July 16, 2021

Yesterday I finally had a plate removed from a collarbone. Nine screws and two directly into the bone to hold it together.

Lately it’s as if different parts of my body decided at the same time to fall apart. It’s like when you get too close to a wasps nest and they simultaneously agree to sting you all over at the exact same time. My knee is tweaked so bad that every step down stairs is a question of “will this hurt or nah?”, i just had an MRI on my neck where it is discovered i have slight herniation which is contributing to the tingles down my right arm, my rotator cuff just hurts: It clicks and pops and reminds me every minute of all the dumb crashes, heavy lifting and other nonsense i have put myself through in my 50 years.

I go to the gym and try to lift heavy like I used to: nope. Now the gym is for functional training and rehab and flexibility where for 30 years of my life it was Ego driven heavy training for big muscles to look good at the club. I use rubber bands and boxes and gyroscopic tools designed to make my core work together with other muscles. I stretch more than ever just out of the need to be free of pain for a while.

In short, it’s been a tough year for the old body. I am not used to being reactive to chronic injuries and it’s so frustrating.

So, Step One is to have the plate removed exactly five years to the day after a horrible mountain bike crash broke 4 ribs and shattered my collarbone. I went to see Dr Eric Heiden in Park City. Dr Heiden was my hero growing up. I used to roller speed skate (this was the 80s after all). In our quirky little niche of a sport there weren’t many heroes to look up to.

eric heiden at the 1980 olympics

From Wikipedia: “Heiden is an icon in the speed skating community. His victories are significant, as few speed skaters (and athletes in general) have won competitions in both sprint and long-distance events. Heiden is the only athlete in the history of speed skating to have won all five events in a single Olympic tournament and the only one to have won a gold medal in all events. He is considered by some to be the best overall speed skater (short and long distances) in the sport’s history. Heiden ranked No. 46 inESPN’sSportsCentury50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Centuryin 1999, the only speed skater to make the list. In 2000, a Dutch newspaper called him the greatest skater ever.”

Heiden not only was an icon in speed skating but later went on to race for the 7-11 Team and competed in the 86 Tour de France. The same year Greg Lemond became the first American to win the tour. against fellow teammate Bernard Henault (“the Badger”) .

the col

As I sat in my hospital room waiting for surgery I was watching Stage 18 of the 2021 Tour De France on the computer and Dr Heiden comes in to say hi before surgery. He sees that I am watching the Tour and sits down next to me to watch the final climb: a brutal HC Climb called the Col du Tourmalet (HC stands for “hors category” or “out of category” climb because of it’s steepness it’s out of the normal Categories 1-5 they give to mountain climbs in the tour).

So I am sitting there feeling like a 12 year old kid again with my idol in a hospital room in Utah quietly watching the Tour together before surgery. Eric has ridden this climb in the tour in 86. Because he is a sprinter and could not compete with the likes of Greg Lemond in the mountains, he was in the back of the peloton, the caboose, where are the sprinters go. He described to me the pain of the climb, watching the helicopters up ahead following Lemond and The Badger fighting it out that year, two men on the same team pitted against each other for the yellow jersey.

I came out of the surgery like most everyone else. completely dazed and tired. Nausea and weakness overtaking me. I went home and slept for 15 hours. I am hopeful this does something for my overall shoulder health and maybe take away some of the pain I am experiencing while climbing, or touring with an avalanche bag on.

The joy of sitting with my boyhood idol watching the Tour was something i will never forget. Thank you Eric and all the doctors and nurses at Park City Hospital for the amazing care.

Written by Corey Smaller Follow me on Instagram