Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Long Road to Recovery

Holy crap! This is the EXACT outfit Phil would
wear at my PT sessions...
3 months, 13 days and 16 hours.  That's how long it's been since my fateful slip on the ice while looking for a Christmas tree.  Until last Thursday, I was still in physical therapy, finally finishing up to the point where the Executioner, ahem, I mean Phil said there was no more that PT would or could do for me.  Now to be fair to me, I didn't start going to physical therapy immediately after my accident.  It was almost 6 weeks after the accident before I had my first consultation with Phil, but still, I was going for almost 2 months, or 13 sessions.

The day after my accident, a friend recommended I go see Dr. Lawlor at the Rehab Doctors, so I called to make an appointment.  I wasn't able to get in for 5 weeks, but I kept the appointment just in case.  I was glad I did, as while I was healing well at that point, I still wasn't where I wanted or needed to be.  So, after the assessment by Dr. Lawlor, where he cranked and yanked around on my knee and he asked me questions regarding my hobbies and activities, he sent me to see Phil Busching at ProMotion Physical Therapy.

Phil (and his wife) have been as close to mountain biking celebrities in the Black Hills as anything we've ever had.  They're both great cyclists and ambassadors for our sport, though they are probably the opposite of being a Not-so-Serious Cyclist.  So, when I was told I was going to see Phil, I was excited and nervous at the same time.  Excited to get going on working on my leg's rehab and nervous 'cause I was going to get my ass kicked.

And holy crap was I right.  Without getting into detail of the minutia of our first visit, I'll just say I pretty much had my ass kicked every week (sometimes twice per week) by Phil.  While the others in the PT room, which was more like a torture chamber for me. were working on light stretching or possibly some strength work in a light, controlled fashion, I was usually a sweating, heaving mass gasping for air.  It was more akin to a cross-fit class than what I imagined PT to be like.

I accused Phil of just making stuff up with the other therapists to see if they could get me to do it.  I'll give you a couple great examples.  The first one was sitting on a rolling stool where I had to use my legs out in front of me to pull myself around the room, holding on like I was on a bucking bronc, having to weave around people that were stretching and conditioning while lightly chatting with their therapists as I left a trail of sweat in my wake.  The other one was having to balance on one leg on a high-density foam pad and touch a couple of points either out in front of me or one in front and one behind me with my other foot.  I was tipping and falling all over the place and generally looking like a buffalo trying to balance on a small rock.  And until the end of my visits it remained that way until I saw something beautiful to me.  ProMotion is also the official PT of the Rapid City Rush hockey team and there was a Rush member in there balancing on the pad touching the points with his other foot.  And guess what?  He was falling all over the place!  YAY!  No, not yay because he was falling, but because he's a paid athlete and was having the same difficulty I was.  Maybe they secretly record us doing these things to get on America's Funniest Videos or at least YouTube.

Needless to say, I'm SUPER excited that I'm done with PT, although I'll secretly miss my Thursday torture sessions.  I am thankful that I had someone like Phil be my physical therapist (this is starting to sound a bit like a bromance).  He understood what was needed to get back on the bike and it has worked.  I just hope I NEVER have to see him again, and as fast as he is on a bike (and as slow as I am) I probably have nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SH*T Cyclists Say

As I may or may not have described over the years on this sad little blog, I mentally plan out my posts over the course of riding a few days, then I put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, or what ever the hell we do now,  and the mental diarrhea comes spewing out.  And, as is typical with me, I have been planning one post for a few days (or weeks in this case) and then something comes along and blindsides me causing me to put the previous post on the back burner to share at a future date.  

The postponed post had to do with physical therapy, dares between physical therapists and the odds that I'll end up on America's Funniest Videos or become a viral video on YouTube, so stay tuned for that one.  BUT, something happened this week that made me stop and question everything I do when it comes to riding my bike.  

I'm sure everyone has seen these Shit Cyclist Say videos floating around the interwebs....

There is much truth to this video (and the others), but especially the comments/excuses about not why they are not riding well.

So, I ended up riding with some people recently that I'd never met or ridden with before.  As usual, I am happy and excited to ride with new people.  I've ridden with people in my past that I definitely wouldn't hang out with outside of riding, so I have a lot of patience when it comes to riding partners as I am sure many have exercised when riding with me.  

