Denise Goldberg's blog

What do you mean I can't ride my bike?
The journey back --- from crash to recovery

Friday, January 16, 2009


...plans are apparently made to be changed

I spent a fair amount of time dreaming of biking during the winter months of 2004. And of course I was planning bike tours in my dreams. Should I use all of my vacation time in one fabulous trip, or should I take a couple of shorter trips? I went back and forth between one large trip and two shorter trips, changing my mind often. But - I did finally make a decision. 2004 would be a three trip year - a long weekend in Nova Scotia in mid-June with a final day ride around Acadia National Park in Maine after the ferry returned me to the states, a week in Alberta traversing the Canadian Rockies from Jasper to Banff and then on to Calgary in late July, and a week in Hawaii in late October. I enjoyed riding around the Big Island so much in 2003 that I decided to do a variation of the same trip. I made all of the reservations for my dream trips, and I continued to wait for biking weather.

The weather finally turned into spring after what seemed like a longer than usual bad weather delay, and I started the biking season by commuting to work by bike. As of the third week in May, I had worked up from a bike commute of 1 to 2 days a week (weather permitting, what a baby!) to my summer 3 to 4 days a week.

And then May 20th happened. It was a bad day for me, and as you'll find out if you continue reading, I have absolutely no memory of May 20th, or the day after that...

Those vacation plans? Well the first two trips were immediately off, but I kept hoping that I could still ride in Hawaii in late October of 2004. It was time to wait, time to hope...

This journal is a bit different from my other journals. It is about biking, but it's not about a biking tour. It's about an accident I had on my bike as I was commuting to work one morning, and it's about my journey back to being able to ride and my journey back to preparing to tour again. If you're interested in my different kind of biking journey, please keep reading!

Friday, May 20, 2005

An anniversary that deserves notice

...and a bike ride as a fitting celebration

All I can say is wow! I can't believe an entire year has passed since my bike and I took our epic flip and fall. And I have to include the bike in that description since I've been told I was still attached to the bike when I finally ended up on the ground...

I had hoped to celebrate this anniversary by riding my bike to work for the first time since the crash. Unfortunately I woke up this morning to temperatures in the lower 40s and the forecast of afternoon rain. I briefly thought I'd ride anyway, but then I decided to hope (and plan) for an after work ride. I headed in to the office early enough to put a full day in and to leave early enough for a decent ride. And surprise! The morning coolness gave way to the nicest afternoon of the week. By the time I headed out on my bike it was in the mid-60s, and the clouds that were threatening for most of the day were gone. It was absolutely a beautiful afternoon for a ride.

Touring plans? I've been tossing ideas for tours around in my head as I work towards reclaiming what I consider to be good riding shape. When I foolishly asked how long it would take me to recover, the docs all gave me a timeframe of 6 to 12 months - and that really told me that no one really knew. It's been 12 months now, and I feel like I'm not quite back yet. Why do I feel this? Well, it's because the couple of times I've managed to do back to back 30+ mile days so far this spring, I've felt really tired on the third day. I can't say whether this is because I still have some recovery to do, or whether I should be blaming this on our very cool and wet spring getting in the way of my working up to the longer riding distances that I expect to do on a tour(50+ miles a day, figuring on 1 rest day a week). I suspect it's a combination of the two. But the funny thing is, when I look at the miles I've ridden so far this year and compare it to my pre-crash mileage from 2004 - it's almost an exact match. (Yes, you're right. I'm one of those crazy gals on a bike who insists on logging all of her mileage.) Maybe I should listen to my friends and family when they tell me I'm being too hard on myself.

And yes, I do know that it might make sense to try to plan a tour with lower mileage days!

Right now, all I can say is that I'm planning to tour somehwere this year. Well, hopefully two somewheres. I think a 4 or 5-day ride would be a great start, and I'd also like to do a longer tour later in the year. (And by longer I only mean 1 to 2 weeks since I still have to fit it in to my vacation time.)
When? I'm leaning toward the end of June for my re-introduction to touring, and the date for the second trip will likely depend somewhat on the location. Right now August or September feels like a possibility.
Where? I'm still undecided, but there are ideas percolating in my head. One of these days - hopefully soon - I'll make a decision!
And in the meantime I'm hoping that the weather wizard will start to bring me good weather for riding so I can get more mileage under my tires before I finalize my plans.

