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Tag: #projectfemur (Page 1 of 3)

Three faces of recovery

a #hip2point0 update: two weeks on the new hip, and…

Hey there! It’s been a fortnight since #hip2point0 happened, and a lot has changed – primarily for the better!

The surgery went well. My previous post was thumb-typed in the pre-op prep room on my smartphone. I hadn’t yet had any pain meds or anesthesia, but I was confident about the surgery. My prep nurse had wonderful bedside manner and a great sense of humor. My anesthesiologist was similarly nice and friendly. My orthopedist initialed my right hip, and I was ready to go.

I waited. As the last surgery of the day, I had to wait for my doctor and his team to have lunch – a good thing, I’d say. That said, I hadn’t eaten since midnight, and my stomach was growling a bit (and not out of nervousness).

My surgery lasted almost four hours. My surgeon, Dr. Hanna, had to remove some of the #projectfemur hardware, which proved tough as the still-good part of my femur had grown around the titanium rod running down the marrow channel of my femur. I lost a lot of blood during this (“a sign of a healthy bone,” per a doctor friend), but after the hardware came out the installation of new hardware was fairly routine. Best of all, Dr. Hanna didn’t have to dissect any gluteal muscles to get to the surgical site, which meant a quicker recovery was possible. (All credit to pulling off a 45 mile bike ride the day before surgery, as it made my glutes limber enough to be moved without cutting.)

As was the case in 2014, I awoke from anesthesia in a great mood, though I can’t remember this as there is a period of unconscious awake state before actually waking up (thus why you sign a contract stating you’ll make no major life decisions while on anesthetic drugs). I do remember waking up in my room at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, a bit nauseous but otherwise OK.

And my hip felt great!

And my right leg was now back to equal length with my left – woohoo!

The blood loss took its toll on my original plan to go home the next day. When I was sat up to transfer to a chair for PT, I turned white as a sheet, my blood pressure dropped, and I almost fainted. I was very anemic, and it showed. So I ended up getting four units of platelet-rich plasma over the next two days, and it did the trick, getting my hemoglobin numbers moving in the right direction.

My inpatient PT and OT went well once I had the blood, and I was walking with crutches – fully weight bearing on the new hip – two days post-op. I easily passed all of the occupational tests, including climbing and descending stairs, getting onto and off the toilet, into and out of a shower, a car, and bed. The therapists credited my pre-surgical shape for being so capable.

What was really remarkable was the overall lack of pain in my hip. Sure, the muscles were sore – moving them out of the way, while less invasive, is essentially pulling them, so I felt like I’d been kicked in the butt extremely hard – but the pain level was so low that I was off of opioid medication less than 30 hours after surgery. The docs and nurses were pleasantly stunned, as was I – but best to avoid those things, I don’t like the side-effects.

The nurses and techs at Shady Grove were really caring and affable. It took me until Wednesday night (the night before my discharge) before I got a good night’s sleep, but that’s to be expected. On discharge day, the ward doctor said I had one new prescription: Coumadin, an aggressive blood thinner. This was due to the pulmonary embolism risks I had, my history from 2014 being the driver in this decision.

Coumadin is a samurai sword of an anticoagulant: it doesn’t mince words in its treatment, for better and for worse. The latter aspect is what really hit me hard. It meant: limited use of sharp knives (I could bleed a lot without clotting); blade shaving was out of the question (so I’ve grown a scruffy beard, drawing comparisons to Roger Waters‘ current state of upkeep); basically cutting iron-rich, green, leafy vegetables from my diet (they are rich in vitamin K – i.e. the clotting vitamin); and cutting my daily alcohol intake to a single drink. Given I live in a mostly vegetarian household, gutting green veg from my diet has been really limiting on what I can eat. And given I’m recovering from blood loss, I crave iron-rich things – and the vitamin K veg have the most easily metabolized iron of all foods!

But it was worse than that. I happen to suffer from a rare side-effect to Coumadin and warfarin: I get hypersensitive teeth, to the point where anything not pH neutral and/or room temperature causes my entire jaw to engulf itself in waves of pain. I cut my daily dose from 5mg to 4mg to make things less intense, but it only did so much.

I wanted to be on Xarelto, which was my anticoagulant after the PEs in 2014. It worked great, with no major side-effects, no dietary restrictions, etc. But my doctors insisted on Coumadin as it wouldn’t interfere with platelet production – a reasonable concern.

So I went home and since then, it’s been awesome (save for the Coumadin side-effects). I’m ambulatory, walking a lot, doing household things. I’m doing in-home PT with a great therapist from MedStar’s Visiting Nurse Association, and I’ve quickly graduated from crutches to a cane, and now only use the cane for longer-distance walking - I can walk unassisted and without a limp!

