Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Amazing Care Package

There's generous, and then there's GENEROUS! Over the past four months, I've been reminded time and again just how many of my friends and family members fall into the second category. The most recent reminder came today when I went to the mail to find, not one, but two boxes from my friends Matt and Mo. The last time I saw these two was back in September when they stopped by the hospital on their return to Boston from a race in Pennsylvania. This has been a busy fall for the two of them, to say the least. Mo's been racing a full schedule of  'cross races with other Elite riders and is currently in Belgium racing in the World Cup, while Matt has been riding quite a bit himself as well as supporting Mo and holding down a full-time job as a doctoral research assistant at Harvard. 

When Matt and I first met on the Boston 400K last spring, we discussed a terrible crash that left him with a broken femoral neck and facilitated his switch from USACycling events to ultra-distance racing and randonneuring. It was a conversation I remember vividly, especially after I suffered a similar fracture in my own crash this August. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the danger with fractures of this type is the possibility of vascular necrosis where the femoral head dies from lack of blood. The window for this outcome is two years and Matt is luckily out of the danger zone. He's also one hell of a tough, fast cyclist who holds both the North-South and West-East Maine cross-state records.

So the care package I received today included countless goodies to speed my recovery (like hardcore calcium supplements), to brighten my days (Mo's Special Dark Roast coffee) and make me feel like a member of the ProTour (a signed Giro d'Italia leader's jersey signed by Ivan Basso). Matt also loaned me his custom-made titanium cane which was designed for him by a friend of his who builds frames for Seven Cycles. Needless to say, it's a work of art. More than anything else, I hope that I am as generous with others as others have been with me.

Today also marked an important milestone in my shoulder recovery. I got up early to head down to the City for a follow-up appointment to remove my stitches and review a fresh set of x-rays to ensure that everything is healing properly. I'm pleased to report that everything is heading in the right direction! I was also given a modest daily "pendulum" exercise to open up the shoulder capsule a bit. There will be nothing more ambitious in the rehab department for my shoulder for at least another four weeks to protect against an accidental dislocation of the reattached bone and muscle. In the meantime, I'm required to continue wearing the sling which means no driving for me. Physical therapy will be added in after my next appointment and it still looks like I may be riding on the road again by April.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My X-Mas Surprise: Bicycle Diaries Audiobook and T-Shirt

For the second Christmas in a row, my wife gave me a copy of Bicycle Diaries, David Byrne's wonderful essay collection and I've loved it both times. No she's not losing her mind. This year, the gift took the form of a newly released MP3 download of Byrne reading the book himself. As you may know, Byrne's voice is melodic, soothing and the issues he writes about (urban planning, history, art, architecture, travel, etc.) are timeless and perpetually interesting. As you might expect, Byrne has punctuated his audiobook with sound-scapes, audio clips and songs to enhance the experience. The book is available for download in its entirety or by individual chapter and may be listened to in one sitting or as one might approach a series of radio show podcasts. There is currently a special price for those whole chose to purchase the complete book and the t-shirt. The introduction is also available as a free download. Finally, one can read an excerpt of the book and play some complimentary audio-scapes at the same time on this web site. I wrote about the content of the book here last year, so I won't repeat myself, but I will mention that the audiobook is well worth the purchase even if you've already read the hardcopy.

The icing on the cake, of course, is the cool orange t-shirt with the silhouette of the bicycle rider designed by Bryne himself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Exercise Becomes Training.

OK, so after lazing around the house in a post-op haze for the past week, I went out and had a killer workout at the local gym today. I'd let me membership lapse a few years ago, but re-upped this fall so that I could be assured of a dry place to do my walking and then stationary riding. The weights are also helpful. Today's numbers in the rehab triathlon? Treadmill = 1 mile, weights/stretches = 1 hour and bike = 20 miles. 

I feel like I've hit another milestone. It's definitely time to re-brand my "exercising" as "training." The craziest thing about this dreadful accident recovery is that I am actually not that far off of my normal training schedule. Volume is reduced significantly, yes, but Oct. and Nov. are typically months in which I reduce my riding and catch up on other interests and give my body (and family) a chance to recover from a tough season. So it looks like this year, too, despite an arm in a sling, I'm able to kick it up a notch around Christmas in anticipation of the year ahead. With Paris-Brest-Paris on the horizon in August, now is a perfect time to begin logging base training miles.

I graduated a few weeks ago at the gym to an upright stationary bike from a recumbent and I much prefer the angle at which this places my legs in relationship to the pedals. This weekend I will be setting up my Bianchi on the Cylops trainer next door in Jessie's studio (thanks to winter break at the dance school!)  This morning I was unable to remove the Time pedals from my totaled Indy Fab with one arm so Jessie brought the frame over to my buddies at the Bicycle Depot. They were gracious and helpful as always, but I think a they were little shaken by the look of my bike. With the Bianchi set up next door, I'll be able to log longer base workouts starting tomorrow.

My shoulder feels much better this week and I shoot into NYC on Tuesday for a follow-up visit to my surgeon who will remove the stitches and discuss rehab plans with me. My hunch is that I will remain in this sling without any PT for six weeks until my humerus has fully healed. I'll remind her of my plan to be cycling on the roads in March. I'll let you know what she says.

