Portrait of a Pelvis

Sketch of a pelvis looking happy

It was a perfectly good pelvis, with the smooth, bold curves you’d expect in the midsection of a highly trained endurance athlete. But, then, it was attacked without warning or provocation. And the worst is that the attack came from a trusted friend.

It began on a cloudy September Saturday in Eau Claire, Wisconsin when I was riding my mountain bike around the trails at Lowe’s Creek County Park. My pelvis rode lightly and happily on the old green Avocet saddle of my Trek Superfly mountain bike. We were riding a lap of the NICA race course with our student athletes. The course was fast and fun and very safe.

We completed the lap and went back to camp where I found another group of kids wanting to go out and practice the course. Ruthie, my daughter, wanted to ride another lap, and I planned to ride lap after lap, all day long.

We rode briskly down the dirt road that comprised the start of the race. After half a mile, we entered the single-track and started twisting and turning through the woods. With Ruthie in the lead we entered the single track. I came around a left curve in the trail followed by a line of innocent 12-year-old children who trusted me to guide and teach them about my lifelong sport. I was not moving slow, and I was not moving fast as I looked at the big roots mostly buried beneath the surface of the trail. The little tikes behind saw me rolling lightly and confidently over the roots when — BAM — my bike stopped. An unseen force stopped my bike and I was ejected from the cockpit. There was a violent interaction with the handlebars, and I found myself on the ground. That’s when my bike – the old friend I trusted – came crashing down on top of me. The wide-eyed 12-year-old behind me reported that my bike appeared to leap in the air and come down saddle first onto my hip. That’s right, the seasoned, green Avocet saddle on the trusted old bike attacked me when I was already down.

Sketch of my mountain bike attaching me

I laid on my right side in the fetal position on the trail yelling out in pain. Ruthie picked my bike up off me. Embarrassed, I began to skootch myself off the trail, still on my side and moving like an injured caterpillar. Two coach friends helped me into a sitting position and, after a few minutes, to a stand. I kept thinking, “I’ll just loosen up and get back on my bike.” But I could not lift my left leg because of the pain. I stood there thinking about how much I did not want to ride in an ambulance, when I finally pulled my phone out of my jersey pocket and called Nikole back at camp.

I almost burst into tears when she answered, I was so sad. (I hate to admit this, because I know that you think I am a cold and fearless adventure boy.) I held it together enough to say, “Nikole, I crashed and I can’t get myself out of the woods. Someone is going to have to come and get me.” We spent several minutes trying to nail down where I was on the course, and she spoke to the race organizers.

I sent Ruthie, and the coaches and the scarred 12-year-olds in our group down the trail to finish their practice lap. Coach Phil stayed behind to warn riders that there was an injured rider on the trailside. I thought I might faint, so I lowered myself to kneeling and nodded at the passing riders out testing the course.

Sketch of Zach and Nikole carrying me

Surprisingly soon, my beautiful wife came walking around the corner of the trail followed by volunteer coordinator, Zach. They tried to act as human crutches, but adventure boy could not lift his left leg even a little. So, Nikole and Zach wrapped my arms around their shoulders and each picked up a leg and began to carry me in a seated position out of the woods. I let them think the tears running down my cheeks were from pain, but I was so scared, and so touched by this selfless act that I was struggling to keep from sobbing. I rode out of the woods sitting on the tailgate of Zach’s truck.

Sketch of Ed laying in the grass

Back at camp, I laid on the ground next to my van while a panel of experts determined that my injuries were muscular and required rest. But when I still could not walk the next morning, a doctor friend ordered me to go directly to Urgent Care in Eau Claire. 

In Urgent Care, they casually took an x-ray of my hip joint. The x-ray tech flicked her cigarette and drawled, “I see a little something up there… I’m going to have to take another picture of your whole pelvis this time.” They stuck the new x-ray up on the big screen and the whole mood changed. Suddenly, I was a big deal.

Sketch of my broken pelvis looking sad

An orderly pushed me in a wheelchair to the E.R. taking the corners on two wheels. They told me I had a shattered pelvis, they started an IV “in case we need to do a procedure”, they took and tested blood and they did a CT scan. The CT scan showed that all my shattered parts were still in the right places, and there was no internal bleeding. Everyone chilled out and went back to casual mode. The doctor handed me some crutches and was like, “Yeah, you might want to make an appointment with an orthopedic doc in La Crosse, ‘cause, like, your pelvis is jacked.”