The nurses from MedStar VNA have taken blood samples, confirming my hemoglobin and hematocrit numbers are recovering nicely – so well that my primary care doctor switched me from Coumadin to Xarelto today! I’m already feeling my mouth returning to normal, which is a big relief!

I see Dr. Hanna on Wednesday to have my surgical staples removed, get some X-rays, and discuss PT and post-op consultations moving forward. I’ll still be in hip precaution territory for a while (to prevent dislocating my new titanium, ceramic, and polymer joint), but it should be a fairly smooth, linear trajectory back to normal life by mid-summer.

Thank you to Drs. Hanna, Olsen, Baxi, and Hofmann in helping drive this crazy ship called me through surgery and recovery. Thanks to all the nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists who helped me take the first steps on my new hip. Thanks to my friends for being there to cheer me up and keep me company. Thanks to my mom and dad for reaching out to care from afar. And special thanks and love to sprite for being there for me, helping me through rough patches, and keeping me grounded when I needed it.

In summary: the new hip is great, I can walk, I see a bright, pain-free future ahead. Yes, there’s work to be done, but I’m good for it - allons y!

Nats Park panorama, 28 April 2017

six days left to go…

In six days, the new hip arrives – I can’t wait!

I have the clearance from my primary care doctor – my body is ready for new hip hardware. I have the surgical orders from my orthopedic surgeon – he’s ready to remove the last vestiges of #projectfemur hardware and put in shiny, new things. I had a nice call today with the admit nurse at the hospital – the hospital is ready to take me on as a patient.

But I’m not sitting idly by waiting for surgery day – I’m keeping busy!

My first Nationals Game of the season happened last Friday. The weather was perfect, and the Mets defeated the Nats (making sprite and me happy).

sprite and I went to the beach where I dipped my toes in the surf and received a wonderful natural exfoliation thanks to a wee bit of wind. We stopped at farm stands, ate fresh flounder sandwiches, tried out a new-to-us donut shop, and enjoyed Reese’s peanut butter Blizzards from DQ.

I’ve been cleaning The Burrow to make it more accessible in my post-surgical state. I’ve assembled a fairly large clothing donation for charity in the process (“I’m not half the man I used to be,” as McCartney once mused).

I just had my final pre-op dry needle and PT session – hip feels really great after that!

I’ll go on a few more bike rides with friends, to another baseball game (weather permitting), a meeting of the Pennsylvania Alpine Racing Association, and a few coffee and meal outings.

And Sunday I will eat like it’s going out of style – gotta for 12 hours prior to surgery, so I’m going to enjoy some of my favorite flavors in anticipation.

Like I said: I can’t wait for my new hip!

Calendar page

only four weeks from today (doo-wah!)…

Four weeks from today, around this time, I should be taking my first step.

On my new hip, that is.

Yup: mark May 8th on your calendar, as that’s the day I get #projectfemur a major upgrade. It’ll come in the form of surgical steel, titanium, industrial-grade ceramics, polymers, and cement.

It’s a monumental day, to be sure. On May 8th, 1429, Joan of Arc lifted the Siege of Orléans, turning the tide of the Hundred Years War. On the same date in 1861, Richmond, Virginia, was named the capital of the Confederate States of America. In 1886, the first Coca-Cola was sold by a pharmacist named John Pemberton as a medicinal tonic.

On May 8th, 1912, Paramount Pictures was founded.  On May 8th, 1945, V-E Day was declared, ending military actions in the European Theatre of World War II. In 1978, May 8th saw the first successful summiting of Mt. Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Many famous people were born on May 8th: Oscar Hammerstein I, Harry S. Truman, Robert Johnson (king of the blues), Saul Bass, David Attenborough, Don Rickles, Toni Tenille, Melissa Gilbert, and Evgeny Lebedev – to name more than a few.

On the flip side, many famous people died on May 8th: two Popes, Gustave Flaubert, Harry Selfridge, Avery Brundage, Rudolf Serkin, and Dana Plato, again to name more than a few.

It’s the earliest day on which Mother’s Day can fall in the U.S. It’s Furry Dance Day in Helston, England.

And it’s the day of the arrival of my new hip.

So until then, I count down the days.

Friends visit me at NRH, January 2014

how to deal with orthopedic surgery: before and after

Recently, a friend of mine suggested I post a guide for people dealing with orthopedic surgery. After all, it’s traumatic, life-disrupting, frustrating, and mysterious.

