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Rehab Redux-Chronicle of a Crash (or two)

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The Review

 July 2006-March 2008 

It all started back or July 2006 with an innocent rollable 2 footer to a fall away.  I was feeling a bit frisky that day at Galbraith so I chose to launch it on my trusty Norco Fluid One. Then mid air I realized my Fluid was going one way but I wanted  to go the other way. I hit the ground and I knew immediately that something bad had happened to my knee. Maybe it was all that pain and rolling around? When I finally caught up to Frank and Ken at the bottom of the trail I could still pedal but eventually I had to hike-a-bike/coast for about an hour to get back to the Padden Parking lot.

Slowly but surely I recovered through the summer and fall and entered into the ski season with trepidation. On the first day I found it difficult to press my boot into my binding. Once in, I put in a few tentative turns and it seemed just ok but unstable. Every day on the slopes was a bit more comfortable. So the skiing actually seemed to help strengthen my leg quite a bit and 11 months after the injury I made it through the waiting list and had an MRI. It showed that I had a torn medial meniscus but the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) was intact. The dreaded ACL is one of the key bits of gristle that holds your knee together. By this time I was feeling good and was pumped to have a great riding reason.  So what better way to break in the 2007 summer season than with an epic Whistler ride?

Last July Ernie and I pedaled off from Alpine Meadows towards the head of Comfortably Numb trail off the Wedgemount access road.  We had just turned off Hwy 99 when a yearling black bear careened across the fireroad as we approached the bridge over the Green River. Once the bruin was well into the bush we crossed over to the trailhead up to the right. Comfortably Numb is a 4-6 hour point to point ride and as fate would have it, 2 hours in and about 5 minutes from the halfway point it happened.  My near treadless rear tire spun on a drizzle slicked ladder bridge forcing me to step off and down about 3 feet onto an off camber moss laden hollow. I felt my left knee bend out sideways before popping back into position.  Maybe I can ride it out I mused optimistically.  Wrong.   

Thus began a 3 and half hour hike a bike from the middle of nowhere to Lost Lake adding insult to injury once again.  For those of you who know Comfortably Numb, it is consistently technical and there is very little that can be safely coasted as a one legged gimp. So using my bike as a crutch I missed most of the fun decent and poked my way down gingerly hopping my way along the path. After the first 20 minutes of commiserating, I insisted my riding buddy Ernie enjoy the rest of this epic descent and leave me to my snails pace trek out. At that very moment somewhere over on a ridge to the east a pack of wolves began to howl.  So I let Ernie stick around a bit more before finally insisting he make his own way back. I heard no more from the wolf pack after that and stayed clear of the hungry cougars in the area. I must admit that I recalled from many nature shows that most predators prey on the very young, the old, the weak, the injured and the sick.  Well at least I wasn’t sick and very young!   

Anyway I lived to tell the tale (as you can tell) and thus began yet another summer of rehab.  This injury didn’t feel as bad as the first one (or maybe I was just getting used to it) and by the end of the summer I was back in form although I did have the feeling that if I made a hard dab my left leg just wasn’t as solid. Anyway, as the 2007 ski season approached I was looking forward to the leg strengthening I had experienced the previous year.

The first day out skiing my leg was a bit sore but by the second day I was hitting the bumps and steeps starting with runs like Seppo’s and moving on to West Cirque to Doom and Gloom.  The conditions were totally hero with lots of pow on soft pack. On Boxing Day we headed over to Blackcomb and my confidence was high. We had had a couple of great runs on 7th Heaven and then the rest of my family went for a break at the Horstman Hut. “I’ll just take a quick run down to the t-bar and meet you back up here” I said before I entered the tunnel to the glacier side of the ridge. 

 

 

 

Just off of the cat track there is a steepish pitch down to the glacier.  I had skied it earlier in the day and it was fun and forgiving with softish crud on a mogul field. This time I had started into my second turn when my left ski got off track, maybe I hit a death cookie or something.  My ski continued off track and I felt a “pop” in my left knee and then tumbled downslope.  My right ski came off and as I fell I tried hard to keep left ski out of the snow to prevent further injury. I managed to get my ski back on and threw in a couple of wobbly turns to the t-bar.  My left knee was definitely screwed up bad, but fortunately I can ski on one leg so I took the t-bar back up to the top of Seventh Heaven to meet the family.  When I saw them the first thing I said was, “I just blew my knee.”

 

 

 

 

From there it was about three steps to the patrol hut where I managed to hitch a sled ride down from the top of the mountain. I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for not having to walk out like I did the last couple of times! The doc at the Whistler Health Centre confirmed my suspicion: a complete ACL tear. If I ever wanted to ski anything other that groomers again I would need reconstructive surgery.  The knee surgery would best occur six weeks post injury to allow the initial swelling to subside and then I would need to follow up with physio and a 6-12 month recover which would very likely write off the summer mtb season as well. I was hugely bummed out at this point.  Having lost the last two riding seasons to injury this epic ski season was now over for me too and I had to face another two sessions of recovery and rehab.

 

 

 

 

I tried to use as much “pull” as I could to get a fast track to surgery at the optimal 6 week window. By 4 weeks post injury my knee was feeling pretty decent but I still hadn’t seen a specialist. So much for “pull”.  Finally, I got in to see an orthopedic surgeon who scheduled a March 10 surgery date. He specialized in knee, shoulder and trauma/reconstruction so I was pretty confident he would do a good job. By the week of March 3 my knee was pain free and I got back into night riding again with the only caveat being I would dismount if I was taking on any obstacle where I figured I might eject from my bike.  My rubber knee became a bit of a freak show attraction as I would demonstrate to my riding buddies the 1-2 centimeters of play that I had at the knee joint if you tugged my lower leg forward.  Check out the video clip for this party trick. (coming soon)

 

 

 

 

Having not had a surgery since I had my tonsils out when I was a kid I wasn’t sure what to expect from the general anaesthetic.  I knew what it was like recover from injury but I figured the surgery would be more invasive and that I would be seriously in pain for the week post op. I mulled over the myriad injuries I had experienced as part of the sport.  Cuts and bruises too numerous to mention.  A couple of minor shoulder separations and sprained thumbs and split knuckles.  A stick puncture deep into the left calf.  Two broken fingers and one dislocation in the right hand. There are very few serious mountain bikers around who don’t have a similar list of their own. Anyway, I approached the surgery date stoically and focused of getting back on two wheels as soon as possible.

 

 

 Stay tuned for more self indulgent navel gazing!

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