sometimes you have to stop and smell the chamois butter

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A prisoner in my own body

     The onset of binding muscles creeps into my brain and forces me awake.  I immediately start to take inventory of the pain.  At the moment it's just a dull, annoying ache, but I'm still in the prone position.  I prep myself both physically and mentally for the start of the day.  Heating pad-check.  800mg Ibuprofen -check.  As the warmth flows into my angry muscles and nerves, I try to focus on my breathing and let the anti-inflammatory do its job.  Minutes go by that could be hours.  I really am not sure at this point, because for the last three weeks I have spent a majority of my time lying down.
     Essentially my body is pissed from being beat on for months on end.  I felt it creeping in around the end of June, four months ago.  I was driving the company F350 loaded down with a summers worth of gear and bikes up to beautiful Hailey, Idaho where we would be showing folks from all over the goods that the Sun Valley area has to offer.  The bench seat in the beast of a truck offered no support for my old back and the nine hour drive allowed plenty of time for the system to become aggravated.  Achy back muscles tugging on the gluteus requesting help from the hamstrings.  As I slid out of the front seat onto solid ground my frame was questioning this sudden change.  I could feel it looming as soon as I stood up.  A small jolt originating in my lower back and racing down the back of my leg reminded me of my old friend the sciatic nerve.
     We were well acquainted, me and that pesky nerve.  I had awakened it's angry power a few summers ago when I was running through an overgrown field to make a call from the only phone in tiny little Atlanta, Idaho.  Our plane was late and I had left the group to dash a mile into town to use the only payphone.  As luck would have it, as soon as I hung up with the gal from Salmon Air, I heard the drone of the planes engines pushing over the ridge top.  I knew how much time I had and how irate the group was getting as I began to dash toward the grass strip.  The strip was in sight and the planes were still taxiing as my left foot disappeared in a hole.  I rolled with it, jumped up, and dusted myself off feeling like I had just dodged a bullet.  The next day I found out the truth as a sharp lightning bolt shot down my leg.  My pain was evident as we started out next trip just two days later.  At lunch one of our guests came up to me and started firing questions about my condition.  He assured me that it most likely was not my IT band, but sciatica.  His recommendation was ibuprofen and stretching.  I managed to make it through the week and somehow recovered without too much damage.
     My current episode however, is far different than the minor discomfort I felt for a week or two during my initial introduction.  This time it took me down for the count.  I had finally asked too much from my body and it was in total rebellion mode.  It all came crashing down as I tried to wheel my bags downstairs to begin our ride from Salt Lake to Vegas.  I found myself unable to support any of the weight and before I knew what had happened I was crumpled in the doorway of the hotel room.  My back was now done.  I called my co-guide to help me bring my bags down and through tears I told him I couldn't work.  I had to surrender to my body.  My emotions were in a tailspin as I grappled not only with my injury, but the fact that I was leaving my already short-staffed team on day one of our trip. 
     After being rescued by a friend, we began one of the longest four hour drives I have ever experienced.  There was not a position I could find in the car to give me any relief.  After finally reaching Moab we went directly to the Urgent Care, where the doctor proceeded to tell me that I might be a bit old to be doing the amount of physical labor I was used too.  His eyes widened as I broke down my day to day duties at work.  It was no surprise to him that I was in my position.  He prescribed a litany of products - anti-inflammatory, pain killers and muscle relaxers - as well as rest and physical therapy as soon as I was able.
     In my mind I was prepared for a couple of uncomfortable weeks.  I am now in week four of this heinous attack of my body upon itself.  This case is obviously not like my previous incident.  The beating that I have given my body for months, years even, has finally caught up with me.   My sentence is six months and I am sure as hell counting the days.
     There is never a convenient time to get injured and this time it happened right at the beginning of fall, my favorite time to be outside.  It has been pure torture watching people head for the outdoors and hearing about the adventures.  Getting out right now is a walk around the neighborhood, which usually ends up with a frantic dash for the couch with some ice bags.  Walking is painful, sitting is far worse and riding is pretty much out of the question.
     When I can stand to be on my feet for any amount of time, it is spent in my workshop.  For some reason just being surrounded by my quiver of bicycles makes me feel a little better, and yet sometimes worse.  I walk around to each bike and let them know we will be back in the game.  I grip the bars, spin the wheels and try to remember what it's like.  It's seems like it's been so long.  An awesome season of riding brought to an abrupt halt.  Believe me bikes, this is hurting me more than you.
     Just a couple of months ago my buddy told me this is the fastest I've ever been, and probably the fastest I'll ever be.  Those words weigh heavy on me now as I grapple with the fact of whether I will be able to get it back.  Chronic pain is a terrible thing.  It gets inside your head and scrambles your brain.  I have been on an emotional roller-coaster for weeks.  Tears fill my eyes often with pain, fear and frustration.  Sometimes I just cry for no apparent reason.  And then I get pissed.  I cuss the pain, my body and anything I can find associated with this situation.  How much can one endure.
     It's no secret that suffering is part of the cycling culture that is somewhat embraced and after 27 years of pedaling I can say that I have done my share.  When you ride yourself into the pain cave you know that inevitably you will come out.  At this point I just want this ride to end.