Still Climbing After a PE – Thanks to My eMTB

JUST over five (5) weeks ago I was in the hospital. Nothing exciting like a broken collar bone you’d get in a bike race. Nope, just a not-so-sexy pulmonary embolism, or P.E., as Steve at Half Fast (and his medical-profession colleagues) would call it.

SUNDAY the 11th was the first ride of over an hour that I did since. Unfortunately for me – I could also say “fortunately” – a subsequent echocardiogram turned up some not major, but not minor issues with el corazon and so I’m on “exercise restriction” until further tests are done. We’re also trying to figure out where that clot came from – an ultrasound of my deep leg veins about ten (10) days ago was clean. No clots and excellent circulation. What I expected. Still, the uncertainty of not knowing is taking its toll.

DEPRESSION, anxiety, bewilderment… Just some of the emotions flying around in my head. I did not spend hours on an airplane, I did not injure myself, I did not have any major surgeries, (see deep vein thrombosis) yet there I was in urgent care being told that I had a blood clot in my lower right lung. What the what? Had some fluid around that bad boy, too.

HURTS like hell in case you were wondering, but not all the time. Trying to lie down was excruciating. I could finally get there but it took everything I had. I thought I had a rib out of place or “something chiropractic,” if you will. Perhaps an infection in the cartilage in my ribs (the internet can be a dangerous place)? I took a walk the Wednesday before I went to urgent care, and noticed I was out of breath on this little hill that usually doesn’t cause me any angst whatsoever.

THE pain started in my right back but it eventually moved to my right chest. Was more painful to breath in than out, yet standing or sitting (I kept working and such throughout the week) wasn’t too bad. Like a rib out of place or something like that…

FINALLY, I reached out to my nurse practitioner’s office and got some direction, and then off to urgent care we went. X-rays – negative. Lab work next and a positive D-Dimer test was returned. A negative rules out a clot. A positive can be false however, and so a CT was ordered. And, bam, there it was. A blood clot.

NOW I haven’t led the cleanest life but I’ve always exercised, even when I was “large and in charge.”

That’s my rotund self back in 2013.

AND so to hear that my lungs, and my heart, were compromised, was a serious blow to my psyche. Then being told to tone it down… This after bustin’ my ass for the last several months, and finally seeing my fitness ramping back up. I had elective prostate surgery (not cancer) in October.

FEELING sorry for myself? Yup. Confused? Definitely. Depressed? Uh, huh. Scared? That too. Pissed off? Oh yeah! Let’s just say it’s been a wild ride. Now I’m taking Eliquis, and a blood pressure med., and feeling somewhat older than my chronological age of 59.

THAT ride a week ago Sunday was oh so sweet. I wish I could say it resolved all these crazy feelings I’ve been experiencing, but it didn’t.

WHAT it did do, though, was remind me just how cool e-Bikes are, especially for folks that are compromised, for whatever reason.

THE waterfalls were raging and the wildflowers were starting to pop. The air was crisp and clean and our regular cycle of thunderstorms had not yet begun.

I could not have done that ride on my road bike. My heart rate would have been too high and it would have been too taxing on Mr. Lung, and the whole body in general. I’ve been hammering on my self with lots of negative self-talk about my riding days being over, and taking blood thinners for life, and blah, blah, blah (yes, I’m going to see someone for that), but then I finally got out of my own way and realized I had an option.

BESSIE would be my steed and I would let her help me (funny, that’s what real horses do for their riders) up the climbs, just like she helped me do a sloppy, soaking-wet-shoes, grit-in-your-teeth, ride in Grover Hot Springs State Park a couple weeks go.

I could ride outside.

I could climb 4.

SOME “purist” might say it’s not right to ride an e-MTB on a road ride, especially an iconic climb like that one. Others might say e-Bikes don’t belong on the road or on the trail. It’s not fair. It ruins the trails. Ca-ca like that. I’ve always said it’s the rider, not the bike, and that any day on a bike, for ANYONE, is a good day. I’ve also espoused the view that if an e-Bike can let someone do what they couldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise do, that’s the real value proposition. That’s what it’s REALLY about.

ADMITTEDLY, I hadn’t thought of me being that person. Nope, definitely didn’t see that one coming.

LAST Sunday, though, (shout out to all you Dads) I took it one pedal farther and I did my 20th ascent of the north side of Ebbett’s Pass; again, with a little help from my friend.