As #projectfemur is an orthopedic adventure – and one that is ongoing, with new chapters ahead – I thought that it would be good to get this stuff down in writing. So here, without any further ado, is my basic guide (and it will evolve over time, as I remember more key points):

  1. Enter with a positive attitude. You’re getting the surgery regardless, so you might as well embrace the situation and enter with optimism, smiles, and a sense of humor.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors tough questions before surgery. They are there to help, and for some people – especially for me – I like to know what’s going to happen. I’ve had some great Q&A sessions with admit nurses, anesthesiologists, X-ray techs, and my surgeons. Some of the questions are totally banal, others are quite serious and complex – and all received thoughtful, appropriate answers.
  3. During the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery, you likely won’t feel quite like yourself. Anesthesia, opioid pain killers, nerve blocks, and the like wreak havoc with your mind. They can give you a false sense of happiness, can make you queasy, and can even make you do things you would never do when sober. There’s a good reason most hospitals make you sign a document stating that they can’t be held responsible for any decisions you make while under the influence of anesthesia.
  4. Follow your doctor’s/physical therapist’s recovery prescription to the letter. Don’t rush the recovery. Your body won’t always communicate what’s going on (especially when you are on the high-level pain meds), so it’s best to be conservative and let things heal. Orthopedic surgery is traumatic, and the body responds to trauma by slowing itself down, concentrating its energy on healing things.
  5. Manage your pain. Trust me on this: it’s always best to be ahead of the pain curve, especially in the early days of recovery. Pain often creates more problems than it solves, including biomechanical compensation that can lead to new or further injuries. And for some people pain is a good indicator of progress in healing, or that a move you’re trying to do isn’t smart. But this isn’t about completely eliminating pain, but managing your pain. So lay off the heavy-duty painkillers as soon as you can, but the non-addictive ones? They’re good to have by your side.
  6. Get rest. Sleep when your body says it needs to sleep. The rest will help with recovery, and will also help you during your awake periods when you’ll need the energy for PT, day-to-day life, and socializing.
  7. Eat healthy food before and after the surgery. Sure, have some treats here and there – you will crave and, frankly, need them after all you’ve been through. But it’s best to stick with healthy, balanced, real food meals. Eat complete proteins. Make sure you get all of your necessary vitamins in your diet. Lay off the alcohol for a bit (at least lay off the second drink, and if you are on opioids or high-dose acetaminophen, try and abstain completely). You’ll heal faster, have more energy, and will gain less weight while you’re down.
  8. Realize that your body will be different after the surgery. Things won’t necessarily work like they did before Your biomechanics will be changed. Accept this as a welcome challenge, because you will get better and learn how to work with your renewed body parts.
  9. Accept that there can – and likely will – be setbacks. Have patience. Be ready for them, and treat them as speed bumps. Be honest with your friends and loved ones – and most of all, yourself – about the setbacks and related frustrations. They will pass, given time.
  10. Smile a lot, and have a sense of humor about the situation. Attitude is everything! Honestly, this is possibly the biggest key to maintaining composure and optimism during the throes of recovery. When in doubt, read a favorite pick-me-up book or watch a go-to movie or TV series. For me, the James Bond films were must-see recovery fodder after both of my surgeries.

Like I said earlier, there’s bound to be more – that’s just what I can rattle off right now.

Have any advice? Leave it in the comments!

(The picture at the top is from January 2014, during my recovery from the original #projectfemur surgery, when my friends Mary, Ed, Ryan, and Ted stopped by for a visit.)

#projectfemur: my hip is now missing a couple of bits… for the better

My hip/femur is now a few grams lighter. There’s less pain and more mobility. #projectfemur – for now – feels quite a bit better.

Sixteen days ago, Dr. Faucett removed some of the hardware from my January 2014 reconstructive surgery. As I wrote about in my previous post, the screws that bound my femoral head to the rod that aligned my broken femur had made their way into my hip capsule, playing bundles of nerves like a guitar pick on a string.

It was painful, to say the least. Standing up, sitting down, lifting my leg, walking, running, skiing – it all hurt. In the weeks leading into this most recent surgery, even riding my bike was painful. The nerves were so aggravated on a ride one week prior to my surgery that my entire right leg went numb, and I had to ride 25 miles back to DC more-or-less on one leg’s worth of power.

No more screws

Look ma: no more screws!

The surgery was a laparoscopic procedure, minimally invasive. One screw came out without a hitch, while the other brought a bit of dead bone with it on the way out so I wasn’t able to keep it. There was a ton of post-operative swelling: laparoscopy requires a lot of fluid to be flushed through the working area to provide a view for the camera, so the incisions drained for the better part of 30 hours. It was painful at first, and awkward.

But the pain soon subsided (I was off of the opioids within a couple of days, save for a few nights’ worth to aid sleep comfort during the heat wave), the swelling went down, and mobility returned to my leg rather quickly. I’m on a prescription NSAID (Celebrex, FWIW) that’s keeping any latent pain in check, but there isn’t a lot of pain to be found. I was cleared to bear full weight on the leg from the get-go, and graduated from two crutches to one within a week.

So things are better, much better.

However, the nerve pain being greatly reduced shows me how much biomechanical compensation I’ve introduced into my walking over the past year. My right hip flexor, gluteus, adductors, and hamstrings are very weak, and my right abductor is smaller than its left counterpart. In fact, my upper leg is one inch smaller in diameter than the left, and both legs are very lean right now. Below the knee, things are just about equal.

