Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Bionic Bicyclist

"It's the Bionic Man!" seems to be the universal response to anyone's first sight of my new elbow brace. It's been decades since Steve Austin and the first use of slow motion to indicate movement faster than the eye can see, and people still remember. Presumably Steve still runs somewhere in the recycled wasteland of cable TV. On the few occasions when I watch TV, I simply get clear why I don't watch it. The elbow brace protects the repaired area and keeps my arm movement within safe limits--currently 20 to 75 degrees--while it heals. It is a lot better than the cast that I was told I might need. I have more use of my arm and I can remove the brace for showering. The worst part is putting it on myself one-handed, though this is improving with practice. My doctor has a great technique for preparing me for what may happen. He tells me the worst and lets me get used to it. What's actually happened has usually been better than what he prepared me for. I asked him what arm movements to avoid (other than what the brace won't let me do) and he said, "don't push." Sometimes I forget. The other day I tripped on something in my living room and put my right arm out to grab the couch and stop falling. That gave me some scary moments worrying I might have damaged the repair. My arm has been painful off and on. I am dealing with it with acetaminophen and grit. I'm back to work. My left arm has become strong and skillful. Cycling content (this is a cycling blog after all): I went to the trike dealer after I got the elbow brace. They can get a Trice trike for me in a week and a half, add three weeks for a custom color (I have been considering orange to match the Great Pumpkin). I'm thinking to time my order to take delivery at the time I could start riding it. I still have concerns about the cost. I'd like another home sale in the pipeline or to have sold off some surplus bikes before I commit the money to a trike. And I need to reconfirm that I'd be able to ride one sooner than I could ride a bike. While riding an upright bike requires more arm strength than a recumbent, because the arms are used to brace the rider on an upright, the underseat steering of a trike is still done with a push-pull arm motion. It's possible to push only with the left arm, but I'd have to remember never to push with the right until it is healed enough to use. Well, it's early yet. I've only had the brace for 6 days. It's another 17 to my next appointment. Time and patience are required to recover from this. Long-term recovery is the objective, more important than a few missed months of riding. That's what I tell myself every time a bike goes by.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Splat Update

Thanks to everyone who has sent me expressions of concern about my June 14th bicycling accident and good wishes for my recovery from surgery to repair the ruptured triceps tendon on my right elbow. Here is an update to my earlier article “Life Goes Splat” posted on June 26. The surgery was performed on Monday, July 6th and went well. My arm is in a splint for the first week. Next Monday I will have the stitches out and determine whether it needs to be in a cast. It will be immobilized in some manner for a further three weeks. Then I will have to limit use of it while it finishes healing. I will not be able to ride an upright bicycle for three to four months. However, my orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Gordon Avery, said I could ride an underseat-steering recumbent in a month, because it is easier on my arms—they do not have to brace me in position or support any weight. I’m committed to my fitness and will continue exercising in whatever ways I can while recovering. This week I am resting at home, taking the prescribed medications, and doing such work as I can by phone and online, between naps. Once the post-surgical pain has reduced to a level that I can manage without strong drugs, I will be back to work and the normal activities I can do with an arm in a sling. One thing I am also committed to is having positive outcomes from this experience that would not have occurred without it. One that has already shown up is that I had no idea how many people cared about me. I’ve always had it that I could disappear and no one would notice—that I’d be immediately forgotten. Indeed, I’ve had it that no one even thinks of me when I am not there, and that I have no influence on anyone. I’ve been proven wrong, and I’m glad of it. Thank you all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who Inspires You?

Take a look in your local bookstore and you might get the impression that Lance Armstrong is the only guy who ever rode a bicycle. In our spectator society, there are the few that do and the many that watch. The watchers think, "I could never do that," and maybe there are some who think, "I could do that," and even one or two who actually get inspired to get off the couch and do it. I'm not particularly inspired or daunted by Lance. Not to take away from his remarkable achievements as a cyclist, combined with his remarkable achievements as a cancer survivor. It's just that I have no particular urge to race bicycles; my interests are in other kinds of cycling. I do like to go fast, and I like to match the pace of fast riders when I encounter them--especially when they pass me in all their lycra-clad gaudiness. It's just that I am more interested in being able to ride long distances, going somewhere interesting, or in using my bike to go where I am already going, than in competition. I am certainly aware that others feel differently about it. A lady I know who has won a number of mountain bike races told me she had hardly ever ridden once she stopped competing. And for her, a racer like Lance is an inspiration. But today I want to tell you about some people whom I find inspiring. In today's Washington Post there was an article about an elderly gentleman, Larry "Curly" Haubner, celebrating his birthday in the assisted living facility where he now resides. The incident that resulted in his moving into said facility was a bicycling accident, in which he broke his hip. He was 102 at the time. The birthday he celebrated yesterday was his 107th. He is fit, healthy, mentally alert and highly articulate. He attributes his long life to good diet and exercise. His biggest problem seems to be that he has outlived his money, and lives in Virginia, one of eight states that do not allow Medicare to pay for assisted living. The article did not say whether he still rides his bicycle. I hope he does. Then there's my friend Zoe. She is, to put it politely, a big girl--a very big girl. Not long ago she mentioned she had bought herself a bicycle and was riding it. Last night as I was leaving the seminar in which we are both participants, I saw Zoe and another equally large lady preparing to ride their bicycles home. They were wearing helmets, the bikes were properly set up (and in an appropriate gear) and had lights on them. Zoe told me she had already lost 20 pounds so far. She wants to add fenders, a rack and better lights to her bike. It's an honor to assist someone like Zoe to find them. One of the great things about bicycling--one which made it suspect when it was invented in the class-conscious 19th century--is its egalitarianism. Bikes are relatively inexpensive, easy to care for and store, and rideable by just about anyone. They were the first experience of personal mobility--going somewhere other than on foot or by paying to ride in someone else's conveyance--that most people in that time had ever had. And I will never forget the feeling of freedom that my first bicycle gave me--a feeling I have never entirely lost. Just about anyone, you ask? What about those whose physical abilities are, we might say, limited compared to the rest of us? One afternoon on the bike trail, I was, with considerable effort, making my way up a long hill. In front of me was a man on a recumbent three-wheeler, who seemed to make light work of it. I could scarcely keep up with him. Not only did he appear to be quite a bit older than I was, but he was propelling himself with his hands operating grips in place of pedals on the cranks, which were positioned in front of his chest. He had no legs. He was outpacing me, up a hill, on a handcycle. Such a sight is both humbling and inspiring. I don't know who he was and I haven't seen him in a while. I hope he's still riding. So what's stopping you? You got a better excuse than they do? I don't really want to hear it. It's just a story anyway. Get out and ride.