Tag Archives | biking

Summer, interrupted.

Being a Ski Diva can be rough during the summer. Either you find something fun to do, or you end up with a long, dusty, wasteland of time to fill before the snow comes ’round again.

Me on my bike, in happier times.

Me on my bike, in happier times.

For me, it’s biking. Road biking. I like to get out on the roads of  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. There are loads of beautiful routes to take, the scenery’s great, and frankly, it’s terrific exercise.

But this past week I did something that may very well have ended my biking for the rest of the summer: I had a nasty bike accident. I was riding downhill at a fairly high rate of speed when my front tire hit a rock and blew out, sending me over the handlebars into the guardrail at the side of the road. The guardrail sliced my lower thigh like a meat cleaver, leaving a gaping laceration that measured 6 inches across and perhaps 3 inches from top to bottom. Let’s just say I got a good look of the interior of my leg.

Of course, we were in an area with zero cell service (yay, Vermont!), so we couldn’t reach 911. My husband managed to flag down a car, and a very nice couple transported me 12 miles to my doctor’s office. After that, I was sent by ambulance to the nearest hospital, where I had surgery to irrigate the wound, remove the gravel, and close it with both internal and external stitches.

The capper to all this: it was our wedding anniversary.

So am I a happy camper? No. As I write this, I’m still in considerable pain. I went a bit too easy with the pain meds at the beginning and I’m paying the price. (Yes, the opioid epidemic has me spooked.) But am I grateful that it wasn’t worse? You bet. I’m damn lucky that, aside from lacerating my patella tendon, all the other critical knee ligaments are intact, so it shouldn’t have any impact on my skiing.  And miracle of miracles, I didn’t break any bones, lose any teeth, or suffer a head injury (of course I was wearing a helmet). Sure, my summer fun will be significantly curtailed. But more importantly, I’m here, sitting with my leg elevated, pretty scabby and road rashy, but here, nonetheless.

All in all, I’ve been very fortunate. This is the first major accident I’ve ever had, which given my activity level and age, is pretty amazing. Not that it takes risky behavior to get hurt. I have a friend who broke her leg in three places just by stepping off a curb. And my mom tripped and fell on the boardwalk in New Jersey, breaking her femur. It seems that the only way to avoid an accident is not to move, and for me, that’s not an option.

Sure, there are things you can do to try to stay safe. For biking, I wear a bright yellow helmet, have a flashing light on my rear wheel strut, and remain as vigilant as possible to road conditions and vehicles. But hey, sometimes things happen. There’s only so much you can do.

Was my accident inevitable? Well, cycling does send more people to the ER than any other outdoor sport or activity. According to the Consumer Products Safety Division, bicycling accidents resulted in more than 541,746 ER trips in 2010. Basketball was second, with 528,584. Coming in at number 3, football with 489,676. Four: baseball and softball, with 282,008. And five: ATV’s, with 230,666 ER trips.

Curious about which sport is the most deadly? Here’s a neat little infographic I found that breaks it out:

Your Chances of Dying
Source: Best Health Degrees

At least I’m not hang gliding.



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Maine-ly Biking.

If you’re looking for something really fun to do this summer,  here’s a suggestion:

Go biking along the coast in Maine.

Why? Well, where else do you get such a combination of gorgeous, rocky shore…………

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beautiful wetlands……

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lovely harbors……….

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and lobster?

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Each year my husband and I try to take a trip or two to Maine to do some road biking. This year we went to Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland, for a celebratory 42-mile anniversary ride.

Here’s a map of our route:

Map

The route is great for a number of reasons: it’s not difficult, because the terrain is pretty flat. And with plenty of water views, the scenery is gorgeous. It also takes you by a number of lighthouses, from the very tiny “Bug” light to the quite large, iconic Portland Head Light. Here are a few:

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Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

Some tips if you decide to go:

Lodging: Staying in Portland area can be pricey, especially if you opt for one of the hotels by the waterfront. We cut our costs by staying by the airport in South Portland, which is a short ride from just about anywhere you decide to go. Plus we liked the cancellation policy, an important consideration in case it rained and we decided to change our plans

Eats: Portland restaurants regularly get named among the best in the country, so there are tons of great options to choose from. Go on Yelp.com, and you’ll find lots of reviews. I love lobster roll, so I’ll put in a good word for Eventide Oyster Company (tasty but a bit small), Two Lights Lobster Shack (south of Portland near Two Lights State Park), and Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster (about 20 minutes north of town on the way to Freeport). If you love baked goods — and who doesn’t — check out Standard Baking in Portland and Scratch Baking in South Portland. Yum.