I don’t know why, but knowing for sure what the issue was gave me a lot of relief. The only thing sad was that we had missed Ruthie’s and Bethany’s races. We drove back to race venue. I parked myself in a lawn chair on the race course, ordered a vegetarian sandwich and a large coffee and yelled at Edward when he rode by. I said, “Nikole, you should probably start packing up the van… I mean, I would do it, but I got this shattered pelvis.”

All things considered, the weekend was a great success. I was surrounded by friends, nobody tried to cut me open, and now the whole family is at my beck and call. Really, if you have to shatter something, I recommend the pelvis.

My #OptOutside Black Friday

sketch of me wearing lots of layersWhen my beautiful wife and her two oldest daughters left the house to go shopping at 6:30am on Black Friday, I layered up in active wear and rode my mountain bike toward the woods. I wanted to be like a model on the REI Co-op web site doing exciting outdoor things while the rest of the world was at the mall. I left my sleeping kids in the care of their sleeping 15-year-old brother.

A Chance Encounter

Sketch of a buck eating leavesI rode up the bluff on the Vista trail. It was 37 degrees and the trails were hard and clear of snow. I stopped half way up to shed some layers. As I packed my jacket in my jersey pocket, I looked around at the beautiful, brown forest. I was surprised to find a buck, about 10 yards from me, crunching dried leaves off a downed tree. I said out loud, “Oh yeah, it’s hunting season. You’re not like all angry and in rut, are you?”

He replied, “No, it’s cool. I’m just chillin’ in the park enjoying those, ‘No Firearms On City Property’ signs.”

No Firearms on City Property

I told him I thought that was a good idea. I wished him a good day and continued my climb.

The Route

When I reached the top of the bluff, I rode the Quarry Connector trail to Stinky’s, then Bob and Twister. I ruminated about the deer’s concern for gun safety, and I hoped my vintage orange cycling jersey would be enough to alert any lost hunters to the presence of a human when they heard something moving through the woods.

Adventure Boy Lives His #OptOutside Dream

I planned to finish my ride with a break by the pump track, but it was windy and cold on the very top of the ridge. I got back on my bike and rode down through the prairie to the pines at the beginning of Stinky’s. The wind sneaked through the trees searching for me. I found a place that made a good wind break and sat on the ground to eat my first breakfast. (It was my first, because I would have to indulge in another breakfast when I got home to my sleeping kids.)

Sketch of me eating a sandwich and drinking coffee

Adventure Boy at home in the woods

I pulled from my backpack a peanut butter sandwich and a Kleen Kanteen thermos (which I had stolen from my 19-year-old) full of hot coffee. I sat on the ground dining and telling myself I was the most adventurous, rugged cowboy in town… maybe in the world. It was a most excellent time. I wish every breakfast could be just like it.

Here ends the good part of the story. I made it down off the bluff safely, and got home to enjoy eggs and toast with my Ruthie. (Edward slept until noon.)

Looking For Work

I really think I would benefit from a job in which I go on long mountain bike rides and drink coffee in the woods. If you know anyone hiring for that, please let me know in the comments below.

Riding with local powerbrokers

I went on a 64-mile bike ride last Saturday with the local B-Team. Our plan was to start a few minutes after the A-Team and pick up their stragglers as we went.

About 20 minutes into the ride, we caught two old guys on a climb. As we rode the next 40 miles, the two old guys proved to be strong riders, pushing the pace on the flats. I learned that one of the old guys was Steve O’Mally, LaCrosse County Adminstrator. I bet you wish your county administrator were as fit as ours.

Steve O'Mally, Mark Brum cycling

Mark Brum, Steve O’Mally, Michelle Ericsson and Gary Terbeest bringing it home in the Lions Ride For Sight. Where is JP the Locomotive? He is back on the horizon pulling two riders up to the lead peloton. Try not to notice that I was in the wrong lane to take this photo.

Steve O'Mally's keens cycling sandals

What’s cooler than being the cycling county administrator? Riding 64 miles in Keens cycling sandals.

I spent the whole ride hoping Mark Brum and JP Ericsson would not notice that I carefully avoided taking the lead or breaking the wind. I think I was only out of their protective draft for 400 yards of the 64 miles.

Mark Brum Cycling

I believe there is none on the road with a better riding form than Mark Brum. He is smooth, always in just the right cadence and never bobs or looks strained. But he doesn’t do Strava, so he’s not perfect.

