Monthly Archives: September 2013

… with a little help …

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This is one big note of thanks to teammates and friends in the cycling community — local, and beyond: all those who sent cards, get-well-wishes, and most importantly words of encouragement and support. (and, today, all the birthday wishes)

Perhaps you don’t — and before this I didn’t — appreciate the impact that it has. Without that contact it would have been much easier to withdraw and feel isolated.

Or doubt being able to get through it. When everyone just assumes that you’ll be on the bike again, you start to believe it yourself.

So here we are, not quite 5 months out, and I was able to celebrate a birthday with a 50 mile ride. Back in May I couldn’t imagine doing that. Even 10 days ago, it hardly seemed possible.

Thanks to everyone who — knowingly or otherwise — helped me get to this place.

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Return to Compulsive

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One of the ‘silver linings’ the last 4 months is that I’ve gotten a break from the daily obsessive-compulsive behaviors that come along with training. Always checking the weather. Keeping my bike and riding clothes in the car. Organizing my schedule to let me “get a ride in”. The constant cycle of washing bike clothes. Fixing flats, changing tires, gluing tires, and on and on.

It’s been like that for so long I’d forgotten what it was like not to be doing it every day. Like normal people. (Unfortunately I couldn’t do other normal people things for the most part).

More than once I wondered: when the time came, would I have the desire to jump back into that mentality again?

After one week I think I have my answer. Actually I had the answer earlier than that: August 6 was the first day I was able to ride a stationary bike. I then proceeded to ride 39 straight days on either the trainer or stationary bike, before going out on the road.

It’s been 9 days since I first rode outside, and I’ve been on the road 7 of those days (and 2 on the trainer). Every day I’ve looked at the weather, planned out a ride, the whole compulsive routine. And enjoyed every second of it.

I have to say, I’m more than a little surprised at the result: today I hit a milestone of 50 miles in under 3 hours. 9 days ago, before that first ride, I never would have imagined that to be possible.

You surely lose a lot, and quickly, when you don’t ride at all for 3 months. That first ride on the stationary bike lasted all of 10 minutes. But I guess 3 months off can’t completely undo twenty-some years … which is a nice discovery.

And I think I’ve discovered one of the reasons for the compulsion: after today’s ride I have that genuinely-tired feeling where I don’t want to do anything but sit with my legs up and eat. I don’t know any other way to get to that feeling.

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Love from a cane

Having one of those days (or weeks) where all you get is crap from others? Here’s a tip: get a cane, or crutches.

This morning someone said ‘excuse me’ and moved out of the way so I could get coffee. Three different people (including the VP of Advanced Technology) opened the door for me.

Last weekend at the farmers’ market in Chagrin Falls I noticed people would move aside to give me room to walk, or pull their kids out of the way, lest they bump in to me.

It’s rather startling. And makes me think: why do we need such an excuse to show some simple kindness to another person, or just to have some basic manners?

I think my daughter knew this, instinctively: back when she was maybe 7 years old, she asked for a set of crutches for Christmas, just to be able to walk around on them. I think she knew: people would be nicer.

There is another side to the coin, though. After 4+ months of this, I’ve found myself wanting to say, “C’mom man, I’m capable, you don’t need to treat me like I can’t open a door.”

Kind of ironic that I’d rather have them treat me like crap, just like they do to everyone else.

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Do it man

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This is the post I’ve been waiting 132 days to write.

It almost happened last week, but I was still feeling a little too nervous so decided to wait another week … at least. I knew I wasn’t going to forget how to ride, but the thought of balancing on two wheels and coordinating the movements to clip in, clip out, put my foot down, start up again, seemed a bit daunting.

I emailed Tris and said “today might be the day” … but that I was anxious just thinking about it.

“Do it man. Even a short ride around the block will be a big boost”, he wrote back.

So I did it. First in running shoes, to the end of the street. It was easier than I thought it would be. I got changed and put my cycling shoes on. My WAS Labs jersey still had a number from the last RATL pinned on.

2 miles around the neighborhood and I felt ready to head out on the road. I’d been telling people I would try a short ride, but I knew that I was going to try to push it farther, as much as I could anyway.

It turned out better than expected. Nervous at first, but that got better. It felt amazingly good to be on the road, but at the same time every pedal stroke reminded me that I have a steel plate in my leg. It was a strange sensation to be going up a hill, slowly, knowing that I just could not push the pedals any harder. I wanted to tell every car or bike that passed me, “hey, I broke my femur 4 months ago, this is as fast as I can go”.

