60-day Recovery Status

So it has been 60-days since had heart surgery to replace my Aortic Valve which was deteriorating and was going to cause some kind of emergency event in my relatively near future if it was not replaced. Here is my initial post on that. All of of the phases so far with my recovery have been going well. That certainly does not mean they do not suck. There is plenty of suck to be had in all of this.

This is how I think my bike looks at me from it storage stand while I peloton.

During my first follow up visit with my heart surgeon cleared me for some very light work on my peloton. Right after Thanksgiving, I did my first gingerly workout on the peloton. I this point I could not even put my hands on the bars at that stage. Over the the next weeks the output levels climbed a lot quicker than my perceived effort did. By the time I had my follow up appointment with my cardiologist in Mid-December, I was definitely holding back. I was quite excited when my cardiologist cleared me to do more.

Tears of joy or sweat? Maybe some of both? It does not matter

After this is when some real improvements started to happen. One thing that was pretty clear when geeking out on pre vs post-surgery numbers was how much better my heart rate recovered when I “let off the gas”. It was not long until I was back in the range of my typical peloton workouts.

How I felt dropping a pre-surgery personal best

I was bit emotional, stoked and certainly whooped after a very special workout on January 2nd. I beat my personal best at a 60min effort set pre-surgery. The peloton allows you to basically race your best effort if you like. 20 minutes in I noticed I was neck and neck with my personal record and I was feeling good. The picture above is how I felt when I decided to go for it. I did not just edge out my best either, but pretty much dropped it. Boy did it feel great to have concrete evidence that I am going to be better and not just survive with aftermarket heart parts. That 60 minute was one of my “softer” personal records and I have a couple that are not going to go down easy.

Over the last few weeks I have been able to use the handlebars more and more. The sternum however is still not 100%. I am so over waiting for that thing to fully heal. The constant awareness of it and the routine degrees of discomfort has turned into a mental drag in addition to the physical discomfort. It is way better than it was and I know I’m over the hump on it healing but C’mon Man!

I should be back out my real bike within a month and it can’t come soon enough. I’m already thinking about which of the local tame trails will be best for the re-intro/shakedown ride.

Out for the season

Messing Up my knee back in February was a blessing in disguise, maybe even a life-saver. My knee and ears hurt bad enough that I went to see my primary doctor, with whom I had not seen in five or so years.  My knee hurt from the bike injury and my ears hurt from hearing my incredible wife wanking everyday about me needing to go have that looked at.   Instead of looking at just my knee, my doctor insisted on doing a full workup as if I were a new patient.   After reviewing my medical records, she took note of a diagnosis of a faint heart murmur about 20 years ago.   She referred me to a Cardiologist.

After my initial visit with the Cardiologist and an EKG (A bunch of wires, pads and holes in my man sweater afterwards), I was called back in a few days later for an ECG (ultrasound of the heart).   A few days after that my Cardiologist called me and informed that my faint hear murmur had degraded into moderate to borderline severe Aortic Stenosis with regurgitation.   Basically, my Aortic Valve was not opening and closing properly and it was allowing non-oxygenated blood to backflow into the chamber where the oxygenated blood is at.   This is causing my heart to work harder than it should.   I was not having any of the typically symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and numbness in the extremities at the time.    My Cardiologist was quite the straight shooter with me in that the only way to fix my particular condition was with surgery and it would most likely need to happen within a year or two max.   He set me up for a six-month follow-up with a stipulation that I should call him if any of those symptoms develop.

Looking forward to getting back out here

Between then and now I became more self-aware that I was having some of those symptoms.   Fatigue, well I’m not a spring chicken and getting old sucks.   Shortness of breath, well yeah when I’m climbing a steep hill on my bike and …I’m no spring chicken.   Now for chest pain, I cracked my sternum in 2004 in an MTB crash and I was chalking that slowly growing discomfort up to being visited by the ghost of bike injuries past.   (Which is a thing…when you are not a spring chicken.)

In late September, I had that follow up round of testing with my Cardiologist and things had continued to degrade.   I was not completely surprised when he told me it was time to take care of this.   Failing to take action now could result in permeant damage to my heart beyond the valve and put me at escalating risk of an “unscheduled” cardiac event in the next 1-5 years.

On  November 11th, I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve (with an bovine valve #prostethitic_heart_valves).  I had already had a cardiac caterer procedure and no other work was needed such as stints or bypasses.    I spent five days in the hospital and I am now recovering at home. Currently I’m in the “sucks to be me” level recovery at home which should glide slope into “does not suck as bad to be me” recovery for a total of two to three months.  If all goes well, I’m expected to be able to resume normal life (to include mountain biking) around mid-February. 