Why I love the high school mountain bike racing season

Ed being served pancakes by a butler

This is my impression of the trials I endure as a coach for the La Crosse Area Mountain Bike Team.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association high school mountain bike racing season just came to an end. I was one of a dozen coaches for the La Crosse Area team, and the season was very good to me. I was forced to ride my bike consistently, and leave the house occasionally to travel to races and camp in a tent.

Recently, I was at Paul and Jenny Fisher’s house, eating chili and apple crisp, when the subject of conversation turned to mountain biking. Jenny asked me, “Eddie, how do they get you to camp out, when you hate camping?”

In perfect harmony, Nikole and I said, “It’s not really camping.”

I went on, “When we arrive at the race course, I ride around the course a couple times with some of the racers. While I’m riding, someone else sets up the tent. Then a bunch of parents cook a meal.”

She said, “Oh yeah, cooking is the hardest part of camping.”

I agreed, “Yeah. Then we sit around a camp fire and talk smart. Then I sleep in my down sleeping bag. In the morning, a bunch of parents make a hot breakfast. I eat, then ride around the course a couple more times with some of the racers warming up. Then I cheer for the kids in the races. Then I eat a lunch that someone else makes.”

Mr. Fisher said, “Wait! You mean you basically eat, sleep and ride your bike?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Mr. Hale, you’re a genius.”

Yes. Yes I am.

But I acknowledge that it is the work of all the other coaches and parents that makes my race weekends so wonderfully happy. I am truly thankful for all that they do.

Noteworthy Peeps:

Josh Shively, our head coach and possibly the nicest man you will ever meet.

Mary Luebke, one of our food czars and taker of excellent photographs.

Dan Speckeen, a very happy coach who also organizes food, cooks a mean pancake, shows up early to claim campsites and likes coffee.

There are at least a dozen other coaches and spouses who work very hard to make the race weekends all they can be for Ed. I am thankful for all of them.

sunrise in the camp site

Morning dawns, and the world says, “Ed, what can I do for you today?” (Dan Speckeen, in the middle of the photo, is one of the food organizers, and the manager of my caffeine needs on race weekends.)

Camping in a farm field

This is a common race weekend campground — tents and campers gathered into “compounds” in an un-mowed farm field. The nearest plumbing is five miles away.

Ruthie racing and smiling

Honestly, this is what it is really all about… seeing Ruthie wearing her race face.

Edward racing

The Hale kid out on the race course.

Ruth standing with some of her racing friends

You should all get your daughters into mountain bike racing. The ladies have a lot of fun. They cheer for each other, even for those on other teams. Nobody sits on the bench. The cheering crowds are just as big for their races as for any of the others. It is a good sport.

Bikers and Sticks

This post is mostly an excuse to share this drawing of bikers and sticks. Here is the story:

There is this thing in cycling culture, where we point out road hazards to the riders behind us. Image you are riding along and the biker in front of you points at the ground on his right. You would cautiously move a little in the opposite direction and watch as a huge pot hole, or a sharp piece of metal or a dead skunk comes into view on the right side of the road. If you were in a big group of cyclists, you might also point out the hazard to the riders behind you.

Too Many Pointing Fingers

This morning as we headed across the marsh on the bike trail, the riders in front of me began pointing to their left… then their right… and their left again. There was a storm last night, and the trail was littered with broom-handle-sized sticks. Soon, my friends, suffering from finger fatigue, stopped pointing and left us to our own defenses. We were all craning our necks to look ahead and swerving back and forth as we went down the trail. People were bunny hopping. Sticks were snapping. It was mayhem.

As I rode through the carnage, the accompanying illustration and hand lettering, jumped into my head. I follow lots of talented hand-letterers on Instagram, and they often transcribe Bible verses or inspirational quotes. So, I feel slightly less than amazing for sharing a string of words that are nothing more than a quote from my stream of consciousness. But it was fun to draw, so now you have to look at it.

Thanks.

…And another thing

My daughter, Claire, who is a talented illustrator and letterer, told me my illustration is very nice and should be shared. I relish this rare and unsolicited endorsement, and I thought I better obey.

Ode to a key lanyard

The long lanyard at home

Ed walks the halls with his classroom key always at the ready.