By the way, I just got an email announcing a 30% off sale on Rapha gear with free shipping. Don't wait, sale ends on Jan 3.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Independent Fabrication Club Racer (Before and After). Ouch!

So it took me four months to muster the will to photograph my twisted custom Independent Fabrication frame that was totaled on my fated 1000K brevet this past August. For the six weeks that I was in the hospital and for several beyond that, it sat in a corner of our dining room with a sheet draped over it to shield us from the memories an open viewing might elicit. Only recently, as part of a general plan to "move on with life," has it been placed in the attic where it will enjoy some moisture-free time until I begin the process of scavenging odd parts for possible future use.

I've been in touch with Paul Levine at Signature Cycles who served as my original IF "dealer" and did the initial custom fitting back in 2008. Paul's wealth of experience and wisdom drew me to his showroom several years ago, and both were reinforced when we spoke recently about the importance of waiting until my body "settled" a bit more from the accident to do a follow-up fitting. I am likely a slightly different guy than I was before the crash and the new frame should reflect my future mobility and athleticism rather than my past. So we made a plan to reconnect this winter after I've healed a bit more to dial in a new  set of measurements for Indy Fab to use to build me a new bike.

I keep telling myself that it was only a bicycle. It really was perfect for randonneuring and ultra racing, though, and I don't plan to change a thing about it in the reordering process. Paul reassured me that IF needs a six-eight week window on new frame builds and with a little luck, I should be riding my new bike out to Brest and back this summer. Wish me luck!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Rapha Festive 500K

500K in one week? No sweat. Assuming the roads are clear, this looks like a challenge that most randonneurs would "warmly" welcome as a way to ring in the New Year. With a Rapha Winter Training Bundle presented to the rider with "the most visually engaging or inspirational submission," you'd be crazy not to jump at this opportunity. Unfortunately, I'm off the bike for a while, but I hope that this prize goes to a deserving rando out there somewhere. As you know, Rapha gear is absolutely fabulous (and pricey!) so take advantage of this offer today!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shoulder surgery a success!

Yesterday I spent the morning in surgery almost four months after my accident with a wonderful doctor who was seeking to reattach an overlooked bone fragment and the associated rotator cuff muscles to my left humerus. Without these, there's no way for me to lift my left arm. I'm pleased to report that the difficult procedure seems to have been successful. The surgeon was able to save and reattach part of the bone, some of the muscle and a few of the tendons. There's no way to know how much mobility will return until I go through physical therapy which will not begin for another six weeks to give the bone enough time to heal. In the meantime, I need to keep my left arm immobilized in a sling. When therapy begins it will be a bit like Goldilocks; if I push it too hard, the muscles may detach and if I don't push it hard enough, my shoulder may stay frozen. I might also need an arthroscopic procedure once the bone is healed to increase the range. And so it goes.

Pain management has been a challenge this time around. Since I've been taking a low dose of medication for some time, I seem to have built up a degree of tolerance and so the dosage the doctor prescribed did virtually nothing. We finally dialed in the correct dosage by 10:30 last night, so there were a few rough hours in there. Let's just say that I have a much better appreciation of Jessie's forays into natural childbirth as a result.

Looks like my plan to get back on the bike again in March is still on track.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Could you cut your own arm off to save your life?

I'm not sure I could. I've been thinking about courage and trauma a lot since watching the film "127 hours" last night with my wife. The actor James Franco is excellent as Aron Ralston and the film is well worth seeing. I was a bit disappointed by some aspects of it but inspired by the incredible degree of raw, elemental brilliance that Ralston brought to his predicament.

Ralston's presence of mind and level of courage are incredible. A film like this is obviously deeply personal for the viewer and, while I don't mean to compare myself too directly with Ralston, it's hard not to reflect on one's own traumas after watching a film like this. What would I have done? What would have happened to me if the driver of the car that hit me had not stopped to call the paramedics? While I was told that I was conscious for at least a part of the time between accident and hospital, I have no memory of it at all. Would I have died lying there on the side of the road? Would I have been able to communicate productively with anyone or solve any of my own problems? I fear not.

As a result of my injuries, I was completely dependent on others to get me to the hospital and put me back together again. The balance between life and death is so precarious and some of us are incredibly lucky to have a second (or third or fourth) chance to get it right. Most inspirational, perhaps, is what Ralston has done after the accident. He has not let having one hand get in the way of his love for climbing and adventure one bit. I hope that all athletes who suffer serious or potentially debilitating injuries doing what they love to do are able to make adaptations to get right back out there as Ralston has done. It's certainly my plan.

How much discomfort, pain and suffering can a person endure? What is humanly possible? These are questions that have informed my approach to life in general and my cycling in particular for some time. Ralston's life didn't end with his fall in Blue John Canyon, but he claims that it is now divided into "before" and "after." I'm beginning to think that way myself. I hope that when Aron goes on solo hikes he not only leaves a note behind, but also that he might throw a SPOT tracker in his pocket just in case. 

Coincidentally, Outside Magazine has just published an article by Ralston on the filming of the movie along with an interview with James Franco. I'm a sucker for survival and endurance stories so I've also downloaded Ralston's book Between a Rock and a Hard Place to my Kindle and look forward to reading it this week.