Monday, November 05, 2007

I Broke My What??

In other news....I was asking my neurologist about some numbness that I've been experiencing on my left side, and his diagnosis wasn't exactly what I expected. Here's the play by play recap:

Doc: Where is the numbness exactly?

Me: Right here, along the lower left side of my rib cage

Doc examines the X-Rays carefully

Doc: Well, that's probably being caused by this rib fracture you have here

Me: What the?!

He was surprisingly casual about it. I guess in relative terms, it was the least of my worries, and probably was lost in the shuffle. I think they call that triage...

Back in the Saddle Again (Kind Of...)

So, I went to see my neurologist last week and he said things are healing up pretty nicely. Another 4 weeks and I'm cleared to do most anything (including ride my bike). Strangely, my back (which was operated on) will heal more quickly than my arm (which didn't even have a cast). I still haven't been cleared by my orthopedic doc for another 6-8 weeks to ride my bike.

I bought a Minoura rim-drive indoor trainer so that I can work out in my basement on my own bike. After one workout, I like it more than riding the spin bikes at the local rec center - it definitely replicates difficulty of the on-trail experience a little better.

I did get the ok to ride the trainer and do pretty much any non-impact activity. So this morning I was able to get in my first workout on my indoor trainer. I actually felt better than I expected, and was able to push myself pretty hard (we'll see how I feel tomorrow).

Here's a picture of my new setup. It isn't the same as getting outside, but it will have to do.

If you look closely, you can see that my rear tire is pretty worn. My accident started when my rear tire went into a skid. I'm not sure whether the tire caused the accident, but it sure didn't help. I had been procrastinating buying a new set of tires, but I won't make that mistake again.

Now, time to burn off those extra five pounds!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Private Helicopter

About 7 weeks ago, on Labor Day, I took a pretty good spill on the bike. Check that, I took the worst fall I've ever taken. End result? Cracked and displaced vertebrae with torn ligaments (T-12) , broken arm (radius, right near the elbow), and a collapsed lung. Helicopter ride to Swedish Medical Center included. No damage to the bike whatsoever - I provided a nice cushion for my Trek Fuel's tumble.

It was a group ride with 7 or 8 guys, including my 15 year old son, Ashton. We left from a trailhead near Roxborough Park, which I'd ridden from once before, but we took a route that I'd never taken.

The first mile was fast, sandy road, with some up and down. The second mile, the road climbed up to the west at a pretty good incline, and turned from road to doubletrack as we headed up the front side of the foothills. After reaching the top of the first really good climb, I was behind the two lead guys on the ride by a few hundred yards, so as I crested the top of a hill, I shifted into my middle chainring and pedaled hard to try to see if I could catch up to Jeff and Roger, who were the two guys ahead of me.

I picked up speed immediately after cresting the hill and was moving pretty fast down the road, which at this point was partial doubletrack, loose, and a bit rocky and rutted. A few hundred yards downhill, I checked my speed a bit with the back brake, and my rear tire started skidding out. I found myself sideways and still moving at around 15-20 mph (rough guess). At that point, I don't remember exactly how I transitioned from upright to hitting the ground, but I sure remember the impact. I came down hard on the top right rear side of my head, shoulder, and upper right side of my back. This wasn't one of those falls that you feel yourself moving in slow motion. Sideways skid...and smack! After the fall, my helmet was cracked along the top right rear side in a few spots, and my head showed bruises in the same spot. I must have come down pretty hard on my back because, one of the Powergels in my Camelbak exploded from the impact, and my riding glasses, which were in my pack, were crushed pretty good (I found this a few weeks later, the Powergel had dried all over all the other gear in the pack).

I felt that impact from my head through my spine, and hit so hard that the wind was knocked completely out of me. I didn't roll or tumble and all, and ended up laying on my back. I couldn't breathe (if you've ever had the wind knocked out of you, you know how fun this is). After a few seconds of struggling, I was able to take a few breaths. If you've ever had a good fall, as you know, it always takes a few minutes to really assess how hurt you really are. I laid there on my side as the guys behind me rolled up.

