Life on the Injured Reserve…

Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 9:58pm

In a few hours, I went from thinking I was going to be exceptionally well prepared for the Tour of Colorado, to a two night and two day stay in the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon.  With a pulmonary embolism (i.e., a blood clot in my lung), the season quickly went from an exciting and positive one (for the most part), to an abrupt end.  With a prescription of 6 months of blood thinners, the season was done.  The up side is that I can begin training again in just a few weeks, and already start preparing for the start of the 2012 season.  But the blood thinners bring the risk of crashing and potentially catastrophic injury too high to make racing or even riding in a group possible for the coming months. 

When I left the hospital, despite having received unbelievably great and supportive treatment, the next ten days were going to be some hard ones.  I wasn’t going to be able to get on the bike, my season was over, and the future unclear.  Luckily, I was comforted by the fact that the doctors had all but assured me that a full return to health and racing was on the horizon.  I just needed to get through a couple of disappointing weeks.  As a professional cyclist, it is impossible to explain how hard it is to be watching the exciting races from the couch instead of from the front lines of the peloton. 

Luckily, I had my kids and very soon to be wife keeping me company, and getting me through the very painful moments of the first few days, both physically and especially emotionally.  The physical part was made much easier with the help of some very serious painkillers.  I was almost afraid to leave the hospital when the doctor first asked me if I wanted to go home, thinking that the painkillers that would be going home with me would be no where near the level of quality that I was getting directly from my supply at the hospital!  I have to say, the level of pain, without the benefit of the painkillers, was so incredibly high, that the thought of going home without them was enough to keep me motivated to stay in the hospital!  And for the record, since my crash at the Tour de France, this was my third hospital visit, and I had no interest in being there any longer!

The doctor assured me that he would send me home with some good stuff, to keep me mostly pain free and comfortable until the lung pain and inflammation could decrease enough to make it tolerable without any help.  Of course, when you stop the painkillers, they have their own side effects, with a little depression and anxiety thrown in for good measure.  Despite all of the downsides of the experience of coming off of the drugs, I have to truly say, that without them, I wouldn’t have made it through the week. 

Looking ahead now, there’s a lot to be excited about.  Since leaving the Tour de France, RadioShack has extended my contract for another two seasons, which gives me a lot of peace of mind and the ability to be completely focused on the next two years of great racing.  I can’t thank them enough for all of the fantastic support throughout my time with the team, especially in the past month of challenges since leaving the Tour de France. 

With my cycling future settled for the years to come, I’m looking forward to other major events in my life that are rapidly approaching.  This Saturday, the 13th, I’m getting married.  I can’t wait to see my girlfriend of almost six years walking down the aisle in a beautiful white dress, not to mention the changes in my life and the life of my kids.  For a few days both of our families will be together for the first time, which in itself should make for at least a few good stories.

The excitement doesn’t end after the wedding, though!  The next week, I will have my event, the Cascade Gran Fondo, starting on Thursday the 18th of August.  It will be three fun days, ending with a beautiful ride starting in Bend then going up and around the Cascade Lakes and Mt. Bachelor, before finishing back in Bend, with a great BBQ meal hosted by Deschutes Brewery.  Unfortunately, doctors’ orders still mean that I won’t be able to ride, but I’m looking forward to having lots of time to socialize without the stress of training or racing.  It will give me a lot of time to swap stories with my friends and fans over a few beers and a couple of brats.  See you at the BBQ!