Scared

Last week I got the results from a recent blood test and found out that I have a cholesterol problem, which came as a total, utter, shock.

A problem to the tune of 240 for an overall reading; 170 for the bad (LDL) cholesterol reading.

It’s not like I’ve been eating 2 pounds of bacon dipped in mayonnaise daily or anything. My first reaction: WTF? I’m a healthy eater! I workout! It’s not fair!

Second reaction: I got a little bit scared.

What if I’m in the midst of a long lung-busting, heart-thumping climb and I have a massive coronary and keel over right then and there? I thought. No one should die wearing shorts with a big fluffy pad between their legs.

And then: on Sunday, March 20, while riding the Hogback/Matthews-Winters trails, my riding buddy Ed and I came to a particularly gnarly section that runs downhill toward Red Rocks. I came to a switchback that I never try to ride–I scoot up to it, then stop and dismount, then walk down–as Ed cruised around the switchback and kept descending.

“You’re crazy, you’re amazing,” I said, because I sometimes see what he does and still I can’t really understand how he rides over the stuff he rides over. He’s really an incredible talent. Honestly.

But then, something impossible happened.

As I was walking my bike down the series of rock ledges, I heard a weird noise ahead. When I looked up, I saw Ed endo–his legs flying up and over, followed directly by his rear wheel. I could tell that he was going relatively fast (but not out of control) and he’d crashed.

In 12 years of riding with Ed, I’ve seen him crash once. Until Sunday.

He was alive–and conscious–when I got up to him, but he was grimacing and holding his left arm, which he said hurt a bit. He couldn’t move it, he said.

Three hours later, in an ortho emergency room (brand new, about two miles away from the trail head–a brilliant decision by St. Anthony’s Hospital to build it there) I watched as two docs first put him out with some wonder drug–though his eyes were still open and blinking occasionally–and then they grabbed his arm and roughly, powerfully, “reduced” his dislocated elbow. (Basically, one doc held his shoulder steady while the other yanked the hell out of Ed’s forearm by interlacing his fingers with Ed’s and levering it out, with his elbow against Ed’s biceps.)

The sound I heard during the process reminded me of the sound my collarbone made when I broke it skiing some 18 odd years ago. A gravelly, crunching sound, which was both cool and totally horrifying.

I haven’t gone for a technical trail ride since, and I am wondering how it’ll go when I do. Part of me thinks I’ll be scared. Way scared. And tentative, which is always bad. And part of me thinks I’ll just be my old self–and if there’s a section that’s dangerous, I’ll maybe try it on the way up, and probably walk it on the way down, if I’ve never ridden it before.

But then again, the stakes are high and I am suddenly more aware of that fact with everything I do (and eat, for cripessakes). I have kids, a wife, a mortgage. I’m getting older and am probably losing some strength, power, and flexibility. And I have freaking high cholesterol.

I am, as the saying goes, trying to embrace my mortality, though I really don’t want to. It’s not the sweetest of hugs, I have to say.

I’m popping my omega-3 pills and I’m wearing my helmet, that’s for sure.

Here’s a pic of Ed in the emergency room.

And here’s one of Ed a few days before, on a climb.

Mixed Taste, Deconstructed

Two Saturdays ago I had the wonderful privilege of being a speaker at Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Mixed Taste—On Ice” lecture series. Simply put, two speakers on vastly differing topics are randomly chosen to pair up and talk about their stuff. Then at the end, during a Q&A session, the audience and speakers are free to try and link them up. Which sometimes is a no-brainer, and sometimes a real stretch. (Last time, I spoke on Sylvia Plath and my partner talked about snub-nosed monkeys. The best question of the night was “Do monkeys ever commit suicide?” Brilliant! And weird.)

So the talk I’d prepped and obsessed and researched over was: Deconstructed Mountain Biking. Basically taking the idea and sport of mountain biking and attempting to find a true definition of it, and in that process uncovering the true meaninglessness of it. Once you deconstruct something, it ends up being rendered totally empty and devoid of knowledge.

I was paired with a UC Denver professor and expert on Frank Lloyd Wright.

Some basic truths I posited, then tore apart:

  • Mountain biking used to be a utilitarian act;
  • Mountain biking is language;
  • Each mountain bike is ride is a journey, during which you see miraculous things.

And so on. These statements are true, and also not true. After all, it’s just riding a bike, usually in a big loop. You never really get anywhere. And that’s where the beauty of it rests.

So, for your completely out-of-context enjoyment, I give you some powerpoint screengrabs.

My favorite made-up mountain biking words are granny, puckerfest, tacoing, and, of course, garaging (see earlier post).

 

The fathers of mountain biking. From left to right: Gary Fischer, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey. Groovy, eh?

Lastly, my riding bud Ed, cranking up a series of stairs at a local ride–the HogBack. Impossible for me, very possible for Ed. (I need to log more hours, I guess.)