Friday, April 11, 2014

Butchered

Fueled by frustration, I was persistent enough to finally find a reasonable path forward with regards to a health care solution to my Left Iliac Artery Endofibrosis. The in-network was the only one the insurance company was going to ever allow me. Fortunately, I had the help of the west coast IAE specialist Dr. Jason Lee. Without him I don't know what I would have done. Chance would have it that the recommended local surgeon in Rochester is close with Dr. Lee, who gave praise and offered to advise him through the process. If I can't go to the specialist, this was the next best option, so I said yes. That was a while ago and there have been some delays and seemingly catastrophic question marks since then but, long story short, the imaging found significant irregularity in the artery and surgery was scheduled.

I came home from the hospital yesterday after Monday's operation. They found a good bit of fibrosis built up on the artery and removed it. Then the patch was sutured on. Because of excessive tightness in the area, a second incision was made to do a partial release on my inguinal ligament. This will loosen up the ligament, reducing the chances of this happening again. This was an area where Dr. Lee's consulting proved highly valuable. I was sewed back up and heavily drugged. Everything went perfectly, but that's where the smooth sailing ended. I did not have a good time with the drugs. I was nauseous and constipated for most of the week. I quit one drug and they would put me on another which bound me up the same. After stopping all the drugs yesterday, I finally feel like I am sorta normalizing today. I can tell because I am starting to feel the pain in the incisions. Prior to this I hardly noticed it cause the room was spinning and I had multiple days worth of food piled in my gut.

At this point I can hardly think about riding, but in 2-3wks from Monday I can get back on the bike and start building back up. It's likely to be a long process as I have been inactive for 3wks now due to the relatively invasive imaging and like I said, I have 2-3 more to go. I'm sure that will put more than a dent in my ability to do any activity, let alone racing a bicycle. Also it can be several months before I can actually ride hard. So I will be noodling along for a while. But even if I am severely set back, at least I know that, if I work hard, I should have the potential to do what I used to be able to do, and that alone will make riding slowly a whole different thing than before.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

.....I want a left leg in my stocking this year

Here I am with the last race of 2013 in the books. This proves that you don't necessarily have to be having fun for time to fly. On the bike, this really was a difficult season for me. I have a real unfulfilled feeling after two seasons of racing well below my expectations and abilities. Now, even though that is a pretty long down spell, that feeling is something that all of us experience at some point. High high's and low low's. The biggest difference here for me is this.....I know that unless I have a surgical operation, that I will never return to form and in fact will probably continue to decline. This is the new reality. There is no forging ahead hoping that if you train smart and work hard, things will turn around. I can expect small gains here and there, but what does that really matter when you've had like 20% permanently chopped right off the top?

It is interesting to note how this has changed me as a rider over the years that I have dealt with this condition. It has created a complete 360 in the characteristics of my racing. When I was racing mountain bikes as a junior my strong talent was on the technical side of racing. I wasn't super fit but could make up a lot when the trail got rough and twisty. These characteristics continued right into my transition to road racing. My lower category racing was fairly pathetic. I could sprint fast but my sustained effort was way off the back.

At some point things changed. In the matter of a few years I had flipped around 180. I was racing road full time and signing my first pro contract. I was a legitimate domestic pro level all-rounder, but I was strong in the TT and uphill. Two things I couldn't do well enough to hang with cat 3's a few years back. When I dabbled in CX those days I found that most of my skills had been forgotten and I made do by just smashing the pedals.

By the end of my two short years with a road contract, unknown to me, things were trending back the other way again. Signs of this circulation problem were beginning to show up but I was still able to ride decent. Then 2009 is when an alarm bells really went off for me. I was set to race my first full season of CX with Richie and was doing some road events to prepare. I did my training as usual but I just couldn't do what I used to be able to do. It happened that way all summer long and was completely unexplained. This was before my days with health insurance (a lot of good it's doing me now!) so I wouldn't have done anything about it, but I may have thought about looking into it if it weren't for a successful CX season that fall. I found myself dredging those old skills back to the surface to add to what was left of my ability to push the pedals and I ended up with a good racing season.

There is that break from racing in there but since then I've lost more and more on the pedals and have been pulling out all the old skills I can find to make up for it. It is to the point now where I go backward on any given straight and have to get back with skill alone.

There is some positive light here. I have had to get those skills back. Because of them I have been able to notch a UCI win and a bunch of UCi top 5's in the last two seasons. If I ever am able to have this operation and can recover even a modest amount of my previous abilities I am going to bring those skills with me and end up better than I would have without this whole ordeal. Also, if a racing season isn't going well on the bike I still get to hang out with my friends who are also teammates and fellow racers. These are really great people and the weekends through the fall isn't ever enough time spent with them.

