Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Apr 24, 2017

Identity and risk

Are we our activities or do our activity make us? When someone asks if you ride do you respond "I'm a mountain biker" affirming that your identity, part of yourself is inextricably tied to riding? Or do you answer with "yes, I mountain bike," noting that while you ride, it's only a facet of who you are? Simple word choices and phrases but they reveal so much about the person responding. We are all invested in our activities - from life to work to sports. It's that balance between them that create a healthy sense of wellbeing. Too much of any one thing and there is always the risk that one mistake, one injury could take it all alway and upset the balance and sense of identity.

And what are we willing to give up and still maintain our identities? It's a question I've been pondering over the last couple of months with the seeming never-ending setbacks of my eye. I love running, but I don't necessarily consider myself a runner anymore. Running is something I do - something I love. It's part of who I am, but not the whole. Had I been given the simple option of having clear vision but needing to give up running entirely - it's something I would have considered. There would have been tears shed since running has always been a passion of mine. But it's not my life. I've been lucky and able to branch out from just running to exploring in so many different ways. But since not running didn't manage the issue and I'm not about to give up both running and riding - that gets a little too close to home - I'll have to turn to medication to manage my eye. Granted, I'm still not sure that I'll be able to run like I was before - but I've been able to ride this month without issues. And that's also shown me that while I love riding, I need the flexibility of other pursuits. I want to move and do, but always on two wheels has been a bit much this past six weeks. So some how, I will return to exploring trails on two feet.

Perhaps it was a gentle shove for this year. Or more then a gentle shove, a hard push. Things hinting at not running this year have been piling up and I just wasn't paying attention. First the cancelation of the Meowler. Without that race, I really didn't have any "need" to run. Sure, I had some fun races on the schedule, but they had all been planned as supported long runs. Now I could just shift focus and make the races a little harder and actually race! Then came the crash at Leadville. Riding inside wasn't painful at all, but running? Couldn't do that for a week! I had to change things up to even get two longish runs done before the first planned trail race. Maybe it was the Leadville crash that started this whole cascade - who knows. The time seems reasonable if a little spread out. I've been able to train on the bike throughout this visual hubbub - at varying intensities - but I've been able to ride. And that's where my goals are this year. On the bike. So perhaps I should not feel upset about missing the running and should take my sweet time building back into my usual running amount. More time on the bike will make me stronger in those specific events.

And so I'll look to the future - to possibly having to reshape my identity and my sense of self as just someone who rides and runs instead of a rider and a runner. We shall see. There are no guarantees for anything and if we allow the fear of what might happen overwhelm the possibilities, then are we truly living? There are risks in everything, every day. It's up to me (and everyone in my team) to decide how to best manage those risks.

Apr 17, 2017

Getting Away

This was the test weekend - would the eye survive a camping trip and some real riding? Better to find out sooner then later. After last week's return on an eaiser ride in Pueblo, I was a little nervous about the trip. What would happen if it flared again? As discussed, I was using the two drops per day, and my vision was clearing up - even with some riding outside on trails. It was still fuzzy, like I was trying to read without my glasses, but even worse. I'm sure that what people who need glasses for regular vision deal with on a daily basis!

I also wanted to get away from Colorado Springs. Maybe a little bad of me - after all, I had athletes running in the Rattler Trail and should have gone to support them. But after pulling out of the 25k, with still having really strong fitness and no real "injury" I didn't want to hang around and start feeling sorry for myself. I love running and Palmer Park is one of my faviorite places to run. To miss the Rattler 25k was really hard for me since it's also a great course with a great group of people. Getting out of town and off social media for a while would be the best medicine for missing the event. At least that's what the hope was...
Bikes and sunsets - two of my favorite things.
The goal was a few easy, fun rides down at Oil Well Flats outside Canon City. I got off work early, did my workout and off we went - leaving just early enough to get to get down and get set up before dark. Then it was just hang out around the fire! And what a fire it was - Nick brought down some of the wood from the tree branch he'd sawed up. One of the logs just happened to be hollow, which provided much entertainment as it turned into a volcano after just a few minutes of burning. I missed most of the party - I was tired and decided to go to bed just as things were heating up.
I didn't get the demonic shot like Amy did - but the hollow log was a hit!
The real test would be Saturday. While the pace wasn't planned to be hard - there's nothing smooth about Oil Well. That's part of the fun and the challenge. Even better, we were camped right off Anticline, right at the start of the super fun section. We had five people and two dogs, ready for some trail action. On the first loop I took a mix of A and B lines - hitting some of the bigger drops and rolling around some of the other ones. I could tell I hadn't been riding outside in a bit - I was a little hesitant on some of the ledgy climbs. More so then usual. But the vision was fine. No loss of acuity while we were riding, just the blurry from the dilation in the bright sun. Ugh - bright sun was the worst. I've never been a visor person on my helmets, but I was super happy to have one on my new helmet. We did a short loop, then headed back to camp to collect the rest of the group. And chill for a bit. The second loop would come a little later. Some of the same trails, some different ones and a little easier pace. No dogs this time around either - they were all getting worn out for another long ride. The trails were surprisingly quiet for a nice Saturday, but since the front range was also nice most riders weren't going to make the drive. Which was fine by us!
Waiting for the sun to warm things up before riding
After an afternoon seista for both humans and dogs, it was time for a sunset lap. Without the bright glare of the sun, my vision was a little better. At least it didn't feel like the sun was drilling a hole into the back of  my head! I think I'm gonna need a little darker glasses...

