Stay on the Sunnyside

by Karen Smyers

Lately I have been getting a lot of practice at making the best of a situation.  Last summer, I turned a severed hamstring into a good opportunity to go forth and multiply.  I took advantage of the C-section that followed nine months later  by getting back on my bicycle seat much earlier than a regular delivery would allow.   Now I am faced yet again with another situation that could be viewed by those less optimistic than I as a serious setback.

Yes, getting knocked off my bike by an 18-wheel truck which resulted in six fractured ribs and a third-degree separation of my right shoulder does sound a bit depressing at first.  I had been training for a big comeback at Ironman, and now I will be forced to watch from the sidelines for the second year in a row.  But if you put on your rose-colored Oakleys, you’ll see that it is not really that bad.  Consider the following advantages:

At least this year on the sidelines, I won’t be on a nine-month moratorium from my favorite beverage.  Actually, Kona isn’t a bad place to hang out when you don’t have a full day of pain looming over your head the whole time you are there.

And to strengthen my right shoulder and arm, I must find a fairly lightweight item and do repeated lifting motions.  Hmmm.  It just so happens that I have some cold items in my fridge that just might fit that description.  I hope it is OK if the item in question loses a swallow or two after each lifting motion!

With a separated shoulder, you get a permanent bump where the ligaments that hold the collar bone down are torn away.  This bump is in the perfect place to keep the strap of my athletic bag from sliding off my shoulder.  I am certainly lucky to have that nuisance a thing of the past.

Having the right arm immobile for a couple of weeks forced me to learn to do the essential things in my life left-handed.  I am happy to report that I am now ambidextrous when it comes to spreading peanutbutter on a bagel.  And speaking of peanutbutter reminds me that I am now ambivalent about whether the toilet paper is on the right or left side of the toilet–if you know what I mean.

Even with an increasingly agile left arm, there are some limitations, however: diaper duty is just out of the question, along with laundry, any type of housecleaning,  cooking (other than toasting and preparing my bagel) and basically any chore that I find mildly distasteful.  This could be a serious disincentive to rehab quickly.  However, a couple of weeks of my husband’s cooking renews my incentive pretty quickly.

I used to dread when people asked me if I had ever crashed on my bike. I was afraid that voicing aloud that I had never crashed in fifteen years of training would be a serious jinx.  Well, not only can I stop worrying about mumbling my way out of that one, but I can now proudly display the eighteen-wheel tire tracks for a real conversation booster.

My personality is such that I tend to opt for lighthearted, humorous entertainment and neglect my “serious” side.  Since my ribs will not tolerate laughter for quite some time, this is an ideal opportunity to correct this imbalance.  I can see intense movies like Saving Private Ryan instead of Something About Mary, read the Wall Street Journal which in the past I wouldn’t touch since it has no comics page,  and read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking  (maybe this time I ‘ll understand it) instead of my usual repertoire of Carl Hiaasen and John Irving books.  It is a good thing this column isn’t very funny or I would be in pain right now.

I got to try out a new sport that I probably wouldn’t have ever tried voluntarily– street luge!  It doesn’t make my top ten list of favorite sports although maybe it would have been more fun if I had used a sled.

Now that I am back training a little bit, I have discovered a benefit that coaches may find useful–working out with cracked ribs is a good simulation of altitude training.  So if you can’t afford to travel to Boulder for a month of training, a few good whacks with a hockey stick from your coach ought to do the trick.

Coming back from three major ordeals is 50% better story than coming back from two major ordeals. Right, Sports Illustrated?

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