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!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Takin' it to the Streets

It's been seven months and five days since I was hit by a car while riding my bike about a mile from my house. It was a beautiful September day. Haley and I went for a hike up Castle Rock with our puppy, Casey (at left). When we got home I decided to go for a short ride.

As I got to the intersection where I normally turn left on Coachline to head south, then west on Wolfensberger Road towards the mountains, I decided to go straight on Foothills Drive. I had never gone this way before. A few short minutes later I was lying on my back in the middle of the intersection of Foothills and Willow Run, wishing I had turned left on Coachline. I was fortunate to only suffer a broken collarbone, although recovering from that injury has turned out to be a much longer process than I first imagined.

Today, as I headed out on my first real ride since that day, I once again decided to go straight on Foothills.

I have to admit I got a little nervous as I approached the intersection of Foothills and Willow Run (at left). Heck, I was nervous all morning just thinking about getting back on my bike and riding up and down steep hills, avoiding the sand on the side of the road left from winter snowplows, and sharing the road with cars rather than riding in the safety of my own house on my CycleOps Fluid2 trainer.

I was a little shaky at first, but after coasting down the hill past the spot where I lay in the road that day, I knew I'd be fine. From there I decided to circle the neighborhood on Meadows Parkway and head west on Red Hawk towards Wolfensberger so I could test my legs on the steep climb up to Tessa Mesa (at left: the view from Tessa Mesa).

As I passed Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Station #154 it dawned on me that these were the guys who picked me up off the pavement that day and took me to Sky Ridge Hospital. So I stopped and rode up the wide driveway. Two guys were standing in the large station garage hosing down the floor. When they saw me they asked if I needed something. At this point I wasn't sure what I was doing there. But I spoke up and said, "Seven months ago somebody here scraped me off the pavement after I was hit by a car. Today is my first ride since that day. So I just stopped in to say thanks."

As we talked about what happened, the car turning in front of me, my broken collar bone, etc., one of the two guys said, "I remember you. I'm the guy who gave you the painkillers as we rode in the ambulance." For that I said a special thanks and asked the other guy if he'd take a picture of me and Adam by the ambulance. As I headed back out on the road, they shouted "watch out for cars!" Funny. I was glad I stopped.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I made the climb up Wolfensberger, rode through the new Tessa Mesa development (at left: my new Cannondale Synapse atop Tessa Mesa), and headed back down, then up and over Coachline towards home. For good measure, I turned left on Foothills and rode past the intersection of Willows Run one more time. This time I stopped to take a picture. I think this will become a part of my regular route!

When I got home there was a letter in the mail from my lawyer, Brad Tucker. In it was a copy of the "forensic engineers" report on my accident, commissioned by Progressive Insurance (my car insurance agent). For those of you who haven't been following the saga, the car driver's insurance agency, Allied Nationwide, determined that I was 100% at fault for running into the side of her car after she turned right in front of me onto Willows Run after passing me on Foothills Drive (Progressive's investigation determined that the driver was 100% at fault). In the meantime, I have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in mdeical bills, forked out a couple thousand for a new bike and hired a lawyer to make sure I don't get shafted by the insurance companies!

So anyway, the forensic engineering firm, Alcorn and Associates, concluded (and I quote)...

  • The bicyclist was traveling in the proper direction and on the shoulder as required at the time impact occured.

  • There are no sight distance restrictions that would prevent the Dodge Intrepid driver from seeing the bicycle rider, monitoring his movement and making sure the turn could be made safely.

  • The Dodge Intrepid driver, however, left her lane of travel and began to cross the should of the roadway the bicycle was using and ran into the bicycle.

  • The Dodge driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the bicycle rider as she attempted to make a right turn across the bicycle's designated riding location on the roadway.

  • Failure on the part of the Dodge Intrepid driver to exercise caution and due care by being attentive and properly monitoring the roadway for the bicycle rider and slowing and yielding the right-of-way, to allow the bicycle rider to continue in its designated space on the roadway and through the intersection is the cause of this accident.
  • The bicycle rider did not contribute to the cause of this accident.