After the initial diagnosis back in March, I made a serious commitment at eating healthier and getting fit beyond just mountain biking. I feel like I was pretty close to the fittest and healthiest I could possible be going into the surgery. I was working on the premise that the “Stronger In…Stronger Out” mantra would apply for my recovery.  Between all of my fitness recording devices (fitness watch, heart-rate monitor, Peloton) I have a good set of baseline metrics of where I was at pre-surgery to geek out on as I work my way back to where I was and beyond. Right now the focus is on letting the heart fully heal. The big stick in this recovery tent is going to be my sternum healing up.

I had to give my primary doctor a huge Thank You.   I know myself well enough (now) to realize that if she had not sent me to that cardiologist, I would have continued to press on with my life and chalking up those sneaky symptoms to just having a tough time staying in shape as I age. I think we as mountain bikers are often limit pushers. We push ourselves to be fitter, faster, more skilled, or at any number of aspects of the sport that we love. I think along with that goes a bit of just suck it up mentality and push on through. I recommend that as your vintage starts getting interesting, you should not assume that fatigue, shortness of breath of just generally having a tougher time being able to do what you used to do is related to just the date on your birth certificate. It would be better to be on the safe side with a check up, because it is always better to out on the dirt than be under the dirt!

The knee is all better by the way.   #AfterMarketHeartParts

Local Running Amuckness

It has really felt good to be able to ride again and I have been working on getting back into shape while taking a measure approach to the riding as the knee gets stronger.   I certainly do not want to have a relapse of the pain issues.

North side of Lake Hodges

I have been able to get in three rides in this past week.    First of was Lake Hodges where I did the north and south sides for about a 20 mile effort.

Local Sauce

I did my local ride from the house and felt pretty good on it.

At the top of La Costa

And I meet my buddy Dave for a ride and La Costa which included some of the Back 40 goodness.    Maintaining proper social distancing was pretty easy with Dave.   I could barely keep him within 100 feet let alone 6 feet.

Came across this healthy looking bloke out on the trail.

On the backside trails we came across a Rattler.   He was pretty happy where he was at so we had to give him some encouragement to get off the trail.    There were no sticks of the appropriate length around so I stood behind my bike, held onto the saddle and rolled the bike up close to the snake.  One the front wheel got within a foot of the snake he figured it was best to give up his ground.    If you have your arm outstretched to you saddle and lean over while you do this you can keep seven plus feet between you and the snake.  I like to get these folks away from the trail when I encounter them as you never know when some Ahole is going to come along think these things need to be killed.

After we got this fellow to move along we finished up the ride.   I felt really good about how I finished up the ride.    It was a good week of ridin

Big Laguna Playtime

I meet Steve and Jim out at Big Laguna Meadow for a bit fun in the sun.  Road work had the normal staging area closed so we went further up road and started from Red Tail Roost.   Starting from there is a lot of fun as you kinda get to have desert before the main course.   After  the descent we climbed up Aqua Dulce but instead of doing the expected Los Gatos run we continued climbing up to Wooded Hills and took the trails up over that peak.

Playing around at the top of Wooded Hills

The knee continues to improve to the point of almost feeling good but I am making a concerted effort to spin more and mash less.   By feeling good I mean I don’t feel it at all.   It is back to just being part of the whole system and not making a fuss about itself.    I have lost a good bit of fitness but that is on the mend as well.

Jim getting some up and over action on the Wooded Hills descent

After descending the Wooded Hills trail down to the old county road we turned and climbed up that road to Chico Ravine and took it down to the meadow.    I can not recall the last time I have gone down Chico so it fun if for no other reason than it was a switch up from usual route.   We futzed around on the meadow and some of the side trails in the area before working our way back up to Redtail Roost

That last single track to get back up top is tough.  I was pretty happy with my effort on that section.  I was certainly slower with the whole spinning effort to this recovering knee but I had enough energy in the tank at the bottom of the super steep section that I was able to clean it.    It feels good to be able to put in a solid ride again.

F#$king @$$holes!

First I must RANT!  I am came across this dead rattler while climbing up one of my local trails.  This is such bullshit! I’m pretty sure there was no real reason to kill this rattler. If they show up at your house they are asking for a whacking. If you go over to their house you should leave them be. The only crime this snake did was probably blocking somebody’s way along the trail.

So Senseless! No reason to kill this snake!

Okay RANT over.

The “Perch”

Last week my doc shot up my right knee with a huge syringe full of  steroids, cortisone and other joint goodness.  My knee hurt from the injection for a couple of days and then felt much better.   I went back to out to my local trail twice over the last couple of days and while I have overall fitness I need to get back, I had no knee pain at all on the climb today. I was not pushing the knee but I was able to put in the required effort in the granny gear without pain.    Finally after three months I am seeing some significant progress with the knee.  Now if I can just keep the rest of my shit from falling apart.

