Sunday, September 30, 2007

Veterinarians and (what else) Riding

So, this blog is of two completely different things on my mind. Kinda like Two Blogs in One. Buy One Blog and Get One Free. Happy Hour Blogs.

First Vets. I love them. Well, there have been a few that I didn't jive with, but by and large, vets are some of the most compassionate and helpful people I know. How come People Doctors can't be as compassionate and helpful as Animal Doctors? I like my doctors; they are OK. But my dogs' doctors just ooze with caring. I had a great Vet in Columbus, Ohio that was like that and now I've found one here in Boulder, CO. My older dog is sick with a terminal illness. Her Vet is always willing to squeeze her in to his schedule, no matter if he's booked for the day. He spends time on the phone and in person at the Vet Office talking to me in the most kind and helpful manner; answering all of my questions in the most compassionate way. You can tell he simply loves animals and also understands how important they are to people. Everyone at the Vet Office is the same way. Compassionate and helpful.

Why aren't People Doctors as compassionate and helpful as Vets? I don't think it's because the Veterinarians aren't as busy, because I think Vets carry a pretty full schedule of appointments. Plus, being compassionate and helpful really doesn't take a whole lot more time. It's something else. Maybe People Doctors used to be more like Vets. Probably the insurance industry ruined People Doctors. Maybe it's also something about the kind of person who becomes a Vet. He or she has to be smart (many Vet schools are harder to get into that Medical School) but I also think most Vets have a deep love of animals, and as such can see how much animals add to the human existence. I'm not sure if most people who become doctors have the same kind of deep love for people. I think they have other motivations to become doctors, perhaps the money or the power.

I'm glad my dogs are in such good hands, although I wish my father, my siblings, my boyfriend and I could find a doctor who provided the same compassionate and helpful care.

Enough about Vets, now on to Riding! After two weeks and one day off the mountain bike because of my leg injury, I got back in the saddle yesterday (Saturday, September 29th). I had been out on the road bike a couple of times, riding easy. But the leg still hurt quite a bit. Until Friday. That was a break through day. My leg felt orders of magnitude better. The wound was closed up and no longer oozing. So, I decided to go ride my single speed at Buffalo Creek with Jesper and a friend Judd. Judd is in fabulous shape (personal trainer, endurance runner and road rider) but has only started mountain biking this summer. I figured the pace would be slower with Judd and I know Buff Creek well enough that I could bail when I felt I'd had enough and go hang out at the car.

I ended up riding WAY more than I thought I would. Maybe a tad more than I should have (he, he). I stayed with the guys until about 10 miles in. At that point, my leg felt uncomfortable on the downhills; not painful, just uncomfortable. We had ridden down Strawberry Jack to Homestead, cut over on Charlie's Cutoff and then down the connector to the downhill on Baldy. At that point I decided to go back to the car and the boys headed off to add some more miles. Turns out they only ended up doing 5 more miles than me, but whatever! I headed west on Gashouse and then north on the same. Then I went back up Homestead, this time past Charlie's Cutoff, to Skipper. Shortly after I got on Skipper, a large Bull Elk (is there any other size?) ran across the trail about 30 feet in front of me. He was spectacular! A little bit further on the trail, I stopped to eat and heard a very loud crash. It was very windy that day and I was riding through an area that had been burned down in the 2000 High Meadows Fire, so there were lots of weak trees. Turns out one was crashing down somewhere very close to me. I crouched and covered my head, hoping it wasn't falling on top of me. I was lucky; the tree, a 2 foot diameter pine tree, was about 30 feet away off the trail. Later on, Jesper told me that he and Judd encountered 2 or 3 trees blown across trails we had ridden earlier that day! I finished my ride up with a downhill on Buck Gulch and relaxed at the car with a beer and a magazine while I waited for the guys.

The downhills had become very uncomfortable, so I was glad to be done. But my leg felt pretty good after 20 miles. The wound stayed closed up and I never whacked it or fell on it. I was so happy to have been able to get out into the outdoors. I think I would have been happy with 5 or 10 miles. I'm certainly not 100% yet, but it's good to be back!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Healing Nicely

The Ghastly wound is healing nicely. The outer stitches will be removed on Monday. I tore the underlying muscle below the laceration about four inches down the leg and clearly ripped the nerves in the process, because the whole front part of my shin below the gash is numb. Sorry, no pics of the torn underlying muscle, which looked pretty gruesome, but I do have a whole slew of photos, mostly take by Kathleen at the ER. Check it out here to see how much fun I was having up to the fall and the really cool pics of the wound. The ER Doc, a mountain biker himself, was super cool about letting Kathleen snap away (with my camera and my permission).