Two legs, two sizes

My legs as of August 31, 2016: one is smaller than the other…

So I know what work I need to do in the next two months: get the right leg back into shape and try to get back some of the flexibility it had before necrosis set in. I know not to expect 100 percent pre-injury mobility, and that even 100 percent pre-injury strength is tough given the femur is still eroding. But getting things into shape, and closer to equilibrium, is key, whether I’m heading into a full ski season this winter or a total hip replacement just after Halloween (the timeline depends on how pain levels even out over the next 4-6 weeks, but I’m optimistic).

Dr. Faucett says it’s now entirely my own timeline to write, and I have a prescription for physical therapy to help along the problem areas. The muscles are already saying “thank you” to me in anticipation.

I’ll be researching orthopedists to do my total hip replacement. I have two primary parameters: the orthopedist must be well versed in revisions of previous hip replacements (i.e. compensating for already-compromised and rebuilt joints), and must be good at rebuilding the hips of impact sport athletes. I will leave no stone unturned in finding the right surgeon and the right replacement hardware for my needs.

Until then, I’m back on the bike, starting tonight at the penultimate “Downtown Breakaway” for the year. It’s a ride I organize every year, and I’ve missed the last two weeks due to the surgery. While I won’t be at 100 percent, it’ll be good to be back out there on two wheels with my friends.

Stay tuned…

#projectfemur turns 2.0: osteonecrosis

I know, I know: it’s been a long while since my last update on… well, anything. For this, I apologize.

Heck, two years ago this week, I went on one of my first club bike rides after my surgery.

First club ride after surgery, August 9, 2014.

It was awesome – as was the 2015 riding season!

During the 2015-16 winter season, I had a really successful alpine ski coaching experience, helping my athletes qualify for elite regional championship competitions.

Coach Rudi at Sunday River, March 2016

That rocked!

But there was a specter lurking in the background. It is a single word:

osteonecrosis

Also known as avascular necrosis, it’s a condition where blood supply gets cut off within a bone, causing the bone to die. It is caused by any number of things, and I’m not sure how I happened to develop it, but it’s there, clear as day, in my femoral head.

Avascular necrosis has taken over my femoral head - not good.

Avascular necrosis has taken over my femoral head – not good.

How did my discovery of this come about?

Let’s do a quick recap:

After my one year surgery anniversary, things were good:

My femoral head, one year after its repair.

My femoral head, one year after its repair.

See that nice, round femoral head? See the clean mending of where I was once broken in two? All good!

I skied in 2014-15. I rode my bike a lot once I was free to ride outdoors. I hiked. I ran.

But then things went off the rails.

Back around Thanksgiving of 2015, I started to feel a bit of pain and catching in my right hip. It was here-and-gone stuff, and while my hip had always been a bit stiff in the morning, until then it had been able to get into the swing of things rather quickly on most days.

But by late November, the pain was more intense, sharper, and sustained. Sure, it would go away after a little while, but sometimes it would just stay there all day. Ibuprofen would calm the pain most of the time, but not all of the time. And I’d get a real nerve pinch down my adductor (I believed this to be a lingering side-effect of tearing said adductor a few years before my femur break).

As the ski season commenced, the pain continued to intensify. When I flew out to Utah for a USSA certification clinic, some of the on-snow exercises were tough to pull off. I noticed a decreasing ability to lift my right leg laterally. Every afternoon after the skiing was over, I’d spend time in the hot tub at my hotel, then stretch to try and loosen my hip, often to only semi-successful levels.

During a bike ride over the Christmas holidays in Connecticut, my right adductor would lock up in a painful way, and my hip would mis-track, causing my entire pedal stroke to degrade into spasmodic chaos – no fun. And a ski camp that occurred immediately thereafter was equally pain-laden, though skiing wasn’t too difficult to pull off without pain.

However, as the ski season continued (I was coaching four days per week all season long, sometimes more during intense racing times, from January through mid-March), the pain grew, the pain medications were less effective, and certain activities required in my work (e.g. having to drive long-ish distances to racing venues, skiing with large, heavy bundles of slalom gates, etc.) became downright excruciating. I’d demonstrate skills to my racers, trying to mask the pain in my expression. I even fell on the screws that attached my femoral head during the initial healing time, which was not pleasant at all, smarting for weeks.

Every day was masked in hip pain that would, at times, radiate down my leg. My walking gait became so labored and awkward that everybody could tell something was wrong. At least on a bike, I could be more-or-less normal, my December pain eventually subsiding as I began to ride more in the spring. But my range of motion in my right leg was compromised, catching in painful ways and making me feel like an old, helpless man.

