Recovery from injury is a battle. It beats you down both mentally and physically. In my case, there was little I could do to take the edge off the stress while I was lying around trying to keep my rump above my heart in an attempt to defuse the swelling on my inner thigh. Even finding a comfortable position to read a book was a challenge, so I ended up wastefully witnessing one Hollywood failure after another on television.
After spending a week entrenched in this dilemma, I felt it was time to stimulate my mind with the aid of a laptop computer. Eight hours later, I looked up to take inventory of my wound. All was well with the skin flap and sutures, but I was mortified to feel something roughly the size of a grapefruit hanging off the back side of my leg.
I didn’t sleep well that night. Had infection set in? Would I need a large skin graft? Or perhaps something even more invasive? After 12 long hours, the swelling had dissipated, and I began to breathe easily again. Just one week later, however, having forgotten the lesson of the previous week, I felt it was time to begin a light exercise routine of crunches and pushups. This session also went into overtime, and within an hour, streaks of redness appeared on the skin flap—a telltale sign of infection.
I was so angry with myself. My doctor was quick to prescribe a second round of strong antibiotics, and, again, I found myself lying sleepless in fear of what might come next. The first month was sheer terror; my doctor’s patience with me (“just chill,” he kept saying) had to be wearing thin. The threat of fibrosis leading to debilitating lymphedema was very real. The old-fashioned adage, let pain be your guide, was not in play this time, so gauging my recovery was proving to be difficult. My tried-and-true method of jumping on the pedals of a bicycle to stimulate blood flow and effectively aid recovery needed some adjustment; repairing the body’s largest organ would require time.
After periods of little-to-no progress, I went through phases of rapid improvement, during which I would make great leaps forward followed by another no-progress flat spot. It was a humbling staircase of advancements and plateaus; skipping a step was not permitted.
Flash forward to seven weeks after surgery: What an amazing difference a little patience makes! My birthday gift came a day early in perfect conditions when my brother, Benjamin, friends Blogger and Sticks, our guide, “The Hermanator,” and I left from California’s Bear Valley on our mountain bikes for a six-hour romp on some of the finest single-track in the nation.
After charging incredibly long descents that left me with fatigued hands and quads, we finally arrived at the coup de grace: Clark’s Grade. Nine miles of switchbacks and nearly 4000 vertical feet of climbing at a 10 percent incline was all that separated us from the bike shop located at the 8000-foot summit. After battling away for more than an hour, our caravan finally topped out soaked in sweat—only to begin the long, bone-chilling decent in 30-degree temperatures back to Big Bear. Though not 100 percent, my fitness was good enough to enable me to function within the group. Both physically and emotionally, it was my best day in months.
After sneaking in a rest day on my birthday with Ben and his fiancé, Nik, I borrowed my brother’s cyclocross bike and headed north to Los Olivos for a new challenge. Arriving late for the start of a race is par for the course if you’re a Bostrom, as is saddling up only to realize that the bike is not actually race-ready—the stem wasn’t spaced correctly. With just 8 minutes remaining until the starting horn was scheduled to blow, the situation became Code Red. Frantically robbing parts from a mountain bike isn’t a solid warm-up plan for a one-hour anaerobic suffer fest! I’d never practiced dismounting for the barriers that are a part of cyclocross, and I knew nothing about the bike’s handling.
A mid-pack start made for an interesting first few laps. I was doing little to make good on my promise to the organizers that I would not make them look foolish if they allowed me to sign up for the Pro division. The course was brutally rough, and within a few laps, my stem was working itself loose. But the race was on as long as the front end stayed connected to the bike! There were five of us locked in battle, and although we were only racing for 10th place, I was proud to come out on the leading end.
Sticking around to pay respect to the podium finishers was less than glamorous. With temperatures quickly dropping, even the lure of free beer was not enough to keep most folks from leaving. At least the award guy was sporting a cool “Movember” mustache. Roughly 10 other people stuck around to immortalize the victors, so I did the right thing and documented it with the fancy camera from my iPhone.
My drive home to Northern California did not go to plan. Fueling up with a “Bucky’s” Grande Triple Shot, I was ready to pound some pavement up to Santa Cruz. Not long after, though, my stomach started doing somersaults. Surely, I just needed to hit a restroom and then continue on, I thought. This happened a few times as I crept farther and farther into the Hurt Locker. I eventually became so ill that I couldn’t drive. To qualify this, I’ve been sick before from eating bad sushi, which was a horrible experience, but this was far worse. I pulled over, lay down and painfully drifted off to sleep.
I awoke half an hour later cold and miserable but fit to drive. Five miles later, something strange came over me. My hands went numb nearly to my elbows and a high fever came on out of nowhere. Suddenly, I was scrambling for a cup in which to puke, and then another. I declared “Uncle!” and stopped at the next exit, where I spent a long night in a funky little room in Greenfield. To top it off, the “concierge” didn’t speak a word of English. In between periods of intense stomach pain, I questioned what made me sick. Bad food? Bad recovery-drink mix? No, more than likely it was just the act of being on the rev limiter for an hour and six minutes after lying on a couch for nearly two months.
This roller coaster is the miracle of sport. The lows can be quite low, but the highs are beyond measure. It is so wonderful to be competing again. But next time out, for God’s sake, I hope to be on something with a twist throttle!