Looking forward from here, the fight on the bike may almost be over but the fight with beaurocrats for access to health care is far from it. As I pointed out above, the "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" saying looks accurate for the bike, but unfortunately with regards to this fight I don't see how that could be so. I just need to put my head down and keep fighting this one.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Doomsday

I recently was overhearing a sort of doomsday conversation that I decided not to engage in even though I could certainly have added a few things to. It's actually a stance that I have encountered before and unfortunately I don't think it's a rare sentiment. It went a little like this.....

A guy was talking to a co-worker who is building up a store of food for the apocalypse. He has a year's worth of food stored and he asked if the other had any stored. The other replied no but that he had a year's worth of ammo cached though. The other said "Ha, you can't eat bullets!" at which point the other replies "No, but you just told me where there is a year's worth of food."

It's funny, but not. Funny in jest, but not so much when you think of the possibility of that reality.

It's a typical short sighted, individualistic approach.

When faced with the possibility of a grand collapse of the systems we currently rely on, you can either choose to educate yourself on ways to live without those things.....or you can focus on ways to prolong the supply of these things well beyond the death of the systems that produce them. I wonder what these folks think. An apocalypse is going to just be a temporary thing. Like everything is going to just fall apart for a year and then all of a sudden go back to normal. Who knows? Maybe. More than likely any major collapse will be extensive and re-inventive for humanity, in which case these people will shoot all their neighbors, eat all the food, and then die one year later.

No one can really predict how a collapse like that would occur. It could come from so many places, but one thing we can be certain of......banding together with a community is going to get a people much further than shooting and looting. However, I'm starting to wonder if I should be thinking about protecting myself from people like that. I feel like I would have a lot to offer a post-apocalyptic world.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Troy NYCROSS to HPCX

To get back into the swing I attended a NYCROSS event in Troy, NY. Fun race. It wasn't as low key on my body as I had hoped though. I spent the whole weekend chasing back after breaking stuff. Broken chain and saddle on Saurday and then two flats on Sunday.

Since getting sick prior to Gloucester I kinda set the bike aside to recover a bit. I feel like I had to to rid myself of the virus and to get my head/face healed up, but I was starting to feel slow. Combining my lack of power coming from the left leg and some unimpressive form is not pretty. The first day at Vermont I came really close to being lapped, which has never happened before. I was crossing the line as Tim was entering the final straight. Fitness had gone downhill since then and I would hang on for a dismal performance on Saturday of Rochester and then scratch this whole getting lapped thing off the list on Sunday. Well, I got 80 percented. I was about to be lapped when Alan Atwood saved me from the misery of being crushed by my peers.

I was mentally injured but physically healed from my cold and injuries so i had to get going again. I had a weekend off and a couple weeks to squeeze in some training, which is exactly what I did. By the time Cyclesmart rolled around I had recovered a bit of fitness. I made the lead group of the race and looked pretty good as we road away from the chase group by a wide margin. I couldn't hold on with one leg when accelerations came but we had such a big gap over the chase that I safely came in 6th. Pretty happy with that.

I paid for the effort on Sunday and checked off another DNF. My feeling on that is if I am a little off and don't make the lead group and I throw up my arms and quit.....that's kinda lame. However, these days where my left leg is just not moving and I'm getting lapped, I'm really OK with calling it a day. In fact, in my case I may not be physically doing myself any favors by "toughing it out". When that leg doesn't have it and I keep pushing, other things have to make up for it. Usually my back. One side of it that is overworked and hurting as it is. I have no shame in pulling out of these situations.

Things looked decent going into HPCX. I had gotten back to some good training and recovering and this was looking like a manageable field. The course was not ideal for sub-par pedaling as it went up and down a hill three times a lap, but maybe they would be short enough that I could get up them anaerobic and recover on the way down. That did seem to be the case for two of the three but the first one was just too long and I started coming off the back there in the second half of the race. I was able to get back on via the downhill every time though. On the last lap I again was barely able to make contact again right before the final downhill. Basically too late to do much, except that a couple guys rode into each other and I went around smoothly such that it was then too late for them to get back by me. I picked up 4th for it. Happy with it, but races like that are a bit frustrating because I know how much I would have been able to crush it in the years past. I used to like climbing quite a lot. Especially punchy climbs in CX races. Used to love courses like that.

This brings us up to another weekend off. Well not "off", but off for those who stick to New England. This year seems to have spread the racing out a bit and we are ending up with some holes in the eastern UCI schedule. If I was going well I'd be likely to venture out but not under the current circumstances. These days I'll thoroughly enjoy another weekend off.

Baltimore through Providence

Gosh, I really haven't written anything for a while. My bike racing season has been lackluster, but all things considered not as bad as it could be. I have generally struggled on Sundays due to the floppy leg. My good leg can take a heavy load when the bad one lags.....but only for a while, and I pay the price on day two.