Eventually, I had to clear things up with my orthopedist. X-rays happened, finding that one of the screws in the femoral head had been knocked through the head, the tip impinging my hip socket and possibly dragging over nerve bundles that travel down my leg. My doctor thought this could be part of the cause of the pain, and said that the screws should come out – a simple outpatient procedure.

My femoral head as of June 2016.

My femoral head as of June 2016.

Worrying both my doctor and me, though, was a random bone fragment that showed itself on another X-ray. As X-rays don’t show things in three dimensions, he ordered a CT scan for my right hip. I had it performed at GW Hospital, in their latest CT scanner (a very quiet machine).

When my doctor called me two days later from an out-of-town conference, I knew things were not good.

He kept it simple: I had osteonecrosis, and am facing total hip replacement.

Fuck. Damn. Shit. Why? How? Fuuuuuuuuck!

I received this news a few days before departing for a week long family vacation at Cape Cod, which left me plenty of time to digest this news and start researching my options. There is a lot to learn about hip replacement, that’s for sure!

The long and short: I’ll get back my leg length and range of motion with any hip replacement method, which is a big plus. The minus is that anything other than basic cruising on alpine skis is highly discouraged, as it can displace, dislocate, or fully break the replacement hip. I hope to speak with some elite ski coaches who have had THR to get their perspectives on living with a replacement hip as a high-level skier.

I’ve since seen a second orthopedist to get a second opinion – major medical things like this should get a second opinion – and he confirmed the same diagnosis as my original doctor. He did, however, recommend having the hardware from #projectfemur removed first (the same thing my original orthopedist recommended), allowing the femur to adjust to a non-titanium-enhanced state and to prevent possible infection of the marrow channel if I get a total hip replacement during the same surgery.

And that’s what I’m going to do this coming Monday, August 15th, with my original doctor, Dr. Faucett, doing the honors. It’s a short, outpatient procedure, and recovery should be fairly quick. Hopefully, getting the screws out of my hip socket will alleviate much of the leg pain I have these days – and it is a lot of pain, lemme tell ‘ya!

But I look forward to this next chapter of #projectfemur – and yes, it’ll need a new hashtag. I’ll figure that out sometime soon.

Once the incisions heal and swelling subsides from this upcoming surgery, I’ll assess my pain levels. And I’m going to keep riding my bike – something that’s encouraged by both doctors to maintain strength and cardiovascular health (trust me, I don’t want another pulmonary embolism or similar issue). I’ll be on crutches for a few days, then a cane, then just plain walking again.

And then the bike – definitely the bike.

It’ll be a minimum of two months before I dive into the more major procedure of total hip replacement. Hopefully I’ll get enough pain relief to delay this until spring of 2017 – and thus will be able to ski and perform my coaching duties more-or-less as usual. If not, surgery will likely happen later in the fall, and I’ll be coaching from a lawn chair. I’m up to the challenge, either way.

But right now my focus is on Monday’s surgery. And I apologize in advance to the ski team’s board of directors: I may be a bit groggy during the evening conference call that evening. Heheheheh…

the one year anniversary of #projectfemur: quite the ride

It’s now been a whole year since #projectfemur began.

On January 11, 2014, a simple, tumbling fall while trying to avoid hitting a tree brought forth a broken femur, surgery, bilateral pulmonary embolism, and months of tough physical therapy.

One year later, I’m essentially back to normal. The leg is strong. I’m walking and running normally. My flexibility is closer to my “normal” every day. I’m riding my bike again. I’m back on skis and smiling every time I carve a high-speed GS turn on hardpack or ski the trees through deep powder.

I have many people to thank for this. My orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Scott Faucett, put me back together again with skill and kindness. The doctors and physical therapists at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (especially Claire and Katie, my OT and PT, respectively) kicked my butt (and my arms) back into shape. The pulmonologists at George Washington University Hospital helped me through my pulmonary embolisms. And the superior physical therapy skills of Scott Epsley and Megan Poll at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital have finessed my stride and balance back to full power.

Most of all, though, I need to thank my family and friends for being there throughout this injury and recovery. From sprite and her undying love and support, even when I’ve been a really annoying, petulant, or grumpy gus, to my mom and dad and sprite’s folks, the family support has been nothing but awesome. And to all of the friends who called, wrote, visited me in the hospital, took me to lunch, lent an empathetic ear, and made me smile and laugh when I felt like crap: you are all rock stars and I love you all.

It’s been a long, strange year, full of ups and downs. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my potential, and I’ll be channeling this resolve quite a bit in 2015. #projectfemur is a way of life for me now, a rallying call, and as I continue to heal and progress, it’s an arrow in my life’s quiver.

And how did I spend the day today, you may ask? I was coaching the Liberty Mountain Racing Team athletes, even taking on Lower Ultra with some high-speed GS turns, smiling the whole time, thanking all of the ski patrollers I saw. Many remember my case from last year, and they smiled back knowingly. The image at the top of this post was snapped this morning, just after arriving at Liberty Mountain for my coaching day.

