Saturday, February 14, 2009


I've gotten a couple of requests to pass along the story of how I blew out my Achilles tendon. It's a story of love and danger. Heroism and resolve. Discovery and triumph.

Nah. Really it's about a reasonably painful injury suffered in a totally stoopid way. So it is, of course, madly funny.

It's a little long so I'll do this in 2 posts. The first is the story and the second will be some mildly gross photos. They're cool.

With no further ado, I present;


I think I have discovered proof of a secret medical language. Unh is apparently Secret Medical Speak for a shredded Achilles tendon. Let me elaborate.

I live in Monterey County California. We have a film Commission who decided to make an industry film about...well, making films in Monterey County. What a concept, but I digress. The producer of said kinda sorta film decided she needed a Heroic Police Officer for a critical scene on our commercial wharf. The Chief called me into his office and declared his total faith in my ability to handle this sensitive and important task. He said. "You can do this or get someone else. I don't care." I left his office filled with the warmth of his obvious confidence. I decided I would undertake the job myself as I couldn't convince anyone else to do it. My sanity was questioned several times, but, again, I digress.

I arrived at the scene and met with the producer. She was obviously overjoyed with the choice for Heroic Police Officer. She told me to stay out of the way and "Go wait over there until we're ready for you. "I picked a spot to wait and prepare for my pivotal role. Then I moved after someone yelled at me and questioned my intelligence for apparently parking Right In The Middle Of Everything. I settled into my new spot and waited. Three hours. Did I mention it was raining and cold? The director came over and gave me...direction. She was clearly a top notch professional, leaving nothing to chance. She carefully went over each phase of the scene, breaking it down to it's most basic elements so as to leave me no doubt of exactly what was expected of me. "Drive down there with your lights and siren thingy on. Get out; throw the blanket over the wet woman and leave. Got it?" I nodded my understanding and mentally prepared myself.

I got behind the wheel, my steely resolve showing in the set of my jaw and the intensity of my gaze. I may have questioned the director’s parentage but that was only my attempt to "Get Into Character." At the signal I activated my lights and siren thingy and sped toward my destiny. Surely this was just the beginning of my long overdue discovery as the next great Hollywood leading man. I would soon find myself on thecover of Teen Beat magazine and earn billions of dollars making blockbuster films about Heroic Characters. I arrived on my 'mark' (that's expert acting speak right there for those of you who aren't in the biz), grabbed the blanket, stepped out of my Heroic Police Vehicle and prepared to run to the rescue of the Damp Distressed Damsel. At that moment my left Achilles tendon decided to horn in on the action. It apparently decided it wasn't getting enough attention so chose that moment to do a Very Bad Thing. It tore itself in half, although I didn't know it at the moment. Why it chose that particular action I can only speculate. Perhaps it wanted to interject some drama into the proceedings. How much better if the Heroic Police Officer must rescue the Distressed Damp Damsel while dragging a no longer quite operational left foot behind? Perhaps it was just pissed at being treated as an appendage. I don't know, but I digress.

My foot felt as if it had been hit by a charging Rhino, or perhaps a medium sized Armadillo. Still, I managed a kind of hopping, shuffling, club footed sorta movement to our Leading Lady. I Heroically draped the blanket over her shoulder and murmured words of comfort to her. I think I may have mentioned that my leg was falling off or words to that effect but my intention was absolutely clear. Her well being was of paramount importance and anything else she says is just a stinking pack of lies. I made my way back to the Heroic Police Cruiser and collapsed into the seat. With Heroic Dignity of course. The director mentioned as how she'd like a "Second take if you don't mind. And how about trying to walk likea real human being instead of the Shambling Horror From Space." I spent 5 minutes explaining to her why her parents had never married and informed her I'd be happy to give her a second take when I next saw her in Hell.

I decided to call it a day and returned to the station whereupon Idiscovered I could not take my left boot off. Oh, it's not like I didn't try but every time I did I woke up on the floor, looking up at the ceiling and wondering who that was I heard screaming. Luckily for me the Fire Station, filled with Heroic Fire Persons, is attached to the Police station. I managed a one legged, hopping shuffle to the Fire Station and summoned the Heroic Fire Persons therein. Now the good thing about Fire Persons is that they are imminently Threatenable. If one tells a Fire Person, "If you cut my expensive boots off with your Evil Scissors I will shoot you" they tend to believe you. Paramedics, on the other hand are Not Threatenable At All. I learned this the hard way.

