Friday, January 25, 2013

Better than before?

Is it crazy to imagine bicycling even better than before? How about walking better than before?

I just watched a video of someone who had arthritis in the hip before her hip replacement. She displayed everything I had been experiencing before my accident:
- Years (decades) of walking with my leg left splayed out.
- Always feeling like my left leg was longer than my right leg.
- Always leaning more on my right leg when standing, to compensate for the "extra" length in the left leg.

Here's a link to the video I'm referring to:

Hip Replacement Walking

When my surgeon saw the x-ray of my left hip before performing surgery, he discovered some advanced arthritis in the hip socket. It's funny how the body compensates over time when it learns how to adjust to the progressive "wear and tear" disease of osteoarthritis. My walking never appeared to be as bad as it was for the woman in this video. But then, I learned how to compensate for the damage over time. Changes I had been making in my walking and standing over the years were mostly done without thought. I ever remember my dad making a comment about how I swung my left leg laterally when I walked. It was probably 30 years ago when he made that comment. That means I would have been experiencing arthritis in my hip when I was only 24 years old. More than half my life has been spent with an arthritic hip.

One of the very first things I noticed after my hip replacement, was how straight my left leg was now tracking. Never in my life do I remember my leg tracking this well.

This is going to be an interesting recovery.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


6:00 am and I got up to take a pain killer. Feeling depressed this morning. Partly because of the pain, but mostly because of feeling useless.

Sometimes I cannot fill these pages with hope.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


My mornings certainly don't go any way they have ever gone before in my life. I can't just jump out of bed anymore. In fact, I have a regimen of exercises I do in bed, before I even sit up. It hasn't been easy to discipline myself to do these, but I've discovered that if I take that 10-15 minutes and do them, it becomes much easier to arise and greet the day. This morning, I also discovered another thing, that if I wake up early and just want to get up, don't do it. Most of my life, I've been one that's been able to get through the day very easily on 6 hours of sleep. Even if I had a long bike ride ahead of me on that day - 100 to 200 miles - I could do it on as little as 3 hours of sleep. Few people are aware of this, but when I did the Wisconsin record ride in August of last year, I had only 1 hour of sleep the night before. The crew had a "luxurious" 3 or 4 hours! LOL

But this morning, when I woke up at my usual time around 6 or 7 am, I decided to just go back and sleep a bit more. I woke up again at 9:15 am, and immediately proceeded to do my in-bed rehab exercises. About 20 minutes later, when I finally did sit up, I was actually feeling refreshed, something I haven't felt in a long time. I even arose from the bed differently, almost as if I had never broken my hip. I stood there and cherished that moment, and thanked God for giving it to me. Yesterday was not an easy one for me, so that little moment of reassurance was something I could truly appreciate.

The days are still slow and deliberate, as I'm sure they will be for quite some time yet. After a trip to the bathroom, I begin making my breakfast. I usually alternate between something "elaborate" like eggs and toast, or something simple like cereal and milk. This morning was a simple bowl of granola and milk, a glass of carrot juice, and a cup of hot tea. That helped to wash down my morning pain pill and daily dose of vitamins and nutritional supplements.

I'll usually bring my breakfast into the front living room, where I have a recliner chair set up, with a small table on each side. It is in this chair where I spend a good part of each day, between doing exercises, light-duty housework, and making my daily meals. In this chair is where I am also writing this blog entry, and where I communicate to the outside world each day on my computer, via Facebook and email. My chair also allows me an open view of our front yard with the large picture windows. I love to just sit here at times and watch the tree branches blow in the wind. It's the wind that makes them strong, you know.

Later this afternoon, Linda will take me to my physical therapy session. Afterwards, I hope to make a short visit to Wheel & Sprocket, the shop where I work. I'll meet with John Rodriguez who has organized a fundraiser for me to help us cover some of the medical costs from this accident. The event is happening this Friday at our Northshore store. I haven't really mentioned this event until now, but it's been on my mind quite a bit since it was first considered about 3 weeks ago. I won't say much other than it's about the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me.

When I first returned to cycling, I didn't really know how many of my old friends would welcome me back. And I knew even less if any of the new guard would care about an old man who was trying to give it another go. But I was blessed by both groups. I've been able to rekindle treasured, old friendships. And I've made many new friends, quite a few much younger than me, who have allowed me to share my old stories and even hang onto their wheel once in awhile on group rides. I have truly felt like the character my blog was named after, "The Prodigal Cyclist". But now with this fundraiser that is about to happen, the blogs title seems to be taking on a deeper and even more personal meaning. The love, compassion, and excitement that I have been seeing in people that will be part of the event, is causing me to be amazed at how God's word continues to literally come alive in my life. But it also reminds me that it is not me who does this. It is by God's grace.

Luke 15:11-32 "The Parable of the Lost Son"

In the end, there is nothing I can do, but to cherish and love the people who are helping me, brothers and sisters of the bike.

My Friends

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On the way...

Had my first physical therapy session today, and it went well. I have some additional soft tissue damage around the knee area, but that should resolve itself with time and proper exercises.

I also had my first follow up visit with my surgeon, Dr. Kurtin, and it went well. The staples came out easily and the wound is healing nicely. I learned more about the new hip, recovery process, and my cycling future. The doctor and I also discussed my somewhat narrow Q-angle (narrow hips), even for for the average male. What this means is that, from a structural standpoint, I would have made a heck of a ultra-marathon runner. a kid I used to dream about being a long-distance Hopi runner. But just like my dream of being a horse jockey, these dreams all went out the door when I got to over 5 feet high. ;)
But the good thing is, my narrow Q-angle should help my new hip last longer!