Days since injury: 366
Days since surgery: 365

bringing it all back home: #projectfemur hits the slopes

Well, it was bound to happen: last Saturday, I donned my trusty Lange boots, clicked into a well-worn pair of skis, and got on a chairlift.

Destination: to ski again, this time at Mount Snow, Vermont.

I happened to be up north for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, staying with sprite’s folks in north-central Connecticut. We drove up to Connecticut in a winter storm that produced much rain, freezing rain, sleet, graupel, and snow, arriving to a wet, 5-inch accumulation in Connecticut. But that same storm dumped 12-14 inches of fresh, fluffy snow on top of a very good man-made base at Mount Snow, so my choice of venue made sense. Also, it’s only 90-or-so minutes from sprite’s folks’ place, so the drive isn’t an all-day time suck.

I arrived at the resort about 20 minutes before the lifts started turning, and there was already a large queue at the Bluebird Express lift, the only chair serving the summit of the mountain. That was fine by me, as I wanted to start my day on something a bit less of a full commitment. So, after picking up my lift ticket (pro tip: buy online in advance, it saves a decent amount of money), I donned my skis, tightened the strap on my new Briko helmet, and proceeded to the Canyon Express lift, which serves the lower half of Mount Snow’s front face.

As I rode solo on the lift (all of the crowd – and I mean all of it – was heading toward the summit on Bluebird), I surveyed the open terrain: two rolling intermediate-level slopes, recently groomed, with excellent snow cover. I assessed my legs, and both seemed up to the task. I did have a little trepidation, as I wasn’t able to get a needed shim installed on my right boot to compensate for the loss of femoral length (1.5 cm) on #projectfemur. But this was going to be a low-key, low-speed day, so being a little bit out of balance wasn’t a big deal.

Most of all: I was elated to be back on skis!

As I promised myself and friends, I took it easy. The lack of shims on my right boot meant that turns involving said foot would be awkward, and that flat-footed gliding would be nigh-on-impossible. But, just like riding a bike, the feel came back. My back wasn’t in the best of shape (strained it a week prior), so I decided to mete out my runs in small chunks. Eventually, I waded into the crowd to catch a ride to the summit, where I snapped the panorama you see at the top of this post – it was a beautiful day, ideal for skiing and being outdoors.

After three runs of short-swing, slow GS turns, and stance drills, I retreated to the base lodge for coffee and some light stretching while I waited for the lunch spot to open. I figured that taking an early lunch would allow me to enjoy shorter queues as the crowds ate.

As you can see, the queue for Bluebird Express was quite large while I ate my chili and enjoyed a local microbrew (and Canyon Express was handling the overflow, and had a decently long queue, as well):

After lunch, I decided to explore more of the open terrain at the mountain, heading over to the Carinthia area. Yes, it’s technically a terrain park, but this early in the season most of the runs are groomed, without the rails, jumps, and other trappings of the park crowd. The snow was soft and easy on my legs and back, and I was able to enjoy a slow ride up one of the few old-school, fixed grip lifts remaining at Mount Snow.

I skied until 1:45pm or so, as my lower back started to ache and impede my skiing motions. I managed nine runs for the day, soaking in each one as I did my first outdoor bike rides back in August. There was a lot of smiling, laughing, and joyful yodeling easily traced back to me.

Yes, there’s work to be done – namely, getting my right boot shimmed and re-aligned to the new reality of #projectfemur. But it was skiing, it was brilliant, I was back in my element – home, again.

coffeeneuring 2014 (sure, this is #projectfemur, why not?)

Riding in the pursuit of coffee (or reasonable substitutes) is a great way to keep #projectfemur in shape.

Yes, I’m riding my bike again – have been since August 8th – but haven’t written about it. That will come soon, but for now? Let’s talk coffeeneuring.

Once again, Mary G. has rallied the cycling troops for the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge. The basic rules: over seven weekends, ride in pursuit of coffee, tea, cider, or craft soda, document the experience, and, well, end up writing it all up for folks to enjoy.

Easy, right? So here we go!

Stop 1:
Date: 5 October 2014
Location: Country Convenience, Blue Grass, VA
Bike Friendliness: no racks, but safe to lean bikes against front porch of store – guard cat on duty.
Drink: Pure Leaf Sweet Iced Tea
Distance: 89.3 miles
The store cat at Country Convenience, Blue Grass, VA
Notes: This is a favorite ride of mine, especially during foliage season. The second rest stop is at a classic country store, where the store cat is still loving as ever. While the coffee is somewhat blah, I tend to go for cold beverages at this stop (thus the iced tea, which quickly made its way into my bike bidon). The foliage in the Blue Grass valley was stunning and at peak color. The only damper on the day: Chris’ crash only a few miles past the store, which resulted in a broken clavicle (and our having to shortcut the route – and add 500-or-so feet of climbing – due to the wait for EMS to arrive).
Jonathan rides past Blue Grass Valley foliage.