I was involved in an on duty motorcycle accident where I injured my left hip which is at the top of my legs, very near my actual waist. When Iwas loaded into the ambulance the Paramedic immediately produced a pair of Evil Scissors. I asked the purpose of said Evil Scissors and was told they were to cut my pants off. I informed the Paramedic that they weren't in fact pants but Motorcycle Breeches which we were required towear by Gubernatorial Dictate. The main difference between Pants and Breeches is that Pants cost $29.95 and Breeches cost $310.00. I told the paramedic "If you cut off my Breeches which cost $310.00 I will shoot you". He laughed. I said "Look, my injury is my hip which is at the top of my legs and very near my actual waist and if I unbutton and unzip my Breeches I can easily slide them past my injury which you can then examine to your hearts content." The Paramedic informed me that I Did Not Understand and proceeded to cut my Breeches from cuff to waist. Apparently Breeches do not actually die if only one leg is cut so He then proceeded to cut the other, non-injured leg, from cuff to waist. Paramedics are terribly Inscrutable and very non-Threatenable but I digress.

The Fire Persons managed to remove my boot, with much crying and pleading, some of it by me. It may have been the gun I had pointed at them but then again it may have been my socks. The Heroic Fire Captain took one look at my Achilles tendon and said, and this is a direct quote, "Unh." I said, "What exactly does that mean, Unh?" The Heroic Fire Captain said "Dude, you need to see a doctor right now." I asked why. He replied "You see this gap in your tendon? See how it feels like a bag of dead meat? It's not supposed to do that." I felt the area and it did indeed feel like a bag of dead meat (don't ask how I know I just do) so I decided to heed his expert medical advice and went to the ER.

While in the ER I removed my sock and waited patiently. For another three hours. When the fine ER doctor came in he took one look and said, and again this is a direct quote, "Unh." I asked the doctor if he could maybe be just a tad more specific as to the actual problem. I may have inferred a too close relationship between himself and his mother but that is totally beside the point. He did seem to take a perverse glee in informing me that I had in fact ruptured my Achilles tendon but I thought the laughter was uncalled for.

Two days later I found myself in the Orthopedic Surgeons office, confident that the ER doctor and Heroic Fire Captain were all wet and this would turn out to be much less severe than I had so far been led to believe. The good Doctor took one look and said, and I must stress this is a direct quote, "Unh." He immediately scheduled me for surgery to repair what he called "The worst blown Achilles I've ever seen."

So, what have I Learned? Unh is obviously Expert Medico Speak for Painful Ruptured Achilles Tendon followed by even more painful Surgeryand Physical Therapy by graduates of the Marquis De Sade School of Medical Torture and Massage.

Get the word out. The code has been broken.

So if you ever feel like your foot has been hit by a medium sizedArmadillo and a Medical Expert says to you "Unh" don't say you weren't warned.

And whatever you do, don't let them cut your pants off.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meathead or not Meathead

Ok. Forgive the mostly serious nature of this post. I want to give anyone reading this a sense of where I've been, where I'm going and how I got here.

It's about time I talked a little about bicycling. But first;

Hi, my name is eric and i'm a recovering meathead. I was a powerlifter for about 30 years. Bench, deadlift and squat.

I've got the aches and pains to prove it. I also got to 270 pounds and as I approached 50 I realized I simply could not carry that weight around anymore. Enter my bicycle.

Like many I biked as a kid. Hey, when you're too young for a license it's walk, bike, snivel for a ride or stay home. I snivel with the best of 'em but you know, the bike was just sitting there and my mom didn't have to know where I was really going....

Of course 16 changed all that. A car, dates, parties. Well a car anyway. The bike got put away never to be seen again.

High School and football. I got started on my meatheaditude. Lift, get bigger and stronger. Hit that guy in the face! Testosterone, pimples and chicks. Woo Hoo!

