Saturday, May 30, 2009

Six Weeks or Four Days in a Cast

RESTON, VIRGINIA

Oh, I hope Dr. Hanna is not reading this...

It was two weeks ago I broke my wrist in a crash. On Monday after the crash I got fitted in my waterproof cast. It was waterproof only in the fact that it could get wet.

On Thursday I refereed a high school boys varsity district championship match. When I returned home and showered I started to get the chills. The night was awful. I was running a high fever and the pain in my hand was almost unbearable.

On Friday I went back to Dr. Hanna who cut off the cast fearing infection in the wound in my hand which was under the cast. I would deal with the fever until Wednesday. I was drained once the fever broke. I was also on antibiotics to kill the infection if it was biological.

In hindsight, the pain was probably sweat inside the cast from the game which seeped into the open wound. It was very painful and probably unrelated to the fever.

Yesterday, Friday, I returned to the doctor with the expectation of being recast. Instead, Dr. Hanna looked at the wound on the hand and examined my wrist. He was reluctant to cast over the still-open wound on my hand and decided to leave my wrist in a removable splint so that the wound will continue to heal.

The next course of action is an X-ray in another week and then, "if things look good," remain in the splint for six weeks.

Of course this allowed me the opportunity to ride with The Bike Lane group in Reston. But I wasn't ever real comfortable. I normally enjoy riding in the pack but not today. One wrong move by another rider and I could go down. And if I went down on the wrist it could break all the way through. So I ended up keeping contact but a safe distance.

The other concession I made was to stay in the saddle for the entire 28 mile ride. I envied my friends as they popped out of the saddle for an extra burst on the steep climbs. But I did not want to stand and put weight on my wrist. I may have given up a little on the climbs and I didn't bomb the descents but it was nice to ride again. Ultimately, I am hopeful that forcing myself to stay in the saddle, one gets out because it's easier, I will become a stronger rider.

Four days in a cast. Not bad for a broken wrist.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seven Point Six Miles

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA


Seven point six miles is the distance up the Mount Washington Auto Road. It is also the distance that I rode today, three days after my bike crash which resulted in a broken wrist.


Perhaps there is some symbolism here. Maybe it's a "sign" but I'm not sure I believe in signs.


I crashed three days ago more figuratively than literally. A broken wrist and six weeks off the bike off would kill my fitness and preparation for the Mount Washington Climb. Information in the emergency room was hard to come by. I was told simply what I pretty much knew - I broke my wrist.


There was a report slipped in with my X-rays but I dropped those at my former* orthopedic surgeon's office on Friday without reading it. I should have read it.


Today was the day to be fitted for a cast. I was not nearly as depressed going into today than I was on Friday. On Friday I believed all my riding had ended. But over the weekend I decided I could, at a minimum, ride a trainer for the next six weeks although I would miss the long training rides with Potomac Pedalers. I would have to be careful and always remain seated because I couldn't stand and put weight on my wrist.


But doing training work while seated would be better training than out of the saddle. This may turn out okay after all. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather not have a broken wrist but I will make the best of it.







Here is my report: Faint transverse radiolucent line in the distal epiphysis of the radius along the lateral margin suggests undisplaced fracture. The doctor went with a short cast over forearm, waterproof (cool!) and for four weeks, at my urging. I'll have another X-ray in four weeks and will probably go to hard brace for two weeks after that.


I'm going to make 7.6 miles.





*I wrote about my former orthopedic surgeon. Here's why.


Rather then go straight to the E.R. on Friday I thought of my surgeon who has X-ray equipment in his office. Thinking I would cut out the middledoc, I went to his office and asked if he could see me. I was told he couldn't which was partially expected.


Being a foot and knee patient since 1991, I was hoping not to be treated as some walk-in but with some deference to my history there. The receptionist told me to wait and she would check. She checked, presumably with the doctor but who knows? Come back to see us after the E.R.


In the E.R. a nurse asked if I had an orthopedic surgeon. Almost without listening to my answer (yes) she then offered her opinion, "the only thing I would suggest is not to go to [fill in former doctor's name here]." I told her that was my doctor but I would respect her opinion.


After two hours in the E.R. (not bad for an E.R. visit) I left with my X-rays and drove to Dr. Former's office. When I tried to make an appointment for Monday I was told the earliest would be Thursday. Frustrated and hurting, I left my X-rays at the office and left.