Shortly after starting the ride with these people, the excuses started flying. 
"This is my second ride today." 
"I gotta get home soon, my daughter is making dinner." 
"I haven't been feeling well lately." 
"Ugghh, I ate Taco Johns for lunch today." (Well, this might be a legit excuse.)
"I nicked myself shaving my balls so my seat is irritating me." 
"I gotta puke out an excuse so if you beat me up this climb/down this descent, you'll know why, but if I beat you up this climb or down the descent you'll be amazed in my ability to ride with a handicap."
(I really wish the last thing is what everyone would say, 'cause it is exactly what we're doing.)

AARRRGGHHH! WHY do we do this?  We've all done it (some more than others) and we all should know better.  I guess I've never heard any of these from the few women I've ridden with, so maybe it just a testosterone soaked guy thing, but really WHY?  Do we do it so we can save face with the people we're riding with?  Do we do it to convince ourselves that we there is a reason we're not riding well (in our minds) or so we feel better about how we're riding on a particular day?

Here's the thing...I DON'T CARE.  I don't care if you are climbing/descending faster/slower than me.  Don't get me wrong, I care if you truly are sick, 'cause I don't want to see you toss your cookies all over the trail, but if those comments are flying, typically you're not truly sick or injured.  I'm just happy I'm out riding and riding with someone else, sharing in the experience.  If I beat you up the climb or down the descent, guess what?  I won't think anything more or less of you, although there could be a high-five at the end of the run, saying nice job.  That's it.  

So, no more excuses.  Just ride and have fun, which is what I'm gonna do tonight.  With a group of guys.  We're gonna ride then "tailgate" afterwards, should be a good time.  But it is a group of guys so I'd better go stub my toe, eat something to upset my stomach or nick myself with my razor, you know, just in case.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fire...Fire on the Mountain...

Fire on the Mountain, or so the Grateful Dead song goes...

Over the last 20 years, mountain biking has fractured into a lot of different disciplines.  It used to be you'd race XC, do a DH race and ride with your buds on a Tuesday night all on the same bike.  Now we've got lycra clad XC geeks, baggy-short-wearing All-Mountain riders (I think we used to call all-mountain just mountain biking), armor-clad DH riders, young Freeride groms, and everything in-between.  And even though we've got all these "disciplines" in mountain biking now, we all have one thing in common.  We love to ride our bikes in the forest.  There is something soul cleansing about getting out in the woods, hearing the crunch of the gravel and dirt under your tires, smelling the earthy scents of the forest, and feeling the wind rushing across your face.  It centers you, makes you feel energized and relaxed all at the same time.  We don't really have much of a sport without the forest.  Sure, there are those that have adapted, finding riding in their respective areas, but everyone dreams of riding in the mountains and forests, it is just the way it is.  So, when one of your local riding spots goes up in flames, a bit of you gets burned up with it.
A view of the fire early on.

It seems that every town/city has a riding area like this.  You know, it is a spot in or close to the city that is good for a quick afternoon spin, a place to take beginners, a place to ride when the rest of the local trails are under snow or too wet to ride, a place that you don't think twice about riding unless you can't.  I've had a place like this everywhere I've lived.  I had Lookout Mountain in Spearfish.  I had Palmer Park in Colorado Springs and now I've got HLMP (Hansen-Larsen Memorial Park)/M-Hill in Rapid City.

I get a call from the Chef on Friday afternoon to tell me that M-Hill is on fire again and in the same area burned last time.  I think, "Oh great, no school today, kids were out playing with matches again, just like last time, hopefully they get it under control quickly" and I go on with my day.  I went to lunch a short while later and can see the flames running down the hill like a newbie on a bike with no brakes, fully engulfing the entire Anamosa node, where the fire from last Autumn happened.  No worries I think, they'll get it shut down soon.  The trails provided a great fire line last time, they'll do the same this time.  Little did I know that the trails would provide no protection at all, the firefighters wouldn't be able to get it under control quickly and the fire would spread fairly rapidly, thanks to very little snow this winter and a warm, breezy day.

The Apatosaurus looking on in disbelief
As I pedaled home at the end of the day, the fire was still raging up the hillside, the entire "bowl" was a charred mess, with the fire reaching the top of the mountain.  No bueno.  No bueno indeed.  The fire had become so serious that a bucket-helicopter was deployed to drop water, as I am sure the path the fire took was one that was too rugged for the firefighters to chase the fire quickly.  As I continue my pedal home, I continually look at the mountain to see the thick, black smoke emanating from the top, making it look somewhat like a volcano, which might be appropriate since on the ridge to the South are the dinosaur sculptures that dominate the Rapid City skyline.

