Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again (part ll: Into the woods)

At long last, I stole a couple hours for myself and went out to the Greenbush Group Camping Area. Home of my favorite trail. It consists of a 5.3 mile outer loop that is primarily a cross-country ski trail. I little while back, the area became so popular with mountain bikers that they added four additional smaller loops inside the original. The new trails offer more technical stuff and more often. I really love the original because you can go fast. There is enough technical stuff to keep you on your toes, but not so much that it keeps you from really opening it up and flying. In about the middle of last season I started doing two laps because I felt guilty about spending almost two hours in the car for a 35 minute ride. My goal is always to finish the 10.5 miles in under an hour. 10mph is a pretty respectable average for me on a mountain bike. The hardest part of this trail is that it begins with an absolutely punishing set of up hills. I bought myself a altimeter watch for Father's Day, but wasn't wearing it on my ride this morning (it's my 'day-off' watch). I really want to know just how much climbing is in that opening section. By the time you get to the top, you just pray the end of the ride is near. But after a nice relatively level stretch, your heart stops pounding in your ears and the fire in your legs stop burning and you begin to remember why you're there. I only rode one lap today. I knew I should take it easy and the weather was stifling. My computer measured it to be 96 in the woods! Forty minutes and a Nalgene of water and a second of Gatorade later, I was headed back to town.
This hasn't been a very exciting blog. And I hope they stay this way for a while. I'm sick of getting hurt. It takes way too long to heal, and the chicks in my life aren't impressed by my bumps, bruises, and scars. They just say, "Poor daddy," and keep playing.

Back in the Saddle Again (part l: Doctor's Orders)

"Doctor, doctor give me the news....." I've got how much weight to lose?!
One week after my rib-cracking crash, I went back to my regular doctor to have him take a look at me. I wasn't recovering as fast as I hoped and besides, it had been thirteen months since my last physical. In addition to the all too uncomfortable things that transpire during a man's physical, the doctor also told me I was obese. Not overweight -- OBESE. Okay, I know I'm a long way from modeling for Hollister, but obese? So what's the magic number, doc? 15? 20? He looked at this handy wheel calculator he had in his lab-coat pocket and said, "54." "54?" I replied, "54 what, grams? Ounces? Certainly not 54 pounds! That's like one whole leg!" I need both my legs, so that wasn't an option. I'm trying to eat less. A lot less. I eat three meals a day, but now two of them are cereal. And I try not to eat after work (9p.m. or later). I bought a scale the same day and weigh-in every Sunday morning. The first 12lbs went pretty easy, but this weeks 1lb loss was really frustrating. I've got a few early morning road rides in lately, but pain and family stuff has kept me out of the woods. It'll be a long while before I get up the guts to go back to Evergreen and the Kettles trail I love so much is 40 minutes away, so that's at least a two hour commitment. The road rides have felt good and my times have been respectable. The ribs have only hurt when I get out of the saddle to charge up a hill. Unfortunately, road riding and mountain riding have about as much in common as distance running and sprinting. It won't be 'til I get back on the trail that I know how hard I need to work to get back to a respectable form. I'd really like to race in Green Bay again this year. That race is about five weeks away.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When Nature Goes Bad!

It's been a slow road to recovery. Thankfully some crappy weather has kept me from pushing it. A salesman joked with me the other day that "This is pretty good weather......for October!" In any case, I haven't been on a bike since my spill. I was hoping to try and get out on the road once or twice this week, but the rain and wind and fog kept me inside.