It's still time to dream, but it's time to plan too...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Healing progression in pictures

It's been six months since that fateful day back in May, and I was just looking through my pictures. I'm amazed that I have a photo collection of my healing process, and even more amazed that the pictures were all self-portraits, taken by my holding the camera in front on myself and just snapping away. It's nice that today's digital cameras can take decent photos with little human interaction (after all I did click to take the picture, but I certainly didn't help by composing the picture!)...

Monday, November 1, 2004

Things I've learned along the way

It's been an interesting journey!

Some thoughts and things I learned (mostly about myself) as I traveled the path to recovery...

There seem to be two of me involved in my recovery - the Denise who expects to be all better already, and the Denise who has a brain that seems to be a part of slowing her down. Yes, you're absolutely right, there is only one of me! My docs all tell me it's likely that it will take six to twelve months from that fateful accident day to return to what I consider to be my normal state. That's hard for me to accept, but I have a feeling that is my reality. And I still continue to expect too much of myself. Are you really surprised?

I'm more impatient than I used to be - or at least I don't know how to hide it anymore. Although I have to admit that a good deal of my impatience deals with the speed - or lack of speed - of my full recovery. As of August 10th, all things considered I'm in really good shape, but I'm not in the kind of shape I was in pre-accident. And of course that's where I want to be. And I can't wait until I'm ready to take off on my next bike tour!

Even though I know my healing body needs good nutrition, sometimes nothing sounds enticing. At those time my new staple food is a yogurt fruit shake. I use a hand-held blender - and I have to admit I don't know what I did before I owned it - and I mix up a half a cup of juice, a half to a whole cup of non-fat plain yogurt, and fruit, usually banana, strawberries, and blueberries. Yum! When the fresh berries disappear from the market I'll probably switch to frozen. I wonder if there's a non-power-driven version of the blender? These drinks would taste really good on a tour. Of course the blender isn't the only problem here - non-refrigerated yogurt probably wouldn't work too well either!

I've always appreciated good friends - including my immediate family who as far as I'm concerned fall into the good friends category too - and my friends were definitely there for me. And they are still there. Of course that includes my friends too. I heard from a lot of folks there, and all of the messages definitely lifted my spirits.

I'm very happy that I have good health insurance. I remember being out of work and between jobs the summer I rode across America. Since I was out of work and my employer had gone out of business, I didn't have employer-based health insurance available to me. I opted to pay my own way to make sure I was covered in the event of an accident. A number of people suggested that I leave a back-dated check just in case, but I was much more comfortable with knowing that I was covered. And based on my May 20th accident experience, I'm both happy that I have good insurance and convinced I did the right thing back in the summer of 2002. It's interesting; I have the ability to look at the insurance claims online, and I'm absolutely astounded at the cost of some of the services as well as the amount that the insurance company actually pays (much less than the billed amount!) - and pays in such a way that I'm not responsible for the balance. I believe that if I wasn't covered by insurance that I'd be responsible for the full amount - not the partial amount that the insurance company gets away with.

I have a new appreciation for what to send folks who are in the hospital. Flowers are beautiful, but how many does any one person need? Simple cards, notes, and emails were wonderful. Gifts of food - chocolate, cookies, and the nutritious variety were all greatly appreciated. Some of that was donated to my fellow patients and to the folks who were taking care of me. And I have a couple of new stuffed animals that make me smile... Oh wait, you already know about one of them - Biker Chick, the crazy red dog!

And here's something I already knew, and it's still true. Riding a bike and touring by bike are both important to me. I'm back on my bike, and I'm working at improving. And soon (I hope) I'll be ready to head out on my bike on a tour again. It probably won't be a soon as I'd like, but it's going to happen!

Still improving... those facial scars are still visible but definitely much improved. This photo was taken on September 19th, which is a bit over 4 months since the crash (or should I call it a head plant?)

This photo was taken on October 26th (in Hawaii, standing on lava that is from the spring 2003 flow - relatively new, all things considered). Scars? Yes, they are still visible, but improving - each month is better. That chain around my neck? Didn't I promise you that I'd wear my RoadID?

