Sunday, December 17, 2006

NEVER TOO LATE

Grandma Moses, famous for her book illustrations for “Twas the Night Before Christmas” among others, created her first painting at age 78, yet as I head out to the mountain bike trails in my now mid-40s-year-old body, so many of my friends, most of whom are even younger than I, tell me that they’re “too old” to start biking.  Perhaps I was “too old” over a decade ago when I hesitantly walked into the bike shop to test ride a bicycle for the first time ever in my life, as a 33-year-old woman.  Perhaps I was “too old” to decide to take up downhill bike racing at 38 years of age.  Perhaps I was “too old” to complete my first 24-hour solo mountain bike event at nearly 39 years of age.  And perhaps I’m “too old” even now to go  out into the woods with my bicycle, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, laughing with complete childlike abandon, forgetting all the stresses and worries of “adult life”, and simply living in the here and now for just a while, letting myself become a kid again.

But why should being an “adult” mean robbing yourself of the joys of being alive?  Life is fragile, fleeting, and tentative at best.  As I age, that time I can give myself to really live becomes increasingly priceless.  I cherish the time I spend on my bike, communing with nature in an ever increasingly paved world.  I love watching the seasons change – springtime when all the trees are sporting their fresh lacy leaves like frilly Easter gloves, summertime when the thick forests provide a shady canopy under which to ride surrounded by an abundance of fragrant flowers, autumn with its brilliant fireworks display of changing leaf colors, and even winter when for some reason the evergreens seem to emit their most aromatic scents.

Mountain biking allows me the opportunity to slow down and take a break from the hectic world of work, rushing here and there, traffic, deadlines, responsibilities and worries.  I can ride as hard or as easy as I choose, depending on my mood.  It offers me the chance to relax and refresh my spirit, and at the same time know that I am strengthening my body, building muscle, fighting the ever present threat of osteoporosis on my aging bones.  Mountain biking does not have to be the hardcore adventures depicted on television commercials whereby teenaged boys are jumping off cliffs in order to be fun.  It can be something as simple as pedaling around a beginner doubletrack path in a local park.  Make it what you need it to be in order to you’re your own soul.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Baby steps

The knee rehab is coming along gradually.  I took my mountain bike out yesterday for the first time since surgery for a ride on an actual trail, riding everything but the short intermediate loop at Harris Lake.  While I still can't stand while pedaling, and as such had to walk up some of the climbs on the advanced loop, overall I felt surprisingly good and Steve and I had a wonderfully enjoyable ride, albeit a slow one.

 Then today he and I decided to tackle the tennis courts.  I had not picked up my racquet in a while, so I was a bit apprehensive.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to play a full two-set match.  I'm still not completely comfortable or confident with quick bursts of speed, and in fact really don't have that capacity as of yet, but I was able to run a little to get to some shots I was not even close to making just a few short weeks ago, so I feel like I am making some progress.

 As per the orthopedist's instructions, I have begun a walk/jog program and am currently up to roughly a 4:1 minute run/walk ratio for about 30 minutes several days per week.  I still have a rather awkward gait with the running portion, but my surgeon and physical therapist have assured me that with the three P's (persistence, patience and practice), that will improve over time.  Of course, I continue to stretch before and after exercise, ride the indoor bike regularly nearly every day to increase my range of motion, and ice down the knee after exercise, all of which seem to be helping, and the swelling and pain are very gradually reducing overall.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Trying

Well it's been nearly seven weeks now since my knee surgery, and I have to admit I'm pretty discouraged at this point.  I still am having trouble walking, with a continued limp, and can't yet fully flex or extend my knee.  There is pain remaining with most activities and I'm having to work really hard just to try and remain optimistic about the whole situation.  Everyone I've spoken with who's had a lateral release didn't seem to have this much of a delay in recovery, and I've followed my physical therapy instructions to the letter.  I voiced my discouragement with my physical therapist at this morning's rehab session, and he went across the hall to speak with my surgeon while I was doing my stretching exercises.  Apparently the surgeon went over my operative photos with my therapist, and informed him that I had grade 4 bone defect changes in the knee - the scale is 0 to 4, with 0 being normal...

