Failure is NOT an option

The past few months have been a bit trying on me. And making me feel like I was failing. Not school-wise.

Back in February, I crashed my MTB. Ended up in the ER, who let me know my hand/thumb/wrist was not broken. OK. Bruising goes away…

Then the realization that it wasn’t going away began to set in. I bought a road bike, to keep me cycling while my hand healed up. Road biking was less painful than MTB, which was a lot more jarring on my hand. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I found a great bike, my Blue Dragon, as I call it. I love it. I’ve been cycling more and more. Primarily along the American River Bike Trail, but in other places as well. And I bought a Garmin Trek 500 and a heart monitor strap. I gifted the Polar heart monitor I used to use to a friend (Thank you Michael Meza, for giving it to me. It lives on!). Coupled with Strava, I am learning a lot about my riding, endurance, and health.

After dealing with a lot of pain, and the resulting lack of sleep, I finally threw in the towel on my hand, so-to-speak, and sought out my friendly orthopedist. After additional x-rays, and an MRI, the diagnosis is that I have a(nother) ganglion cyst. But this is not my right hand/wrist, which has had several. It is my dominant hand. Grrrr. After consulting with a hand specialist, I made the decision to not have it removed. At least not now. If the pain becomes intolerable, or it begins to compromise my radial artery (It is VERY close to it), then I will have it removed. But I can work with it, and I don’t want this in my way of my internship, whenever it happens. I will revisit it in a few months.

My Blue Dragon needed some repairs, and I just got it back recently. Although I was cleared to ride both road and MTB again, the break seemed to help my hand/wrist to heal up a bit. So, this past Saturday I rode with a friend around Lake Natoma, after our EMS shift. Right from the go, I just wasn’t feeling it. My legs felt like they were HEAVY. I felt damned sluggish. I pushed through it. We stopped for lunch in Folsom, and then got back on the bikes. I still felt crappy. Couldn’t quite place it, but I suspected my asthma might be a factor. I had not been testing my peak flows lately, so I didn’t know if I was trending down again. As it turns out, I was.  Oops.

And then it happened. Right around what several of us know as the big hill (Big for us, bump in the road for others), I had to stop. I could NOT get enough air. My lungs were tight and hurting. I was gulping air, wheezing, and my exhalations were really long. I walked up the hill, thinking there was a spot to sit down at the top. Well, sort of. If you like poison oak. My bike buddy Kyle had pushed up the hill, and didn’t realize I was walking. So I took a puff of the handy inhaler (Yes, I ride with it. Good reason!). It opened my lungs up enough to get back on the bike, but not at any real speed. When he realized I wasn’t behind him, Kyle doubled back and found me riding slowly, looking for a spot to stop. We finally found a shaded location where I felt safe to stop (So we could see riders coming and going, and not get wiped out.). Sucked on the inhaler a few more times, and laid my head on the handlebars for a few. Albuterol kicked in, and we got back on and rode back to my Jeep.  Kyle stayed with me the whole way (Well, except that last climb…).

Once we got back to the Jeep, Kyle learned how to set up a nebulizer treatment. I keep some of my albuterol and saline solutions handy, just in case. Good knowledge for any EMT to have. Not something you are taught in EMT class, but it is a great skill to have when helping out a paramedic on an ambulance.

As asthma attacks go, this one wasn’t horrible. It was bad enough, but it came under control pretty quickly. I blame myself for it, not watching my peak flows like I need to. Asthmatics need to monitor peak flows like diabetics need to monitor their blood glucose levels. The smoke and allergens in the air just added to it.

And this made me feel more like a failure. It weighed heavy on my mind the rest of Saturday and Sunday, and into today.

Today, I stopped the pity party. I got back on my bike, and re-rode the same loop around the lake. I felt better, and my lungs behaved. I did use one puff of albuterol early on in the ride, as an insurance policy. And I rode that friggin’ hill. And the one at the end. Yeah, Kyle. I did it. You should have heard me whooping it up at the top of the hill, on the bridge. I will use this as my next step in attaining fitness.

Failure is NOT an option.

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A new acquisition

Wow! Has it really been a month since I posted? Sorry about that, folks!