Monday, September 6, 2004

It's time to dream

...of next year as I continue to recover

It's hard to believe that it's been almost four months since that day in May when my bike and I went for a different kind of ride - and not the kind of ride that I'd like to repeat! I had hoped to recover enough to head off on a bike tour this year, but I think it's a smarter decision to allow my body the time it needs to heal.

My next tour? My heart is set on at least one tour in 2005. I had 3 short tours planned for 2004 that I had to cancel, so the easy way out is to use this year's plans for next year. But it's highly likely that I'll dream of someplace else to add to my touring dreams.

It's time to dream...

A holiday weekend

...means 3 days for riding & resting

Another week of working and not biking (on the week-days, that is) was capped off by a beautiful weekend with what I consider perfect cycling temperatures. I vote for more weather like this, and more 3-day weekends! I continued my habit of walking an hour to an hour and a half each day, and I'm definitely noticing the change in daylight. I wish we could keep the summer daylight around for a while longer, but I guess I'll have to adjust to walking in the evening as the daylight is disappearing, and to walking after it has disappeared, too!

It was a good week from a dizziness perspective. Maybe I shouldn't say anything - after all I don't want to jinx myself! But - while I still have times when I feel dizzy, I had no (all day) dizzy days last week, as contrasted to one the week before, and three just two short weeks ago. I think - I hope - that I'm moving in the right direction.

Ah, there are still some late summer blooms out there...

Beautiful sky as the sun is starting to slip away

Saturday dawned as a beautiful day. I needed a change of pace, and the weather was definitely cooperating, so I loaded my bike into the car and headed for the coast. I found a free parking lot in Seabrook Beach, New Hampshire - so that became the starting point for my ride. It was going to be an out-and-back ride, so I needed to guess what my body would be happy with as a mileage total for the day. If I was still full of energy when I got back to the car I figured I could continue to head south for a bit further, and then turn around again. That turned out not to be a problem though. I rode 14 miles north, and then as the road started to wander away from the coast I figured that was a good point to turn around. A total of 28 miles was good for the day. I always enjoy riding next to the ocean although riding through Hampton Beach once in a day is really enough. It's a typical beach town with a fair amount of traffic, and it was on my route twice - out-and-back, no way to avoid it! The ride was definitely a nice change of pace for me. I'll have to wander off on different roads more often...

It's too bad that this sign and the resulting totally free bike lane only existed for a couple of miles of my route today. It would be awesome to have a dedicated bike lane / open shoulder along the entire coastal route. But I guess I have to be satisfied with a couple of miles as a start.

I'm sure the sea gulls think they own this building!

Sunday and Monday were beautiful days too, with temperatures that were just about perfect for riding, in the high 60s. I could live in this weather indefinitely - too bad the weather doesn't listen to me! I stayed close to home both days, riding loops, putting in 22 miles on Sunday and 23 on Monday, and wandering down some new roads too. My energy level still isn't supporting expanding my rides into longer rides and I know I have to accept that for now. I'll keep riding every weekend though...

It's funny, people who don't bicycle think my little 22 to 28 miles rides are long. When I was chatting with my neighbors earlier today they were very surprised when I told them that at this time in a normal season I can happily ride 50 to 75 miles without even thinking about it. They were somewhat shocked and told me that they consider my current ride length to be long. I know I'm doing what I can physically handle right now, but I still think in the overall scheme of things that my current rides are pretty short!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Decision time

...for my next tour

My decision is made, and the pressure is off. I gave myself until the end of August to decide whether my planned October trip to Hawaii would be a bike tour as planned, or would be something else. I've really been fighting this one, because I'd like to do it as a bike tour - of course! But reality has finally jumped in. I'm still going to Hawaii, but it's going to be a trip without a bike. I thought about three different options.

The first option was to do the trip as planned, as a solo bike tour around the island. Looking back at distances from last year's tour, this includes three days that I think would be a big challenge to me in my current condition - two days between 50 and 60 miles that have a few long uphills in them, and one day of 40+ miles that is all uphill. At this point in my recovery, I'm a long way from a 50 to 60 mile day, to say nothing of the hills. And while two months is definitely enough time to prepare for a trip like this one when I'm in what I'd consider to be normal physical state, it just doesn't feel like reality to me right now. I wasn't too concerned about the extra weight on the bike from carrying my gear since I'd already decided to do this trip with just 2 panniers (the smaller front panniers carried on the rear rack) and a minimum of gear.

