Many of you don't know a lot about me, other than I like bicycling and that, professionally, I support the bicycle industry with tailored insurance programs. Well, here's a very personal post, so if you want to know me more, read on. If not, well, do what you will.
First off, let's back up 5 1/2 years. I was a fanatic. Not just a bicycling fanatic, but a competitive one. I used to be a top regional athlete, and won a lot of silent sport races--running, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, etc. My whole life seemed to revolve around trying to win events. If I had a good race, I was a super-happy guy for a while, but then soon needed another fix. If I had a bad race, I would be miserable (on the inside) and would seek another race to redeem myself. I probably raced 30 times a year, and was constantly training. I kind of lost track of some of the reasons I enjoy riding, skiing, etc. It was more about training and racing than just being out there, enjoying the outdoors.
In December 2008, everything changed. I ended up, at age 38, with a blood clot that almost killed me. If I wouldn't have been in shape, or if I hadn't sought out a second medical opinion, I may have died. The first doctor said I'd be able to resume my normal activities. So naturally, while still in the hospital, I couldn't wait to get out there. Not "out there" as in the outdoors, enjoying nature, but "out there" as in racing.
A couple weeks later, a second doctor said I could still bike, run and ski, but advised against racing. As you can imagine, I was devastated. My friends, peers and community all identified me as an elite athlete. I wondered who I was if I couldn't race anymore.
The next couple years were extremely difficult. Aside from visiting my closest friends, I really didn't go out much because I was tired of the question: "Why aren't you racing?" But I was still riding a LOT of single track and fire lanes, doing long hikes, paddling, road riding, and even skiing some. I realized that I enjoy these activities much more now that I am not training for something. No pressure to do high-intensity intervals. Heck, I just enjoy the thrill of single track, the beauty of a fire lane ride, and the company of my friends, many of whom are still "nutted up" about their next race.
Then, earlier this year, as I was riding single track with some friends and flipped over the bars. It should have been one of those dust-yourself-off-and-keep-going crashes. But it wasn't. My right calf hit the bike and broke some blood vessels, pretty much destroying my lower leg. I blacked out several times while trying to get out of the woods.
Once I made it to safety, my first thought was, "Damn, now I won't be able to ride this weekend!" Thinking this would be a typical injury (I've had many), I wasn't too worried about our upcoming vacation. I figured I'd heal in a week, no problem.
Boy, was I wrong. This dream vacation (our real honeymoon) was cancelled, and I was ordered not to work in the office due to the pain. I spent a lot of quality time mitigating pain while trying to work on my back using an iPad. Aside from not sleeping for a couple weeks, all I could think about was when I could ride again. Despite the fact that the agony I was in was caused by bicycling, I wanted to jump back in with both feet.
I worried that I injured myself so badly I couldn't ride again. I wondered how I would "cope." Heck, my after-work rides are often when I am the happiest. Some days, it is the only time I am really relaxed, and I didn't want to lose that.
The doctor gave me clearance to ride, even though I couldn't initially walk. So, I drove into the heart of the Chequamegon National Forest and did a simple fire lane ride on my single speed. I cannot describe how happy this made me feel.
This accident made me reflect again on why I love bicycling, and fortunately, I've recovered so I'm able to look forward to getting out there almost every night. The fresh air, endorphins and socializing with friends are what it's all about. If you ride, you already know this.
My point: Appreciate being out there, every time you are. No one is invincible