After my crash in February, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get back on MTB courses for a short time. I did sustain a deep contusion, and even though the initial x-rays were negative, I’m fairly certain I have a small fracture in my thumb. It’s still sore, and the jarring of being on trail is still a bit much. But I still want to continue riding a bike. I am determined to get fit, no matter what. Well, if I can’t ride MTB, there is always paved bike trails, and… wait for it… ROAD!

Yes, road. I know I’ve said I am a true lover of MTB. And I still am. But, I have been using my old Trek 3900 with street tires as a commute bike on and off over the past few years. The sucker weighs a friggin’ ton (around 35 pounds, actually). I also use it as an EMS bike, so it has a rack on it also. Although good for building legs muscles, it is really tiring to commute with. I did briefly have a moment of madness, and thought about using my XTC to commute with, then I came to my senses, reminding myself that it is an MTB, not a road bike. Sacrilege, right? So, I began to look for a road bike (Yeah, me… a road bike).

I started looking at Craigslist and Ebay ads. Ebay was a 200 mile radius from my home. There are a lot of cyclists in that area, so I figured I stood a chance of finding a used bike. Any maybe, just maybe, it would be from someone I knew, making the chances of buying a stolen bike nil. Had one guy that flaked on me when I wanted to look at a Specialized Allez he was selling. Oh well. Some other ads I responded to had already sold the bike. Oh well… keep looking. Ebay… guess what? A bike on auction, and it is here in Sacramento! A local pawn shop has an Ebay store (Go figure!). It was a 2005 Mercier Draco Al, 55 cm (A little large for me), original parts, except the seat. Ultegra shifters, brakes, and crank. Ritchie Wheels. Tires need replacing, but still work. Carbon forks and seat stays. Decent looking bike, weighing in around 18 pounds. I arranged to inspect it. Aside from some dings, it looked in fairly good shape. So, I put a bid on it, and became the high bidder. Well, the only bidder at that point.

I looked at a few bikes at bike shops, including a Felt (Uh, no… it made me feel like I was going to go over the bars when I rode it), a Giant, and a Specialized. liked a Giant Avail I test rode. It fit me well. I felt entirely naked while riding it because… I left my helmet at home. DOH! But I really did like it. Only one problem… $1200. I don’t have that much to spare. But I really did want it…

So I continued to look on Craigslist and on Ebay. Nothing else really popped out. In the meantime, the auction for the Mercier was ongoing, and I watched it… and watched it… and watched it. On the last day, there was one bidder that pumped up the bid, but I decided on my maximum price, and in the last 5 minutes, put it in.  There had been another bidder early on, but that one only went $5.00 over my bid. This one had me biting what was left of my fingernails, until… I WON THE AUCTION! I was on duty at the time, so I knew I couldn’t watch it if I was treating someone. Thankfully, it wasn’t the case, and I kept watching it until I saw it was over, and I was the high bidder.

I picked up my bike the next day, and paid cash for it. Here is the newest addition to my bike collection (pic is from the auction):

draco

A friend of mine helped me to get it into shape. Thank you, Asa!!! It’s actually a true racing bike. Will I race it? Hmmm… Right now, I am focusing more on endurance and fitness. It isn’t out of the picture, but not a focus right now. But I’ve taken the Blue Dragon, my nickname for my new bike, out for more than a few spins now. And I love it!

I really want to get back on trail more than anything.  But my hand needs to heal more first.

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Flying Lesson, MTB-style

I love mountain biking. Repeat, I love mountain biking.

For those who have never been out there in nature riding singletrack, the experience is as close to serenity as I can get. It’s hard work, and I still have to walk some many uphill sections, but I love it. I am moving, breathing, exercising, and having fun. I especially like Granite Beach. It is a nice area, lots of fellow MTBers out there also having fun, and it has everything from beginning easy trails for us beginners, to some serious technical areas for experts to play on.

There is a downside to MTB.

Crashing.

It’s a part of the game, just like ankle sprains and shin splints in running. It happens. As I am learning to control my bike, getting used to clipless pedals (an art form), and riding non-flat surfaces with my larger mass (which is shrinking – YES!), it just occurs. Most of the time, it is minor slideouts, and minor abrasions. Branches catch you once in a while, also. I’ve gotten used to small bruises and abrasions on my legs from doing what I do. And I get up, check the bike, and keep going.

