I fell. I fell hard. It hurt. And like that I was back to square one.
What followed in the next few weeks after my fall in Shelby Forest was a trip back down memory lane as I dealt with pain, healing, and tried to maintain my sanity as the COVID pandemic rolled on through the summer.
Within the first 48 hours of my injury I was about 98% certain I knew the extent of my injuries: bruised or cracked ribs. There was no swelling, no discoloration—just lots of pain. I could barely move without it hurting. I took Advil; it helped some. I took Epsom salt baths; they helped a little. Doing my own online research and reflecting on past similar injuries, I knew that the only thing that was going to really help was time; probably somewhere in the vicinity of 3-4 weeks. That was 3-4 weeks of not…running…at…all. I was sad. I’d go crazy. Working out was my one solace during this entire COVID time to really help my mental health. But running was out of the question. It would have to be biking on the trainer.
Four days after my fall in the forest, I got on my bike trainer and rode. It wasn’t pretty—again it hurt to throw my leg over the bike, but it was feasible. I rode 15 miles that morning and knew I overdid it. I didn’t ride again for another five days at that point. I was really just trying to get sleep in. I was so uncomfortable that I had to sleep on my back, slightly upright. I couldn’t turn either direction or the pain was too much. There were some sleepless nights followed by long days of parenting my two girls all morning. Slowly though I recovered. That second week of recovery I took to the bike trainer and felt comfortable enough to ride consistently. My goal: 45 minutes with the aim of getting a little faster each day. And I did get faster: my mileage increasing from 12.5 mi at a 16.5mph pace to 12.7 at a 16.8 mph pace, to 13 mi at a 17.2 mph pace after a week of rides. It wasn’t much, but something. Then after 5 days of cycling, I wanted to give running a try.
Inside I ached to run again. I followed so many runners and triathletes on social media that I was determined to get back out there as quickly as possible. I thought I was getting better. My goal on my first run: 3 easy miles. I got up early Saturday morning, stretched a bit, and jogged off, immediately turning my watch on so that I could capture this run—I mean as so many attest, if it’s not on Strava, did it really happen? Well this was happening alright…and then it wasn’t. The pain was overwhelming! The bounce of each step jarred my ribs in a painstaking wakeup call to remind me of my injuries. I made it all of a tenth of a mile before stopping, turning off my watch, and walking home. I needed more time to heal. Of course stopping my watch and saving it was a painful reminder that it would forever be logged in my training, but that was ok, while it remained on my watch, I deleted the activity from Strava. The silver lining was that I knew where I stood in terms of healing. Back to the bike trainer for a couple more weeks.
While I healed and rode, I continued to execute my daily parenting duties and other things around the house. Throughout this entire COVID time, one thing I’d pursued was cooking using my grill and a basic charcoal smoker for meats. Despite not having used a smoker before, I experimented with ribs and tri tip. The pictures don’t do the food justice, but the faces of my oldest says it all. In addition to the smoker, another thing we’ve cooked is pizza on the grill. I’m not talking anything pre-made like pizza shells or anything—we’re talking handmade crust, sauce from tomatoes, and lots of other goodness with a lot of olive oil (because can you go wrong with olive oil?). Add to this there was lots of corn on the cob on the grill…because if that isn’t summer, I don’t know what is.
And the beer to pair with all of this you ask?
Well that’s simple.
Memphis’ own Crosstown Brewing has the perfect summer beer: their Dog Days of Summer Pink Lemonade Shandy. It simply pairs well with summer. Light, fresh, and crisp, this blend of a pilsner and lemonade follows in the spirit of the German-style Radler beers that I became fond of on two tours in Germany. I must have picked up 3-4 6 packs over the weeks from the brewery. They are great beers for sitting on the back porch on a hot hazy summer afternoon watching the smoker do its thing for three to four hours and make incredible meat. It also takes me back to many a German summer riding through the countryside.
Even with good food and beers, by the end of July and at the end of nearly five months of self-isolation, my family and I needed a break. Not just a weekend hike or laying low at the house; we needed to get away. We did some research and found that Tennessee’s state parks offer many furnished cabins to rent. Our requirements were simple: at least an hour away, available cabins, a beach to swim, and trails to hike & run. We found our answer at Pickwick State Park, and set off on another adventure in early August.