Doctor’s orders: Get out and ride!

Colorado is a treasure chest for those who love the outdoors: hunting, fishing, rafting, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and many others.

But this is also a bit of a Pandora’s box, too, because it is rare to meet someone from Colorado who hasn’t had some sort of injury sustained while enjoying the outdoors. Our active lifestyle and rugged terrain just lends itself to injury.

During a weight-training session this past winter, I tweaked my knee, and skiing 19 inches of powder the next day only compounded the problem. I started riding again to ease the pain and to build the muscles surrounding my knee. This training reminded me of my first significant injury, and how cycling helped me recover.

On a bright Sunday morning in April of 1980, my parents decided we would go to Nucla to pick some wild asparagus (yes, I grew up with hippies). We started our day at church. I don’t remember the specific sermon, but as a 12-year-old boy, I do remember I was itching to get outside.

When the service ended, I sprinted to our car and grabbed my skateboard. The church sits at the top of a long hill, and I started carving turns down the road. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a girl running down the sidewalk. I thought to myself, “No way is this girl going to beat me down this hill.” I straightened the board out and started accelerating down the hill.

Twelve-year-old boys are not renowned for great judgment, and I was certainly no exception. The hill was longer and steeper than I thought. I was soon going very fast and was starting to get scared. My board began to get the speed wobbles, and I made my second poor decision of the morning and jumped off.

My speed must have been 20 to 25 miles per hour. The impact tore my patella tendon, and I slammed my knee into the pavement and shattered my kneecap.

My post-surgery recovery consisted of stretching, strength training and, yes, cycling. The doctor said cycling is a non-impact activity that would help me build strength and flexibility but would not be too strenuous for my knee.

My dad figured this would be a great summer job, and he paid me $200 to ride from Telluride to Ophir and back every day. He also bought me my first 10-speed bike: a black Peugot similar to the bikes ridden by the pros in Europe. My childhood friend Tad Craig joined me on most of my rides that summer.

At first my range of motion was so limited I could barely pedal the bike, and climbing the hills around Telluride were slow and painful. The climbs seemed huge, and the 11 miles to Ophir may as well have been as far away as the moon. Slowly, however, I began to build strength and range of motion, and my endurance rapidly increased.

We usually made these rides into all-day affairs. Just outside of Ophir was an old spring where someone had tapped a pipe, which made it easy to fill our water bottles. There were very few cars on the road, and we never felt in danger.

When I go home to Telluride in the summer, I often try to retrace this old ride. The pipe with spring water has been removed, and there is substantially more traffic on the roads. I get nostalgic thinking of my rides with Tad and the time we spent together.

That summer is when I fell in love with cycling. The riding helped me recover from a horrific injury that still affects me to this day. The injury this winter was to that same knee, and I find myself riding to gain strength and stamina just as I did more than 30 years ago.

And just like then, my leg is slowly healing, and I am enjoying myself as well.

Good riding!


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