Let’s see, where did we leave off? I was in the middle of a 12 week recovery from a burst fracture of C7. If you remember, it was caused in Kona while trying to sneak in one last body surfing session before a red-eye flight home to Boulder. Unfortunately, by 12 weeks—early January—my neck still wasn’t fully healed. The crack in the vertebrae was prominent in what must have been my fourth CT scan since breaking my neck. This meant that I had to take an eraser to my training plans for the winter, which isn’t that bad of a time of year to miss here in Boulder.
I still ended up pacing Adelaide for the Phoenix Marathon, where she set a 3:15 PR, and continued building up my run, gym, and swim fitness, albeit more slowly than I would have liked, due to some lingering non-neck injuries and niggles. But because I still wasn’t back on the bike, full training mode has continued to elude me, which has been frustrating to maintain motivation at times. It’s hard for me to go 60 percent. I like to be training full throttle or nothing at all.
In late January, Adelaide, Maybellene, and I headed down to Tucson to stay with a bike racer friend of ours, Tim Rugg, who, in exchange for swim lessons, let us stay in his guest room for two weeks. I bent my doctor’s orders of ‘no riding outside’ by doing 1-2 hour spins on the bike path. Yes, it was outdoors, but there were no cars. The danger was being hit by a car or crashing, not being in a bent over TT position, like many people have assumed. To reveal how out of shape I am, on the longest of those rides (2.5 hours) I was on the verge of a pre-bonk (a pre-pre-bonk I guess) after averaging 189 watts.
Back in Boulder, I continued doing one or two easy spins on the trainer per week, but decided to keep focusing on swimming, as I had in Tucson. I topped out at 30 kilometers last week before traveling to California for my grandmother’s memorial. Both of my grandmother’s were avid readers of this blog, and both died in the last 12 months. Unfortunately, I’ve written fewer and fewer blogs over the years as my motivation to write has decreased from being busier, and also due to my legal blog writing work. In the past, when I didn’t feel like writing, I would force myself to start tapping away at the keyboard because I knew that one or both of my grandmothers would be eagerly awaiting a new post. They followed along from the start when I bragged about how hard intervals up Nectar Way were, getting into fist fights mid-kermess in Belgium, crashing out and breaking my collarbone in Tulsa Tough, riding a Greyhound across the Southwest to race Gila, and attacking a lap early in Philly. It was a bit confusing for them when I switched over to triathlon, but both grandmothers followed along anyways until the last few years when using a computer became too difficult. Now I morbidly picture my grandmothers’ email inboxes, somehow cobwebby and dusty, filled with new posts from Kennettron5000 going unopened and unread.
Onto happier news, I just got back from my final neurosurgeon appointment with Rod Lammond, and he gave me the okay to get back on the bike and resume normal life. Good timing too because I somehow lost my neck brace last week. The crack in my vertebrae finally sealed itself up. It was a huge relief, because during the last few weeks I had grown increasingly concerned that I would be given bad news during this appointment—that my neck still wasn’t healed and that I’d need spinal fusion surgery and another six or eight weeks of recovery. I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay sane for another month or two.
I’m sort of amazed at how patient I’ve been since breaking my neck. Yep, it was a long four and a half months, two of which I had to be fully sedentary, and I’ve never been more bored in my life. But my mental state could have been much worse. I made it through without a mental breakdown or major depression because I knew, or at least assumed, that I’d fully recover and be back at training and racing sooner or later. I don’t think I’d have been this content if my condition was permanant, or if I had serious doubts about a full recovery. I also went to therapy for six weeks in the beginning, so that probably helped.
Planning races also helped me maintain a sense of normalcy. The thin line between denial and being overly optimistic is one walked best with purchasing lots of expensive plane tickets to races. Adelaide and I have already spent thousands of dollars on travel for races and training camps, even before we knew what the outcome of my neck would be. We’re doing Oceanside, where I have zero expectations other than finishing, then Tulsa and San Gill, followed by Alpe d’Huez and Embrunman in France.
Tomorrow will be my first real outdoor ride. I love the Tucson bike path, but you can’t really train on a bike path filled with pedestrians, dogs, and unnecessary bends. The only reason I’m writing this right now instead of bundling up for a 20-something-degree spin is because I had the flu yesterday, and don’t want to push my luck with a relapse. I’ve already waited 126 days to ride. I can wait one more.