So Brad kindly sent the report to Allied Insurance with this cover letter:

I am providing to you for your review a copy of the April 18, 2008 report of Alcorn & Associates Forensic Engineers relative to their investigation into the above-referenced accident. I feel certain that you and your office are familiar with Alcorn & Associates, and their excellent reputation. As you will see, they have come to the exact conclusion that I have been presenting to you from the onset of my involvement. Specifically, it is their conclusion to a reasonable degree of engineering probability that your insured was 100% at fault for the collision that injured Mr. Williams.

I pass this along to you in an effort to give you one last chance to accept liability on behalf of [the driver], and preclude our initiation of a lawsuit against her.

Please let me know your position so that we can proceed accordingly.

So, will Allied accept the eyewitness account and engineering firm's conclusion that their driver was at fault...or will I be forced to initiate a lawsuit to prove what the law and common sense clearly dictate? Stay tuned to DDublog for the next episode of "As the Wheel Turns."


Friday, April 18, 2008

Ride the Rockies Training: Going Nowhere Fast

Since picking up my new bike on March 30 I have ridden almost 200 miles...and never left my house. Riding on my CycleOps Fluid2 trainer has been real and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun. Actually, I think calling it "fun" is a stretch. But I am getting in some "miles in the saddle" which is important as I recover from my surgery and prepare for Ride the Rockies.

The reason I love cycling is getting on the road and going somewhere. With cycling you can ride for hours, travel more distance than running, and enjoy the scenery. I'm getting tired of riding in place and watching TV (or the clock). It's the same reason I don't enjoy running on a treadmill.

But riding on a trainer (and running on a treadmill) do have their place in a good training regimen. Apparently there is a saying that "an hour on the trainer is worth two on the road." I hope so, because I can't stand to ride for more than an hour-and-a-half at a time on the trainer.

The two main benefits of riding on a trainer are working on increasing cadence and improving pedal stroke technique. Studies suggest that pedaling faster (increasing cadence) is supposed to increase efficiency. this is because glycogen is depleted in fast-twitch muscle fibers at a quicker rate during slow, high-force pedaling. Lance Armstrong is widely credited with advancing the theory that pedaling at a higher cadence is more efficient, allowing him to ride faster, longer than anyone else (and he proved it for seven consecutive years on the Tour de France).

But pedaling faster isn't the only way to improve efficiency. Achieving the perfect pedal stroke increases power efficiency, allowing you to generate the same amount of power at a lower heart rate.

All of this may seem ridiculous to a casual rider, but when tackling Ride the Rockies (435 miles in six days over seven mountain passes!), you don't want to waste any energy. And it seems to be working. After 2 hours on the trainer (~4 hours on the road!), I have improved my average RPMs from 91 to 99 and my speed from around 13 to over 17 mph.

Bottomline, RTR08 is less than two months away and I want to be ready to have the best ride ever. That means I need to lose about 10 more pounds, ride about 500 more miles (prefereably on the road) and, oh yeah, get clearance from my doctor to ride! Stay tuned...


Friday, April 11, 2008

Sweet 16?

I'm not talking about March Madness anymore. It's April. Kansas made it past the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and won the NCAA tournament in an historic comeback win over Memphis in overtime (just realized I never posted about the championship game...I think I've been in shock all week). No, I'm talking about Sweet 16 birthdays.

As I mentioned in my last post, Monday was Shelby's 16th birthday. Well, tonight is Shelby's Sweet 16 birthday party. So, here I sit, trapped in a house with a dozen teenage girls. And I find myself wondering, "What's so sweet about 16-year-olds?

Actually, Shelby's friends are good kids. Yes, they all talk at the same time at a decibel level equivalent to a Ted Nugent concert, but at least they're here, having fun being silly, rather than out causing trouble. But sweet? Not sure that's the right adjective.

When I think back to my own 16th birthday party, I wasn't exactly sweet myself. And I wouldn't say the day itself was sweet, either, but it was a day to remember. May 15, 1980. I had a forensics tournament that day. No, I wasn't studying to be a Crime Scene Investigator. I was on the speech team. And since the tournament was right after school, I got to wear a suit to school (I know, hard to believe a geek like me was one of the "cool kids" in high school).

