A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Share the Road...Please!

One week ago I was sitting in the emergency room at Sky Ridge Medical Center. I'm glad I'm not there this afternoon, but I must say I'd much rather be out riding my bike than sitting at my computer posting this on my blog! The pain is now mostly discomfort and the frustration is setting in. Five more weeks to go before I can run again and several months before I can get back on a bike. By then the new Share the Road license plates should be available, reminding drivers to watch out for cyclists. Maybe this will prevent accidents like the one that put me out of commission. If you are a cyclist in Colorado or are a driver who supports the rights of cyclists to share the road with four-wheeled vehicles, you can support the cause by ordering a Share the Road license plate today. Click here for more information.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has joined the effort with the "Share the Road. Don't be a Road Hog." campaign, offering these tips for motorists:

* Focus on driving. Avoid using cell phones and other personal devices while driving.
* Keep your eye on cyclists and pedestrians. They have a right to use all the roads in Colorado unless expressly prohibited.
* Keep track of them in your rear and side mirrors.
* Slow down.

I especially appreciate the "Keep track of them in your rear and side mirrors." In my case that would have prevented the collision, I'd still be riding, and a certain silver Dodge Intrepid would still have a side mirror to keep track of cyclists!

Share the Road....please.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Missing Pieces

Ever since my accident last Saturday I have been trying to fill in the missing pieces. What exactly happened after I collided with the car? (I don't remember anything between the initial impact and lying on my back in the middle of the road). My first stop in this investigation was the Castle Rock Police Department, where I picked up a copy of the official State of Colorado Traffic Accident Report. Unfortunately, the report didn't reveal much of anything. In fact, it left out some critical information. For example, the "artist's rendering" of the accident ended at the moment of impact. This bugged me so much that I took it upon myself to fill in the missing pieces: my bruised and broken body lying in the middle of the road and my bike lying in the grass on the far side of the intersection (see below).Whatever happened to the eyewitness who stood over me and promised to hang around to tell the police what she saw? Officer Friendly explained that she didn't really have anything to add, so he didn't take her statement. This was obviously an open and shut case of a 215lb. cyclist failing to yield to a 2,000+ lb. car. I'd still like to talk to her. Maybe she can shed some light on how my bike got the mysterious dent in the top tube that looks like it might have been caused by my own body landing on it. Was I separated from my bike on impact with the car or did we fly through the air together and come crashing to the pavement like some sort of X Games routine gone horribly wrong?

Speaking of missing pieces, what happened to the rest of my collar bone? I can see it in the X-ray, but when I look in the mirror it looks like it was stolen from my body by aliens straight from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Hmmm. Maybe that's what happened between impact with the car and impact with the ground. Maybe aliens caught me in mid air, removed part my collar bone, and placed me back on the pavement flat on my back. Maybe they accidentally warped the aluminum frame of my bike while beaming us up into their flying saucer. And maybe the eyewitness was an alien who hung around just to make sure nobody else saw what really happened.

Or maybe I hit my head on the pavement harder than I thought :)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bicyclists Beware: Road Rules Favor Four Wheels

When it comes to the road...cars rule. As much as Colorado boasts being "bicycle friendly," the fact is that the laws favors our four-wheeled friends. I learned this lesson the hard way today, when Officer Friendly* of the Castle Rock Police Department politely explained why I was lucky he didn't cite me for "failure to yield" to the car that I so rudely crashed into on Saturday.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who protect and serve.

It's an important lesson for all cyclists, so thought I'd share what I learned:

First, every cyclist knows that bicycles have to follow the rules of the road, just like all other vehicles. As Officer Friendly graciously clarified, it was my responsibility to yield to the car turning in front of me, just as I would if I had been driving a car. I get that. However, apparently cars and trucks don't have to treat bikes like other vehicles. For example, cars can pass us on a residential street and turn in front us without yielding -- even though we are in a designated bike lane. I don't get that.

Second, a bike lane is not really a traffic lane. A car turning across a bike lane has no obligation to check to make sure that lane is free of bike traffic. However, if a bike wants to turn left across a lane of traffic we must, of course, check to make sure that lane is clear. In other words, if I had passed the car in the bike lane, signaled, then turned left in front of the car, I would have been at fault when the car ran over me. I get that. But if the car passes me and turns right in front of me causing me to crash, I am at fault. I don't get that.

By the way, according to the police report (above) there was only one "vehicle" involved in this accident. So, is a bike a vehicle or not? Not...according to the report. Apparently we are both "Traffic Units" (TUs) but not all traffic units are created equal. This seems like a vehicular double standard.