Yesterday, I was out riding with friends of mine, Matthew and Chris,  and a few others, having fun, and came down a nice fast little section of singletrack. Right at the bottom was a mud pit (Past the turnout at Doton’s heading down toward the lake). Not huge, but about the length of a bike. I had to decide right, left, or center in order to get through it. I chose right. MISTAKE! It was deeper than I thought, and my front wheel got sucked into the mud and stopped me cold. Problem was, I kept going, flying over the bars to the right, and smacking my face and hand. I heard my riding buddies say something like, “Wow!” as I flew. All I could mutter was “Crap!”. Sometimes, you can’t help but say something when you are witnessing or experiencing something like this. I lay there for a moment, and it was dead silent. Then I heard, “Uh oh”, from one of them. ‘Guess I’d better move’, I thought to myself. Two of my riding buddies are fellow EMTs (friends and staff of mine).

So, I started to take stock in the damage. Face was ok, just dirty. Neck ok, back ok. Good. Someone pulled my bike off of me, and I started to turn over. That’s when I realized my hand wasn’t happy. It hadn’t hurt until that moment.  Gotta love endorphins and adrenalin.  “Can you make a fist?”, I was asked. Yup, but it hurt. And when I tried to flex my thumb across my palm, HOLY CRAP IT HURT! OK. I’m not doing that again. Took my glove off, and nothing seemed out of place. No dislocations, or anything looking like an offset fracture. Good. Got helped to my feet, and took stock of the damage elsewhere. Minor abrasions. Eh. Tried to put my glove back on. Not happening.

I could not grip my bars with my left hand, though. And certainly wasn’t going to be able to shift or brake. So, I decided to head back to my Jeep. I have ice packs there, figuring some ice would help. I decided to ride back on the main road at Granite Beach and let the guys ride on and have fun. Park road is usually pretty busy this time of day, especially on a good weather day. I was heading back, riding with one hand one the handlebar, resting my other on it as well. And it was beginning to really hurt. All the time. Raising it up helped. But… I was coming around a curve and hit a patch of leaves on the right side of the road and down I went a second time. This was more of a slideout. Smacked my hand a second time. Yelled a few choice words. My foot came out of one of my shoes, and the shoe stayed on the left pedal. Nothing like understanding how this happens to your patients. Oops. Got my shoe off the pedal and got it back on. Another rider came by, asking if I was ok. “Yeah… I’m ok.”, I replied. “Are you sure?”, he asked me. I kinda laughed at this point, and reassured him I was. I don’t know who he was, but I vaguely recognize him as someone I’ve seen at races before.

Got back on my bike, and road to Old County Road. Turned left, heading back to my Jeep. Got to the cul-de-sac, and jumped back on the trail, again, resting my left hand on the handlebar for stabilization. Made it back to the Jeep, and there were the guys, waiting for me, wondering what took so long. Long enough that they sent two of them to look for me. I had to tell them what happened with the second crash. Told them I thought it needed splinting. It REALLY HURT. So, Chris and Matthew got into the trauma bag I keep in my Jeep, and got out the needed supplies. I was talking to them, and suddenly got REALLY dizzy, and sat down before I fell down. Guess I vagal’d a little from the pain.

On the way to the ER.

On the way to the ER.

 

 

They splinted me up, crafting a nice SAM splint for my hand and wrist. Ice pack over that. Seriously did a great job. I wasn’t real confident in my ability to drive at the moment, so Matthew drove my Jeep to the ER, and both of them made sure I checked in at the ER (I said I wanted to go there, guys!). They took wonderful care of me, and I am very thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

Several x-rays later, a fair amount of prodding of the main injury, a quick neuro check, and

checking my back and neck, the decision was that it was just soft tissue that I injured. No

Didn't look too bad in the ER, while waiting for x-rays to be taken.

