Cycling 2009 ends with an epic adventure

Well, now that we are officially into the 2010 cycling season (sort of anyway - waiting for the roads to dry, a bit of sun and temps above 45F), thought it was finally time to give a brief recap on the adventures of 2009.  Overall it was a great season with roughly 2500 miles logged on the road. 

As for what has now become my standard season ending ride, the goal was once again to complete 100 miles at the Dam2Dam Mike Utley Foundation bike ride the last weekend in September.  A fund raiser for spinal cord research and for other such beneficial projects to help those with SCI find life and hope once again.

My amazing wife Gwen, and faithful physical therapist Keith Heinzelman, were in attendance.  Our plans changed however the night before the ride when Gwen, carrying all my bags of gear with her vision blocked, sprained her foot on the curb at the Wenatchee Holiday Inn.  This shortened her ride for the next day due to swelling and pain with weight bearing....she was to miss out then on the adventure Keith and I were to have!

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100 Miles! Cycling update fall 2008

First, an apology…..
I am sorry that it has been so long since my last update. I am obviously not a blogger who is into bringing you each tidbit of news or accomplishment achieved in my life.
Yet there are a few very important physical goals that have been able to achieve since my last update in June.

During the dry season here I was able to average 100 to 120 miles per week bicycling on the road. Total miles on my Moots titanium hybrid are now 2500 in the past 15 months. Now that the rainy season is upon us, I am back indoors in group spinning classes 3 to 4 days per week. Dry roads and temps above 43 degrees F keep me outdoors and on the road.

Now to the reporting of two fantastic goals accomplished this cycling season....

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Cycling update May 2008

Time to bring you up to speed with my latest cycling adventures since riding Chilly Hilly in late February 2008.  Basically it has been a very very wet end to winter and splash into spring.  No signs yet of global warming here in the Pacific NW.  Thank goodness too for spinning classes, which I have been able to attend 2-3 times/week.  Basically, if it is dry and above 45 degrees F, I hope to be out on my bike; especially now that I am finished at the University of Washington medical school until next January.

I have been able now to log a total of over 1100 miles on my Moots since I received it around August 2007, not too bad considering the weather, and that I hardly rode outside from October till late February.  I am most often out on my own, cell phone in pocket, flashing tail light, helmet mirror - praying for no flat tires.  Given the hilly nature of Bainbridge Island I am slowly adding post-SCI previously unconquered hills to my list of those I have now scaled.  Not checking them off with quite the significance of Bainbridge resident Ed Viesturs, the first American to climb the 14 mountains in the world higher than 8,000 meters, but nonetheless rewarding, and too involving risk - not knowing if I may stall and topple in the midst of a climb.  While I am gradually increasing the degree of difficulty, I think Toe Jam Hill with its 22 - 24 percent gradient is forever safe from my aspirations.

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Cycling Fun inside Harborview!

In the late fall of 2007 the Harborview Rehab floor hosted an Adaptive Cycling Seminar.  Through a donation made in my name, I was able to help fund the seminar.  There were recumbent four wheeled tandems, various makes of three wheeled bikes, and options of foot or hand driven mechanisms.  Although this was primarily set up for those who might be riding hand cycles, I did also bring my Moots and seized the opportunity to bicycle down the halls of Harborview.  The very halls where I had pulled myself around in a wheelchair using my feet in 2004.

Being a C5 incomplete quad, in addition to my bilateral radial nerve injuries, I do not have the arm/hand strength to either pilot a wheelchair, or a hand cycle; whether on 2, 3 or 4 wheels.  So in my particular case strangely, the only option for me is to ride an upright bicycle and pedal with my feet.

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Current Bicycling status

Well, perhaps you are thinking this all seems too easy, or why did it take him so long to just advance to cycling on his own.  You will have to believe me, it was not easy, though I had plenty of motivation to succeed, my spinal cord injury and general lack of balance and strength meant several falls were inevitable.  Though Keith and I finished Chilly Hilly 2006 without incident, soon after that I was to experience quite a number of low speed falls.  Being however an "experienced" cyclist, I always managed to land on my left (non-drivetrain) side, protecting my bike, yet causing a couple of left hip & elbow bruises along with a few head bangs. 


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Independent Cycling - a dream realized

By early summer 2005 I began thinking with my wife and PT what we could do for the one year anniversary of my trauma.  Soon a plan was hatched that involved my bicycling past the scene of the crime on the day of the life changing trauma, this time to make it home!  Problem was, I had not yet ridden a two wheeled bicycle on my own.  By late July, it was time to give it a try.

Keith Heinzelman, my PT, and Kelly Campo, another PT whom had known me for a long time, came over to our house to figure out how we could get me on my mountain bike.  We were unsure how my balance would be, what my leg strength would be like, how braking and shifting would work.  On that memorable day I kept my gait belt on so Keith could run alongside me and remain attached somewhat to me, as a father would with his child, as I attempted to balance and pedal.

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Cycling advancements & Chilly Hilly 2005

Two and one-half months after my discharge from the Harborview Rehab floor, Keith Heinzelman and I set out to ride the Chilly Hilly 2005.  With a huge amount of emotional and physical support we were accompanied by friends, family, church members, Seattle Symphony members, Bill Davidson framebuilder from Elliott Bay Bicycles, and Josh Golden my PT from the Harborview Rehab floor.

The day was a bit foggy and cool, but it was dry!  Off we went....

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First steps to getting back on the bike

Bicycling has been in my blood ever since I was a kid, but I became more serious about it in my college days at Indiana University, home of the Little 500 annual bicycle race and the fantastic movie Breaking Away, filmed while I attended IU.  Although I never came close to finishing on a podium, I did dabble in both mountain bike and road racing from time to time during my Emergency Medicine career.  When I was struck in 2004, beyond commuting by bicycle, I had been doing frequent training rides and a bit of racing; logging around 4000 miles in the twelve months prior to my injury.

When asked by a counselor while laying nearly paralyzed in my hospital bed what I loved about cycling, I remember saying it was feeling the wind in my face, the tension of the crankarms pulling on the chain, the sound and feel of the road underneath me, all the while spinning with my heart rate around 160-165.  Speed.  Efficiency.  It just all felt so right, a sweet spot in a complex life, a break from the chaos of the ER, a sort of Chariots of Fire experience, such that when I rode I felt God's pleasure.

What follows then is the story of how I came to get back on the bike....

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