My family picked me up at West Springfield High School after the tournament and took me to the local Mickey D's for my birthday dinner. So, there I am eating a Big Mac in my best corduroy suit (above left, circa 1980) with my mom and dad, little sister Denise and brother Evan (at left, circa 1982, after I had caught up with the fashion trends of the 80s!). I wasn't a happy camper. In protest, I refused to let them bring gifts into the restaurant.

On the way home from my "Sweet 16 Party" at McDonald's I let loose on my parents. "I can't believe you had my 16th birthday party at McDonald's...you threw a surprise party for Jon (my older brother) on his 16th!"

"We did?" they said, as if they didn't remember.

"Don't you remember?" I said, "It was at Happy Joe's" (Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor in Topeka, KS). But they still didn't remember...or so I thought.

When we got home (at left, our house in Burke, VA), I stomped up the walk, ready to escalate the protest into a full-on tantrum. But when I opened the door I was greeted by (you guessed it) all my friends. My parents had very cleverly -- no cruely -- orchestrated the ultimate surprise party.

Ah. Sweet 16. High school. If I could transport myself back in time...I wouldn't. Skinny. Awkward. Braces. Hair (on our heads, but not on our chests). Girls (scary, wonderful, mean girls). Would you go back?

Maybe knowing what I know now I would...nah.

[Above, from left: Brad Phillips, Kevin Galligan and my brother Jon; At left: the Kavanaugh brothers, Steve and Mike]

But I can look back with fond memories. And I can try my best to make it less painful for Shelby, by not trying too hard. Our little girl isn't a little girl anymore (at left with my dad, three days old). In two short years she'll be off to college.

Our job as parents in the next two years is to start letting go...and hang on as long as we can.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Win One for the Shelbers!

Today is my daughter Shelby's 16th birthday. It also happens to be the day Kansas plays Memphis for the NCAA basketball championship. Shelby isn't happy about it. She'd prefer not to share her birthday with the Jayhawks, which I can understand. But the fact that the game falls on her birthday brings back lots of memories of the day she was born.

[Above: Shelby is "all smiles" as she opens presents this morning; At Left: the infectious grin we haven't seen since she became a teenager]

I'll never forget the night before she was born, April 6, 1992, sitting down to watch the Duke/Michigan NCAA title game. I was settling in to watch the game on my new RCA 35" big tube TV when Leslie got home from work at the Treasury Dept. She had worked late, as she often did those days, supporting Secretary Nicholas Brady in the Bush I Administration. This particular night she arrived home saying she felt "unprepared" for the impending birth, even though her due date was still three weeks off. Must have been her motherly intuition kicking in for the first time.

The fact is we weren't prepared. The crib had arrived, but was still sitting in a box waiting for me to assemble. The Dutailier glider-rocker had not arrived. The nursery was not ready for the baby and I was afraid Leslie was going to make me put the crib together that night instead of watching the game. This was obviously unnecessary since a first child never comes three weeks early! So as a diversion, I suggested she go pack her overnight bag and she'd feel better. To my surprise, it worked.

Leslie left me alone in the basement of our Alexandria, VA, duplex to watch the game. It wasn't a great game. Many people think it was one of the worst finals in the history of the tournament (Duke won by 20) despite the hype around Michigan's then famous, now-scandalous Fab Five. How could it compare to the East Regional final when Duke beat Kentucky on Christy Laettner's last-second turn-around jumper? I can't stand Duke or Laettner but that was a classic March Madness game.

Anyway, Shelby woke us up around 3:00 to go to the hospital. It was a good thing Leslie had her bag packed (thanks to my brilliant suggestion!), although there was no mad dash to the hospital. Leslie even got on me for driving too slow (a first) as we headed through Alexandria on GW Parkway towards George Washington University Hospital (known for being the place where President Ronald Reagan was taken after being shot in 1981).

Less than 9:00 hours later, Shelby Faye Williams was born.