Still, I'm trying to hang in there.   Trying

Sunday, November 5, 2006

On the “trail” again

Trail  The weather was just too pretty today to stay inside, so we headed out to a local trail where Steve was honing his photography skills and I decided to take the commuter bike out for my 20-minute physical therapy spin, only this time I actually got to ride a dirt road instead of pavement.  It was nice to be back riding in the woods, closer to nature, although it was a little less smooth than our neighborhood street I've been cruising lately, so if I plan to do very much "offroad" riding in the near future, I think I need to get a set of cross tires...!

Trail

On the trail, sort of

Steve racing

Steve racing at the Curse of the Crab.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Curse of the Crab

Steve racing  This afternoon I accompanied Steve to a local 6-hour mountain bike race at Lake Crabtree County Park, Curse of the Crab, where he competed as a solo rider.  The race ran from 3:00 in the afternoon until 9:00 at night and while clear sunny skies dominated the first couple of race laps, once the sun went down it got pretty chilly, reaching the 30s very quickly!  Despite that, Steve pressed on, completing six laps on the roughly seven-mile course.  It was great to get out and catch up with some biking friends I hadn't seen in a while due to my surgery, and I really enjoyed being able to step back from competition for a change to socialize with friends and cheer Steve on this time.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Paws for Life

Steve and I took Zoe and Spyder out for the one-mile dog walk that was part of the Paws for Life 5K-9 being held today to benefit the Franklin County Humane Society, and we had a great time.  There were tons of other dogs and their "parents" there, as well as the runners competing in the 5K race.  Obviously, being just a few weeks out from knee surgery, I opted for the one-mile walk instead, and I'm really glad I did.  Spyder was an amazingly well-behaved little gentleman and seemed to have a wonderful time.  Of course, the first place he wanted to visit of all the vendors there was the Domino's Pizza table!  Although he didn't get any pizza, he did get a goody bag with doggy bandanas, a stuffed squeaky toy, dog cookies, a slip leash and all kinds of pet treats, with a nice long-sleeve FCHS tee-shirt for mom.  All proceeds from the event went to the local Humane Society and there was a variety of activities going on besides the walk/race, including a demonstration by some search and rescue dogs.  There was a massage therapist there, a dog trainer, PetSmart, a local church with yummy baked goods and a variety of drinks, as well as Starbuck's providing free coffee!  All in all, it was a wonderful way to start the weekend and for such a worthwhile cause - I'm already looking forward to next year's event!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Back in the saddle, sort of

City Bike  I know I said I wasn't going to buy another bicycle, but I went with Steve to the bike shop today to get some road shoes and the next thing I know, here I am, the proud owner of a new commuter bike!  It's great because it's a nice cross between a road bike and a mountain bike.  It has the smoothness and easy acceleration of a road bike with the sturdiness and solid feel of a mountain bike, combining road components with flat bars.  It's going to be perfect for commuting to and from the courts once I'm back playing tennis again and is equally at home on the street or on the dirt path.  The physical therapists are still limiting the length of time I can bicycle with my rehab each day until the knee swelling goes down more, but even in that brief period, it felt great to be outside pedaling again this afternoon enjoying such gorgeous autumn weather!

Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

City Bike

Back in the saddle!

The new city bike

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Post-surgery

It's been a while, I know, since I last posted.  To update, I had my right knee surgery on September 25.  At first, the pain was pretty much nonexistent, that is until the nerve block wore off after a day or two and then it became rather unpleasant for a while. 

Physical therapy began two days after surgery on Wednesday, September 27.  At that first visit, they only had me do some work on quad sets (tensing and releasing the thigh muscle), along with some hamstring and calf stretches, straight leg lifts, and applied electrical stimulation to my quadriceps to help contract those muscles.  The surgeon had called me that morning to see how I was doing and told me that the surgery had gone very well, so I was feeling pretty good about things - that is, until I got home from therapy and discovered that my body does not like narcotic pain medications.  I spent the better part of Wednesday evening in the bathroom throwing up, which was less than pleasant to say the least.  My doctor prescribed me an anti-nausea medicine to help control the vomiting which helped, but did tend to make me very sleepy.