Fast forward to my 20's. Just out of the Army and starting a career that required some martial prowess. I fell back on what I knew and hit those weights. Bigger, stronger, more and more. At my biggest (at 44 years old) I was 5-11 and 270 pounds. 54 inch chest, 20 1/2 inch arms and a 38 pants. I was nearing that magical 1500 pound total. Then in 2004 I got hurt.

Ironically it was 2 wheels that bit me. A motorcycle. I went down hard. Concussion, Damaged hip and crushed Sciatic nerve. Rehab and the realization that I couldn't quite hit the weights the way I had. At least at first.

Oh, my weight stayed but the pure muscle started to go.

By 2006 I was getting back into the groove. I virtually stopped deadlifting and my squat suffered but I was back to benching big numbers. Then I got hurt again.

This time it was my achilles that went south and man, did it ever go all the way south. Surgery, rehab and more time spent out of the gym. My weight stayed right up there though. I'm just lucky that way.

My hip and sciatic hurt all the time. My knees hurt. My achilles caused ankle, foot and back pain. I couldn't squat anymore. Lost time hurt my bench. I lost weight but it was mostly muscle. Something had to give.

I've always been fascinated by endurance athletes. Probably because I couldn't do it. Not since the Army anyway. When I got out I had stopped runnung and now my injuries pretty much precluded that type of activity. Way back in 1996 we bought a couple of Gary Fisher MTB's. Just for fun. Mine was a silver Marlin. I liked it but we had a couple of dogs and it became a hassle. Walk the dogs or go riding? The dogs won out and the bikes got put away virtually unused.

Fast forward again to 2008. 4 years of rehabbing hip, ankle and back. Weight still too high and activity level dropping. Trying to do my best in the gym. August and I got hurt again.

Left shoulder this time. Rotator cuff. Surgery and more rehab. Not as bad this time. The injury wasn't as severe as feared and the doctor (a brilliant surgeon who I will love for the rest of my days. He put me back together twice) fixed it arthroscopically. It was mostly scar tissue from a previous injury/surgery and bone spurs. I was back in the gym in 6 weeks.

This time was different. I felt weak and was constantly worried about a new injury. My weight was still too high (mid 250's) and I felt sluggish and old. I got rated as 17 percent disabled. Disabled. A very ugly word indeed. Then inspiration hit me.

Lu and I started watching the Tour De France in 2005 and every year since. Again, I was fascinated. The riders, the machines, the fitness, the effort. I'd always liked to ride. Was this my answer? In 2008 I decided to see if the Leopard really could cange it's spots.

I dusted off the Gary Fisher's, mounted some road tires and saddled up. 2 things helped me. First, in October my daughter Jenny and the grandkids came to visit for a few months. She needed to lose some weight and was having some trouble with it. She loves to ride and we decided to tackle it as a team effort. The second was that when I got Lu's bike back in shape for my daughter, she decided she liked this riding thing as well.

Jenny and I started out slow. I mean slow. Over the months we got better and better. The weight dropped off and I spent less and less time pining for the gym. Oh, i still went (and still go) a couple of times a week but instead of 2 to 3 hours concentrating on high weight, low rep strength training, I started doing conditioning lifting. My reps went up, my intensity went up but the poundage came down. And I felt fantastic. The hip felt better, the ankle and knees felt better. The shoulder felt much better. Hey, this was working!

Jenny and the kids left in January (They're in Hungary and Jen is buying a new bike in a bike crazy culture. She lost weight and let loose the athlete within while we rode together. She's going to do great).

Last month Lu and I decided it was time to upgrade. We bought a pair of Giant FCR2's and started doing some serious riding. Well, serious for me and Lu anyway. We love the new bikes and we put the knobbies back on the Gary Fishers so we'll be doing some trail riding as well as road.

Last month I did 83 miles. I've gotten in 41 as of the 10th of February on my way to my first 100 mile month. It may not seem like much but it is for me and it's the next step in my transformation from meathead to endurance athlete. Or as near to it as I can get.

So, am I actually a meathead in transition or will the iron bug bite me again? Only time will tell but I will say this. I'm just shy of my 50th birthday and I can honestly say I've never felt better. My wind is good. My weight is going steadily down. My blood pressure what it was when I was 25. My knees are better as is my leg and foot. Lu says my butt looks great. That's worth it right there. Woo Hoo again!