I don't harbor any ill will towards the driver and certainly don't blame Officer Friendly. As he courteously reminded me, his job is to enforce the laws as written, and those laws, at least in Colorado, don't favor cyclists. The bottom-line is, regardless of who was at fault, I'm the one sitting around with my right arm in a sling. In a car vs. bike collision the car always wins. So the only real rule to follow is: let the bicyclist beware.

On a lighter note, my favorite part of the accident report is found in the final lines of the accident description: "TU1 (me) struck TU2 (the car) in it's front right driver side door, mirror and bumper (it was actually the passenger side) with its front portion (my left knee). This caused the rider of TU1 to fall its bicycle [sic]. TU2 remained on all four wheels (wouldn't it be a great story if I had knocked the car over on its side!)."

Somehow Officer Friendly's sterile description just doesn't capture the drama and violence of my body hurtling through the air, crashing to the ground shattering my collar bone and skidding across the pavement! Somebody needs to teach these guys a little creative writing.


Monday, September 24, 2007

The Road to Recovery

Leslie and I paid a visit to the orthopedic surgeon today, Dr. Craig Loucks of Peak Orthopedic. We both left feeling a whole lot better about the recovery process and a lot more knowledgeable about how bones heal. With a crude drawing on a piece of paper, which I recreated on the X-ray below, he explained that after a fracture, the body sends new bone cells to the site. Those cells bind together and "weave" new bone into the "fracture gap" restoring some of the original strength. That woven bone is eventually replaced by bone that is as strong as the original bone. Regarding surgery, Dr. Loucks explained that he rarely recommends surgery on collar bones, preferring to leave them to heal on their own, but that he would consider surgery in my case for two reasons: 1) the severity of the fracture, and 2) a recent study on clavicle fractures found that surgery can improve healing in of severe fractures (it was previously believed that surgery was not as effective as letting the body heal itself). Of course, there are risks with any surgery -- esp. infection -- so he recommended giving it six weeks and reevaluating. Surgery is still an option at that point if things don't go well, but Dr. Loucks said he gave it a 90 percent chance of healing on its own.

Given his explanation, and the fact that I slept well last night, feel 100% better than yesterday and haven't had to take any pain medication, I decided to give my body a chance to do what God designed it to do! If all goes well, I should be back on my bike shortly after the new year (unless we're uner several feet of snow like last winter!).

Speaking of my bike, I'm still shocked that it looks nearly untouched, with the exception of a large dent in the top tube. Not sure how that happened, but I wonder if it was me landing on the bike. Whatever the cause, the frame is shot.

The other shocker is the damage to my helmet. Again, it doesn't look too bad, but the styrofoam core is cracked through, indicating a significant impact.

Soapbox time: Everytime I see somebody without a helmet -- usually a soccer mom out for a ride around the neighborhood with her kids -- I knock on my helmet and yell, "Hey mom (or dad), where's YOUR helmet?" So stupid. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet I could be dead...or worse (brain dead). So if you ride without a helmet, do me and your family a favor and go buy one today. Yes, it will mess up your hairdo, but if you ride hard or long enough to call it exercise, you'll need a shower anyway :)

While inspecting my bike I also noticed a major flat spot on my rear tire -- from skidding across the pavement with my brakes locked up. That's really the last thing I remember before I was lying on my back looking up at a woman asking if I was OK. She was in the car. Several people have asked me if the car stopped. They did. And they took good care of me. When I find out who they are I will thank them for that.

Thanks to everyone who has written or called. I appreciate your concern, but I am on the road to recovery...and there is no speed limit!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Break in Training

I went out for a short ride today and ended up riding in an ambulance to Sky Ridge Medical Center. Leslie picked me up there and drove me home with my right arm in a sling with a badly broken collarbone. As you can see in this X-ray, my right clavicle is broken in two places.
So, I won't be riding...or running...or swimming...anytime soon. Guess maybe I'm due for a break (pun intended) after a full summer of events including my first Half Ironman triathlon, my first (and second) half marathon, and my third Ride the Rockies.

My last ride of the summer ended about a mile from my house on a steep downhill in my neighborhood. I left my house heading out on my normal route, but for whatever reason I decided to go straight across Coachline Road into a new section of The Meadows, rather than turning left and heading towards the mountains. It was one of those decisions that you later regret and wonder how things would be different if you hadn't made it.

As I headed along Foothills Drive, two cars passed on my left, but then the downhill grade got steeper and I picked up speed, keeping pace with the cars. Coasting at a good clip in the bike lane on the right, I suddenly realized the cars were slowing down. I began braking, but then the car ahead signaled a right hand turn onto a side street. I hit the brakes harder, but 215 lbs. traveling downhill at 35 mph carries a lot of momentum. My rear tire locked up and began fishtailing and as the car began to turn right it became evident I was not going to stop in time.