Stop 2:
Date: 13 October 2014 (Columbus Day)
Location: Starbucks, East Longmeadow, MA
Bike Friendliness: no rack, but felt OK leaving bike outside for 5 minutes.
Drink: double espresso
Distance: 22.9 miles
The Rudi Projekt and a double shot.
Notes: This was a recovery ride and foliage excursion the day after the Great River Ride, so the pace was mellow. The foliage at Hurds Lake was stunning (see picture below). I stopped to say hi to Chip at Competitive Edge Ski and Bike (he’s due for hip replacement this fall). As it was late afternoon, I decided to take the most direct route back to Somers on Route 83, which passes a Starbucks. The barista knowingly asked if I wanted a lid for the espresso (I didn’t), and the hand-pulled (!) double shot was very tasty. Glad I had my full set of lights on the bike, as I rolled home after dark.
The foliage at Hurds Lake, Somers, CT

Stop 3:
Date: 15 October 2014
Location: Farm Market, Peterborough, NH
Bike Friendliness: outdoor park, no rack, but no worries about theft.
Drink: coffee bean purchase from Parker House Coffee (micro roaster)
Distance: 6.3 miles
Parker House Coffee beans, Peterborough Farmers Market
Notes: This was a lovely pre-dinner/pre-movie ride with sprite. By exploring the roads heading north out of Peterborough, we experienced a lovely Rotary-kept park with spillway falls and vibrant foliage. We found the local farm market, which moved from its former location in the center of town, where coffee beans were bought from the owner/operator of Parker House Coffee (he had samples of brewed coffee to try, which was a tasty treat). We then rolled to Ava Marie Chocolates for us to enjoy “hot” chocolate – the quotes needed as the milk was barely tepid, so the chocolate flake hardly melted. I chalk this up to a tired staffer who was worried about scalding the milk. After this, we returned to our car, locked up the bikes, and enjoyed our dinner and movie. Dinner was at Harlow’s Pub, featuring excellent food and drink (I really enjoyed my pumpkin black-and-tan with a cinnamon rim), and the movie was the excellent My Old Lady.
Spillway at Rotary Park, Peterborough, NH

Stop 4:
Date: 17 October 2014
Location: Amy’s Bakery Arts Café, Brattleboro, VT
Bike Friendliness: no racks, but lampposts and parking meters for locking.
Drink: maple latté
Distance: 7.0 miles *
Hot beverages (cider and maple latté) at Amy's
Notes: We initially attempted to ride in NH, but the road on the other side of the Connecticut River was a bit too crazy for our tastes, so we rolled back into Brattleboro and had drinks and food at Amy’s. We love Amy’s: great drinks (including the best maple latté you’ll ever have, made with locally-roasted beans from Mocha Joe’s and maple syrup from a local farm), and the food there is equally fantastic. The view from the dining area is a technicolor feast in the autumn. After lunch we rode to Grafton Cheese and the Retreat Petting Farm along Route 30. After rolling a little further out, we turned back toward town. I broke off to see the town ski jump, which is up a steep hill. After re-connecting at the town green, we rolled back into town and had fun at Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, the Brattleboro Co-Op, and Mocha Joe’s.
Harris Hill Ski Jump, Brattleboro, VT
(* – The Strava recording is partial, as the app stopped recording along Route 30 – the full route is plotted here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6315947)
The Rudi Projekt at Retreat Petting Farm, Brattleboro, VT

Stop 5:
Date: 18 October 2014
Location: Hot Chocolate Sparrow, Orleans, MA
Bike Friendliness: on CCRT, plentiful racks at store.
Drink: iced coffee (outbound) and quad espresso (inbound)
Distance: 46.2 miles
The Rudi Projekt outsde Hot Chocolate Sparrow, Orleans, MA
Notes: sprite stopped here en route to Coast Guard Beach via the Cape Cod Rail Trail. I’d already taken said trail to Dennis and then back, and met her here for an iced coffee. After we finished our drinks, we continued to the beach where we saw surfers and seals battling for best wave rides. The water was chilly, but pleasant, though I did nothing more than soak my feet.
Shadow waves, Coast Guard Beach
We rode back into the sunset via Sparrow, where we purchased more hot beverages (tea for sprite, a quad espresso for me) and baked goods (pumpkin coffee cake for me, warm blueberry pie for sprite – both delicious), then charged our phones for a spell. It’s good that we had our lights, as the last few miles back to Nickerson State Park (our campsite) were in the dark on the CCRT.
sprite in sunset light on the CCRT, Wellfleet, MA

