Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is It True, You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike?

Lizzie and I recently went to Nashville, TN to meet my new Achilles team.  Are you wondering, "Why in the world would Doreen go all the way to Nashville to walk with a group of people?"  Since there aren't any Achilles chapters in Georgia, the Nashville chapter graciously took me under their wing.  It was an especially exciting evening for the team as they received a special delivery straight from NYC.  Joe Traum (whose dad, Dick Traum, started Achilles 29 years ago) and Ellie Cox from the Achilles NYC headquarters drove 15 hours to deliver 3 handcycles to the Nashville chapter!  Handcycles are powered with your hands on pedals located near your chest while your legs and feet are secured onto the bike near the front wheel in addition to your torso being strapped into the seat. 

Invacare XLT Handcycle
I was paired up with John who was my guide.  It was a delight chatting with him during my trek around the course.  I shared with John how Janet in the NYC office put a bug in my ear about doing the NYC Marathon.  I'd never thought of that before and asked Janet do people actually walk the race?  She explained that the course is officially open 12 hours but there are some people who take much longer but ultimately finish.  Achilles members are guaranteed a slot in this race.  Zoe Koplowski is a member who has walked and finished the race for the past 22+ years and is an incredible inspiration!

While chatting with John, I explained that I have two thoughts about me doing the 2014 NYC Marathon and that one of them (heck, who knows... maybe both?) will play out in the future.  The initial idea is to walk the NYC Marathon which if I train at a slower pace than what I'm currently walking to build endurance, I can potentially finish the race in 9 hours (starting time is 6a for Achilles members).  Then a new idea popped into my head when I said to John, "After seeing the handcycles tonight, wouldn't biking the marathon be faster than walking?"  Hmmm, now that's a concept! John immediately asked if I wanted to try one of the bikes when we were done walking and I was suddenly very excited at the idea of getting onto a bike.  

So, how does a person with a fully fused spine with a sacrum anchored into the pelvis get down onto a handcycle?  VERY CAREFULLY!  There were a couple of physical therapists in the team and they, along with Joe Traum, were very patient and kind in helping me onto the bike.  
Joe, Will and Liz helping me onto bike.

The bike pictured above had the highest seat of the three bikes, about 14" off the ground.  I was able to straddle the seat and then with the help of Liv and Will who braced me under my arms, I was able to slowly and carefully lower down onto the seat.  I was shocked!

The seat was surprisingly comfortable on my lower back and it felt good to have my legs stretched out.  Joe explained the details of the bike and told me to slowly turn the front wheel with my hands on the pedals; it was an odd sensation.  Joe also explained how this particular bike doesn't involve using your entire body to turn as compared to other handcycles that are lower to the ground.  While he did say, "You'll never win a race on this bike," because of the higher upright position of the seat, this bike will allow me to finish a race which is my goal.

While I didn't actually cycle around on the bike this time (I didn't want to over do it after having just walked almost 3 miles), I do have plans to take it out for a spin the next time we are in Nashville.  I look forward to talking with Dr. Lenke to see if a handcycle will possibly help rebuild the muscle that atrophied between my shoulder blades.

Pictured below are Joe Traum, Will, me, John, and Sarah who helped launch the Nashville chapter.  Thank you so much for such an inspirational evening!

It is such an interesting path I'm on during my recovery being almost 10 months postop.  It's as if I'm trying to make up for lost time after being unable to live my life leading up to the surgery being bedridden for most of my days.  I was definitely an observer of life last year, being a participant is so much more exhilarating!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Post Op Collage

Here is my work in progress of preop pix through 9 months postop.  Oops!  Just realized I didn't take the 2 month postop January pic (heavily medicated at that point), the 8 month postop July pic (too busy living life while on a 3 week holiday) or the 11 month postop pic.

                                       Before Nov 2011   10 Days Postop       Nov 2011         Dec 2011
                                                                                Dec 2011  

3 Months Postop Feb 2012
4 Months Postop Mar 2012

5 Months Postop Apr 2012
6 Months Postop May 2012

9 Months Postop August 2012

7 Months Postop June 2012

Yikes!  Didn't realize the muscle atrophy 
looked like this!

10 Months Postop September 2012

The grand finale - 12 Months Postop Nov 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My First Race!

It's been an incredible 2 weeks since I made the decision to enter the Run for Wounded Warriors 5k (3 miles) race.  Even though Dr. Lenke advised I should never jog, I participated as a walker.  My daily walking routine is 5 miles (8k) but I break it up into 1.5 mile chunks throughout the day.  Last week I started walking 3 miles nonstop for a few days to prepare for today's big race.

My day started at 4:20a with the sound of pouring rain.  Hmm, what a way to start my racing journey.  I tried to go back to sleep until 5:30a, but I was too excited and couldn't sleep.  Jeremy snapped this pic of me at 5a.
Fortunately, the rain completely stopped by the time we arrived at the venue.  We lined up toward the back of the pack for the start of the race.  Jeremy and Lizzie let me set the pace for our little team (Team Bionica!) and I kept telling myself, "Slow and steady... be the tortoise." 

It was a great course with cool, cloudy weather.  Lizzie was eager to run so she broke ahead of us and ran ahead.  Coming into the 2 mile mark I started picking up a little speed and passed some people.  Lizzie made my day when I crossed the finish line and I heard her cheering for me!  This by the way, was my first race in my entire life!  That's all about to change.
Next steps?  I plan to walk in several more 5k races leading up to my new big goal: walk the Hope & Possibility 8k Race in NYC Central Park June 2013.  I discovered an incredible group Achilles Track Club which encourages disabled athletes to participate in mainstream running events.  I never thought of myself disabled (or an athlete for that matter), but apparently I fall under that umbrella and am now a member of the Achilles Club.  Achilles says that the term disability runs the gamut of wounded veterans, multiple sclerosis, blindness, recovering from surgery, diabetes, cancer patients and survivors, etc.

I'm also 9 months postop and here is the latest pic.
Once I'm 12 months postop, I'll create a collage of each month's postop pix to see a side-by-side comparison.

*Update: I had to share this silly pic Jeremy took of me after a glass of post-race wine.  Tried to cross my eyes, but...

It's been an incredible journey!  Praise God!