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Time for a nickel's worth of dime-store philosophy.

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

Time for a nickel's worth of dime-store philosophy.

As a way to make sense of misfortune, I've heard Pollyannas say, "Things happen for a reason" and "Things turn out for the best." But that line of thinking just doesn't make sense to me.

I don't believe in a master plan.

I believe, as often as not, things just happen. They are random. They have no purpose or design.

But that's okay. It means you play an important part in the world.

All sorts of things good, bad, seemingly indifferent will happen to you. It's your job your duty, really not only to make sense of these incidents, but also to give purpose and meaning to them.

Even the bad stuff.

While my belief may not be comforting, it is empowering. For if you believe as I do, you believe that when it comes to your life, you ultimately are the one in control.

This belief of mine was put to the test not so long ago.

On Saturday, April 25, while 50 seconds ahead of the main pack with no more than two miles to go to win one of the biggest bicycle races of the season, I made a typical right-hand turn, but the bike reacted in less-than-typical fashion. Possibly because of the heat that day, human error, old glue, a defect in the back tire, or some combination of these, I did what cyclists call "roll a tubular."

The tire came off the rim as I was leaning into the turn.

Unfortunately, the tire caught in the brakes. Instead of sliding across the macadam, I was body slammed onto it. A doctor later said it was unusual that my right hip did not shatter.

But the force of the impact transferred down to my femur, splitting it like an ax to firewood.

The femur was pieced back together with two titanium rods that run the length of it and three screws. A femur typically heals in eight to 12 weeks, so both the surgeon and the physical therapist said I was definitely done racing for the year especially since the quadriceps and gluteals needed to be cut to insert the rods.

Cut these muscles in a surgical procedure, and they normally need one year to regain maximal strength.

I had a slightly different view. The Pennsylvania Masters State Time Trial was scheduled for the third Saturday in September, four months and three weeks after the crash. I believed if I made rehab my number-one priority over the summer I could be ready by then.

I concocted a heal-the-bone diet that consisted of nearly 50 percent high-quality protein and exercised as long as I could the day after I left the hospital which wasn't long. Six days after surgery, however, I did a total of three hours of weight lifting, aerobic work with a hand ergometer, and stretching.

By May 10, I was riding a stationary spinning bicycle with the seat raised ridiculously high. The broken leg and the cut muscles had practically no power, but the motion enhanced blood flow and helped reduce the swelling.

The x-ray taken 23 days after surgery showed that the bone was 98 percent healed. The surgeon said that instead of riding a stationary bike, I could ride outside if I wanted.

I told him I still could not lift my leg. That's when we realized all the work the PT had me doing was geared to regenerating the quadriceps muscles.

The gluteals had been neglected.

I told the doctor of the workouts that I had been doing on my own on the days I didn't attend physical therapy and that the PT's assistants weren't pushing me. He dismissed me from physical therapy and told me to continue on my own.

During the second week in June, I rode a bit more than 15 hours albeit rather slowly and worked the cut muscles in the weight room four times a week. I loosely followed that plan for the next eight weeks, with the weight room work progressively decreasing as the speed of my rides increased.

On August 23, I did a time trial, finishing fourth in my age group and seventh out of all entered, but I was crestfallen. My time was 72 seconds slower than the year before.

That meant I still had a long way to go and less than a month to get there. To expedite matters, I did a potentially dangerous amount of interval training and cut back on "junk" miles.

Because of this, I registered impressive wattage numbers on an indoor trainer on successive workouts two weeks before the race. I thought I was ready, that I had a good chance to win the race.

I thought wrong.

I finished fifth in my age group and felt like a total fraud.

I needed a few days to realize that my failure was relative. Sure, it bothered me immensely that a few riders who had never beaten me before beat me, but by setting the goal of racing again this year, I certainly expedited my period of recovery.

While the race made it clear that I still wasn't 100 percent, I did accomplish something the doctor and the PT thought was impossible: to race again this season.

Walter Bogehart once said, "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." While the use of "greatest" may be hyperbole, it is certainly is a fine feeling.

Even if it's cloaked in what feels like failure.

So go for it. Attempt something athletically that someone else or yourself doubts you can do.

Run a distance that seems unrealistic. Shed those pounds that appear permanent.

Because even if you fail to reach the ultimate goal, you still succeed in other, possibly more important, ways.

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