Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your Mom would have said NO!

On one of our days in Mexico…

Yeah, yeah… I’m way behind on writing anything, but I just haven’t been into it with the broken bones and the office workload.

On one of our days in Mexico we decided to pack up the crew and head to Xel ha for a day of looking at animals, swimming, and goofing around. We weren’t sure what to expect, and the first raft ride we went on was really weak. Eric and I were looking at each other and laughing a bit over the lack of anything, including tour guide dialogue, on the tour. It was pretty half baked, but fortunately for all, it got better.

We went through several aquariums and saw loads of fish and sea turtles, which the kids really liked. Regarding the title of this post, here is one moment where I looked back and saw Bryce climbing through the display turtle shell. NO! There, I said it…a bit belatedly at best. It was hard to say it when it was happening because I was laughing.

Nope, I’m not going to get a gold star for my parenting on that one…

After lunch at the beach restaurant, the kids played in a salt water pool that had several schools of fish in it. The kids splashed around and tried to catch them for half an hour. I have no idea how they can work that hard for so long. Again, I should have probably said that they shouldn’t have been disturbing the fish, but honestly I didn’t care. NO! There I got that one out of the way too…

The highlight of the day was the cenote. We donned our somewhat poorly-fitted life jackets and waddled over to the entrance to the river. Two things we noted at that point but only one was of immediate concern. The water was in the 70’s since it was an underground spring-fed river which, for us tourists, is cold. I don’t care what you say. When you are used to 120 degree showers, 88 degree pools, and warm ocean waters on hot days, being in a cave in 70 degree water is chilly. We all stood on the precipice trying to decide what to do or who to push in first as a sacrificial offering to the cold. I opted for the “rip the band-aid off method” and dove in. As you can see, everyone else aside from my partner in crime, is still there on the steps when I fumbled around and got the camera shot.

The other part we realized was that we were going to be swimming in this underground labyrinth for an hour. We figured that they must be overstating how fast we would get through, so off we went. We floated and swam through tunnel after tunnel, and it was really a cool experience…quite literally at times…
Bryce and Ansley both had their goggles and snorkels, but within 3 minutes, they were off and Mom and I were carrying them. By the end Eric had lost his, and unbeknownst to me, I had dropped Bryce’s to the bottom as well. I had to take off the life jacket and dive to the bottom which was most likely only 12-15 feet, but in semi-darkness and with large jagged boulders littering the bottom perhaps it wasn’t the best of ideas. I could hear my Mom in my head…you guessed it… NO!

The funny thing was that I was diving down and looking for Eric’s mask when I found Bryce’s.
Thanks E!

We all finally, and thankfully, found the end of the river and clambered out. On the way out of the park, Bryce wanted to go look at the hot chicks that we had seen on the way in. I of course said… YES!

What? A bunch of baby birds in an incubator wasn’t what you were thinking?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trip to Tulum

On the one day we had some rain during our Mexican escapades, we decided to go and visit Tulum. It was, as I thought, an amazing place with a fantastic history. It was also pretty “tourist-ized” by the local government. I am in full agreement that these sites should be preserved and should be on display, but I do wonder just how it actually looked when it was a vibrant trading post and important religious center many centuries ago. The freshly mowed grass and roped sidewalks made me wonder about how much research was put into how the flows and patterns of daily life actually occurred in the city. Perhaps there isn’t much to research since the city was discovered after it was abandoned and the forests had reclaimed the land from the former human inhabitants.

The temples and buildings housed religious ceremonies and the very elite of Mayan society lived there. I can see why. The coast is magnificent and the barrier reef made for smooth and protected waters for fishing and travel. There is a reason that people keep putting up massive structures on coastlines around the area. It’s simply a beautiful place to live, and it also affords some easily obtained fresh water through the abundant number of cenotes in the area.

I thought the contrast of old and new in this shot was pretty telling with the ancient stone structure and the modern hotel in the background. Which will still be here in 200 years.

I have heard many theories from other travelers as to why the pyramids here and in other sites around the Yucatan Peninsula, even when disconnected through time and distance, have a similar set of gods and building structures. I had heard Asian/Indonesian influence and even aliens had given the designs for the structures and their orientation to various astronomical events. The guide we hired had a very interesting theory that actually Egyptians had over the thousands of years migrated with some semblance of their technology to the area and influenced the architecture and art. I must say that some of the features of the art were strikingly similar to the examples of Egyptian art and there were several thousand years between the building of the pyramids in the sands of Giza. That’s plenty of time for humans to travel around coastlines and islands to arrive in Mexico. Being otherwise undereducated on the area, I am going with his theory of Egyptian influence. Heck, he said he was Mayan, so who am I to question?