Shopping: If you’re so inclined and want to drop a few bucks, Freeport, of famous LLBean fame, is only about half an hour north. There are loads of outlet stores to investigate. We didn’t do it this time, but, well, just sayin’…….

Beaches: This is MAINE. There’s about 3,478 of shoreline. Sure, a lot of it is rocky, but there are plenty of beaches, too, and everyone has their own favorite. Remember, though; the water is C-O-L-D. We spent a day at Crescent Beach State Park, a lovely swath of sand on Cape Elizabeth. We also biked through Higgins Beach, which is about as charming a beach town as you’ll find anywhere, with a nice, though fairly narrow, stretch of sand.

Cool stuff: chairs made out of lobster pots!

Cool stuff: chairs made out of lobster pots!

 

I look pretty happy, don't I? Having fun on the Maine coast!

I look pretty happy, don’t I? Having fun on the Maine coast!

 



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Biking through the summer [or whatever gets you through the off season].

Summer’s a rough time for skiers who really don’t have any non-skiing passions. I mean, I like to do other things besides ski, but I just don’t LOOOOOVE them in quite the same way. So finding an alternate activity is tough. I can’t run (I have seriously bad feet), and hiking, though enjoyable, isn’t something I do too often.

One of the things I do do is bike — road, not mountain. I have a Specialized Ruby Comp road bike that’s about seven years old. I’m not a bike gear head so I can’t give you all the specs, but if you’re interested in such things, you can read about it here.

Anyway, here it is. I’ve made a few modifications since I got it. Pink tape on the handlebars, changed out the compact crankset to a triple (yeah, I wanted the granny gears), and most recently, a really cool saddle.

bike

Cool seat!

Cool seat!

This summer I got a bright safety green helmet, too. I think it makes me extra visible to the cars and trucks out there; I’m a little paranoid about getting hit. I like the visor, too.

Helmet

But even with the cool bike, saddle, and helmet, biking in Vermont can be a challenge. I’m not the strongest cyclist out there, and the hilly terrain isn’t easy. But the rewards are great. You get to see lots of stunning scenery right up close. Here are a few pics I’ve taken cycling in the area:

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Sunflowers

Mountains

Once in a while you encounter something a bit offbeat, too. Like this sign for “Wendy’s Way,” a bike path in the Manchester, VT, area dedicated to 10th Mountain Division veteran, Olympian, and long-time Stratton ski instructor, Wendall Cram. Needless to say, I got a real kick biking on it — and an even bigger kick when I happened upon him in the parking lot, when I was loading up my gear.

WendysWay

Then there’s this marker for Phineas Gage in Cavendish, VT. Phineas was a railroad worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron spike accidentally passed through his skull with such force that it landed almost 30 yards behind him. Remarkably, he regained consciousness within a few minutes, was able to speak, and survived a 45-minute ride back to his boarding house while sitting in a cart. Although Phineas managed to recover from the accident, his personality was radically altered. His case is among the first evidence suggesting that damage to the frontal lobes could changes aspects of personality and affect socially appropriate interaction. Kind of makes you appreciate helmets, doesn’t it?

Phineas Gage Marker

Phineas Gage Marker

Anyway, I’m counting down the days to ski season, as I’m sure many of you are, too. Let’s see — with a target day of November 15, that’s only 96 days from today, August 12. In the meantime, I’ll keep on pedaling.

 



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Saved By A Peach.

A better title for this might be “How a fuzzy fruit saved my bacon.”

I know. Ha, ha, ha.

The thing is, no matter how you put it, I actually avoided what was probably serious injury by stopping at a fruit stand to buy a peach.

Here’s what happened. I was out on a bike ride with some friends when we decided to stop at a roadside stand. I laid my bike down on the grass, bought a nice, juicy peach, and was just giving it a big bite when I heard what sounded like a firecracker exploding. I looked over at my bike, and my front wheel was spinning around….. and around…. and around.  The front tire had completely blown: the inner tube, the outer tire,  the whole thing.

All I can say is it’s a good thing I wasn’t riding. A friend of mine had his front tire blow a few months ago, and suffered a couple cracked ribs, a punctured lung, a broken clavicle, and a couple fractured vertebrae. He spent some time in the ICU and has undergone two surgical procedures.

That could’ve been me. So yeah, I got lucky.