This was definitely different. My back was in what felt like one huge spasm from top to bottom. The neurosurgeon later said that the pain was primarily caused because my T-12 vertebrae was perched out of place on top of my T-11, and the T-11 was trying to rotate inward. I couldn't get a deep breath because the air from my collapsed right lung was filling up the space in my chest cavity, preventing that lung from fully inflating. My right arm was pretty sore, but kind of the least of my worries at that point.

The guys called 911 and took good care of me while we waited (me in the fetal position, trying to move as little as possible. As luck would have it, one of the guys that was riding in the group was a former EMT, and a rider in a group that rolled up about 30 min later was an orthopedic surgeon. Someone was looking out for me.

It took around 2 hours for the paramedics to arrive (the got lost on the way, and had to navigate the dirt road to get to us). It felt like a lot less time had passed - I'd kind of gone to another place as I tried to control my breathing and focus on staying alert. One of the guys, Jeff, sat up against my back to give me something to lean on, which helped a ton. Whenever I tried to roll to my back, the pain was pretty intense.

The paradmedics decided it would be best to get a helicopter in to take me out of there, and the helicopter arrived pretty quickly after their call. They rolled me onto a backboard, which took the pain to a new level, but as they carried me down to the helicopter, they started some morphine, which was a huge help (I think my exact words were, "That's good stuff - I could get used to this".

They put me into surgery about 2 hourse after I got to Swedish (4 screws and two rods to fuse my T-11 to my L-1), and I was in the hospital for just over 4 days.

All in all, I feel pretty lucky (blessed), that I walked away from this. After 12 weeks total, I should be pretty much back to normal and shouldn't have any long term problems from the accident. Had I landed a little differently, things might have turned out much differently.

It sounds cliche', but I really have gained a new appreciation for life through the experience - as well as an appreciation for my family and all the friends that have been there for me as I recover. For the first few weeks, I had nothing to focus on but my health, my loved ones, and my relationship with God. When you strip life down, what else really matters?

Pictures from the Accident

Paramedics loading me onto the helicopter (can't really see me) - and the helicopter taking off (pictures courtesy of Jeff).

The Aftermath

I spent almost 5 days in the hospital and left with a 9 inch scar on my back (note the bruises on the upper right side of my back/shoulder where I came down after my head broke my fall). I'm thinking it wasn't worth the trouble....

Favorite Fruita Rides, Prime Cut to Joe's Ridge to Kessel Run

I thought I'd start adding some of my favorite rides, using MapMyRide, which allows you to view the trails in Google Earth or export them to a GPS.

This one, which starts in the Bookcliffs Parking lot North of town, is one of my all time favorites. It's not a tough ride, the climb is moderate, but it has a huge downhill payoff. Joe's is one takes you along a sharp ridge and has awesome views and fun downhill, and Kessel follows the bottom of a dry creekbed - it's like a roller coaster - pedaling optional, and a total blast.

Here's a great picture of Joe's Ridge - with my brother Mike on his way down.
Tell me that singletrack doesn't look like a blast. Go ahead. Try and deny it.

Here's the ride in MapMyRide.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ride to Nowhere

I love my mountain bike. Really.

When I bought my latest bike, I used to go into the garage by myself and just stare at it. Probably 3 or 4 times a day. I spend more time riding it and working on it than I do with most of my friends (what does that say about me?). In other words, it would take a lot for me part with it. But after the ride I took over the 4th of July holiday this year in Utah, I was ready to melt it down. Well, at least for a day I felt that way.

A little background - A few years ago, I rode 3 or 4 miles of the Ridge Trail above American Fork Canyon, and it was some great singletrack. It was smooth, well maintained, and wound in and out of the aspen and pine forests behind Mount Timpanogos, with one of the more beautiful views around. We were staying at my wife's family cabin up above Oakley, UT (somewhat near Park City), and I wanted to get a good long ride in during the trip. So I concocted the idea of riding down the canyon, through Kamas and Heber, and then up a Snake Creek Road (mostly dirt) to the trailhead on Pole Line Pass (Big Mistake #1). I'd then hit an 11 mile stretch of the Ridge Trail 157 (also part of the Great Western Trail), some of which included the few miles I'd ridden before. I assumed the entire 11 mile section would be as sweet as that portion (Big Mistake #2). I also decided to leave at around 10:30 am, so I'd be riding the most exposed section, with the most climbing, right in the middle of the day, when temperatures would be reaching over 100 degrees (Big Mistake #3).

