Saturday, February 19, 2011

Broken Bones

I think an inevitable part of a life lived with passion is injury. Part of going after a goal with all your effort involves accepting and facing risks. Sometimes those risks catch up with you. Unfortunately, you don't always get to pick the most convenient time to experience an injury, but they never seem to come at a good time for taking a rest. I suppose there isn't ever a convenient time to be restricted from moving without pain for an extended period of time. When you are used to spending the better part of your free time using your body at the limit of its potential, being forced to sit and do nothing can seem like a long and cruel punishment.

Jakob is learning all about injuries and recovery this year. I think he has seen the doctor more in the past 6 months than he has the entire rest of his life. It all started this fall with the eye issues. Then at the first meet this season he had the ankle sprain. Next, we were in Oklahoma for a meet when he fell in the shower and sprained his wrist. Fortunately, all of these issues passed relatively quickly. For the past month he has been working hard and getting stronger. He was looking forward to competing at full strength, for the first time this season, at a meet in Wichita this weekend when another character building opportunity presented itself.

Jakob was at the gym this past Tuesday evening working on his high bar routine
when he took a fall. He said he thought he had bruised his foot pretty badly but he got back on the bar and finished up the routine. It was obvious it was more than a bruise but he iced it and finished up the practice doing everything he could without using that foot too much. One of the parents at the gym is a doctor. After taking a look at Jakob's foot, he thought an x-ray was definitely in need. With the past two trips to the hospital yielding nothing but simple sprains, coupled with his ability to get up and finish the routine and practice, I didn't expect them to really find anything. I was wrong! He had broken 3 metatarsals, the bones that run along the top of the foot. If you ever happen question Jakob's dedication and perseverance to gymnastics, just remember the time he worked out for another two hours with broken bones in his foot.

It has only been a few days since the injury and although he is in a boot with
crutches, he is already been back to the gym. For the next 4 weeks as the bones in his foot heal, he will focus on core and upper body strength. I'm sure he will have some emotional hurdles to work through as well. He was in the middle of the same skill that he fell from and sprained his ankle at the first meet in Arkansas this year. I can only imagine, after having two different injuries from the same skill, a high bar half turn, that every time he does a half turn in the future he will remember these events. This is one of the things I like about gymnastics though, it forces you to keep facing your fears until you conquer them. I believe there is great value in activities that teach you to continue trying something over and over again, even after it hurts you, until you finally perfect it. This applies to many things in life. Rarely are the most rewarding challenges accomplished on your first try with no adversity. Success is sometimes given to the lucky but I think more often, its given to the one who is willing to keep getting back up and trying again, no matter how many times it takes.

The last I wrote about Jakob was that he was getting burned out on gymnastics and questioning his goals. In the past month that feeling had diminished and he was charging forward again. It seems a little ironic that as soon as he regained his motivation for competing, he experienced an injury that potentially ended his season. There is a possibility he might compete again this year, however, the chance seems pretty thin. He will definitely miss the next two competitions and just be getting cleared to use his foot again at the same time the State meet is held. But if I know Jakob like I think I do, after having much time to sit around and think, he will come off of this long break hungry to work hard again. Next year will bring lots of excitement.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

“Get out of the road you f-@$%#g idiot!”

It was snowing again this morning. A fresh couple inches of powder on the road for most of the trip. It’s been a long week of dealing with the elements. Starting with the blizzard last week, and then facing the single digit temps and polar winds, I have had my plate full of physical challenges. Despite our office being practically closed for 2 days last week, I haven’t missed a single day of work and have ridden my bike in everyday. Even people with 4 wheel drive were staying home. There is substantially more physical exertion in riding a bike when the conditions are like this. What is normally a 25 minute trip has been more like an hour or sometimes longer. The trip home in the peak of the storm last week took 2 hours! I normally spend 5 hours a week commuting but the past week was in the range of 11 hours which would explain my abnormal sluggishness.

There have been a couple of spills. As usual, no injuries as the falls are normally low speed slide outs that are fairly controlled. My tailbone is a little sore from one incident but nothing major. These falls rarely occur in the fresh soft snow. It’s always on the areas that have thawed and refrozen numerous times into lumpy sheets of polished ice. I think this is my 4th winter of riding and we seem to have had many more slippery days this year. It’s been enough that next year, I think I will fork out the money for a good set of studded tires.

I have been feeling guilty about the paltry amount of running miles in the last week and a half but I guess considering the extra time spent riding it’s not like I have been lying around being lazy. The few times I have gone out to run have been more harrowing than the bike miles. Of all the roads I normally traverse, maybe 200 feet of sidewalk has been shoveled. I pass many driveways that have been immaculately kept but only a precious few landowners have performed their legal obligation and cleared their sidewalks. This leaves me with 2 options, take to the narrowed streets with the cars or hike over and through the snow banks and drifts piled on the sidewalks. One woman felt so compelled to inform me of her disapproval of my running in the road that she stopped her car in the middle of a busy road full of traffic to roll down her window and yell, “Get out of the road you f-@$%#g idiot!” She got a smile, my middle finger, and then the sound of honking horns from all the vehicles that had to stop behind her while she shared her wisdom.

I’m sure it is because of the weather, but I have received more admonishments from friends than I usually get over the past week. Most of them come with the line, “you’re crazy!” Really, am I crazy? What is crazy anyway? According to, crazy is:

1. Mentally deranged; demented; insane.
2. Senseless; impractical; totally unsound: a crazy scheme.
3. Informal. Intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited.