I carry a biggish ball of keys with me wherever I go. Finding the right key can be difficult, so I have them grouped onto color coded lanyards. The ugly, teal lanyard is for car keys, because cars are evil smog producers, and deserve an ugly lanyard. The prettier black lanyard is for house keys, because home is a sanctuary (teaming with loud, screaming children). My work key has a special, long, black and yellow lanyard, because when I am rushing to class, I want to be able to find it quickly.

When I get to school, I unhook my work key and leave the huge key planet in my office. I walk the halls with one, light key in my pocket. The long yellow lanyard enjoys hanging from my pocket, and catching on door knobs and hooks.

Here is where the drama starts

On Thursdays, I have to get to work early to open all the computer labs. I always arrive with just enough time to lock my bike and rush into the building, where I find the five really serious students waiting by their classroom doors. Last Thursday, as usual, I rushed to string my cable through my bike wheels and hook the cable on my big u-lock. I fumbled with the massive key ball to find the tiny tubular u-lock key (which lives on the pretty black lanyard with house keys, because home and bikes are both beautiful things.) I locked the big u-lock and turned to rush to the door. But the rushing stopped when the long, yellow and black lanyard, having secretly looped itself around my bike cable, yanked me to a stop.

Ed being yanked to a stop by a hooked lanyard

Oh, the hardships I must endure, as I try to eek out a living

This is where the excitement stops

So I was an extra 40 seconds late, after I went back to the bike rack, fumbled some more with my wad of keys, and released my work key from the bike lock. I thought the experience was just funny enough to illustrate in my journal, and because I took the time to draw it, I am forcing you to hear about it here.

I hope all your lanyards stay where they should be.

An Unfortunate Miscalculation In Cold Weather Riding Apparel

A cyclist frozen in an ice cube but still riding

I drew a sketch of a frozen cyclist. It is not meant to look like anyone we know

This past Saturday I went on a little bike ride with my sister. My crazy sister is turning 60 years old next year, and decided she wants to ride 60 miles on her birthday. She asked me if we could train together sometimes, and I thought, “Lady, I could ride 60 miles before breakfast and again after lunch.” (I don’t struggle with pride. I am just awesome.)

I was a little late to Laurie’s house and we began our ride at 3pm. It was 51 balmy degrees. I wore two long sleeved shirts and a jacket on top. I wore fleece lined tights on the bottom. I thought, “I am going to roast out there.” And I would have roasted, if it were 51° at 3pm in June. But it was November 27, and the sun was laughing and saying, “Look at the idiot in the yellow windbreaker. I am going to bed soon, and he is going to be a popsicle. (Hey, why is that hot chick riding with freaky, yellow, twig man?)

We started out heading north through Winona, Minnesota, and after a few miles, I noted that it felt cooler than I thought it would be. I kept telling myself, “I can feel a little cool for a couple hours.”

When my sister’s phone announced, “You have gone 10 miles,” my torso announced, “I am freezing.” I was glad I wore my winter gloves. I thought back to when my sister asked if I was going to wear my fleece jacket… my beautiful, red, fleece jacket that right now was hanging uselessly on the back of a chair in my sister’s dining room. Why hadn’t I worn the jacket?

The sun was in South America now, and the temperature was dropping fast. I was trying to hide my frigidity from my sister. Around mile 15, I swung my arms around trying to force blood into my frozen fingertips. My sister asked if I was cold. I confessed I was getting cold. I asked, “Are you cold?”

She said, “No, I’m fine.”

How was she fine? She had no windbreaker and she was wearing thin, leather driving gloves. I am the seasoned cyclist. Why am I the one hurting? And I had no idea where I was. Were we 10 miles from home, or 2?

A few minutes later, we rode up to Winona Lake, and I knew we were close to done. My sister asked, “Do you want to ride around the lakes, or head for home?”

I said, “I think I must head home.”

Oh the knowledge that we were on the “downhill side” of this ride gave me renewed strength. I was the great explorer headed home for a hero’s welcome. I was going to live!

Three miles later, my bike was leaning against the garage door at my sister’s house, and I was running for my street clothes. With my ice cube fingers, I put on every bit of clothing I had. My sister made hot coffee, and after I drank that, she fed me hot chili.

I drove home with the heater on full blast, drinking more hot coffee.

My Take-Aways

  1. Do not trust natural fibers! Trust chemicals. Wool long-sleeved jerseys do not keep you warm. Wear the polyester Polar Fleece.
  2. Don’t leave your neck gaiter in the car, Sir Edmond Hillary! Stuff it in your jersey pocket, just in case.
  3. Always bring coffee money!