It’s amazing how the simplest act can have such far ranging consequences. The decision to stop for some fruit. To take this or that plane. To ski that trail. To go to a movie.

I have a friend who says, no matter what sport or activity you’re discussing,  “I know soooooo  many people who’ve been injured doing [insert sport here].” This is ludicrous. You can get hurt doing anything. Someone I know broke her leg in 3 places when she stepped of a curb to get the morning paper. This doesn’t necessarily make getting the newspaper hazardous.

Oh, sure, you can take precautions to minimize your risks. When I drive, I wear a seat belt. When I ski, I wear a helmet. And since my bike tire blew, I’ve purchased a pair of Kevlar-lined tires. They’re pretty puncture-proof.

Bottom line: You can’t live your life wrapped in cotton. There’s inherent risk in just about anything you do. If you don’t want to get hurt, maybe you should just stay in bed.

Or maybe you should just eat more peaches. :)

 



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Muffy Davis: Motivation in Action

Ever feel stuck in a rut? Completely unmotivated? Can’t seem to move ahead?

Well then, today’s your lucky day. Because there’s someone I’d like you to meet:

Muffy Davis.

Muffy is one of the most amazing skiers — make that one of the most amazing athletes — I’ve ever encountered. But more than that, she’s a master at motivation. And once you hear her story, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In 1989, at the age of 16, Muffy suffered a horrific ski accident.  A member of the Olympic Development Team, Muffy lost control during a training run at Sun Valley, Idaho — her home mountain — and crashed into not one, but two trees.  Ski patrol got her off the mountain, and she was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. There, her father, a radiologist, was the first to read her x-rays. She had a fractured spine that left her paralyzed from mid-chest down.

Many people would have taken that as a sentence to a life spent sitting on the sidelines in a wheelchair. But that wasn’t Muffy’s way.

Within three years, she was racing competitively again. As a member of the US Disabled Ski Team, she competed in the 1998 Paralympics in Nagano Japan, winning a bronze. Then came a World Championship in 2000, two Overall World Cup Titles in 2001 and 2002, and more than 25 World Cup medals. In the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, UT, Muffy concluded her ski racing career with three Silver medals. Muffy was inducted into the US Ski and SnowBoard Hall of Fame in 2010, the fifth disabled skier to receive this immense honor. In 2002, Muffy and three other paraplegics made history by successfully summiting 14,162′  California’s Mt. Shasta, using hand cranked Snowpods. She then made the first ever wheelchair ascent of 14,110′ Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

Currently, Muffy is back in competitive athletics as a member of the US Paralympic Cycling Team.  She began competitive handcycling in 2010 as a way to get back in shape after having her daughter.  She won her first National Title just two months after beginning the sport.  Since then she’s accumulated numerous titles, including Overall World Cup Champion for 2011.  Muffy’s goal:  to represent the US in the 2012 Paralympics in London.

Muffy Davis skis

I recently spoke to Muffy from her home in Salt Lake City, right before she headed out for a training ride.

Q: Muffy, your accident was a life altering experience. What kept you from despair? And what motivated you to ski again?
A: I definitely had hard days, but I think that’s normal. We all have challenges and obstacles, and I think it’s important to allow yourself to grieve. It’s healthy. You just don’t want to stay there. My mom was a big help. She said it was okay to have a grieving day instead of burying it and letting it stay with you. So I gave myself permission to be sad when I was sad, but I also left myself open to the positive. It also helped that I had an amazing support system. My family and the entire Sun Valley community really rallied around me and provided me with tremendous support.

Initially, I said I wasn’t going to ski unless I was standing up. But skiing was my passion; it was what I loved to do. I didn’t think I was going to race again; I just wanted to be out on the mountain where I felt free and whole. That was for me my escape. It was where I’d grown up; where I felt like Muffy. Everyone was very supportive when I said I wanted to ski again. And luckily, the technology existed through adaptive sports that allowed me to get out there again.

Q: What was it like being back on the snow? What kept you going, and weren’t you terrified?
A: A little bit.  Mostly it was frustrating. I’d been this hot shot skier, and now I was a beginner again. It made me appreciate people who start skiing later in life because it’s a hard sport; it’s not easy. I remember thinking, “I don’t know why they call this skiing; it doesn’t feel like it.” At first, I just didn’t know what to do with my feet and every time I’d turn I’d fall over.  Remember, this was 23 years ago, and adaptive equipment has come a long, long way since then. For me, though, it was frustrating; it great to be back out there, but I didn’t reach  the skill level I wanted.  So I took a little break. I went out to California and went to school and I went to a great organization in Tahoe at Alpine Meadows. I met a wonderful instructor who took the time to get my feet right for me, and all of a sudden I started having success.

