Progress Both Big and Small

June 29, 2011 By Lauren and Tom

“See, I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite, and gunpowder… And gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They’re cheap!”- Heath Ledger as the Joker in the Dark Knight

I was really concerned when I first started writing The Blog that my personality wouldn’t really come out.  I’m very much one and the same in terms of how I act and carry myself at home, with friends, professionally, and any other time.  To me a spade is a spade and it takes way more energy than I’m willing to expend to do anything but carry the same personality throughout the day.  I think that I’ve found the best way for words to flow that represent the same conversation I would have if we were sitting face to face.

So, if you already know me you most likely know a couple of these very basic themes that are prevalent in my life; I like movies where “shit blows up”, I like going down to B’s and shooting, I like power tools, I like cars, airplanes, motorcycles (though still can’t bring myself to get back on mine after The Crash), I love a good punk rock show, and the 4th of July is like Christmas to me when it comes to fireworks.  If it requires ear protection, eye protection, or Kevlar I am usually enjoying it.   None of this is shocking for a 24 year old guy, but L indulges me and puts up with it (and even has gone to the midnight premier of James Bond with me); I’ve even gotten her to a few concerts, shooting, and watching the explosive movies…progress in small steps I suppose. 
The Pumpkin didn’t know what was coming…thanks to JBD’s Winchester and my close proximity
think they left the keys in there?
If you ask Lauren, I’ve been waiting for today since last summer when they were filming the Chicago portions of Transformers Dark of the Moon just up the street from my parents place.  So, needless to say, we’ve got tickets for the opener of Transformers tonight, 2.5 hours of Michael Bay blowing up everything he could have imagined as a child and indulging my man-boy tendencies while Lauren laughs at me and shakes her head.  I bought tickets as soon as they became available, and I’m sure the theater will be a mix of other man-boys and actual high school boys all looking for the same cheap thrills for a few hours; cars that transform?  Sign me up for one…and a hover board.   Blame it on the society of the 90’s I was raised in or whatever else you must; I typically blame it on just liking fun things.
I asked if it was a Transformer, but it didn’t do anything, or speak back…

I hit a huge milestone though and something I consider a “big step” tomorrow.  I had back surgery on April 25 (facet rhiztomy for those of you keeping track) and was in agony for a week after surgery that made the agony I spent the past year in look like child’s play.  If you’re wondering where we got the name The Purple Elephant; it’s because he was standing on my back for a week after the surgery.  I decided I needed a specific goal in my life after getting clearance to start working out again as my body could tolerate it and I felt up to it (let’s be a bit more vague doc…).  No longer am I training with national championships or desires of being fast enough to be World Cup, International, or Olympic capable, but I realized I was simply exercising to survive.  It was an odd transition; it was exercise instead of training; and an incredibly bitter pill to swallow at that.

Rockille and I after Track National in 2006 after another National Championship win, Our coach Polish Pollock in the center

So, I rode my bike for 45 minutes on Monday, May 2nd.  It felt like 4 hours, and I was absolutely trashed after it.  I realized that at this point I was in survival mode, not sure if I’ll ever get clearance to return to racing, but knowing I needed to at least get some fitness back; I set a goal I only shared with Lauren and my parents; 60 days.  The 60 day goal was to work out 60 days in a row, cycling, swimming (a new sport for me), an occasional trail run, sometimes 20 minutes of exercise, sometimes 2.5 hours.  I didn’t have a “set training plan”; but I was bound and determined to do this and not fail.  Mentally I needed the challenge and to get my mind moving in a different direction, physically I had put on some pounds from not working out due to the back injury and being overzealous on the beer and pizza since The Crash. 

Lauren and I after one of the many bike races before The Crash (and with those smiles it must have been a successful day!)
I hit this hard, I got my ass handed to me by myself.  But slowly 45 minutes turned into an hour, and then an hour and a half, and even a few 2+ hour rides scattered in.  I did a few runs (and backed off as my spine wasn’t tolerating it), started swimming to get some core strength back and rebuild those back and shoulder muscles; and started to feel good about myself again in terms of remembering what I was capable of.  Today is day 59, I’ve got a light bike ride planned, and tomorrow to celebrate hitting my goal of 60 days straight, I’m going to go out for my first 3 hour ride in almost 14 months.  I’m not saying it’s going to be pretty…but that’s what goals are for, to push us deeper and harder than we ever knew possible.  There have been days where I was up at 6 to workout due to scheduling, or working out at 8 PM due to scheduling, but I never missed a day.  For all of those out there that say “I don’t have time to exercise” I disagree; you can’t get any busier than what my life (and L) currently have on our plates, it is doable and you just have to make it a priority without excuses.

I’m not saying it’s been an easy 59 days so far.  I’ve been humbled, but I’ve also accepted as much as I ever think is possible the thought of not being medically cleared to return to racing.  I’ll do everything I can to make myself healthy and cross my fingers, but I’m mentally prepared to have the doctors not let me; accepting is different from being okay with, cycling has been the biggest thing in my life for 15 years.  It’s not the doctors fault I have a head injury and several fractured vertebra, it is John Mavris and Jerry Lowery who gifted me these injuries.  At this point in the game “it is what it is” is the only thing that keeps me going; but at least I’m going now….feeling more so now than ever.  I’ll have to find some other way to satisfy my competitive urges, but for right now I’m just competing with myself to see where I can get back to fitness wise.  I’m maybe 25% of where I was before all of this fitness wise, but I’ll just keep trying to do what I’ve been doing and see what and if I can get back to that personal best level even if it’s not to compete against others in the future.  I’ve gone from training 20-25 hours a week before The Crash, till now with everything going on still regarding my head injury, I’m hesitant to push it more than 10 hours a week….so I’ve still got a long ways to go before I feel “normal”.
Bike ride up A1A in Fort Lauderdale in 2009, a vacation for us and training camp for me

And if you’re wondering what I’m going to do after I hit 60 days tomorrow….I’ve been pondering the same thing.  I think it’ll go to 75 days, but I’ll accept some longer walks and a bit of weightlifting into that schedule of appropriate workouts.  My body is feeling every muscle and ache, but that just lets me know I’m alive, right?
Progress comes both big and small…it’s just remembering what it really looks like.