentally and physically.
I often think that there must be tips and techniques to use that might improve my performance:  are you supposed to get low, use a bigger gear, change your tempo?  I've never taken a cycling-into-the-wind class, and this morning I thought I would come home and do some research.

here are some of the best tips I found:

  • get down, lowering your upper body to as close to horizontal as possible.  think aero. 
  • gear down, releasing your body from grinding, changing to more of a spin.
  • don't be down:  riding into the wind is hard on everyone, and keeping a light & positive attitude is the best way to get through it.
  • pulling elbows in, thinking aerodynamics, is helpful.  and letting go of maintaining a consistent speed will help you relax.... acknowledge that it's difficult and be realistic about your speed goal.

I'm going to work on adopting these tips into my riding repertoire, but
wisdom gained from all my experience tells me this:  the best advice of all is simply to trust yourself.
trust that you're working hard, trust that when it's difficult you will do the right thing.  trust that you are capable.  trust that when you feel like you're working as hard and well as you can... you are.
have faith and trust in yourself.

wind is an excellent training tool, and it works best when you remember to relax.
trust, and relax.

tomorrow morning I promise to focus on being aero, spinning, relaxing, and trusting that I'm working exactly as hard as I need to be.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

out and back versus the loop

I can't speak for other cyclists, but as one who rides regularly, the route is always something to contemplate, evaluate, discuss, plan, tweak, moan about, and/or change along the way.
I ride a lot of "out and back" routes which are pretty much what the title says:  you ride to a certain point where you turn around and head the same way home.
I ride fewer "loops," where you start out and basically make a big oval, rectangle, or squiggly circle and end up back where you started.
when I ride more than one canyon in a day, it's still usually an out-and-back, just one with a side-step.

I spent this past weekend in wyoming, in the teton wilderness, staying with a friend who's a rancher.
of course I brought my bike.
his spread is up the gros ventre valley, about half an hour from the closest thing to a town, and the last five miles to his place is a dirt and gravel road, about as dusty as anything you've ever imagined as being the driest, dustiest thing around.
deciding that one long-ish ride on saturday would be enough--seeing as the point was to visit the ranch--I drove from the cabin to the beginning of the dirt and gravel road, parked, and pedaled away.
I'd calculated that if I rode into jackson hole and around the hill to wilson, then turned around and came back the same way, I'd be somewhere around 45-48 miles.  I had to hurry back home to go for a horse ride, so I settled on that out-and-back.
but then that thing happened that sometimes happens to cyclists when they're out riding:  I considered a different route.  well, I thought, since I'm over here in wilson, what if I cycled up the road past teton village and the ski resort, and stayed on moose-wilson road all the way to moose?
then I could hop on 89 and take my turnoff, head back to the car, making a big loop instead of the boring old out-and-back.
so I rode up to the grand teton national park entrance, paid my fee, and rode to moose.
this 8-mile stretch of road is beautiful, windy, twisting, shaded, up and down, and not always in the best of shape.  riding this road a few years back gave me my first experience with a sign warning of "frost heaves," which has become one of my favorite descriptive terms for unsettled road.
as I was nearing moose, I ran a few calculations in my head, having realized that I'd overshot my distance goal, and would be ending with closer to 65 miles than my anticipated just-under-fifty.
here's the thing:  once you make a decision like I had made, there's no better way home than forward.  I was further away than I wanted to be, with no available shortcut.  it was too late to shorten my route by turning back, and I was just plain-and-simple, committed.

it was windy, and getting hotter by the quarter hour.  heading back along 89 the road is exposed and, mmm, not terribly exciting, kind of like a false flat where you think you should be traveling much faster than you are, and the hills in the distance seem to pull closer so so slowly you think you're underwater.
anyway, by the time I reached my car I was spent and out of water.
it was an hour later than I'd planned.
I pulled into the campground around the corner from where I'd parked and filled up my water bottle, turned up the air conditioning, and settled in for my bumpy gravelly ride back to the ranch.

ah, the temptation of a loop.  oh, the freedom to change your mind when you're riding.  beautiful things, but not always in my best interest, as I learned last saturday in the beautiful jackson hole.