The sun was setting and it appeared that the fire crews were no closer to getting the fire contained than they were when I was at lunch many hours earlier.  Then, as quickly as it started, the fire department announced that they had it contained.  147 acres of charred landscape later the fire was under control.  The fire department closed the mountain down to recreation for the weekend so they can continue to monitor the area for flare-ups and find what caused the fire (it appears that it was some heavy machinery doing work in the area and thankfully not kids) and keep people from getting hurt.  We drove by the next day and it looked not unlike an alien landscape, black and barren with the brown ribbons of trails zigging and zagging across the hillsides, now highlighted by their contrasting surroundings.  If there is anything good that can be taken from the fire was that no one was injured, none of the surrounding homes were destroyed and it appears that the fire stayed localized to the ground, not burning any trees down (or at not very many).  The area should recover fairly quickly, which will be good, although having the black, charred reminder there for everyone to see might not be a bad thing either.

I was really looking forward to having some dry trails to ride on this weekend, I just didn't want them dried out this way.  I take HLMP for granted, having it be right there, half way between work and home, making for an easy after work ride.  We could have lost it all but thanks to some great firefighters in our community we didn't. No more will I take it for granted.  I'll make sure to stop and appreciate it every time I ride there, even if the smells will be a bit more Kingsford than pine for a while.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What the HELL is wrong with old men?

Get in the WAY BACK MACHINE and let's go back to December 3rd, a week before I tore my quad.  The last cross race of the season had taken place and I was able to pull off the ultimate coup by giving my wife a surprise 40th birthday party and having it actually be a surprise.  That night at the party, a good friend, the Chef, who helped me pull off this coup, and I had made plans to start swimming laps in the mornings before work at the swim center.  Maybe it was the beer talking, maybe I hurt my head in my crash at the cross race earlier that day, I don't know why that seemed like a good idea, but I was committed and come Monday morning we were going swimming.

Monday morning comes and the Chef and I roll to the swim center and we're in the water by 5:30.  Did I mention that the Chef was/is a swimmer?  No?  Well, he is.  He's a fucking fish.  I'm more akin to a manatee or a walrus, moving slowly but methodically through the water.  That first morning I was able to eek out 10 laps or so with a LOT of breaks.  I think the Chef peeled off 20 laps.  This morning there were a few other guys in the pool swimming laps and the Chef and I were the youngest people in the pool BY FAR, and this will be a very important fact soon.
The only shot of Gimli you'd ever care to see...

So, the plan was to go for somewhere around a half an hour so we can get cleaned up and off to our respective duties for the day.  Around 6 am, we roll out of the pool and head to the locker room.  When you walk into these locker rooms there's a small hallway for a few feet, then you turn right where a swim suit dryer and the showers are.  Past those are the lockers, where we need to go.  As we enter the locker room, I turn the corner to find a man, looking somewhat like Gimli from Lord of the rings, standing there BUTT-ASSED-NAKED with his swim suit in the dryer, standing full-monty looking straight at us.  What the hell?  And let me tell you something, this "dryer" just is like your washing machine on spin cycle, so imagine the jiggling and shaking going on while this head dwarf dries his suit out.  Fucking disturbing.  But I think it is just an anomaly.  Boy, was I wrong.

I think you get the visual...
After this first week, my quad injury happened, so I was out of the pool for a few weeks.  Once I got back to the pool, I found out that Gimli was the rule and NOT the exception for this geriatric exhibitionist behavior.

Gimli was there in his round bellied, naked glory, but it didn't stop there.  There's this other guy, we call Galapagos, who spends an inordinate amount of time washing, um, well, himself, if you know what I mean.  (He's called Galapagos 'cause, well, it's like a tortoise head sticking out.)  Then to round out the group, there is Cannonball.  He's one of those cats that has one eye that looks one way and one that looks the other like Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing in Cannonball run.  He's that guy that wears "aqua socks" into the pool.  He doesn't swim laps, but just walks through the Lazy River with the water walkers.  He likes to stroll around the locker room with nothing on but his aqua socks, his man-meat hanging down like an empty sausage casing. 

From these descriptions, you might think I like to look at this nonsense, but nothing could be further from the truth.  It is just so blatant, in your face nudity that even if you try to NOT look, you can't avoid it.  I've asked around at what age does this happen to men?  (And from accounts from the women's locker room, there are a bunch of grey-beards running around naked in there too.)  General consenus is 67 years old, which means I've got another 27'ish years until I start running around locker rooms in a full on naked-manatee glory.  Which also means you've got a 1/4 century to prepare yourself.

(Michael McIntyre says it WAY better than I do.  It is simultaneously reassuring and disturbing that this happens everywhere, not just here.)