It was a pleasant, almost easy cruise for the until mile 31. Up to that point, it was largely downhill and flat (one 2-3 mile climb in the middle) and entirely on pavement. It was hot, but I'd been drinking and eating, and felt great. At mile 32 or so, I turned on to Snake Creek Road, and began Big Mistake #1. Snake Creek Road starts at an elevation of around 5800 feet, and after climbing about a mile, it turns from pavement to dirt. Pole Line Pass, which is where I'd be picking up the Ridge Trail, is at an elevation of about 8800 feet. So, I'd be climbing about 3000 feet over about 12 miles. I figured I could do it in around 2 hours, then I'd have a nice spin on the buff singletrack of Ridge Trail 157 for another 11 miles, after which I'd pick up the Alpine Loop Road (where Ridge Trail ends) and cruise down past Sundance, down Provo Canyon to Provo, where my family would meet me later that day.

Turns out, it took me about 3 1/2 hours to ride to Pole Line Pass. The climb was somewhat gradual, but never ending. By the time I got to the Ridge Trail, I'd consumed about 4 or 5 Powergels and was drinking at ton, because it was so dang hot...hmmm, maybe a clue that I picked the wrong time of year to do this? Anyway, I digress... Just as I caught sight of the trailhead, I went to take a sip from my Camelbak, and it was bone dry. I had left the cabin with a 20oz bottle of Accelerade and 100 oz of water in my Camelbak. I had finished the water bottle sometime after the turnoff, which meant that I was without liquid for the remaining 25 miles.

I was tired, but my legs still felt pretty strong, and I still had plenty of food. I figured I'd finished the worst of it, so without stopping, I just turned onto the trail, which was headed downhill at that point. It was pretty sandy and soft (the trail is also used by motorcycles on this section and was pretty churned up), but I figured it would get better. Beginning of Big Mistake #2. The trail surface was 4-5 inches of soft dirt for probably the first mile. It was downhill at that point, so it wasn't fun, but it was manageable, and la, la, la, it's all downhill from here, right??.

Wrong. As I rode on, the trail was a mix of singletrack and deep, soft dirt. I had counted on moving pretty fast, and there was more climbing than I expected. The reality of the situation was that I was more tired that I wanted to admit (I had no power for those short uphill bursts), and I was beginning to feel the effects of dehydration. I was getting a bit short of breath, my heart was racing, and I was starting to bonk.

Outside of two guys on motorcycles, I was completely isolated. It was pretty slow going, given the trail conditions. I finally crested the high point of the trail at around 6:30pm (just over 9600 feet, at about mile 46 or 47). This spot incidentally, had an awesome view of the back of Mount Timpanogos, but I was too grateful to be headed downhill that I didn't even pause to enjoy the vista. I headed downhill (finally). There was a spring a few miles down, which was just a trickle, and I was able to get 1/4 water bottle (damn the giardia, I was thirsty!). I felt a bit better after drinking, but after another 1/2 mile or so, I hit a section of the trail that was 6-8 inches of sand/soft dirt, intermixed with babyhead sized rocks. I'm a pretty confident decscender, but there were sections of that portion of the trail that I just couldn't ride.

At around mile 50, after a mile or two of that fun stuff, I reached another trailhead, and I decided to bail off of the Ridge Trail a few miles early in favor of a dirt road that headed down toward the vallley. I ended up having my wife come and pick me up just off of the Alpine Loop Trail. I didn't have anything left even for the cruise downhill to Sundance.

Total trip: 53 miles, 4661 feet of climbing, 122 oz. of liquid, 7 or 8 Powergels, and 100+ degree heat.

Lesson learned. Check the weather, take a riding buddy, and carry more water.

See the route below (view in Satellite mode to get a bird's eye view of my route).