Recovery will be a continuing process. What I can't do now, I'll be able to do next week. What I can't do next week, I'll be able to do the following week, and so on.

A friend from work has offered to lend me his indoor exercise bike, which initally should work better than putting my own bike on the trainer. I'm also going to be using some adapters that will effectively shorten the crankarms on my bike, until my full range of motion returns.

Little by little, day by day, month by month, I hope to be riding on the road again sometime in spring. The doctor feels confident that I should be ready to do the annual "Race the Lake", a 90-mile race around Lake Winnebago in August.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The 2-week old Hip

Two weeks ago today, my hip was replaced. Tomorrow I get the stapled removed and have my first therapy session. And hopefully, I'll also hear some promising news about the future of my cycling.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year, a New Promise - Part Two

I'm just not good at writing. It's such a chore for me. I don't possess a great vocabulary, and any creative skills I have are clearly lacking when it comes in this craft. So please bear with me as I attempt to write part two of "A New Year, A New Promise". It's been a rough 2 weeks (but also filled with many blessings), so I'm just going to do my best at laying out the facts. I've actually been doing quite a bit of writing on my Facebook page, so that's another source of updated information for anyone who might be interested.

The result of the fall on December 23 is that I fractured my left femur. After the surgeon, Dr. Steve Kurtin, saw the initial x-ray, and considering my relatively young age and high activity level, he suggested that we go with a complete hip replacement rather than just replace the ball of the femur. The result of x-ray showed that I had some progressive arthritis in the hip socket. After learning that, I began to realize that the pain and stiffness that I had been experiencing in my left leg over the past few years, was not necessarily a matter of a stiff muscle or tight connective tissue, but most likely the arthritis that the doc discovered. That was the other reason why DR. Kurtin wanted to do a complete replacement. With the worn out, arthritic hip socket, he didn't want to see me returning in a few years to get that replaced.

After I've gotten through a good amount of my recovery and my biking form has returned, it should be interesting to see how different this leg might feel without the arthritis. There's also been another interesting phenomenon I've discovered since my surgery. For as long as I can remember...maybe 20-30 left leg has always had a tendency to toe out some, compared to my right leg. Until this past year or so, as I've studied my bike positioning more and more, I came to the conclusion that this "misalignment" was not initiating from my knee, foot, or ankle as I had thought for so many years. Rather, the misalignment was coming from the hip joint.

I remember considering this discovery a couple months a go, and even discussing it briefly with my friend and co-worker, Phillip Godkin, who serves as a professional bike fitter at the shop I work at, Wheel & Sprocket Northshore. Even with just a brief examination, Phil could also see that the misalignment was indeed coming from the hip. But the question that still remained was the source of the misalignment a result of soft tissue problems, such as muscle imbalances and/or tight connective tissue, or was a bone deformity? I had done regular stretching over the past few years, not necessarily to re-align the leg, but more so to just minimize any stress that it might be causing on my muscles. And for the past 3 years or so, I even did some experimenting with cleat alignment and using various wedges on my cleats and in my shoes. At times, it felt that there were small improvements in how my foot to hip structure felt, as far as alignment and power transfer went. But in the end, nothing seemed to make a significant improvement. And the same lack of stability and inability to transfer power to the left pedal as well (compared to the right leg) that has plagued me for years was still there. The muscle tone in my right leg proved that it had become the primary source of propulsion while riding, and the left leg was just doing...well, what it could until fatigue or injury would set in. It was the left knee that initially gave me problems when I first began to get serious about ultra-marathon cycling back in the early '80s. And in retrospect, it's quite possible that this is when some hip problem began to rear it's ugly head.

And in these more recent years after returning to the sport, it was always the left leg that was the first to fatigue when nearing the end of one of my longer rides, 120 miles or more. And when I did my record breaking ride last August, it even got so bad that the left leg was hardly much more than useless weight that I had to keep moving rather than 1/2 of the source of my propulsion.

Well, after my surgery, I immediately noticed a very interesting change in the natural position of my leg and how it aligned up with the center line of my body. For the first time in my life, for as long as I can remember, my left leg didn't naturally toe out. It now hangs there straight, and in line with the center line of my body. Even when looking ahead, and I feel that my left leg must be toed out, I look down and with a sense of amazement discover that it is actually sitting perfectly straight.

It will be interesting to see how this new alignment might affect my cycling. I'm obviously curious to see if there is any change and improvement in how stable my left foot feels on the pedal compared to all the years previous to the surgery. Will that "new" leg enable me to, for the first time since I began long-distant cycling, a new sense of power? Will that new leg for the first time be able to work as hard as the right leg, so that muscle tone might actually become equal to the right leg? Right now I have a long road of recovery ahead of me. And it's strange to even think about it this way, but is it possible that this accident will actually result to be a blessing in the end?

Well, I'll just put any expectations away for the moment. I'm just happy that this happened to me in a day and age when hip replacement is quite refined. I've been told that new ceramic and titanium hip will last a long time, and hopefully for the many, many miles ahead of me. Maybe even longer than the ceramic and titanium parts on my  bike?!