Getting around the house those first few days was rather tricky.  I'm not the most graceful person anyway, and using crutches with having to dodge the dogs and cat took some work!  Once I was allowed to bathe, that was rather difficult as well, as was getting in and out of bed.  I spent the better part of my days during the first week resting on the couch with an ice pack on my knee as per the surgeon's request.

One week after surgery, I had a postoperative appointment to have my sutures removed. Unfortunately, I was once again very sick with nausea and vomiting.  So the physician's assistant recommended completely stopping the narcotics and seeing if I could tolerate the pain using only Tylenol or Advil.  They also replaced the elastic bandage with a TED compression thigh-high stocking.  These things are a nightmare!  They are very snug to help reduce swelling (this particular surgery is associated with a lot of swelling which is what makes recovery so slow), and incredibly awkward to apply.  This was soon replaced with my GenuTrain compression knee sleeve, which isn't very comfortable either, but I continue to wear it every day to help with the swelling.  As it turns out, I did okay without the heavy-duty pain medications, having only minimal to moderate pain, but that was far better than the nausea and vomiting on the narcotics.

At two weeks, I saw the surgeon again and he said my knee actually looked very good and that things were coming along as expected.  I had had some painful clicking and popping with flexion and extension, but he said that was normal and it would go away as the swelling gradually subsided over the next several weeks.  He also said I could progress my activities as tolerated per the physical therapists, but cautioned me that my knee would continue to remain quite tender for at least another four to six weeks.

At two and a half weeks postoperatively, the therapists had put me on the stationary bike for the first time and what a humbling experience that was.  It took me over ten minutes simply to get the pedals to turn over just one revolution and even then it was excruciatingly painful at the top of the stroke when my knee was flexed the most.  I rode for four additional minutes after that, and it seemed like hours.  I was crushed emotionally, having come from competitive endurance cycling to this - barely able to turn the pedals on a stationary bike at zero resistance.  But I kept at it, even though I still can't use the right leg to push that pedal down first to get the bike started, and have to start with the left pedal for now. 

They said I could ride my own road bike at home on my trainer, but for no more than ten minutes at a time.  It sounded so pathetically short a time, until I got on the bike and found myself watching the second-hand of the clock tick off those slow and painful ten minutes.  Now at three and a half weeks, I'm still restricted to ten minutes on the bike at a very slow pace, but it is gradually becoming easier. 

I've had physical therapy twice every week since surgery, on Mondays and Thursdays.  The therapists have gradually increased the intensity and quantity of my workouts, but it has been slow going.  We're still using the electrical stimulation under a heating pad with the quad sets, and still doing hamstring and calf stretches, along with the indoor bike.  They also have me doing an extension stretch with the exercise band, step-ups on the aerobic step, heel slides to increase flexion and straight leg lifts to help regain quad strength.

Today I additionally got to use the leg press and leg curl machines, using with both legs together.  Granted it was at the lowest weight resistance, but I did it and it actually wasn't all that bad.  The biggest surprise came when the therapist gave me the go-ahead to get out on the tennis court this evening to practice my swing only - at my request, of course!  So this evening Steve brought out the bucket of practice balls and hit some easy ones right to me so I wouldn't have to really move and could concentrate solely on my swing, since I absolutely cannot pivot on my knee at all yet and really can't move very quickly yet either, even though I have been off the crutches for a couple of days now.  After so many weeks off regular exercise, I was pretty well fatigued after less than 30 minutes, but it was so mentally therapeutic for me to be able to get out and do this today.  I did ice and elevate the knee immediately upon returning home to help keep any swelling down.

Anyway, I know it's not even quite been a month yet and I still have a very long way to go, but I am starting to see some progress, and Dr. Gollehon said that based on how easily the kneecap snapped right back into the proper track once he did the lateral release, he is convinced the surgery was a success and that I will see dramatically positive results once the healing process is complete.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Friday, September 1, 2006

Roddick Junior?