Didn’t look too bad in the ER, while waiting for x-rays to be taken.

splinting, just ace wrap, ice, NSAIDs, and time to heal. This was great news for me! With my paramedic internship right around the corner, and a lot of EMS shifts ahead of me, I did not want to put off my internship due to having a cast on my arm. Of course, the final decision of a fracture will still be made by the radiologist, but I saw the films myself, and nothing was blatantly obvious.

 

 

I’m moving it, and typing with it now. Trying to encourage blood flow to clear the swelling and the wonderful, colorful bruising I have. I’m staying off the bike until I can grip the handlebar with my unhappy hand. Spin time, proprioception, and weights for me for the time being.

 

 

I will leave you with this picture… yeah, my hand this morning. The bruising is tracking into my wrist just due to gravity (proof I kept it elevated!).

2/11/13 - Colorful

2/11/13 – Colorful, huh?

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MTB Race #1 for 2013 – Done!

That's me, on the far left, in the X-ray jersey.

That’s me, on the far left, in the X-ray jersey.

Today, I raced the MTB Kickstart, a local race here in the Sacramento region. This is the same race I did two years ago. This is the first of hopefully many races this year. I did crash, but nothing bad. Minor damage. Bruising, primarily where my bike nailed my upper leg. Some things I learned today:

  1. The gym is NO substitute for the trails. Nope, nada. I gotta spend MORE time out there. A LOT MORE TIME. Guess I need to buy that State Parks pass sooner than later…
  2. My race time sucked. BUT I FINISHED. There were two others that DNF’d (Did not finish).
  3. There are a lot of people who were very encouraging to me out there. There are many people who know of my commitment to fitness, and my using MTB as a part of that. I recall someone Clint Claassen yelling to me when I was walking up a steep(er) hill, “Renee, get back on that horse!”. Thank you, whoever you were Clint! That actually was good to hear! There was one idiot who said, “There goes a fat one.” as I rode by. As I posted in a FB group about this, yeah dude… I know I’m fat. But I’m on a bike, and you are sitting there watching.
  4. I have a fear issue I need to work on. I know I break easier at 49 than I did at 29. Or even 48, for that matter. Some of those rock gardens… yeah. For those of you reading this who know Granite Beach, I’m talking about the downhill at Dotons. I’m working on that. I know as I practice more and lose more weight, I will feel more confident in my riding. I think I know a few riders who can help me with this.
  5. I will race, sick or well. Not crazy sick, but minor crap won’t stop me. I woke up this morning, feeling crappy. Slight cough and minor congestion. Don’t know if it is a cold or allergies. But I got out there and did it.  I did take a preventive dose of albuterol, to ensure my lungs were clear.
  6. I need to stay hydrated. Repeat… I need to stay hydrated. A few hours after the race, I was at home, and my legs started cramping up.  More fluids and walking around stopped that. Oh, and keep the electrolytes happy. I’m craving salty stuff like crazy right now.
  7. I really need to nail down clipping in and out of my pedals. Practice, practice!

My next goals:

Race in February. I would like to race the next one in the series, but I don’t know if I am up to two times around the course (yet) now know I will be traveling that day to go help my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson move back from Spokane to Sacramento. Maybe the third race? I’m keeping an open mind. I DO want to improve my time. Dramatically, I hope. But I will take any improvement. And I want to drop more weight in the meantime.

 

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Getting back to MTB riding

I made a decision last year that I REALLY wanted to get back to MTB riding. I enjoy it, as it gives me a chance to get away from just about everything, ride my bike off the road (If you have never ridden on an MTB trail, you are seriously missing something), feel FREE, see nature, clear my head, and have one helluva fun time.

I made that decision public amongst friends in October, even going so far as to tell them I was racing this year. I was actually invited to join a team, LeadOut Racing, out of Folsom, CA, and I took them up on it. I love them. I’ve treated some of them over the years when they were sick or injured at events, and become good friends with a few. They know how determined I am to get fit, to lose weight, and have some fun time on my bike again. This past year has been difficult to get out and ride due to the Paramedic Academy. I spent 11 months in didactics and clinicals, while holding down a full-time job and running a company with my business partner (and working EMS shifts on most weekends). I am now waiting for my internship (VERY EAGERLY!), but now is the time to concentrate on ME.