And I'm loving the riding. It's especially nice because I've had 2 great riding partners, my wife and my daughter. Thanks guys. I couldn't do it without you.

In a perverse way, weightlifting may have actually helped me on the bike. My legs are very strong and serious, heavy lifting requires a level of suffering that's kinda comparable to hard riding. The difference is in duration, not effort. Riding hard requires extended pain where lifting is pain in short doses. It hurts just as bad but you get a chance to shake it out between lifts.

I'm starting to actually contemplate goals I thought were forever beyond me. I want to do a Century. I'm waiting for Jenny to get back so I've got 2 years to train for it. I told her I wont go without her. We'll do it together. My mileage continues to go up as my weight decreases and my cardio fitness improves.

Jenny also turned me on to 2 guys who have unknowingly helped, dug and The Fat Cyclist. Check my links and go visit their sites. And please donate to the Lance Armstrong Fund fighting cancer on Fatty's site. It's a great charity helping to fund research into a disease that touches us all. They're funny, occasionally poingnant and always inspiring. I also owe both of them a big thanks. Of course they've gotten me thinking about the Leadville 100 so they're not entirely blameless.

So that's it. My story, such as it is. I'm sure you were underwhemed but don't worry, I've got many more sub-standard stories just waiting to be told. Ah, sweet anticipation!

Now lets go riding!


Swimmers Ear

So. Last November my right ear blocked up. You know, you feel the movement of some kind of noxious liquid in your ear canal followed by a complete blockage. Blowing my nose didn't help. Taking a variety of the liquid nastinesses that pass for 'congestion medicine' in my wife's storage cabinet didn't help. Even sticking a dirty finger in and stirring it around didn't bring relief (go figure).

But, being a guy I ignored it as best I could and carried on. In a Manly way of course. I am in fact that proto-typical guy who doesn't go into the doctor's office unless something is actively falling off. Drives Lu nuts but hey, that's my job.

Fast forward to a week ago. It had gotten to the point that even my extreme manliness didn't allow me to ignore the problem anymore. Lu called the Doc and away we went.

Now, I like my doctor. He's a friendly guy who dispenses simple remedies and doesn't cause me too much pain or embarrassment. He's got a dry sense of humor and isn't a lecturer.

When we got there and informed him of the issue he made muted comment on the passage of time. "3 months?" with an arched eyebrow. Not exactly an admonition but enough to let me know that he hadn't missed that little factoid.

Me. "But Doc. You know how I am." This was followed by another raised eyebrow. "Yeah, I know how you are." But again, no lecture. I love this guy.

He stuck the instrument in each ear and said, in a tone of triumph I must say, "Yep". He then called Lu over (she always goes in with me to make sure I tell the doctor everything that's going on. She's experienced too many times of questioning me about a visit only to find out I wasn't exactly forthcoming about symptoms to ever trust me again). He told her to look into the instrument he had cemented in my right ear. Yes, he actually let her look into my body! This isn't the first time either. When I went in for an endoscope for ulcers a few years ago, that doctor let her watch the screen and see my innards in all their gastro-intestinal glory. Just a tip here ladies. Guys insides are disgusting. You really, really don't want to see that.

Back to the present. The doc said "You see that cottage cheese looking stuff? It's Swimmers Ear." Lu dutifully looked, made some comment like "Hmmmm" and then quietly went to the corner to try and hide her dry heaves. And shame I presume.

Now when I heard "cottage cheese looking stuff" I started to panic. What had heretofire been only a mild discomfort became a throbbing, aching pain as visions of alien goo in my ear caused an entirely reasonable panic. I began to imagine the stuff nefariously working it's way through my ear and into my brain where it would slowly dissolve away all that is Me and suck up the juices to feed it's voracious appetite for World Domination! It would then pop out of my now empty skull (Now???) and have to be killed by Kurt Russell with a homemade flame thrower. That's what happens when you say things like "cottage cheese looking stuff" doc so in the future lets try and be a little more descriptively subtle alright? He even made it worse by giving me the worst case scenario. "Oh, it could go into the bone and cause real problems." See? Alien goop.

He told me to "Favor the other ear for a while" (he's a funny guy, my doc) and gave me a prescription for antibiotic drops with the admonition "This goes in your ears. You don't take it orally." You gotta tell guys these things. Trust me on this.