IT was a hellawindy day, as a low pressure system was blowing in, but my faithful steed was not fazed. I could give it a little more gas, too. The lung is healing and so I was given the okey doke on Thursday to let loose the hounds a bit more. Still no TTs or racing in my near future, but I’ll take it.

RIDING bikes has always been my happiest of happy places and I was really worried that I might lose that joy. Frankly, I was beginning to…

BESSIE brought me back to reality, though, and is helping me heal. Physically and emotionally.

NOW here I am, enjoying beauty days on my bike in the California Alps, and reflecting on just how lucky we are that someone invented e-Bikes.

THANK you, whoever(s) you are!

THANK you, too, faithful reader, for letting me get that off my chest. Here’s hoping that my story may resonate with you, or someone you love. And if you have your own e-Bike story to share, please…comment away.

Ps. While I fervently believe e-Bikes should be allowed anywhere “real bikes” are I do think that PRs, cups, or any accolades earned on Strava should have an asterisk next to them. That 4th all time from Monitor Junction to Ebbett’s Pass is Bessie’s cup, not mine. Congrats, girl. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer e-Bike. 😉

9 thoughts on “Still Climbing After a PE – Thanks to My eMTB”

  1. Yikes! A PE is nothing to sneeze at. Now that you’ve come through it, do you want to hear stories of people who’ve died from them? I didn’t think so. I recently finished a 45 day course of Xarelto for a clot that was growing dangerously close to a deep vein (and about 10 inches from my heart), so I feel you. Since we know what caused mine, I only had to take it long enough to dissolve the clot. As I said in my FAQ: Is it cheating to use an e-bike? It depends what game you’re playing. Now that e-bikes are common, I see a lot more people out on bikes. That’s a good thing. A friend recently got a Trek Domane e-bike. It is extremely stealthy. With fat downtubes and huge bottom bracket areas common these days, it is almost impossible to detect its e-ness. And it only weighs 26 pounds so can be ridden if the battery dies.

    1. Thanks, Steve and yeah, I know. Scary shit. Glad you figured out where yours came from. Fingers crossed we’ll eventually figure out the source of mine. I’ve heard amazing things about that Domane. Can’t believe how light it is. Crazy!

  2. Oh my goodness Mark! So sad to hear of your recent health challenges. But so impressed to hear your cycling spirit still going strong! Graham

  3. Ouch! I had a PE about 2.5 years ago due to a DVT (in both legs) from being bed ridden with pneumonia for several weeks. Hope you heal up soon and they figure out what caused the PE for you. I didn’t ride while on blood thinners (Eliquis) because I was warned that any kind of bad cut could be pretty dangerous. That said, I still hiked and bashed my leg a couple times pretty good. The cuts healed OK but left scars due to the blood thinner. Again, hope your PE heals up soon and the doctors are able to figure out what caused it. Really enjoy your posts here. New reader 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the comments and compliment, Joshua, and thanks for following me. Appreciate the good vibes, too. If you’re even up Markleeville way let me know. We could meet up for a ride or a hike. Happy Friday and weekend! Mark

  4. Mark! What the heck? I leave you alone for 3 months and all this happens? Holy cow, what a year you’ve had. Thank you for the detailed update. I’ve been thinking about you and PC lately so thought I’d lurk on your website a bit in an effort to catch up. You live a far healthier life than I do so after reading this piece I’m dreading my next visit with my MD.
    On the other hand, I’m thrilled to see that you’ve continued to put one foot in front of the other (or one pedal in front of the other?) and are still in the great outdoors doing what you love to do. No doubt, in the minds of many of your friends, this is Mark in his element doing what he does. However, from another perspective, this is you keeping in shape during the “offseason” until winter comes, the snow falls, and it’s time to do battle with “beastmode”. You live in such a magnificent environment, though. It’s a little work, yes, but to wake up and be part of those surroudings every day is its own reward.
    My ‘hood, on the other hand, looks a little different. More concrete and less inspired, unless you count the Yakult manufacturing facility and the U.S. Post Office across the street. Notable, however, is the Pedego corporate headquarters that sits–literally–at the end of my block. They periodically have “group rides” that fairly well flood the local thoroughfare with hordes of electric bikes. They look like they’re all having a *really* good time so to heck with the purists, who cares what they think? It’s not their ride to enjoy. It’s yours! 🙂
    Ride on, my brother!

  5. One more thing: Thank you for reminding me about the value of “getting out of my own way.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.