I’ve spent most evenings at the gym recently (along with the hordes of others who started their New Year’s Resolutions). Mine isn’t a resolution. It is a commitment. I know I’ve said it here before. But a few things occurred that made me seriously re-think my lifestyle:

  • I need to do it to improve my health. I’m tired of feeling lousy. I’ve been extremely lucky not to have diabetes, hypertension, as some of my obese friends have. I do have asthma. While it isn’t caused by obesity in my case, the obesity makes it worse. Last year was my best year in a long time, control-wise. But I still had a few asthma attacks, one of which almost sent me to the E.R. (In hindsight, I should have gone.). My body is breaking down due a genetic disorder, but I believe my obesity is hastening this.
  • I work EMS, and am fortunate that I work event medicine. I am around a lot of athletes, many of whom are role-models for me (Yeah, some of you that are my friends are in that group!). As someone in EMS, I should be fit, to treat my patients. Some of whom I have to go long distances walking up hills and mountains to reach at times. And bring them down.
  • I want my children to have their mom around for a long time. They watched their father die slowly from a preventable cause. I also want my grandchildren to have their Nana.

Enough said on that.

Today, I went to Granite Beach, at Folsom Lake. I love the MTB trails there. It is beautiful out there. Reasonably technical, but ok for beginners like me to go out and have fun. And the area I will be racing at next Sunday. It was cold today, so I made sure to wear my base layer and kept my fingers covered with two pairs of gloves. I wore shorts, and no leggings or warmers. My upper body seems to get colder, since my legs are moving all the time when I ride. Even when I started riding at 11:30, there was still frost on the ground in shaded areas.

I crashed almost immediately. For those who know GB, the north end of the parking lot where the trail starts and dips down immediately. OOPS! Couldn’t get my cleat unclipped fast enough. Went down on my right side. Eh, no major damage. Just some abrasions. Got up and kept riding. Didn’t realize it until a few minutes later, but I apparently damaged my right shifter. It is a combo brake and shifter, and the brake still worked, but only 1 out of 4 shift attempts would work. Frustrating. I ended up walking more areas than I intended because I couldn’t downshift. At one point, I stopped and took a few pictures:

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Toward the lake. Full daylight.

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Opposite the lake.

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My Giant XTC. :-)

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Me. I love this jersey! It’s got fractures and surgical repairs on the bones. :-)

 

Got to an area near Beeks Bight (Where the trail goes down to Park Road), and wham! Down I went on a sloping right turn. Slipped in the mud. No further damage noted. Got up and kept going. Ended up taking a trail I had never taken before, and before I knew it, I was about a mile north of Beeks. I could see the parking lot at Beeks from the top of the peak I was on. Felt a little lost. But since I could see Beeks, I started back. Wandered off trail (off bike) through a field to the trail I knew would take me back to Beeks. Got there and started back on Park Rd. Came back on Park Road until I got to Doton’s. Then I decided to spend a little time in the sand and follow the water line until I got back to Granite Beach. It really exercises your legs! Got almost to Oak Beach and hit an area with a lot of rocks that I think still had ice on them. Down I went, losing more skin, and improving the existing abrasion dramatically. I walked a bit, then got on my bike and rode back to Granite Beach.

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The damage to me. The damage to the bike isn’t visible.

IMAG2361

Patched up.

Time to repair the damage to me.

I cleaned up my leg with some of the first aid supplies I had (It’s easier if someone else does it for you!!!!), bandaged it up, and headed out. I noted the time, and it suprised me. I had been out there for 2.5 hours! I loved every minute of it (OK, not the crashes).

 

 

 

I race on January 20th at Granite Beach at the MTB Kickstart. My plan: Finish. And hopefully not crash. Two years ago, at this race, I actually made the podium (Go figure. I’ll take it!). I’m going to try again. :-)

I know our company is providing the EMS out there, so if something goes horribly wrong, I know I will be in good hands.

Rubber down, head up! And yep, I am following rule 5, LeadOut Racers!

Update: Slightly more damage than initially observed. Abrasion and bruising on my right hip,  some bruising going down my right leg, some bruising on my right hand, and an abrasion on my right arm. The shower tells all…

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