I had a decent result on Saturday of Baltimore with 4th place. In addition none of our team was robbed. Pretty good day. Day two I paid for the effort and lagged behind a bit.

Then things got interesting. I got a cold that week and didn't feel so good going into Gloucester. I gave it a good try Saturday, but I wasn't helping the sinus situation. I pulled off into the pits and called it a day. I watched the finish and went about my post race day as usual. That night, after dinner with my old teammate and buddy I was leaning on Chabanov's car just chatting when I started to feel dizzy......kinds barfy.

Then after what was an undetermined amount of time I found myself pushing myself up off a granite curb, bleeding out of my head while Brittlee ran over shouting "Oh my god, are you alright?". WTF? Apparently I just lost consciousness and fell straight down to the curb. Well, I had a pretty good gash in my brow and a big smack in the cheek. Nothin like a good ol trip to the hospital. Not that this means much, but at least I now have health insurance. They put in some stitches in my brow and did all the test they are supposed to do.

Everything came back fine, but a question lingered amongst everyone around. Did this have anything to do with the bloodflow problems in my leg? That teammate I was chatting with happens to also have the Iliac artery endofibrosis. His case is actually the first I had ever heard of this back in '07. Well, the best option was for me then was to DNS Sunday's race and head home. Everyone was very worried about me driving and I'm not gonna lie that I wasn't a little wary. I stuck around half the day to make sure I was OK and went home to see my doc. After reviewing all of the data from the tests it was concluded that this had nothing to do with any problem in my leg and this was just a case of dehydration, hunger, fatigue, etc. I was skeptical. I have been WAY more depleted in all those departments over the course of my career. The reason it was believed to be unrelated to the artery problem is due to the fact that this restriction is only at high blood flow situations. I'm still a bit skeptical here as my low flow leg showed up in a zoomed out view of my thighs while I was half asleep, laying down on a table. It seems to me that if it is noticeable there then it MUST have SOME effect in everyday life. I don't know, I'm no expert.

Well, after that debacle, I was given the OK to skip Providence altogether.


Zombies!!

The Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region of New York State took a bit of a hit last week. Another election decided by financial gains. Across the region not only were pro-hydraulic fracturing folks folks elected to town boards, but a proposition passed to bring in a bunch of massive Vegas style casinos to the area.

This makes me wonder if the zombie apocalypse isn't some imaginary catastrophic event in the minds of certain weirdos, but it is actually a process that is happening in front of us right now. The folks that are looking at our future and concerned with our well being, are continuously steam rolled by a mass of brain dead zombies who mindlessly lurch after any and all capital gain. What is scary about the whole thing is that these people are just doing what our system says they should do. Money good, no money bad. They never questioned it. I don't know what it is that causes some people to just fall into line right over a cliff and some to step back and question what's going on, but as someone who has stepped back......way back, I can see, plain as day, that capitalism is creating a false incentives to do the wrong things.

First off the system is based on rapid and continuous growth. I am in awe of the fact that this aspect of capitalism is ignored. It really doesn't take a smart person to point out that continuous growth can't happen. Collapse at some point is inevitable.

That's the obvious problem. However, I think the most alarming trait of capitalism is the fact that the real value of everything has been replaced with profits or losses and that drives most of our decision making. The fracking debate is a good example of this. This is something that none of us would consider if it weren't for financial gains. Rape our own land for the benefit of others? Let's put it to a test in a hypothetical situation. A capitalist finds an apple tree. What do they do? Pick every last piece of fruit on the tree because each apple is a certain value in dollars to be earned to them and then starve with a fistful of dollars. To the human animal and all other life on earth who comes upon this apple tree they see nutrition. They eat and with every bite they would be thinking of how to sustain this sustenance. They would not eat too much because they would not have any for the next day. Our lives are full of decisions like this that capitalism makes for us. We all march forward chasing dollar bills while the ground crumbles beneath our feet. Unfortunately it seems things won't change until the whole thing collapses and we find out that no, we cannot eat money. If we were strong, we could break free of the addiction.....bring it local.....let things hold the value that they really have. Unfortunately, this is very engrained in our everyday thinking and there are many people who are really benefiting from this system who are very unlikely to change.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

health care update

Things are certainly looking very challenging for me this season on the bike, but maybe even more challenging in looking for a remedy for my leg problems. I have spent a good portion of my summer keeping the process moving along, only to be denied coverage by my insurance coverage recently. To be more accurate, I was denied coverage for this operation out-of-state. I have been informed many times by any expert I can find that I should see a specialist for this operation, indicating that this is not a simple run-of-the-mill operation. The specialists seem to all be out-of-state. Out-of-state specialists are expensive so the insurance company would rather I go on down to the butcher and see what they can do.

Well isn't that just dandy.