Local Knee OPTEST

The next couple of days after my last ride my knee was really bothering me so I took some more time off of the bike.   I have another appointment with my doctor next week.   I decided I would take another assessment of how the knee is going.

I went out to a local riding spot that requires about four miles or so of a patchwork of streets and trail to get there.    Springtime is definitely going on!

The knee felt okay on all of the work getting up to the main trail area but it was also not much of a grade.   Once in the main riding area the trail requires some work and it has more grade than my previous efforts.    The knee went from some simple complaining to painful wanking.   I had to turn around before getting more than a third of the way up the climb.

 

San Pasqual Valley – Raptor Ridge

Well after almost seven weeks off of the bike due to injuring my right knee I got back on the dirt.   For this first ride back I decided to head out to San Pasqual Valley and do the section of the Coast-to-Crest Trail from Bandy Canyon Road up to Raptor Ridge and back.

Heading up to Raptor Ridge from the east. I started at the far side of the valley

I decided on this route at it starts out flat then has a very gradual bit of climbing before you have a more significant climb at you approach Raptor Ridge.   I figured this would be a good opening test of the knee in making the pedals go around.   If I had any knee issues I could simply turn around and have a mostly flat or downhill spin back to the trail head.

Spring colors were out on the trail

This whole COVID-19 virus mess has made it tough to get into see doctors and physical therapy places are pretty much shutdown.     The doctor currently thinks I have inflamed tendons  but I’m not so sure I buy that diagnosis.   I have to do some physical therapy first before they will go done the MRI route but getting physical therapy is tough as they are only seeing “critical” cases right now.

The turnaround spot on Raptor Ridge.

It was so nice to be back on two wheels.   I was purposely going to take it easy on this ride and not mash on the pedals.   Spinning was the name of the game here.    The knee felt descent for just spinning along but I was aware I had a knee.   It was not in pain but it was not quite right either.   The final climbing section up to Raptor Ridge was all done in the granny gear.    I was not straining the knee but the knee was definitely feeling worked.  While this was an improvement, it is still not right as I was also not really putting much force down on the pedals at all and when I did the knee would complain.

It was still a good day to be on bike.

Lake Hodges and Knee Injury

The last couple of weeks January was a busy time with lots of non-biking goodness. I had been getting in some rides but they have been pretty utilitarian in nature. Such was the case on February 4th when I got in spin at Lake Hodges. I started out on the north side near at the storage facility staging area and took on the north side of the lake.

I took the north side all the way out to the dam and back. I was feeling really strong and keeping up a good pace (by my standards anyway).


When I got back to the bridge I cut over to he south side of the lake and started the working my way through the trails there. I was still feeling great.     While doing a bit of out of the saddle work to press up a short rise I felt a sharp twinge in my right knee followed by a sharp pain as I neared the top of the pedal stroke.    Even in my granny gear just getting through the range of motion at the top of the pedal stroke was quite painful.    I had to cut the out rest of my intended route and go home.

Just walking around was a only slight uncomfortable but stairs and getting the knee bent beyond 45 degrees was painful.

Out on the Lower Santa Ysabel Truck Trail

So I have resigned to just walking and hiking to keep active.  The dogs are pretty happy about this they are getting some longer adventures in beyond just the usual walking circuits.

Out at Lake Calavera

It has been three weeks since I hurt the knee and it has only slightly gotten better.   I have a doctors appointment in a couple of weeks when I get back from a work trip to have it assessed.

Back in the Saddle at Lake Calvera

After a couple of weeks being off the bike due to my face injury at Goat Camp, I finally got back on the trail.   I had tried doing a bit of stuff in the outdoors late last week but the “brand new” skin on my lips was quite sensitive and the slightest of breeze and direct sunlight was unpleasant to say the least.   Today I gave it another shot and decided hit up one of my local trails, Lake Calvera, which I ride to right from my front door.   Will has a two hour hockey practice tonight so I decided to take Jake out for some one-on-one Dad time on the trails.

Jake on Bridge

We had a great time out on the trails today.  I am always amazed at how easy kids put up new skills.   Most of the time I show them something once, they do it once and then it is locked in.   Man I wish I could still learn at that rate.    I have made a point of gradually progressing the length and difficulty of the rides I take them on each outing and today was no different.   I took him on a lot more twisty and rocky singletrack that he has done in the past.   I also made a point to get him to the “Back 40” of Lake Calvera which meant he had to do a good deal more climbing than usual out there.  

Jake Singletrack Cruising

For me I can tell it will take a few rides to get my MoJo back.   I still have some numb spots on my face which makes for a really weird sensation (or lack thereof) to feel the sun and breeze only on a portion of your face.    The good news is that the spots are getting smaller everyday.    In what little technical bits I did encounter today, I caught myself glancing at where I don’t want to go.  Not good.   I’m sure after a few rides I’ll get “it” back but it was an odd mental riding state today.    What I lacked today in riding prowess was more than offset by the high quality time I got with my youngest son who put in a solid 14.4 miles today. 