The second option was to take my bike but to find some compromise to riding around the island on my own. That could be to use the bike for day rides, or to link up with a tour operator so I'd have the option of taking a lift if I needed one along with the side benefit of having someone carry my gear for me. Somehow neither of these options really appealed to me. Day rides would likely end up being out and back rides, and while that definitely counts as riding, it just doesn't appeal to me as a substitute for a tour. And touring with a group isn't where my head it at either right now. So while I did take a little time to consider these compromise options, my decision was to change the trip entirely.

My decision? To take the third option, which is to go to Hawaii without my bike. I don't think anyone will disagree that the Big Island of Hawaii is a wonderful destination, even without a bicycle. I'll still be wandering around the island and I can't imagine taking a vacation that doesn't involve some physical activity. I'm sure I'll do some hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and in some other spots around the island. Maybe I'll spend a little rest time on a beach. Maybe I'll do something different like find a place to rent a kayak and do a little paddling in the ocean. Maybe...

Back to biking

OK, this journal is really about biking, and I haven't forgotten that. This week was another week of biking only on the weekend. I'm still managing to walk every day that I don't have the time or energy to ride my bike, but I still haven't figured out how to get enough sleep and get myself up early enough to ride my bike before work. And the daylight hours are noticeably starting to shrink as the end of the summer approaches.

Saturday, August 28th: Hot, humid, no energy...

When I headed to sleep Friday night I was planning (hoping) to wander over to the coast with my bike on Saturday morning. I was going to enlist the aid of my fossil-fuel powered vehicle to get my bike to the edge of New Hampshire for an out and back ride. Those plans were apparently just not meant to be. Friday night was a bad sleep night for me. I managed to sleep for two and a half hours, wake for 2 hours, and then sleep for another two and a half hours. Ouch! Five hours of sleep just doesn't support an active lifestyle. I've been having sleep problems, but Saturday was the first day I actually tried to do any physical activity after one of those exceptionally bad sleep nights. And I have to tell you, it really wasn't a good idea. I headed out on my bike in the mid-morning, and I think I knew right away that it wasn't going to be a good riding day. If I'd been smart, I would have just turned around and headed back home. But the Denise who wants to be all better and back to normal was apparently in charge, so I kept on biking. I managed 18 very slow miles on the bike. Next time I feel like that, hopefully I'll know better and will turn around much sooner.

It wasn't just that it was a hot, humid day, and it wasn't just biking. I felt like I was moving at half-speed when I went for a walk after dinner - but at least I was smart enough to cut the walk short!

Sunday, August 29th: What a difference a day makes!

And what a difference a good night's sleep makes! I have to admit, I cheated and took a sleeping pill last night after I was having trouble falling asleep yet again. I had headed to bed early, and after all it's the weekend, so I knew that if the pill kept me sleeping past my normal waking hour it really didn't matter.

Sunday dawned hot and humid again, but I was much closer to my current version of normal. Riding was again a much more reasonable and enjoyable activity. I decided to ride close to home, just in case I had guessed wrong and the heat yesterday had something to do with my lack of energy. It didn't, and my 26-mile loop was a good ride.

Funny, I was stopped along the side of the road in Harold Parker State forest - it was a good time for a snack - when two mountain bikers came out of the woods. They crossed the road to get to the continuation of the trail they were on, and I wondered what they were going to do to cross the large log that blocked their way. One of the riders did what I would have needed to do - and that is to go around the end of the log. The other attempted to ride over it, and only made it half way. That is, the front wheel cleared the log, but he apparently didn't have the momentum or the jump-ability to get the rear wheel over too. He stopped and put his foot down - no fall today!

I still haven't been successful at managing a ride longer than the mid-20 mile range. I know it will come, and I know that I eventually will return to my normal self. And now that I've taken the pressure off of myself by accepting that my next tour won't be until 2005, it's a little easier for me to accept my current mileage limitation.