Stop 6:
Date: 19 October 2014
Location: Savory and the Sweet Escape, North Truro, MA
Bike Friendliness: no racks, but safe to leave bike outside shop while I ate inside.
Drink: coffee
Distance: 53.7 miles
Coffee, bagel, taillight, Truro
Notes: This outing had multiple purposes. I wanted to see sunrise over a Cape Cod beach (something I last did on my 21st birthday, when I was a student at Connecticut College). This meant leaving camp before dawn and riding the CCRT by headlight, encountering foxes and rabbits along the path Рand not a single cyclist. I saw sunrise (muted by low clouds on the horizon), then set off toward my second goal: getting all the way to Provincetown. However, a persistent strong north-northeast headwind (20mph) and a hilly route after the CCRT ended made this a tough go, especially given time constraints (had to break camp and head back to DC). I saw folks setting up the Wellfleet Oyster Festival Рsomething to try next time, I guess. I threw in the northbound towel in Truro at this lovely caf̩, having ridden the whole 32 miles to this point on no food at all. The coffee and bagel were most welcome! On the return ride I enjoyed the tailwind (and a more direct start via Route 6) back to Nickerson SP to strike camp.
The Rudi Projekt outside Savory and the Sweet Escape, Truro, MA

Stop 7:
Date: 26 October 2014
Location: Capital Teas, 8th Street SE, Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: bike rack outside DC Doughnuts.
Drink: darjeeling tea (hot)
Distance: 10.2 miles
Helmet, doughnuts, teas, Barracks Row
Notes: sprite and I had wanted to try District Doughnuts at their new brick-and-mortar location, so we set off to do just that. When we arrived, the sign said “CLOSED,” but the staffer inside saw our sad expressions and motioned us to enter. Although the shop had technically been closed for 15 minutes, there were plenty of doughnuts, and we bought a half dozen to share with our friend, Sarah, who was meeting us to pick up some unpasteurized cider that sprite had procured for her. We bought teas at Capital Teas, and took our loot to a pocket park at the south end of Barracks Row, enjoying the sunlight and friendship. On the way back to The Burrow, we stopped at the National Botanical Garden and took in the lovely plants and afternoon sunlight.
The bikes and District Doughnut

TOTAL DISTANCE: 235.6 miles

Once again, coffeeneuring was a fun adventure! It was fun to do a few outings with sprite, and fun to visit the coffee venues, new and old.

You can see all of the pictures from the various coffeeneuring stops here.

Days since surgery: 289

starting re-entry… slowly… (#projectfemur)

It’s less than a month until I’m back to riding full-time on the road. I’m keeping busy during that time.

The workouts continue, with increasing intensity and focus. My time in the gym is spent mostly either in the weight room, where I’m building leg and arm strength, or in the stretching area, where I can work on core strength and flexibility. The latter is something I’m working on a lot in PT, where Scott and Megan have been working diligently to make my repaired leg every bit as capable as its healthy neighbor.

Next challenge for that: rotational flexibility. To visualize what that is: I can’t sit cross-legged on the floor right now, as my right leg can’t rotate and lie flat just yet. Soon – just another goal in my sight.

This morning I started the next step in my bike training with Matt at District Cycle Works: morning workouts on a Wahoo Kickr. This is a major step up from the Star Trac eSpinner I’ve been using at the gym, as it allows me to use my own bike for the workouts. It also pairs with my Garmin Edge 500 and my iPhone to record my rides and the associated data, including power output. This opens a whole world of possibilities for my workouts as I head into the home stretch.

Most of all, though, it’s fun to be able to workout with friends who will actually converse with me.

Wahoo!!!

That’s something that’s sorely lacking at the gym, where folks tend to fold into the insular shells provided by the ever-present earbuds.

Just so you don’t think it’s all about the bike (do I owe that Armstrong guy a royalty for trotting out that phrase?), I’ve also spent some time on the beach, where I tested out my run.

Running!

It was awesome!

I’ve also been dipping my toe back into local government – very local, as in the Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee. Basically, this committee advises the ANC (which is a step below the District Council) in all matters walking, cycling, parking, and parks. While I was brought into the fold because of cycling, as a pedestrian during my convalescence, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge of mode share issues that affect this committee. I’ve already penned a letter to DDOT, asking for follow-through on motions passed by the ANC back in 2012, and look forward to doing – and learning – more as my tenure grows.

And I’ve been working with some of my fellow ski coaches to come up with a fitness plan for our junior racers. I’d like to see all of the athletes come into the ski season in peak physical shape, not only to allow them a great chance of meeting (and exceeding) their goals, but also to provide them more safety against injury. Hopefully this will get some traction within the team – I know similar plans helped me achieve my skiing goals when I was younger.

What else is there to say? Sometimes you need to look at the details to see where you need to go…

Shados in surf

Maybe Jimi Hendrix said it best, regarding the impending next steps of my #projectfemur recovery:

“And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually.”

Sandcastle at Bethany Beach

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