Game Well, Andy has certainly been living up to his name - playing to the crowd, an eagerness to play and the will to win - no missing mojo here! In addition to straws, bells, and anything else that he can pounce on, he absolutely loves his tennis ball and always keeps it within his reach. In just a few short days, he and Spyder have already become fast friends and Spyder certainly is Andy's biggest fan, but even though this cat can chase down that little yellow ball with the best of them, don't look for him at Wimbledon or the US Open.....at least not yet! Set and Match

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Andy

Andy and Spyder We went to the Adoptathon held by the Franklin County Humane Society on Saturday at PetSmart. Andy immediately caught my eye, even though he was in a kennel with several other cats. His smoky grey coat with the unique circular and triangular white markings was striking, but what really amazed me was his calm and relaxed attitude despite all the hustle and bustle of activity going on all around him. When I took him out of the kennel to hold him and carry him around the store, he sat quietly in my arms, observant but fearless of his surroundings, even though he is only five months old. It didn't take long for Steve and me to decide we wanted to adopt him, so after filling out the paper work and having our references checked, we were approved. Once we had purchased the items we would need for our new kitty, we gathered him up in the carrier and brought him home to meet his new brother and sister. To our surprise, once inside the house, he immediately hopped out of the carrier as soon as the door was opened and walked right up to both Zoe and Spyder to casually introduce himself. Since Andy is Zoe's third "cat sibling", she adapted immediately to him being here. Spyder is still requiring a little extra attention to reassure him that he is still my baby, which he always will be, but he is beginning to accept Andy, even letting him sit on my lap without getting upset. Andy himself is incredibly adaptable. After investigating every inch of his new home, he was immediately content to lie on the couch and boldy greeted our neighbors who, of course, wanted to come see the new addition. He has yet to run and hide, preferring to be in the center of any activity, and was immediately comfortable and at home in his new surroundings, including sleeping on the bed with Steve and myself, purring so loudly he sounded more like a lion rather than a housecat!

I think he is going to be a pleasant and comforting companion for me as he is small enough to lie on my lap and is happy to do so, especially now since my current orthopedist has determined that I am going to need surgery on both my knees. The right one will be done first, on September 25, with the left one to be done as soon as the right has recovered sufficiently, hopefully within a couple of months after that. Apparently the knees have degenerative patellofemoral osteoarthritis, patellar tilt, a thickened and scarred plica, as well as bone spurs and tracking disorders, so I am going to have arthroscopic surgery to try and repair these problems. I am aware that the rehabilitation and physical therapy is going to be long, slow and painful, but I'm prepared and willing to undergo it in order to restore my physical abilities without the severe pain I am currently experiencing. And it certainly should help me get through those long boring winter months when I can't do my regular activities to have both my dogs and my new kitty around! Steve is going to be playing tennis in the Avery Cup this fall, so I'm hoping that I will at least be on crutches and able to get around sufficiently to go watch him play some as well. More updates on both the animals and my knees as things progress.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Greetings from San Diego!

Baby Giraffe We just got back from about a week in sunny San Diego, and I'm still readjusting to the time change, so will write more later. However, suffice it to say that I had a blast! We visited the fabulous San Diego Zoo and the incredible Wild Animal Park, watched seals play in the Pacific Ocean at La Jolla, walked the lovely beach at Coronado where the mica content of the sand makes it shimmer just like gold, toured the Birch Aquarium at Scripps where we watched the keepers feed the sharks, strolled through the multitude of museums and lavish gardens at Balboa Park, visited the lighthouse at Cabrillo Cabrillo Lighthouse and naturally sampled much of the fine dining in the area. In addition, we watched a very lifelike exhibit where robotic dinosaurs stomped their feet, moved their heads and tails, and growled! We also took a 3D, edge of your whirling seat ride which shook, bucked and twisted to match the narration from the "pilots" on a simulated ride to "Dinosaur Island" which kept me laughing the whole time. Naturally, I'm totally exhausted from the plane ride, waiting hours in the airport for layover, and the subsequent time change, so that is all for now, but I'll try and write some more later. However, Steve did take literally hundreds of photos which are in his gallery Here - enjoy!
Panda