Q: So what made you start to compete again?
A: I knew in my heart and soul that I was a ski racer. When I was 8 years old, I set the goal to go to the Olympics and the desire was still there. I realized that there was still a chance I could accomplish that. It was just a part of who I was.

Q: But you’re not skiing competitively anymore; you’re into hand cycling. Can you tell me about that?
A: Yes. Skiing was awesome, but I knew I had other stuff to do. I retired from skiing, got married, traveled around the world, had a kid, and then I knew I had to get back into shape, so I took up handcycling, and I’m back into competition again.

Muffy Davis, champion handcyclist

 

Q: You also made the first ever wheelchair ascents of Pike’s Peak — which incidentally, is hard enough to do in a car.
A: Yes, that was fun. We did Pike’s Peak and Mount Shasta, too, and we’ve had a lot of other fun adventures. I’m also an advanced scuba diver. I mean, I have an amazing life. When people say they’re sorry for me, I say, “Don’t be.”

Q: Are you going to be in the 2012 Paralympics Olympics in London?
A: Right now it’s looking good. But you never know until after tryouts.

Q: I know you give lots of speeches on motivation. What keeps you going? And if you had one piece of advice to tell people about motivation, what would it be?
A: You have to follow your passion — what inspires you; what makes you passionate about getting up everyday. Where do you see yourself and what do you want to do? Right now I’m working on being a Paralympic gold medalist. That’s where I see myself; that’s who I want to be. Everyday, that’s what I work for; to accomplish that goal. So really, it’s pursuing your passion and focusing on being the best you can be. That’s what I try to do.

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No kidding. :)

Now get to it, people!

 

 



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Island Hopping on the West Coast.

I recently spent a wonderful day on the West Coast.

No, I wasn’t in California or Washington or Oregon. Or even Florida.

I was right here in Vermont.

Yes, Vermont has a west coast, too. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Lake Champlain forms half of Vermont’s western border. At 490 square miles, Champlain is the largest mountain lake and the sixth largest fresh water lake in the US (thank you, Wikipedia). It’s even reputed to have its own monster: Champy, which seems to look very similar to the Loch Ness Monster, and is just as much of a mystery.

A photo of the alleged Lake Champlain monster

But I wasn’t there to search for Champy (though that would have been fun). Instead, my husband and I spent the day biking on the islands in the lake.

Yes, Lake Champlain has islands. Good size one like Isle La Motte (16.7 square miles), Grande Isle (35.1 square miles), and North Hero (couldn’t find the area), connected by a series of bridges and causeways.

Isle La Motte is home to Chazy Reef, a 480 million year old fossilized coral reef that’s believed to be the world’s oldest. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and since it’s now above water, you can see it without even getting your feet wet. Worth a stop to see the fossils.

Fossil on Chasy reef

What I love about biking in the Lake Champlain area is that 1) it’s flat, a rarity here in Vermont, so I can bike without slogging up hills, and 2) the scenery is fantastic. You see these incredible mountains running down to the lake along with stunning water views.

Even though Vermont is a small state, it took me nearly 3 hours to get to our starting point. We usually make this trip just once a summer, but terrible flooding from rain and snow melt caused us to delay our trip. The floods cut Isle La Motte in two, and many of the roads in the area were underwater and covered with debris. So we waited until the water dropped below flood stage. I’m glad we did. We had a perfect day.

Our route took us from North Hero Island to Alberg, to Isle La Motte and back to North Hero. A total of 35 miles.

Some images from the day:

Here’s a view of the causeway leading to Isle La Motte:

It pays to be careful while you’re biking. Here’s some road damage from the flood.

Many roadways are still lined by makeshift rock walls created to hold back the flood water. I’m hoping they’ll be removed.

Here’s one of those triangular purple boxes you see everywhere this summer. If you’re wondering what they are, I looked it up. They’re traps for an invasive species, the emerald ash borer, which can kill the trees.

We met a friend along the way:

And saw lots of beautiful views:

At the end of the ride, a treat: brownies from the Vermont Brownie Company, a local bakery that makes the most amazing — yes, you guessed it — brownies. Yum! (This image is from their website; the brownie disappeared way too fast to be photographed.) A perfect way to wind up a perfect day.




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