Okay, maybe if you go all the way to the third and informal definition then yes, I am crazy. I am crazy about health and well being. I am crazy about living my life to the fullest extent possible. Deranged or insane, I don’t think so. To me, deranged and insane is living with an overweight and out of shape body and not doing anything but complaining about it. In my humble opinion, that is the true crazy that is weighing on people these days. Pun intended. I would also define crazy as stopping your car and holding up traffic to scream your opinions at strangers. But you know, keep pointing out the window and calling me crazy while you drive yourself as close to the door as possible so you don’t have to walk too far to your next seated position all the while wondering how you got so out of shape.

Week of January 17 – Bike 80, Run 25
Week of January 24 – Bike 80, Run 30
Week of January 31 – Bike 80, Run 10

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Insanely Awesome

The forecast has been all over the board starting yesterday morning when they began to prophecy the coming storm. Everywhere I went people were huddled into small groups talking about how bad it was going to get:

It’s supposed to be the worst since 1912.”

I was just at WalMart and ALL the milk and bread is gone!

I heard we’re supposed to get 20 inches and have 5 foot drifts!

It’s going to be completely amazing!” (Okay, this one was actually me but I felt like the quotes needed some balance.)

In my Bike to Work Everyday for a Year Challenge, we didn’t have a blizzard. The last time the weather was really bad in the winter, I was recovering from the nose surgery after getting hit by that car and I didn’t get to ride in the peak winter storm. I was not about to miss this chance. I watched the forecasts and prepared the bike and hoped we got a blizzard to rival the conditions on the planet Hoth!

I was not disappointed and the snow fell hard! To make things a little easier on me, I chose to ride the Urban Snow Commuter Assault Vehicle.

When I'm on my road bikes, I like to be practically laying down for aerodynamics. I am way more upright on snow bike which gives me better visibility and awareness. It has wide handlebars for better stability. It has the fattest low pressure tires I can fit on the frame to make it sail over the snow and ice easier and, of course, the DIY studded tire up front. Extra lights are mounted to make me even more visible to the lazy wimps who can’t be bothered with the time to scrape their windows properly. They would rather risk killing someone than getting their tiny delicate fingers cold. /end soapbox rant.

I won’t say it’s easy. It’s a lot like trying to ride through really deep soft mud, if you have ever done that. I would liken the pedaling in deep snow to being in the hardest gear your bike has and never being able to get it spinning easily. It took constant quad burning pressure in my lowest gear to keep the bike rolling through the snow. When traveling through ruts and snow plow deposits, the front wheel would hop around and suddenly turn in different directions and it took some focus to keep myself upright. The most difficult portion was riding a long steady uphill grade into the north wind which is blowing 15-20 and gusting 40. After I was able to turn crosswind, I had a much easier time. It probably wouldn’t have been quite as hard had I not done a 15 mile run on Sunday followed on Monday by 16 miles on the bike and then another 5 mile run. But I wasn’t going to let tired legs make me miss my chance for riding a bike in a blizzard though.

This also isn't my first blizzard in life. There were numerous ones in Minnesota growing up. I once walked to my work at a gas station in a real doozy. I had to bust through snow drifts that were shoulder height. The point being, I have a lot of life experience in very cold weather and plan accordingly. I have played in the snow in sub zero temperatures as a child and I know and can recognize the signs of frost bite and hypothermia. I would not recommend you take up bike commuting in blizzard like conditions without a little life experience and training. Having the proper gear is always very helpful as well.

I had been wishing the whole way in that I had some pictures of the morning when about half a mile from the office, I see a car parked on the side of the road. I then notice a guy in the middle of my lane with a huge camera pointed at me taking pictures. As I approached him, he said he was with the Springfield Newsleader. I have been asked questions by reporters a few times and it always makes me stumble and say something goofy. My sister in-law, Amy Davis, once did a tandem skydive with me. There happened to be a Newsleader reporter on the ground that day. As soon as her feet hit the ground, the reporter was there with a recorder in her face asking how it had been. We still laugh about what she said. They placed a picture of Amy and me in freefall on the cover of the Weekend section in the paper with her first quote boldly across the top, “Insanely Awesome!” In a very similar manner, with cheeks cold and stiff from a completely frozen beard, I answered the reporter this morning with, “It was totally AWESOME!” Fortunately, he didn’t publish my exact quote but he did put up a few pictures and offered a summary of our conversation. He took like 20, I’m not sure why he chose the one with both eyes closed and me looking half drunk.

Sleet and snow slowed but did not stop morning commuters. Jim Phillips rides to work at Hammons Tower. He said the lack of traffic was great and if the snow gets too deep he will run home.

Link to Newsleader Slide Show. I'm in pictures 15, 17 and 21.

You only get one shot at life. Your one shot is filled with opportunities to make the best of your time here but it is up to you to recognize those opportunities and make the most of them. I consider it like collecting experiences. The more you collect, the richer your life can be. Some experiences do not come along very often. You can wake up tomorrow and say, I wonder what it would be like to ride a bike in a blizzard? But the problem is blizzards don’t just come when you want them to. Sometimes extreme weather patterns happen once a century. What if there wasn’t another one like this in your lifetime? I never want to be that guy laying on his death bed wishing I had done and seen more with my life.

It rarely gets as bad as they say it will but if by chance they were all right, and we happen to get 20 inches of snow with negative wind chills tomorrow, its going to be insanely awesome!