The location of the gash below the knee is fortunate in that the area does not articulate. I plan to test it out on the road bike tomorrow for an easy ride. Good thing, 'cause I'm getting antsy with all this sitting around.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Boo Boo

More words later, but suffice it to say, I won't be riding for a few days.

Three inch laceration on the shin down through the fascia:

All stitched up:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Solo Riding

I went on a rare solo mountain bike ride yesterday. Well, I guess I go on solo rides with some frequency, but they are usually on the local trails I can access from my home directly. I rarely ride "real trails" on my own. Yesterday I wondered, why not? Why not go ride a "real trail" on my own? So I did.

I went to Heil Ranch to ride my SS. Like most Front Range trails, Heil starts out going up. It has a loop at the top and then you get to turn around and descend back to the trail head. The whole thing is about 8 miles, so pretty short. It's a very rocky trail with loose toddler heads (bigger than baby heads) that make for a challenging and punishing ride, especially on the hard tail SS.

I went at about 3:00 pm, so there were very few people there; just two guys starting out on geared bikes. By their looks, I knew they would not catch me to disrupt my solitude. I took off up the trail. The weather was perfect. It has cooled down here in Colorado in a way that you can sense autumn on its way. The angled lighting become more and more golden as the day progressed. I stopped to take pictures at an old stone structure along the trail. There must be a story about this structure; I wonder what it is.

I passed no one on the way up, riding through the pine forest in quiet solitude. Just my breath and my voice singing whatever song came into my head (Green Day, Snow Patrol, ELO). I passed a park employee working on a new trail, but otherwise arrived at the overlook at the end of the loop without seeing another person. I hung out and wished I had thought to bring a beer.

After I had my fill of the beautiful views, I headed down the loop back to the main trail, finally passing other riders on their way up. The rocky downhill back to the trail head went too fast (is that possible?). Being alone, you notice things you might whiz by in a group. Toward the bottom, I saw a bench in a meadow off to the side of the trail. I have never noticed this bench before, although I'm sure it's been there. It faced a spectacular view of the mountains to the southwest.

The bench was dedicated with this beautiful memorial:

The stillness in the air bade me notice
the distant hills that seemed to move,
as if to gently embrace her spirit,

now that her earthly form is gone.

I would not have noticed that moving remembrance if I hadn't gone out to ride solo. I think I will ride by myself more often.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Makin of a Good Trail Dog

My old trusty trail dog, Mushka has seen the last of her trail running days due to her progressive heart disease. In her day, Muhska could pound out consecutive 20 mile days with me on the mountain bike. Now she can't run for more than a couple hundred feet. I knew this day would eventually come. I'm a planner, so I planned to get a second dog to slide into the role of trail dog as Mushka slid into the role of "hanging out at your feet in the porch" dog. Jesper and I adopted Strelka, a female Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, last year with this passing of the torch in mind.

This may sound heartless and I certainly don't want to imply that Strelka will replace Mushka. I have had several dogs and none replaced the previous one. Each dog has had her own unique personality. However, I know that I need to have a dog and it seemed easier to have overlap than to go without for a period of time.

Jesper and I have worked hard to train Strelka to be obedient, with the ultimate goal to be able to take her off lead for mountain biking. She goes to obedience school almost every week. I've been taking her running to gradually improve her endurance, keeping in mind that, at 1 1/2 years old and 65 pounds, she's still basically the equivalent of a 10 year old kid. So, the miles and pace of the running have been easy. I've kept her on a leash when running, but we knew that would not work for mountain biking.

We decided that we would try taking her mountain biking this past Labor Day weekend. Jesper and I headed up to the Dots Trails near Nederland. These trails allow dogs to run off lead if they are under control. The area is wooded, so Strelka would get a clear sense of being on a trail, as opposed to running in a big grassy field such as Marshall Mesa. The Dots afford lots of bail out options if she got tired or hot. And we thought the trails would have very few users to possibly distract her.

We took off with Jesper in the lead, Strelka in the middle and me bringing up the rear. Would she stay on the trail? Would she avoid our tires? Would she chase wildlife? Would she have fun?

Strelka seems to have natural trail dog talents! She stayed mostly on the trial, she avoided our tires, she didn't chase wildlife. And most importantly, that dog had so much fun! Her face and entire body smiled! Jesper and I had so much fun watching her have fun! We stopped the ride after only a few miles; gotta keep it fun and a overly exhausted puppy might not think of the experience as fun.

We have the makin' of a good trail dog!