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Sound of Music

I'm very excited and pleased that I have just been accepted as a music student by renowned flute instructor, Helen Spielman. I met with her this evening for an initial interview, and she has agreed to take me on as a student this fall. I feel that a month of instruction in the basics will provide me a solid foundation for pursuing my interest in playing the flute on my own after that, and I'm delighted and honored that a teacher of Mrs. Spielman's caliber has accepted me. In the same vein that a poor instructor can drain the joy and life out of an artistic endeavor, the right one can inspire the student to heights of achievement and heartfelt enthusiasm beyond anything imaginable. As a result of my interview with Ms. Spielman this evening, I truly feel that she is one of those inspiring and soulful teachers and I very much look forward to our upcoming sessions.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cowbell

Cowbell 2006 Jessica and I decided more or less on a whim to participate in the Cowbell Challenge bike race this past weekend. Since neither of us was really prepared for an endurance race and I wasn't even sure if my knee and back would tolerate it, we elected to ride in the Duo Female 6 Hour category. Despite the heat, Jessica's stomachache and my out-of-practice-and-definitely-not-prepared-for-endurance-racing condition, team We've Been Whitneyed -
in honor of 2006 Stanley Cup Champions Carolina Hurricanes' own Ray Whitney Whitney, Adams and Ladd with The Stanley Cup! - managed to bring home the Gold with a combined total of four laps. Yes, we were the only Female Duo, but we went, we rode, we won, we clanged the cowbells!

Happy Feet

Bike Feet I've gotten my custom orthotics and put them into my running, tennis and bike shoes, and all I can say is wow! What a difference they make. I still have some leg and back pain with biking, particularly on longer rides, but it is more manageable with the shoe inserts. Correcting the positioning/pronation of my feet seems to help all the way up through the knee, hip and even into my back. The doctors and therapists have told me that it will take time for my skeletal structure and muscles to adapt to the correction provided by the inserts, since they are readjusting the mechanics of my body. But hopefully the orthotics, in combination with the stretching and strengthening program I'm currently on will provide the mechanical correction necessary for restoration of my joint function and gradually increasing pain relief. At any rate, I can now ride my bike for nearly an hour at a time, play tennis through a full match, even run - albeit slowly - for a couple of miles . I don't do all these things in the same day of course, but the new footbeds do expand my capability for avoiding burnout and boredom, not to mention aiding my exercise capacity, by giving me the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities with increased comfort and stability.
Tennis Feet

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Hello Old Friend

Gemeinhardt After a nearly 20 year hiatus, the sound of music has begun to call to me again. I rented a flute for a couple of weeks last month, just to see if the spark was still there and discovered that happily, it was! So after a couple of weeks of practice, relearning the keys, notes, and written music as well as some playing "by ear", I'm rekindling an old friendship with this beautiful woodwind and purchased my very own flute. Obviously, I'm still on the basic beginner stuff, but it's amazing how it makes me feel to hear a song that I recognize and realize I am the one making the music! It's been a wonderful refuge in a time of much turmoil and stress in my life - I only wish I had rediscovered it sooner. I would write more, but there is music to play!
Music

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Spring Holiday Weekend

To celebrate the long spring holiday weekend, Steve and I decided to head out to the bike trail this morning for a pleasant jaunt through the forest. It was actually nice to get back on the bike even for a short while, and we had a fantastic ride through some beautiful wooded trails. Steve On the Trail

After our ride, we headed out to the WRAL Azalea Gardens, which were spectacularly in full bloom and incredibly aromatic. It was a wonderful ending to a gorgeous long spring weekend. Gardens Aromatic flowers

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Spring into Tennis

Jumping for Joy As another type of cross-training which allows more mobility and position changes for my spine, the physician and therapist have approved me going ahead and continuing to play tennis, as long as I try to limit the number of matches I play per week and, of course, adhere to a strict pre- and post-match stretching program. Steve and I are both participating in local challenge ladders which has provided us the opportunity to meet a great many delightful players and we are both learning so much from the variety of styles we face each week. Steve Ladder

More photos of us playing in our respective matches can be found Here. Be warned though, we both tend to get a little happy with the camera, so there are quite a few photos in the gallery!