This past Sunday I just couldn't take it. It was raining on and off and foggy. I was pacing like a caged animal: antsy, moody, restless, and anxious. Finally, I decided I'd go down to the waterfront, get a coffee, and go for a walk on the beach. When I got down there, the entire lakefront was covered in fog, so I decided to go hiking at Maywood in the drizzle. The hike started off fine. I stuck to the woods to keep the dripping off of me. I worked my way down out of the woods to a trail that leads to the spring-fed ponds. I forced myself to find a four-leaf clover as I needed to work on my patience. It took some time, but I found one! As I began to head down the trail, something caught my eye on the edge of the grass. I thought it might be a chipmunk or other small rodent, but it wasn't moving too quick. At the very moment I realized it was a small bird, a really pissed off (and I'm almost certain -- rabid) mother turkey came flying out of the long grass behind me and chased me backwards down the trail 50 feet! Once I was at a distance the mama turkey deemed as safe, I looked back to see a bunch baby turkey chicks and mom meandering down the trail. So, I picked a new route. I took a trail along the river. It was pretty swampy given all the rain we had just had. There were typical sounds of ducks and songbirds everywhere, but one call was starting to dominate. The closer I edged along the wetlands, the more serious the urgent the cries of a group of re-winged blackbirds got. I figured I must be close to their nests. That suspicion was for the most part confirmed as the dominant adults were buzzing me as the rest sat in the cat-tails scolding me.
By now, I was thinking 'I'm never coming here without my kids again (they're so loud, they scare off all manner of wildlife before we're all out of the car).' I crossed the river with the intention of walking the loop i usually ride (the 'M' part of my MEQ trail). The rains had turned the trail into a virtual stream of mud and water, I decided to stay on the north side of the river and do the Upper Prairie Loop trail instead. I saw a pair of muskrats washing in the natural spring where I usually stop to fill my Nalgene, but opted not to risk another ill-fated animal encounter. On the upper loop I saw a pair of deer eating buds off a tree. I took their picture and continued down the trail as not to disturb them. Eventually I realized that the trail would loop around right along side their snacking tree. I decided to reverse my course and leave them alone. As I made my way back, I heard crunching behind me. I instinctively turned to look and realized one of deer was following me down the trail! "Are you kidding me!?" I thought out loud. I'm done! I'm going somewhere safe.....like the mall!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Roots: Nature's Railroad Tracks (or: Today I Hit a Doctor)

Being a chef, father, and husband, my schedule is pretty chaotic. The only fairly consistent times I have to ride are Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday mornings. My weekend riding was going well. A good ride at MEQ on Saturday. A decent road ride before picking up my daughter Sydney on Sunday. Monday, Lori and I were planning on taking the kids to school and heading to the river for a day of kayaking. When I got home from dropping off the kids, Lor was still spent from working the night before. I figured I'd knock out a quick ride, and we could paddle after lunch.
The 'E' (Evergreen Park) portion of MEQ is just that: thick evergreen Forest. So thick, in fact, that I've rode in there while it was raining without getting wet. Evergreen trees in this part of the state are shallow rooted and thrive is sandy soil. Which is why, every spring we have a new trail to ride due to washout and blown down trees. The roots are terrible due in part to the popularity of this high-traffic trail system. Any kid who learned how to ride a bike in the city has probably at one time or another wiped out because they hit train tracks at the wrong angle. At Evergreen Park it would seem EVERY root is at the wrong angle! They bring you to a stop while you're grinding up the last few feet of a hill. They'll kick your back tire out from under you while trying to make a sharp corner. They can launch you air-borne as you shoot down a hill. And sometimes they just throw you off your bike. Twice in my time riding in Evergreen I've had bad crashes and have had no idea what caused them. Yesterday was one of those times. I was headed towards the Maywood corridor down a bone jarring section of roots. I've never fallen here. It's bumpy, but that's what mountain bikes are built for. In an instant I was on my back, my bike was on top of me and I couldn't breathe. I had clearly landed on my handlebars on the way over. I pushed my bike off and rolled on to all fours. My lungs were deflating with a horrible grown and I couldn't reverse them. I thought about dialing 911, but I couldn't speak. It seemed like forever before I got a little gasp into my lungs. Followed again by more raspy exhaling. Little by little, the process reversed itself until i could again fill my lungs with air. It was the most scared I've ever been. When I got my wits about me, I looked around for what had done this to me. I couldn't find any one root that seemed more dangerous than the others. Riding on adrenalin and endomorphs, I continued riding a shorter, easier route back out of the woods and home. It wasn't until I bent down for my water bottle, that I concluded something was really wrong.
When I got home, Lori was up and I told her I was taking myself to walk-in. She drove me to the clinic and thankfully there was no line. Not like in winter when everyone with the sniffles is there. The nurse insisted in giving me a sponge bath for all the other bumps and scapes I had incurred which actually kind of creeped me out. But she did say the nicest thing that i could hear in my current situation, "You must have a really high tolerance for pain. You blood pressure is only 120/80." When the doctor came in, he listened to my lungs and probed my gut looking for internal owies. When he got to the bottom of my rib cage, I yelped and swatted his hand away. "I guess we found where you hit, eh?" He laughed and sent me to radiology. Twelve x-rays (three of with were taken twice), later, the staff deducted that I had not broken a rib, but had in fact incurred quite a bit of trauma to the cartilage that attaches the rids to the sternum. With that diagnosis they sent me home with a girdle and some vicodin.
The real pain of this ordeal lies in the fact I didn't get to go kayaking with Lori, and I was planning on treating myself with a trip to the kettles to ride my favorite trail after I took the kids to school Tuesday morning! The doctor says a month before I start feeling better. I wonder how long it will take to feel 'good enough'?