You really aren't a uber-cool tourist unless you have a really floppy hat. I can practically feel the envy you are experiencing...

Just to exemplify how quickly architectural influences can travel, we took our newly found Mayan knowledge and went back to the beach. There, we promptly built another pyramid, albeit somewhat smaller…and built with a boat paddle for a shovel.
Not quite the pinnacle of technology, but not bad considering. Especially if you wanted your pyramid to have an authentic beaver tail whacked look about it.

Next – Your Mom would have absolutely said -- NO!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Waiting for Summer

Like you may have figured out, I have some time on my hands to reflect and look around as my collar bone heals. This weekend, we drove over to Atlanta, more precisely to Lake Lanier north of Atlanta, to celebrate the Easter holiday with the family. I took a couple of minutes to walk down to the dock and to look at the lake levels, which while low, look infinitely better than they did when we closed up the boats for the winter. I liked the photo of the ladder still up in its winter storage position, but it seemed poised to do it's job for another season of endlessly getting kids in and out of the water again.

The wind was cold, and even though it's spring, it's certainly no time to be out on the water for any length of time yet. I thought about the timing of getting back to skiing and getting the strength back into my arm, and it looks like it's going to fall in the June time frame before I can start that process. I thought about all the warm weather, the sounds of the kids swimming around the dock, and spending time skiing and floating with the family that I have to look forward to. All that will pretty much coincide with the time I am cleared to get back in action from this injury, which made me smile. It means I'm not going to miss out on some of the really good stuff this summer, as has happened in the past with some of my other breaks... Yeah, I break bones much more frequently than I like to think about...

I can't wait for summer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You Just Had To Look...

After a few days my broken bone and bruised shoulder do seem to be feeling somewhat better. I am still loopy from the anesthesia but much less so than even yesterday. I have probably done more damage to my health and to my life expectancy by going under general anesthesia and then using the morphine pump to deal with the pain than actually breaking myself.

Well, the doctor told me that I would be able to take a shower and get the incision wet by Sunday, and since I didn’t want a green cloud of death-inducing-funk billowing around me in meetings Monday, I prudently procrastinated until Monday morning for that shower. (I did take a bath over the weekend so I wouldn’t have to remove the bandages, and so I wouldn’t kill off any of the family members. Seriously, I was in no condition to deal with the police investigation had someone died from the stink.)

I found that the tape they use to used to put the bandages on doubles for a wax hair removal tool.

Just tear it off! Quickly! AAAAAAahhhhhh!!!! Whimper…

Then I took a good look at the 7 inch long scar that I will sport for the rest of my life, and here was my next reaction…and possibly yours as well.

Yeah, it’s like a train wreck or someone falling from unsurvivable heights. You just have to look.

Gross. Just gross.

Next post – back to the riveting topic of Mayan culture as I promised a few posts back.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tour of Tuscaloosa Racing

It has been a big week to say the least, and naturally some parts were spectacular, and some parts I could have gone my whole life and not felt I had missed them.

First, the update of what good events that happened most recently. I resolved, after taking a year off of significant racing, to see what I could get this old body to do on a bicycle if I focused. I joined a fantastic team of guys who also have my passion for bikes and racing, and also seem to have a similar issue with Jobs, children, etc. that gets smack dab in the way of this passion for bikes and racing. Steel City Cycling has been a load of fun, and our training rides have been quite productive and we have all seen some good improvement in our individual and team riding abilities much to the chagrin of other local clubs/teams. The Tour of Tuscaloosa was the first big race weekend of the season around here and we had a good group turn out for it. I was still racing category 5 because I didn't have enough starts in that category to upgrade to the next level where most of the team races. After pestering the local race USA Cycling guy to let me upgrade he said I needed 10 starts or to basically ride well enough to prove that I didn't belong in the cat 5 level. I arrived early on Saturday to warm up and try to perform well in 2 criterium races which when I registered was viewed as a bit odd. "Why are you some sort of glutton for punishment?" was what the lady said as I registered. I then went out on the course to warm up for a while in order to be hot for the start of the open class race.

About 20 of us toed the line for the race and the nice English lady yelled at us for a while about helmets and safety and then said GO! Off we went around the corner and immediately we were up to speed on a very sharp downhill.