Whether I hit the car or the car hit me, one thing is for certain...in a car vs. bike collision, the car always wins. Fortunately the impact was more of a glancing blow than a direct hit, but it was enough to launch me into the air. The next thing I knew I was lying on my back in the middle of the intersection. At the time I didn't think I blacked out -- or as the EMT guy in the ambulance radioed to the hospital, I "denied losing consciousness" -- but I must have because I don't remember flying through the air or landing on the asphalt on my right shoulder.

I laid on my back until the ambulance arrived, without moving...except to make sure I could move my arms and legs. I felt remarkably OK, except for the pain in my shoulder. After a bumpy and painful ambulance ride, the X-rays confirmed what I already knew (I could feel the break in my collarbone when I ran my fingers along it). The folks at Sky Ridge, including Mike and Chad (at left), took great care of me and took care of the pain with some intraveneous dilaudid.

So as I sit on my couch tonight watching Saving Private Ryan and typing this with my left hand, I'm feeling pretty lucky. I could, and probably should, be hurting much worse than I am.

Oh, in case you were wondering, my bike is toast. The aluminum frame is bent. But it was about time to upgrade to carbon anyway :) I'm not sure about the car. As I was loaded into the ambulance, I saw the passenger side mirror dangling from a wire. From the look of the cuts on my left knee, my guess is I took the mirror off with it as I went over the top of my handlebars.

No doubt about it, though, the car won.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's All About the Beef

After running the Chicago Half Marathon on September 9, I stayed in Chicago for the National Beef Cook-Off and Food Media Seminar on September 11-12. In fact, I felt like I never stopped running (until I got back to Denver and went for a bike ride on Saturday!). It was a great week for beef. Food editors and cook-off contestants from across the country gathered in one giant celebration of beef hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, host of "Guy's Big Bite" and "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on TV's Food Network.

Meeting Guy, with his bleached blond hair, goatee, skateboarder shorts and signature sunglasses perpetually perched on the back of his head, I was impressed with how "down-to-earth" he is. Perhaps its because his mom was a "California Cowbelle" (now known as the California Cattlewomen)...and he is a beef lover.

[Above: Guy chatting with Mary Bartz, director of food communications for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association; Below: hamming it up with Shenoa French of the Beef Demonstration Center].

In fact, beef was one of the first meals Guy ever cooked for his family. As he told the story at the National Beef Cook-Off Gala Awards banquet, one day, after complaining about the meal his mom had prepared (apparently he's not a big fan of eggplant parmesan), she told him that if he didn't like it he could fix his own dinner. So the next night he picked up two thick, juicy ribeyes on the way home from school and pan fried them with a combination of spices he found in the cupboard...and the rest is history!

The National Beef Cook-Off was a great way to showcase the versatility and convenience of beef as contestants competed in four new categories: New Dynamic Beef Dishes, Nuevo Latino, Kids in the Kitchen and "Small Plates, Big Tastes" Grilled for Everyday Entertaining. [At left: several of the beef dishes on display at the Cook-Off].

The theme of the entire week can best be summed up as follows: Beef is a great-tasting, versatile, and convenient way to add lean, nutrient-rich protein to a healthy diet.

This year's winner, Christine Riccitelli, took home the $50,000 "Best of Beef" grand prize for her "Nuevo Chipotle Beef Butternut Squash Boats" [At left: Christine celebrates with one of her two sons, who flew to Chicago for the awards banquet]. Christine is a big believer in the benefits of beef, often reminding her "hiking" girlfriends they would have to eat more than six chicken breasts to get the Vitamin B12 and Zinc in a serving of beef and almost three breasts to get the same amount of Iron. Ounce for ounce, chicken just doesn't stack up!

Bottom-line: Beef is the king of proteins. Beef is rich in nutrients, tastes great, and is quick and easy to prepare. Beef. Pick some up on your next trip to the grocery store. Your family will thank you. Beef. It's what's for dinner!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Ode to Bernie

Last night at dinner with Team ZIP, as we shared stories from the Half Marathon, I realized I had left out the most painful and parts in yesterday's post. So here's the rest of the stories...

Running with Bucky through the crowded field of runners -- over 12,000 in all -- we got lots of comments on our "Beef It's What's For Dinner" running jerseys. Most were supportive, but we do run into an occasional vegan at these types of events...there's one in every crowd. Somewhere around mile three I ran past a guy who then shouted: "BEEF? I'M A VEGETARIAN!" So Bucky, who was right behind me, passsed him and said, "that's too bad, you could be running faster!" I think Andy Rooney got it right when he said, "Vegetarian is an old indian word for 'lousy hunter.'"