-Bill

Goat Camp Goodness Goes Bad

Sunday was a climb up into the White Tank Mountains west of Phoenix.  This area was incredibly awesome with the vibrant colors of spring going off.  The trails of the White Tanks are extremely diverse.  We did a loop that included some burly climbing on the Mesquite Canyon trail before things mellowed out to mostly smooth benchcut singletrack interspresed with technical bits.  There were some impressive views along this trail.  From the Mesquite Trail we connected to the Willow Trail and enjoyed some more springtime desert goodness.   From the Willow Trail we connected to the Ford Canyon Trail which had us busting out a switchbacking climb up to the junction of the Goat Camp Trail.

Greg on Buttery Smooth Singletrack

The Goat Camp Trail had been on my to-do list for a long while as people who are much better riders than me have all said it is one of the gnarliest trails they have ever been on.    The trail did not disappoint.  It starts off really scenic and pretty as you work your way over a couple of ridges before coming to the final descent.

This is where things get incredibly technical.  The opening descent is a steep loose monster that is quite shaly with big chunk a plenty.   Our guide and all-around awesome guy for the day, Greg, described it best when he said “If you touch your front brake just a little too much, the earth opens up and swallows your front wheel”.    The middle section gets more firm undertneath you but the trail is just impressively rugged.   It is hard to put a pucker factor on this section.  It is more like a continual state of colon lockdown.

Kevin at the top of the Staircase

There is a really tricky feature known as the Spiral Staircase.   There is a bit of a chunk gate to get into the feature followed by steep left handed roll down into a really tight righthander that exits into either a spine roll or a chunky set of stairsteps.  JD impressively flashed the entire thing after a quite look see of the line options.  I kept having problems at the bottom as I could not get through the bottom right hander smooth enough to get onto the spine roll.

Below the Spiral Staircase is another just mean section known as “Jack Hammer”.    It was somewhere along this section that I blew a move and went off the bike and unfortnately smacked into a sharp-edged rock with my face.   OUCH!!!!! I knew it was bad as soon as it happened as I could feel the left side of my face move in the “wrong” direction and then go numb.   Behind me was Kevin and when he gave the question we all get asked sooner or later “Are You Okay”, I had to respond with “No, I’m hurt bad”.

Here a Carnage Shot (WARNING: It is quite icky …)

Like myself, Kevin has been offically trained on Wilderness First Aid and he did a great job sizing up the situation and getting all the supplies out and starting the work of patching my lower and upper lips back together with some steri-strip wound closures.   I know the poker face and measured repsonses  medics are trained to give in situations like this and I knew Kevin was concerned.  I’m sure some of you are already thinking “Did he film that?”  Yes, I was filming when it happened.  It is mighty hard to see you own face so I used the camcorder with the screen flipped so I could see the damage myself.  It was not pretty at all.   After getting patched up, Kevin and I walked down the rest of the trail.  It was not too far before we JD and Greg where waiting for us.   I could see the concern in thier eyes as well.

Kevin Patching me Up

We had some gear spread amongs a couple of cars, so JD and Greg went on ahead to get everything setup for my exit.   I walked some more until the trail got pretty tame in comparision to the rest the trail.   I made a point of going very gingerly as I did not want to elevate my heart anymore than needed.    On the way back we came across a few hikers who gave some quite truthful responses like “Holy S#$T” and Oh My F#$king God!

Once off the trail, I got my chamois off as I knew I would otherwise have it on for a long and end up with a bad case of monkeybutt.    JD got me to the ER straight away.   This was the first time I had the term “Though and Through” used outside of a CSI show on TV.   Both the upper and lower lips where lacerated in that manner with the lower getting the worst of it.    I walked out of the ER four hours after arriving with 19 stitches (some inside and some out) and a hankering for a smoothie!

Jerry thankfully had taken a catnap while waiting for me and he drove back to Orange County so I would only have to deal with about an hour of driving from the OC down to North County San Diego.  It was way freaking late when I got home.  Even though the Novacaine of long since worn off, a good portion of my face was disturbingly still numb.

After some stitchwork

It has been a few days since the crash.  I had thought about posting earlier about this but was just not feeling up to it.  The good news is that I can tell the nerves are starting to heal and the feeling is starting to come back into most of the area.  The bad news is ……The feeling is coming back into the area!   The inside of the left side of my mouth feels like a have a cold sore the size of a quarter and few of the bits of spare change.

I’m already shopping for a full-face helmet for my technical trail excursions. :-)

-Bill