Friday, June 17, 2011

I've Come to a Realization

Maybe I’m not as tough as I originally thought. Since crashing a week ago I’ve felt cranky, agitated, bummed and even a bit depressed. It’s not so much because it’s painful or anything- that’s what Tylenol is for- but mentally it’s been really tough. Being cooped up is not something I’ve ever enjoyed or handled well. Call it being a free spirit or whatever but I need to do things, go places and explore. I was a leash kid for a reason.

The collarbone is just a skinny little bone that helps make up your shoulder. They break all the time and it’s not a big deal. They heal pretty well and you’re able to get back to “normal” life reasonably quickly (which is never quick enough). So what’s the problem, then? I feel like I’m losing my mind!

Riding has always been an outlet and some of my best thinking happens on rides. I can do something, go places and explore all at the same time! Riding a bike is my way of handling stress and freeing my mind. It’s my escape. When my dad died, when there’s a family issue, when I have trouble focusing, my bike has always been there, ready for a ride. It helps me clear my mind and reduce the stress, anger, sadness etc. that was there before. It’s cleansing. Being outside in the wind and sun, hearing animals, and getting rained on is all very calming.

Frustration can be taken out on the bike, too. You can throttle yourself and somehow feel better afterwards. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the sport. There’s something about physical suffering that helps me straighten out my mind. Yes, it’s a bit masochistic but it’s what works for me.

After crashing, I was given instructions: “Keep your heart rate under 100bpm” and
“Don’t ride outside. You can’t risk another crash.” Well, there goes my coping mechanism! Okay, fine, I’ll just read or watch TV and rest. That lasted about two days. The “vacation” was over and I wanted to get back to work. It was frustrating not being able to use mini arm- I realized how much I actually use it for- but wasn’t the end of the world carrying things differently or driving differently. (This can be a conversation for later- driving stick with one hand to begin with then throwing an arm in a sling to top it all off.) It was a call for patience, something I’m not good at. The Pnu was different because I didn’t have the energy for anything other than sleeping. Now, It’s uncomfortable to lay around, I’m rested and just feel like I’m a leash kid again- held back.

How is it that such a skinny little bone has so much power over me? Craig- my coach- told me years ago “You’re not a real cyclist until you break your collarbone.” Now, after having a week-which, for me, is an eternity- to reflect and think about things I’ve realized something. It’s not breaking the bone that makes you a cyclist; it has to be the rest of it that does. Evaluating where you stand, what the course of action is and what’s a priority- or no longer a priority- for the season and then moving on makes you one. It’s cliché but every so-called real athlete has to get over some type of obstacle in order to truly achieve anything. Nothing is given away; everything has to be earned. Maybe this is just a test. Not like a religious test of faith because I don’t do that, but a test of will. How much do you want it? Considering I spent a morning watching videos and reading articles learning how to tape a collarbone back into place to race, I think it’s safe to say I want it. (I’m not going to do anything dumb, I’m just exploring options.)

As crazy as it sounds, maybe this is exactly what I needed. At the training center, I’m surrounded by athletes that are training to be the World’s best. Each day of easy riding and resting feels like a step backwards. After months, things were finally clicking and going well on the bike. Now, I’m back on a leash. If this is the situation, and this is how things are going to go, then that’s fine. It is what it is. Maybe I'm exactly as tough as I thought. One thing is for sure, when this thing is over and done with and I’m free to ride, it will be on!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bike lanes

This is a very true and funny video. Bike lanes aren't always the best place for cyclists.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's been just about a week since crashing so it's time for an update. Unfortunately, I can't report- as of right this moment- that things are completely healed and I'm ready to rock and roll. (Hopefully this will be knocked out by Friday.) Things are progressing nicely though and I'm feeling much better than last week. Sleeping has become much more comfortable and the pain has subsided to more of a dull ache than anything else. Each day, range of motion increasing and my pendulum exercises are becoming easier and the circles bigger. (I make little circles with my arm to keep things moving, trying to increase the circle's diameter a little bit each day. Exciting stuff, I know.)

My coach gave my Friday (the day after the crash) off and I was on the spin bike for easy rides starting Saturday morning. The spin bike and I are developing a love-hate relationship. I want to ride but haven't been cleared to go outside and the spin bike is the best option at this point. The hardest part of this whole thing is not being able to ride outside! The weather has finally turned for summer and it's been 85° and sunny all week.

On the bright side, as my friend pointed out today, if my collarbone wasn't broken I wouldn't have been at the craft store in the middle of the day with a man wearing a lime green and white tank top with short overalls on. It was the highlight of my day. I wish more people wore short overalls. They seem very practical.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finally, I'm a Real Cyclist!

Several years ago my coach, Craig, told me "You're not a real cyclist until you break your collarbone." Well, I'm a real cyclist now. Last week, while riding the bike path for a recovery spin, a squirrel ran across the path, juked left and right and while trying to avoid hitting the little guy, I dumped it and landed on my shoulder. As soon as I sat up, I knew something was amiss and decided that with the power of a positive attitude, my bones could not be broken. Nope, no way! A good samaritan stopped to see if I was okay. He asked "Your legs look pretty strong, do you do this often?" To which I responded "Crash? No. Ride? Yes, although you probably wouldn't have guessed that."He helped me dust myself off, asked if I went to church then helped me get on my way. I rode home with my arm cradled against my stomach still saying to myself "Nothing's broken! Everything's just fine!" and went straight to the sports med to get cleaned up.

The initial diagnosis was a separated shoulder. This was determined by the trainer feeling for breaks along the collarbone and then, at the shoulder joint, jamming his finger into what he thought was the AC joint (and what I later came to realize was just the break in the bone) which was unpleasant to say the least. They gave me a sling and told me that I'd be good to go in a week to ten days. After a few hours in the sling and feeling some things moving around in there I went back and got x-rays. Sure enough, it was broken. Not even my charming, positive attitude could heal that bone. Who are we kidding, I'm a realist.
They're wily buggers

After a visit to an orthopedist to rule out the need for surgery, very little changed as far as treatment, but the time frame grew considerably. The orthopedist said 6-8 weeks for my frail, bird-like bones to heal. Hopefully it doesn't take that long because it's summer, the weather is nice and I have racing to get to. Thankfully it's mini arm and not my good arm because that would have been tragic. I'm in an ever stylish navy blue sling with white trim that seems to wrap around my torso. It's a lot of sling for a little arm!

Being juked by a rodent was not my finest moment, but I hope he went home and hugged his squirrel kids and his squirrel wife. Hopefully the sun shone brighter and the grass seemed greener because that is one lucky squirrel.

Every athlete has their setbacks, suffers their injuries and has a wrench thrown in their plans at some point in their career, right? Given the situation, it could definitely be much, much worse. A collarbone break is a common cycling injury and, in all seriousness, would probably have just a matter of time until it broke anyway. Best to get it out of the way now. And, I'm finally a real cyclist!