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!


1 comment:

  1. Doreen,

    It was great to meet you and Lizzie and have you in Nashville. Thanks for coming and I had a great time walking with you and hearing your story. I hope you have an opportunity to try out the handcycle. I am running with Mike this Wednesday and he is going to give it a whirl.

    I am just checking out your blog. Thanks for sharing your story with others, who can gain the benefit of your experience should they or someone they love find themselves in a similar situation.

    From the sound of it, you've got a great support crew there in Atlanta. You and your family are always welcome here in Nashville. Come see us again.