[At left: The day we brought Shelby home from the hospital...note that I was wearing a Jayhawks shirt...a good sign!]

So here we are 16 years later. Tonight we're celebrating Shelby's birthday by watching the Jayhawks play for the NCAA title. I hope we're all smiling when the game is over like she used to when she was a baby!

Let's go Jayhawks...win one for the Shelbers!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Goodbye Roy; Respect Our Self

Time to let it go...all the bitterness towards Roy Williams many Kansas fans have felt since he left Kansas to go home to Carolina. Last night's game proved once and for all that Kansas basketball is better off without ol' Huckleberry. Sure, he gave Kansas 15 great years...no championships, but a lot of good basketball, a lot of "dadgumits" and a lot of tears.

I think this line from a story I read this morning sums it up best:

Roy Williams taught Kansas all about how to handle cruel, crushing disappointments.

Bill Self schooled the Jayhawks on how to dish out some pain of their own.

Kansas left its former coach in the dust Saturday night...

-- Eddie Pells, AP

Time to let Roy go home (after all, he left five years ago). Let's all give him a big group hug and wave goodbye. He's headed home today and the Jayhawks are staying in San Antonio to play in the title game Monday night.

I'll still keep that picture of me with Roy at the 2002 Final Four in Atlanta (one of those bitter disappointments -- how could you lose to Maryland with Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, and Drew Gooden on the same team?) on the bookshelf in the study with other memorabilia from Roy's days at KU, along with the "Oh Danny Boy" Sports Illustrated cover (from the 1988 Championship under Larry Brown) and the signed programs from the 70s (when Ted Owens was coach).

Roy is just another former Kansas coach in my book.

Bill Self is the KU coach now and he has earned the adoration of Kansas fans once reserved for Roy. Ever-humble Roy even admitted that he got outcoached last night. Self had his players better prepared, relaxed (for the first 15 minutes at least) and ready to go. He even did a better job of coaching down the stretch, calling timeouts when the Jayhawks looked rattled (something Roy always refused to do and didn't do in the first half last night).

I like our chances in the finals with Bill at the helm more than I ever did with Roy. I love all the talk about how KU might be too emotionally drained from last night's game to win on Monday night. Haven't the pundits paid attention to how Bill got his players ready to play Carolina? It wasn't by buying in to the emotion of KU fans who deperately wanted to beat Roy. It was by focusing on winning a basketball game. I'm confident he'll have them ready to play Monday night.

Bring on Memphis. May the best team win.

Rock Chalk!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Awareness Test

This awesome video was sent to me by my good friend Adam from San Diego. Don't worry, it's totally clean and guaranteed not to send you into an epileptic seizure. Can you pass the awareness test? I failed. Play it...then leave a comment letting me know how you did.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bionic Collarbone

I had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon this past Friday and he took this X-ray of my new collarbone. This shot is a lot clearer than the one they gave me the day of the surgery. Pretty wild, eh? Looks like simple hardware you could buy at Home Depot but I'm sure it cost a lot more. OK, so I may not be the Six Million Dollar Man, but Dr. Loucks did tell me that the bone graft putty (Deminerilized Bone Matrix) alone cost $5,000 for one tube!

I thought it would be interesting to compare this X-ray to one taken before the surgery...

As you can see, the pieces of bone definitely line up better than before. Dr. Loucks says it won't ever be perfectly symmetrical, but the big bump on my right shoulder (caused by the broken bone sticking up) is gone. More importantly, it no longer moves around! What I had before surgery was a "fibrous non-union" that basically acted like a joint. I could actually make it move up and down...kind of cool for grossing people out, but not great for everyday functionality!

The best news from my follow-up appointment was that I could ditch the sling and start using my right arm again (oh yea, and taking showers!). It already feels better than it did several weeks after the initial break, but regaining full range of motion in my right shoulder is going to take some time -- and physical therapy (two times a week for six weeks).

I had my first PT session yesterday. Nick, my therapist, put me through some basic stretching exercises to start loosening up the muscles in my shoulder. Not too painful, but I get the sense it's going to get worse before it gets better. As they say...no pain, no gain.