We whipped across the back stretch and up the steep hill on the course. That was where the group began to split, and I just rode my normal tempo past the lead guys to see if they would follow. I gapped them slightly and then I looked back. They hadn't really responded, most likely because they didn't think that I would hold onto any gap so early into the race. They still had plenty of time to reel me back in when I got tired. Well, without the response, I stomped on the pedals and launched myself around the corner and left them. Looping past the start/finish line on this short loop course I had 100 yards on them. Then I dove down the hill again and nearly caught the motorcycle at 44 mph through a couple of gentle turns. By the time I hit the hill again I had a full 20 seconds on the group. I repeated this loop a couple more times and people began to yell that I had already put a minute into the rest of the group. From that point on I rode alone. In the end. I finished over a half a mile in front of the second place rider.

I then waited an hour and went up against the 35+ category 5 racers. I was pretty gassed from my earlier efforts and the dynamic of the race was slightly different as well. I couldn't get my tired legs to make my solo efforts stick, so I worked with 3 other guys to get a big break. They were fresher and stronger at that point and in the last few hundred yards a guy who had sat in the draft the whole ride launched a sprint for the finish line that I had no response for whatsoever. I came in 4th place. Anthony my other cat 5 compatriot came in in 9th place giving steel city it's best start to a season ever. We had a win and 2 top ten finishes in the first 2 hours of the season's racing.

The Cat 4 races didn't go quite as planned. The guys got to the line with 60+ other riders and when they came back around Bo wasn't with them and the field looked splintered all over. It turned out that Bo had come to grief in the first lap and had fractured his collar bone. Matt knotted his muscles into little balls of steel trying to avoid the wreck. The team's great start didn't get much better in the road race the next day.

The Road Race:

It was a gray 40 degree morning when we rolled out of Lake Lurlene. Anthony and I were in a group of about 60 riders that they divided into two groups to reduce the size. From what I could tell they then started the two groups at the same time so there were still 60 of us on the road together, and that made for some crowded racing. The race was safe and clean through the first 25 miles. In the last 5 miles the time came to make a move. The group hit a hill and bunched up. I began to press up along the left side of the group. There were only about 2-3 bikes in front of me before I was going to be clear of the field, and all of a sudden Disaster. The hole I had to work with closed. I think the guy in front of me was bumped by another antsy rider but It happened so quickly I will never know. His rear wheel came across my front as I was moving up into the gap I had and I was immediately thrown to the pavement flipping my bike high into the air. I heard the crunch and then felt several bike tires as they came crashing over me. I laid in the road in silence for what seemed like a fairly long time. I stumbled to my feet and thought seriously about getting back on the bike to finish the race. It's amazing what the body can do when it's pushed into its limits like that. I felt no pain. Before re-mounting the bike I leaned over to check my now aching shoulder. I touched my collarbone and felt chips and pieces grinding around under my fingertips. I had done it. I had turned a fantastic start to a race season into 6-8 weeks of recovery before I could get on a bike at all. That's when the pain hit. I crumpled into the back of the service vehicle and then again into the back of the ambulance for a quick ride to the hospital. They X-rayed my collar bone and I was told I had a good single break down the middle of the bone.

I got some pain killers and waited for Brenna to come and get me. The longer I waited the worse it got. When she arrived and I was discharged, I stood up just long enough to get into the wheelchair and the world went white with the pain. I have broken a load of things but that bone would shift around whenever I did anything at all. I nearly passed out from the pain. That was certainly not the kind of sensation I ever wanted to repeat. Unfortunately, I coudn't get into surgery to pin it back together until Wednesday, so I had the joy of feeling the bone grind and shift for the next two days. There were several times where I was in so much pain that I was sure I was going to throw up.

When I got into the surgery room I was cramping up from holding that arm in a very specific place for 3 days and they shot me up with Morphine directly to help me relax and it didn't even dent the pain. When I got out of surgery, they had actually found that it was broken in 4 places and I needed 2 plates and 7 screws to hold it all together. Perhaps that's why it was so painful...

I guess I will never make it through an airport screener without needing to be "wanded" again...

The most disappointing thing is that I won't be able to do ANYTHING for weeks. I lost a complete week of my life laying in bed drugged beyond belief. It has been two days since I got home and I still feel woozy. My Moab trip is gone, most of my vacation is gone since I know it's not looked upon well to take a bunch of time off from the office. I am flat out depressed right now and there's nothing I can do about it.

Oh well...time to suck it up and get back to the real world, and start thinking of what I am going to do about racing or other hobbies going forward.

I'll get a picture of the scars up sometime later...just for fun.