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Recovery; body and mind

March 11, 2016

It was January 12th when I last rode a bike, up until yesterday. Thanks to the generosity of a friend who loaned me a stationary trainer, since I currently only own rollers, I was able to set my TT bike up and pedal. For the record; I hate to ride a trainer, whether rollers or stationary. I have an incredibly hard time staying focused. My mind likes to wander. My back gets sore, my ass gets sore, from not being able to move around like I normally would. Since I live in a second floor apartment, I don’t have the option of setting the trainer up in front of the TV or a computer for distraction. It’s just me and my music, and a wandering mind.

The thing is, a trainer can provide such an incredibly intense and focused workout. There have been years where I spent the winter training almost exclusively on my rollers and track bike, due to long office hours and family duties. Surprisingly, those were some of my best race seasons. So I completely understand the benefits of specific and focused efforts and training targets … but, damn, I hate being in one spot dripping my soul onto the driveway.

But now, in recovery from massive injuries, it’s a little different …

The pelvis fractures are strong and stable, and I am able to support weight in the saddle with no discomfort- much to my own amazement. I mean, five pelvic fractures are a lot to overcome. The obstacle now, aside from the lost fitness, is the plated and screwed right wrist. I still can’t put any weight on it, or pull with it, and essentially have no grip. I saw the ortho specialist today for a five week post-op evaluation. All looks really good, and now I get to begin physical therapy for the wrist to get the range of motion back, as well as hand strength. In the weeks since the crash, and the limited use of my right arm, I’ve had a lot of muscle and strength loss. Once I can use the right hand well enough, I’ll have to get into the gym to begin lifting and rebuilding the strength.

Riding the TT bike, rather than the road bike, allows me to use the forearm pad to rest my arm, since I can’t hold a regular brake hood and support my weight- not to mention that whole lack of grip problem. Shifting the rear derailleur hurts like hell, unless I use my left hand … so I’m doing very little shifting. And, obviously, since it’s a TT bike, the position is not the most comfy; shoulders hurt, back hurts, hamstrings are not happy, and I’m getting a bit of knee pain in the left knee. But, and it’s a big “but”, I’m pedaling again.

And that’s the biggest part of it for me; I’m pedaling. I’m riding. I have a goal for recovery. And, importantly, it helps me with the voices in my head. Going from very active, highly fit, ready to race, to FULL STOP … CRASH … is difficult for anybody. Especially when so much of that person is tied so closely to their identity as a “cyclist.”

Lots of athletes go through injuries and come back stronger than ever. I’ve done it more times than I care to admit. Hit by a car in 2004, in a hit-n-run. 2008 was my “big crash” on the track. 2014 was when another car hit me and severely injured my left shoulder, one weekend before our state track championships. And now, January 2016, I’m recovering from extensive injuries and surgery. It’s easy to get a little “bummed out.”

Depression sets in easily, under normal circumstances for many active people when they are injured and unable to participate in the things they love, the things that make them feel like themselves. I got into cycling in 1982 and have been involved in the sport or the industry almost exclusively since that time. There are only a couple of years from that stretch of time where I wasn’t racing, riding, working in a bike shop, or for a company within the industry. I can count them all on one hand with a few fingers left over. Needless to say, I have been defined- in my mind- by cycling. So each period of injury is especially brutal.

Given the myriad other challenges and obstacles in my little world, it would be easy to succumb to the depression. Thanks to the support of friends, the love of family, and the smiles of my daughters, I’ve been able to remain aware of the signs of depression, and cling to a little hope. Enough hope to get me back on a bike, on a trainer, in my driveway, fighting my bike, position, and body to reconnect to my identity. Depression is a beast of a struggle during the best of times, but during difficult times it can take hold of your hope and strength. Being able to pedal again gives me that hope and strength. It may be weak for now, like the rest of me, but each pedal stroke makes me stronger.

I’ve made more comebacks than any one person should ever have to make. I’m not afraid of giving it another shot. I know I have a lot of support to get back to where I want to be. The Masters World Track Championships will be in Los Angeles in 2017 and 2018. They are my goal. And then there’s that Masters Hour Record I swore I was going to do … and I still plan to do it. As soon as I have enough strength to make a decent attempt, I’ll lay my first marker down on our track here in San Diego- if for no other reason that it is my home, and it has been a big part of my happiness and support system. Then I’ll make an honest to God attempt indoors in LA. I’m less afraid of failing than I am afraid of not even trying. Like dealing with depression, you have to make an effort or you lose. I’d rather lose trying than lose wondering.

To borrow a quote from my good friend Patrick Brady of Red Kite Prayer and his book Why We Ride; “There will be chaos- keep pedaling.”

Tim

If you, or somebody you know, is dealing with depression, reach out and ask for help. And if nothing else, at least talk about it with somebody. Silence is deadly, so be loud. 

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