Although I still am on restriction with my biking due to the sustained forward flexion and repetitive pedaling motion it requires which intensely aggravates my spine and joint issues, it appears that the constant change of position and multi-directional movements involved in playing tennis has seemed to help with my spinal flexibility somewhat, and being able to still get out in the beautiful spring weather is always a bonus - see you on the court!
Tammy Ladder

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Changes

That is my hubby! That's my hubby and I couldn't be more proud! Steve has been competing in a local men's tennis ladder and I managed to get some photos of him playing in today's match. Ever the competent athlete, he is demonstrating himself to be a quick learner and quite proficient in tennis as well as biking, windsurfing, running, swimming, and pretty much anything else athletic he tries.

Things aren't looking so bright on my side of the fence, however. A recent trip to the physical therapist regarding intensified knee and back pain whenever I get on a bike revealed that my knee joints have flared again, and now I have bulging disks in my cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) spine as well. As a result, my therapist and physician have both strongly recommended that I forego any significant bike riding and certainly any bike racing, particularly endurance events, for the time-being and have put me on a strict physical therapy rehab protocol. It seems that the sustained flexed spinal position required for riding a bike significantly intensifies the disk bulges and pain, so my activities have been changed to some other cross-training to include swimming and water exercises along with mechanical stretching protocols. Fortunately, the prognosis is hopeful as long as I adhere strictly to the prescribed regimen so I'm remaining optimistic.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Good News

Well, the biopsy came back and the pathology was negative - no sign of cancer or anything else bad, and everything looked great. YAY!

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Spring Tennis Kick-Off

WFATA Spring Tennis Kick-Off We spent almost the entire day today enjoying the sunshine and great fellowship at the Wake Forest Area Tennis Association's Spring Kick-Off Event. There were kid's fun activities, free coaching sessions with a local pro, and then an afternoon tennis doubles social for the adults. I had a blast and am looking forward to the spring challenge ladders beginning this month!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Catfight!

A running skirt in February?! For Valentine's Day, Steve got me the new limited edition Triks Marathon Girl running skirt, the "Catfight". Can you believe it was warm enough to wear it for my evening run tonight and it's only February?! Of course, all that is forecasted to change overnight, with highs tomorrow only in the 30s with rain - a bitter contrast to today's sunny mid 70s.

I am especially fond of the skirt's pink leopard spots - Catfight!
Spyder, however, was simply not impressed. Spyder was not impressed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tennis Meetup

Tennis in the Snow!
Yes, that is snow you see in the photograph! We had a sunny but quite cold start and an even colder finish to today's tennis meetup, but the skies darkened briefly about mid-match, and several of us had the opportunity to play some tennis in a snowy wintry wonderland!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Courage to Start

I recently finished reading a book that quite literally is changing my life. The Courage To Start by John "The Penguin" Bingham is more than just a book on beginning a running program. It is, in fact, an instruction manual on how to rediscover yourself and your life. So much of the topics in this book rang true for my own experiences - self-criticism, lack of confidence, willingness to support and encourage others but not myself, fears of failure and fears of success. It quite literally brought me back when I thought I had lost myself forever - and reminded me to enjoy my life every precious moment by every precious moment. I thought about Mr. Bingham's advice to relish every second because that is what comprises life, and ended up having the best time out running tonight than I think I ever have. His book has helped give me "the courage to start" having a new outlook on life.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Practice makes perfect, or so I've heard, so I've been hitting the tennis courts on a regular basis, despite the cold and the wind that are trademarks of winter. I've signed up for another set of lessons beginning in March and am hoping to enter some tennis ladders in the spring as well. Looking forward to this new page in the story of my life! Makes Perfect - At Least I Hope!

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

Tennis anyone? What a way to start off a new year! Helen, Steve, BJ, Seth and I ended up playing in an impromptu New Year's Day tennis tournament at the local park courts to celebrate the outstanding spring like weather. Warm sun, clear skies, good friends and a few hours of aerobic fun - Happy New Year everybody! I got it!