After everyone finished the race and we reveled in our accomplishment (the best part of running a half marathon is sitting around afterwards be thankful that it's over!), Leslie and I headed off to catch a cab back to our hotel to get cleaned up and find someplace to eat lunch and watch the Chiefs game. Of course, about 10,000 other people had the same idea. Two hours later, after walking several miles, calling every cab company in Chicago, and waiting for a commuter train that never came, we hitched a ride with a native Chicagoan named Bernie.

[At left, Bucky and I congratulate each other after starting and ending the race together]

I found Bernie loading a bike onto his car and asked if he could help us get back into downtown where we could catch a cab. But Bernie, who is preparing to celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days, insisted on taking us all the way to our hotel on the North side of the Loop. He explained that one of the lessons of High Holy Days is to be kind to strangers because the Jews were once strangers in a strange land. One thing is for sure, Bernie was a godsend, rescuing Leslie and I from our temporary purgatory!

Meanwhile, Michaele, Shenoa, JoDee, Deanne, Caroline and Bucky headed to Hot Chocolate for brunch. Unshowered and still wearing their Beef jerseys, the group enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing meal while Leslie and I traipsed around, sweating, tired and in pain (even Leslie was hurting after walking for miles in a thin pair of fashionable flip flops). But as we got back to our hotel, got cleaned up and headed to ESPN Zone, their problems began.

[At left: The Great Unwashed]

After dropping off JoDee and Bucky, Michaele and Shenoa headed to O'Hare to drop Deanne off for her flight back to Denver. Unfortunately nobody told them I-90 was down to one lane (even though construction crews weren't working on Sunday!). So a quick trip to the airport turned into a two-hour crawl through Chicago traffic. Anyway, Deanne missed her original flight but caught a later one. Did I mention that she still had not showered?

And speaking of the great unwashed, JoDee headed out to a sportsbar with her friend Shilpa after changing clothes...but not showering. Apparently she passed Shilpa's sniff test and was deemed good to go. Perhaps it had something to do with Shilpa's desire to get to the bar and watch her Patriot's beat the Jets!

And finally, after returning to their bachelorette pad in Lincoln Park, Shenoa, Michaele and Caroline were able to catch a quick nap, get cleaned up and meet Bucky and I for dinner at Rockit. It had been a long day for everyone, but we decided to make it even longer and headed to Howl At the Moon, home of "The World's Greatest Rock-n-Roll Dueling Piano Show."

Now we're off to dinner at Quartino...too many great restaurants here and too little time!


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Team Zip Conquers the Chicago Half

It's a beautiful September day in Chicago. The sun is shining in a beautiful blue sky. And Team ZIP shone brightly this morning in our first official team outing -- the Chicago Half Marathon. Eight beef lovers began the run at 8:30 a.m. this morning and eight of us finished the 13.1-mile course along Chicago's famous Lake Shore Drive. Congratulations to Shenoa French, Michaele Musel, JoDee George, Jessica Gordon, Bucky Gwartney, Caroline Junkin and Deanne Beard! And thanks to my wife, Leslie, who served as Team ZIP official photographer and cheerleader for the event.

Bucky (at left, shirtless) and I (at left in my new Team ZIP jersey) began the run together and finished together one hour and 56 minutes later -- 4 minutes under my goal of two hours! It was a personal best for me (by almost 13 minutes!), but not for Bucky, who's personal best (1:46) came earlier this year in the Sandhills Half Marathon in Valentine, Nebraska -- his first! Bucky and I have both run three half marathons in our lifetimes...all this summer! We both felt good about our average pace of 8:44/mile (according to my new Forerunner 305 wrist-mounted GPS navigator).

JoDee, Shenoa and Michaele (at left) started together and finished within a few minutes of each other. This was Shenoa and Michaele's first half marathon. Both trained hard and were glad when it was all over! Shenoa's friend and formerr swimming coach, Deanne, ran a strong race -- her third half marathon this summer.

[At left: Caroline cruises along mid-way through the race; Below left: Jessica catches her breath moments after crossing the finish line]

I was proud of everyone on the team. We all finshed the race while spreading the word that beef gives you ZIP -- zinc, iron and protein -- the stuff your body needs to strenghten and sustain you through a 13.1-mile run!
We'll continue spreading that message this week during the National Beef Cook-Off in Chicago. Stay tuned for pictures from the Cook-Off later this week!