Here is a thing I do: I ride bikes.
I ride on the roads, not the bike paths, because we go fast. I ride in groups, when it’s not during a pandemic. We work together to cheat the wind, taking turns in front to poke a hole for the rest of us. It takes a lot of effort and time and no small amount of expense, but it’s immensely rewarding and exciting and fun, and as a side effect it’s good for you. I’m fitter at 50 than I was at 30. My resting heart rate is like 65, and my friends and I could ride a big two-day event like the traditional MS150 on any given weekend.
If it was anything else, someone would have an intervention. Probably Erin.
But it has risks, and I can tell you this from experience, because six years ago today, I had a pretty bad crash. I went down in a paceline on a rainy ride the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and broke my left hip.
44 year olds don’t break hips. It’s rare enough that they actually called what happened to me something different (“high energy fracture of the femoral neck”) based on circumstance and I guess bone density and, apparently, angle of break. But it’s the same bone that snapped when your aunt Millie fell off the couch reaching for the remote.
The “good” news was that, well, biomechanically, it’s an easy fix. It’s not like one of those joints like your knee or angle that has a bunch of complicated soft tissue stuff going on, and that once ruined is never right again. The “bad” news was that I was too young to do a straight replacement — which has a super fast recovery window, and often results in patients walking out of the hospital on the new joint — so they repaired me. Apparently, it’s better to have your own bone, and also at 44 and active I’d likely wear the joint out in 20 or so years, and then need a replacement replacement in my 60s, and that’s not something they want to set you up for.
So: I got scaffolding. It looks like this:
This also meant I wasn’t allowed to put ANY weight on the leg for three months, which necessarily means that once cleared for weight bearing I would be in Atrophy City. I used a walker through the holidays, finally was cleared to PT, and graduated to a cane by February. The cane was a companion through the following summer, really, before I was finally able to give it up.
I didn’t ride again until late March of 2015, and at that only 27 miles. But I rode. I wasn’t really “back” in any real sense until mid-summer, when I did a metric century with some friends at a real pace (20-ish), 9 or so months after my crash.
It was a long road, and I haven’t even mentioned the site infection, the PIC line, or all the added stress that Erin carried for the duration of the process. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve handled it all without her. Because she is awesome. But if you know me well enough to be reading this, you’re also nodding your head and saying “Obviously, you doofus, you married WAY the hell up.” I know, people, I know.
So now, six years later, I’m a stronger rider than I was then. I came back, with the help and encouragement of lots of people. The injury isn’t a total memory — I have some pain in the soft tissue of the joint on that side, sometimes. If I overwork it, I’ll ache and limp. I’m taking steps to work through that, but i suspect some left-side weirdness will be a companion as long as I’m active. I’ll take it, though, because I’m just happy to be here, healthy and happy and active, even in this weirdest of years.
Who wants to go ride bikes?