These feet look like a great spot for a snooze..

Sunday morning, the rest of the gang packed up and headed out. Nick and I were going to do one more ride, this time really looking for the rocky, jarry trails - aka Island in the Sky. I will admit to not being a huge fan of that trail on a normal day, but I really wasn't liking it then. I just wasn't ready for that kind of bumpy after avoiding all rocks for nearly a week. But as a test trail to see what would happen with real riding under real conditions, it served it's purpose. And no issues. Other then not feeling smooth and being able to flow over the trail like I normally do! The eye stayed clear the entire time, even with the rocky trails and trying to ride as normally as possible. We rode most of the trails in the park during that ride, and while I shied away from some of the things I would have done, I didn't take it too easy. The eye was fine - at least as fine as it can be right now.

Apr 13, 2017

Current status - frustrated

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how well you behave. Things just don't work the way they are supposed to and what was hoped to be a minor inconvenience becomes a major issue. That seems to be the case with my eye right now. After resuming the atropine with the second flare, taking my bike workouts inside and eliminating my running it was supposed to get better. Supposed to is the key phrase. It did get better, with vision returning to 20/25 and clear. We discussed - briefly - using the atropine drops on days where I have big rides or events planned as a management strategy. But he wanted me off the drops to see what happens with outside activity and no running. Hard road ride on my hardtail - no issues. Easy trail ride just dinking around Stratton - no issues. So we made plans to head to Pueblo to ride. I would ride the pedally miles of inner-outer limits with Amber while Nick and Todd played in the canyons. I debated doing one drop prior to leaving, but ended up not. After all, there's nothing to bumpy in Pueblo, right?

Well, hindsite really is 20/20. Perhaps I should have tapered the atropine a bit - instead of just stopping, dropping down to one drop a day. Perhaps I should have done the drop before leaving. Who knows. It's impossible to say. But about half way through the ride, I started noticing an increase in black specks in my vision and increased fuzziness. Just like the last two times... Argh!! Restarted the atropine as soon as I got home and then rode inside Sunday. It didn't get as bad as the first two times, but it was still enough to affect quality of vision and visual acuity.

After my (hopefully) final follow up with the retina doc, it's pretty clear. I may need to use the atropine long term to manage the issue. There's nothing wrong with the retina, so he's signing off. Now it's down to the eye docs to figure out how to best manage this so I can continue with my lifestyle and activities. Simply saying well don't mountain bike or run isn't an option. I can't have this return every time I try to ride a little more challenging trails. If that means long term atropine use, then that's what we will do. Unless I get an increase in the intraocular pressure, there shouldn't be an issue with using the drops long term. Other then having Halloween eyes and maybe needing darker sunglasses....

Apr 7, 2017

Eye Updates

Well, mixed news on the eyeball front. The bleeding inside the eye has resolved and my vision is clear again - clear but not focused due to the effects of the atropine drops. The pupil is still dilated, so it's really not focused and the bright lights are rather annoying. That's the good news. The bad news is that I still have to avoid jarring activities for another two weeks or so. Any running is out till almost the end of the month, meaning a complete shake up of my race schedule. I can start riding outside as long as it's easy trails - nothing crazy like Templeton Trail! More like Jacks, High Drive and such. The techy, rocky trails will come later - next week some time. But it's a start - and hopefully if I behave, it will be the end of this.

Now that the eye doctor was able to see into my eye, he was pretty confident that it was just a blood vessel bursting initially and then re-opening when I started running again. He did say that the iris in my left eye was a little wobbly - more then you would normally see in someone my age. That means it might be more then a blood vessel issues - but I will deal with that if it happens. As for now, I've got some ways to manage the vision deficits if it happens again with the same presentation. Fuzzy vision with loss of clarity but good light perception and complete visual field? That's fine - I can manage that and don't need to panic. A different presentation or an increase in pain or loss of visual field? Then I need to be worried. Hopefully, it won't come to that.