In the end, it added up to 60km and a bit over 2 hours, including the initial riding around the neighborhood. Way more than I had hoped for, and faster than I was expecting.

And I can eat pizza tonight without it adding to my waist (the best part).

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Thanks, George

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George has been cutting my hair since 1986.

He’s originally from Luxembourg, and by way of serendipity I discovered a long time ago that he was a boyhood friend of Tour de France winner Charly Gaul. Over the years we’ve had many great conversations about bike racing while he cut my hair. If not racing, then golf, which is the sport that he plays. How could I ever have someone else cut my hair?

About a month after my accident, I was ready to get my hair cut. I called George.

“Hi George, this is Brian calling”.
“How are you?” (said in Luxembourg accent)
“Well, not so good. I have a broken leg.”
“I suppose I don’t have to guess about how that happened.”

I couldn’t remember if he had stairs. I couldn’t go up and down stairs at the time. Unfortunately, he did. So I had to do something I really did not want to do: go somewhere else, where I could manage with crutches.

It felt very strange. The girl who cut my hair had that twenty-something air of indifference about her, coupled with alcohol-hangover breath. “Just cut it short”, I said.

I can go up and down stairs now. I haven’t taken the elevator at work for the last 2 weeks. Stairs are great physical therapy.

So I called George today, and he managed to squeeze me in after work.

I’m running my hand over my (short) hair, and it feels good. I’m reminded how my daughter, when she was little, used to run her hand up the back of my freshly-cut short hair, against the grain, while sucking her thumb. Kind of like her security blanket.

Good times.

I may even try to ride outside tomorrow.

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Untitled

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I’ve been making a point of walking every day. Partly for rehab (I want to walk without limping), and partly just because it’s a physical activity that I’m able to do. There’s only so much trainer-riding that I can take.

Tired of walking in the neighborhood, I walked on the bridle trail from the Metroparks Polo Field.

I’d forgotten how many people go there to run. It was an unpleasant sensation to be walking along and having all these people running past me. When I would run on that trail, which I’ve done many times, I’d the the one doing the passing.

I then had the thought: “what if” … this was as good as it gets? What if it turned out that I could never run or ride or do any kind of really vigorous activity? Not saying that is the likely outcome here, but for some people it is. You get hurt or sick, and then all of a sudden you can’t do what you were able to previously. It’s a depressing thought, and one that we don’t like to think about.

Throughout this ordeal though I’ve come to see that your circumstances can change in the millisecond that it takes for your tires to slide out, or for the other driver to run the red light, or any number of other things.

That’s not a profound revelation. We’ve all heard it before, and understand it intellectually. But do we really face it and accept it? It’s not just wrecking on a bike and getting hurt, it’s also that we will get old and sick, and our bodies eventually won’t do what want them to do.

Walking along the trail, I recalled all the stuff I’ve read over the years about Buddhism and eastern philosophy. It occurred to me that here was my lesson on impermanence and suffering. It seems very real now.

There’s no real comfort in that thought … and I think that is the point.

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Someday, maybe

For those of you following along at home, today marked 4 months — exactly — since I broke my femur while training on the velodrome. And one month (and a couple days) since I last saw the doctor and was given the OK to start putting weight on my leg.

Today I had another appointment.

Like last time, I took note of the progression: today I drove myself, got out of the car and walked inside using only a cane. I’ve ridden the trainer every day since I last saw him. I had planned to ask him about riding out on the road again, but even if that didn’t work out I would still be grateful having come this far.

Every time I’ve see the doctor I feel like I learn a little bit more about the situation. Or rather, I feel like the doctor chooses to reveal a little more about it. It can be a bit maddening — afterward, because right then I just want to know.

The ‘bad’ news is that as a result of the surgery my hip is aligned somewhat differently now — a little narrower — and that affects how the muscles work. I might have a bit of a limp, hard to say now. There’s also likely scar tissue which makes the hip feel very strange when pedaling, and that might not ever go away.

Then I asked the question: what about riding out on the road again. He said, “well, I’d tell you not to ride again, ever, but I know you guys probably won’t do that.”

The danger is that if I were to break that bone again, it could be very messy to fix a second time. But he said I’m not any more likely to break it now than before.

So … basically … I can ride when I feel able. Personally … I will need to be confident that I can unclip, put my foot down, and then be able to swing my leg over the saddle and get on and off. I’m not quite there yet.

But maybe I will get to ride in shorts yet this year and feel the sun on my legs.

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