Potomac Hospital had an orthopedic doctor, Joseph Hannah, on duty so I found his number and called the office. They would work me in on Monday.


Monday came and I went to Dr. Former's office to pick up my X-ray. They wanted to know if I had made an appointment to pick up my X-rays. Arrrg. Fifteen minutes later I was out of there on to see Dr. Hannah. And he's good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Broken Wrist, Broken Dream?

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA


I am bummed right now. Everything I have done since July 12, 2008, was to prepare myself for Newton's Revenge on July 11, 2009. A 42-mile Bike to Work Day ride may have ended that today when I crashed and broke at least my wrist. Even if cast is off in time my fitness will be shot.




Broken Wrist

I made it up the "Rockpile" last year, albeit badly, and Mary Power, the Mount Washington Auto Road Events Director told me it gets in your blood. And it does.


I started walking the 12 floors each morning to my office rather than riding the elevator. I was committed to dropping 12 pounds to a more favorable climbing weight of 160. And I was down to 164.

I hadn't yet made the changes to the front ring but was planning to drop it to a serious climbing gear of 24 teeth. I bought a set of lighter wheels perfect for climbing. Last year I was one of the few riders who rode the race in a standard factory setup with no gear modifications. This year was going to be different.


I started a training program designed to increase my power. And after the first week of workouts it may have been working. I noticed that this morning I averaged 20 mph to Occoquan over 6.5 miles. I wondered if I was already getting a benefit.


In the past three weekends I rode the Blue Ridge Ramble, Blue Knob Ski Resort, and a classic ride from Myersville, Md. to Pennsylvania and back, Happy Happy Pain Pain. I was feeling good.


And I was feeling great today.


Road bikes are designed for the road. And roads are usually straight with gradual curves and grades, Mount Washington being an exception. Not so much these bike paths. Unfortunately, bike paths are often squeezed into spaces where roads don't fit. They fly up and over existing roadways or tunnel under highways. They can have steeper than normal grades and sharper turns.


I had followed the Washington & Old Dominion rail trail to the Custis Trail. The Custis Trail goes through Rosslyn in Arlington Co. then descends down to the Mount Vernon Trail. At this point I was 38 miles into my Bike To Work Day ride, I came upon this descent and let the bike roll. I was doing 20 mph when I saw a sharp turn to the left. Overnight rains had left a gooey mess of mud and moss mixed in with some gravel.


I used my rear brake to slow the bike for the curve ahead but the tire slid in the muck. I released the brake and leaned and steered the bike through the turn. My momentum took the bike through the curve and the wheels slipped out from under me.


I hit the asphalt real hard and went sliding across it until I came to a stop. I could feel road rash on my left thigh and could see it on my leg. One thing to be thankful for: shaved legs. Without hair ripping out more skin, the damage to my leg was relatively minor in comparison to the rest of my body.


I unclipped and saw the blood on my hand and could feel that my wrist hurt. A couple of riders came by and asked if I was hurt. I told them I was. They kept going.


I brushed myself off, poured water on my hand and legs to get most of the dirt off, then rode four more miles to work. More than half the time I held my arm like a broken wing and rode with one hand. It hurt to use the injured hand to steer.


At work I got some assistance taking off my jersey and in cleaning up. I then went to my office (via elevator -- this was the first day I didn't take the stairs). I worked for about 15 minutes before deciding the emergency room visit was necessary.


Now I face the question of what's next. Six weeks in a cast will take me to June 30. If I am off the bike until then there is no way I will have the fitness or climbing legs to make Mount Washington. I am really bummed right now.


Monday I go for a hard cast. I haven't been told how serious the break is or if there is more than one. If I can ride a trainer during this time it won't be the same as being on the road but there's still a chance. My only chance now is being able to ride a trainer...





Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Happy Pain Pain

MYERSVILLE, MARYLAND

This was advertised as a 55/75 mile "classic club ride." We met in Myersville, Maryland where approximately 40 riders departed under sunny and pleasant skies.

The first 20 miles were simply spent sorting things out. Groups of riders, often two in a group, would form and then break up. I ended up going solo a lot between groups of riders until I settled in with "Alan" (orange Euskaltel jersey) and "Mike" from Olney (yellow jersey). Just about the time we started riding a comfortable pace we entered Pennsylvania. Now this was a surprise to this rider. Who knew?