It got me to thinking. Swimmers Ear? Really? But hey, I don't swim. Oh I'm not saying I can't swim as long as your definition of 'swim' is very broad. Very, very broad. Like weakly dog paddling around while desperately trying to keep ones head above water and thereby avoid drowning. If that's swimming then yes, I can swim. It's just that I don't, or at least I haven't in, oh I don't know, like 10 years! Where in the hell did I get swimmers ear? And if it's not (as I suspect) caused by actual swimming only, then why call it Swimmers Ear? Is it like Tennis Elbow or Plantar Fasciitis? (There are no Fascist Farmers Planting things involved in Plantar Fasciitis and you can get Tennis Elbow from weight lifting. It's all so confusing).

Did I get it from a toilet seat? A used Q-tip? Did an infected person surreptiously stick their tongue in my ear when I wasn't looking?

Here's a thought. How about simply calling this what it is? Obnoxious Alien Ear Goo. At least then you won't have to be told the worst case secnario. That'll be all too obvious. In the meantime I'm taking my drops and staying watchful for the first sign of Imminent Alien Cranial Expulsion.

Where the hell is Kurt Russell when I need him?


Monday, February 9, 2009

Hey, I'm a Blogger!

After less than careful consideration I have decided to follow my daughter's lead and start a blog of my very own. Can the world stand another amateur's lame attempt at humor and commentary? Since the only ones who will ever read this are almost certainly some family and friends (and I'll be spending most of my time making fun of them) the answer is probably not. Oh Joy.

I plan to muse about many, many things;

Weightlifting. I'm only a recovering Meathead. I still lose my mind from time to time.

Bicycles, my current passion. See meathead above.

Poltics. No matter how many times I get spanked I still have a perverse inclination to opine occasionally. This will undoubtedly be the source of many a comeuppance. That's ok, I'm nothing if not easy.

Dogs. We currently have 2 brain dead Black Labs. One is blind and deaf. The other isn't. They're both old. Like me.

Guns. Yes I am an evil gun owner.

Corvettes. Remember that online dating commercial where the greasy guy pulls up in his red vette with the license plate 'THERICK' then goes running when the (male) hero introduces himself as THERICK's date thereby saving the Damsel in Distress from a Fate Worse Than Death? I love that guy.

Retiring, Life in General and the pratfalls of turning 50. Yes I meant to say pratfalls. One must find humor where one can.

Friends and family. No group of people are a better source of humor than friends and family. I'm always ready to embarrass all and sundry for a cheap laugh.

Anything else that strikes my fancy and my fancy is pretty striking.

I love a good argument and I can take as well as I give. Providing everyone is civil. Or at least funny. Betting on outcomes is always an option, providing the bet is for something embarrassing. Good fun that and I always pay off. For proof go see my daughter's blog wherein I make an ass of myself and pay off in a public way.

A word about the name. I find that the world is filled with Constipated Weasels (CW's for future reference). They seem to mostly prefer the dark, dank environs of politics but really, they can be found anywhere and everywhere. Government, business, the grocery store, carnivals. Everywhere. I've met my fair share of them, mostly at work, but that's a blog for another day. The point is that they're numbers are vast and increasing at an exponential rate. (Ha! I used exponential in a sentence. Score!) They must be identified and stopped at all costs. Or at least pointed and laughed at. I plan to point and laugh whenever I can.

I love to write. I'm an action type guy in life who has a secret desire to be an artist. I dabble with stories as the muse strikes me and I'll be using this space to try some of them on you when I run out of other, better ideas. That's me, lazy as hell.

Married, 1 child, 2 grandkids and maybe 3 friends. The humor pool is looking kinda shallow. I may have to revert to outright fabrication.

I am decidedly non PC. I will be discussing 'Chick Stuff'' so be prepared.

I love cartoons. Old Warner Brothers (the pre PC ones where you actually see the anvil fall. Wile E. Coyote is pure genius), South Park, Family Guy, Simpsons, et al and ad nauseum. Love 'em. Rotted my brain many years ago and I don't care. I'm still a 6 year old at heart. Just ask my wife.

Ok. enough with the intro stuff. I'll post again tomorrow. Or the next day. Soon for sure and it will be funny. Probably.

I swear.