I didn't see any welcome signs when we rolled into Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. My first indication we were in Pa. was the keystone sign announcing a state inspection station. Here we caught 10 other riders. The 13 of us stayed together for just one mile when we came to the "moment of truth." The "short" 55 mile route would turn left. The 75 mile ride included a 20 mile loop back to this intersection.

I wanted to ride the long route today. My pride and ego said to go for it. But I must be getting wiser in my old age. I actually listed to my brain.

Knowing that I would referee an assessment U19B soccer match tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. it would not make sense to ride 75 miles and then have dead legs. And who knows, maybe 55 miles was not a smart idea either.

Assuming most of the fast riders went the long route, five of us must have been the first to head out towards Penmar (and Pen Mar). The other eight riders headed for the long route.

I had no idea of the route. Heck, I didn't know we'd be riding into Pennsylvania. And I certainly didn't know where the climbs were. On this route there were no flats, It was all climbing and descending.

We reached the base of Pen Mar, the mountain, in Penmar, the town. And the road turned up. The first mile and a half was a neat 7% grade with sections kicking up to 12-14%. But even upon reaching a false summit, there was another two miles at 5%.

There were five of us together at the base of the climb. I was sitting in last as we started. Normally one is content to sit in behind the rider in front but I knew they were going too slow for me. Mike, was headed up the road by himself. I then passed the three riders to close with 50 meters of Mike. By the top of the steep grade I was 10 meters behind.

I caught Mike on the next section and then tried to pace him but instead ended up dropping him. I reached the top of Pen Mar 200 meters ahead of everyone in our group.

The view up here was great. There's a rock cropping that overlooks the Maryland valley. But the picture does not do it justice.



We turned around and got to descend part of the climb. At our rest stop we picked up an extra rider who had two flats and just was content to find a group. We started out with six and we were gapped by Mike and the new rider. The guy sitting in third wheel allowed this to happen. Eventually I was able to break free from my group and bridge up to Mike and our new rider. Once I caught the new rider I dropped him -- I was just trying to pace us both up to Mike.

Mike would regain his wind or legs and he hammered it home. I struggled to stay on his wheel, at times losing contact but always coming back. I think we were the first to get back to the lot. Glad the big boys took the long route.



Check out the elevation chart. There are no flats on this ride.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Over a Mountain and Back in Time

EAST FREEDOM, PENNSYLVANIA


I parked in East Freedom, Blair Co., at the elementary school. It started out sunny and seemingly warmer than it was. I wore a jersey and arm warmers. I soon realized it was cooler than I thought with temperatures never climbing more than the mid 50s. I slipped on a jacket that was in my back pocket.


My route took me down the valley and around the base of Blue Knob. Blue Knob is both a State Park and ski resort. At 3,127 feet (953.1 meters) it is the second highest peak in Pennsylvania, second to Mount Davis.


After 22.5 miles the climb began at Pavia. The Blair Bicycle Club listed the climb as almost five miles at 7%. They listed a 25% section which I did not find. But the distance was right and it was a nice climb. I think two cars passed me on the way up so "lightly traveled" might even be an understatement.


Top of Blue Knob. No one here to greet me.
It was a ghost town at the top if one building, a ski lodge, constitutes a town. If I needed a place to get more water or food and had counted on this, I would have been out of luck. But the bottles on my bike were enough.


The descent from Blue Knob was a little scary. The first mile of the descent was steep and in horrible shape. There were many potholes and lots of loose gravel. The steepness necessitated riding the brakes but the gravel made it dangerous to use them.


The wind was blowing and it was cold -- in the mid 40s, and I was still soaked with sweat from the climb. But after the first mile the pavement improved. And once I reached Ski Gap Road it was a long straight 2-3% descent back down to Claysburg.


At Claysburg I had to return to East Freedom. But the road I was on, Bedford Street, was lightly traveled and in great shape. This would be a great place to live to ride. One can stay on the flat roads of the valley or head to the mountains.


And then the most surreal part of the ride. In East Freedom I saw a man mowing his lawn. I first went by him then something said to turn around. I did and I caught his attention. I introduced myself and then told him "I used to live in this house."


John Griffin immediately said "well you have to come in and see the house." He proceeded to take me room by room while I was wondering "was this the house I lived in when I was three or was it the house next door?" But eventually I figured out that it was the right house and gave him a little history to go along with what he gave me, namely, the house was built in 1910.


Afterwards, it was a quick trip to Panera in Altoona for some refueling. This was a very special day. It was a trip over a mountain and back in time.