Dealing with Setbacks the only way I know how


I am just now getting around to putting down my thoughts after wallowing in a bit of a funk over the past few weeks. This was not how I saw this entry going, but that is just the reality of the situation. I had to pass through a period disappointment with a healthy dose of anger before finally getting my head on straight again and focused on the prize. It is just another example of my will not aligning with reality. 

My follow up with the Interventional Neurologist was encouraging at first. I was upbeat and ready to have the final go-ahead to come off of the blood thinners and return to normal paddling activities. That was not meant to be on this trip. He wanted to keep me on course for three more months, "out of an abundance of caution". A term that I would be perfectly happy to never hear again. The reality is that my blood flow through my left PICA artery will always be restricted. He wants to see a lager data sample of imaging to be sure that the healing is stable. So, until that happens, no rough water stuff as I would be a liability due to the potential of internal bleeding from a simple bruise. Hell, I just found out I can't get a massage for the same reason. 

There is nothing more aggravating to me than being told I can't or shouldn't do something. Being out in the surf, or confused dynamic water is my happy place. It is where I reset and get centered again. I am extremely grateful for the fact that I am alive and seemingly unscathed. The hard part for me to accept is having to give up something that provided so much purpose and joy into my life. Being in a totally laser-like focused state, satisfies and calms the relentless inner drive within me. The calm and peaceful state that I settle into, after a good surf session or rock gardening, can't be replicated by any other means. With everything going on this year, having that taken away is a bit much to get a handle on. I find myself looking for ways to combat negativity and continue in a forward direction to reach my goal of riding the green wave at Skookumchuck. Another sad piece of news came in the form of an indefinite closure of the border to Canada. Even if I was ready, we wouldn't be able to go. I will take the extra time and use it to hone my skills and have my body ready. A little extra time is not a bad thing here. 

My return to the surf was in October with the Small Craft Advisory Crew. We went to Assateague Island off the coast of Virginia for a few days of camping, kayaking and general adult mischief. The surf was super dumpy and we ventured out knowing we could get "smoushed" at any moment. I did good avoiding the inevitable for a while. The first wave felt incredible! As did the rest. The sets were really deceiving and I got caught by riding too deep with a larger set following and breaking farther out. The train of breakers had me pinned between the shore break and chaos. I finally got caught with nowhere to go and the inevitable "smoush" happened. At that point, I knew that I was in the red zone of what I should be doing and pulled the plug. Chris came up to me and asked if I was beyond my restrictions. I was and knew that I was being selfish if I went back out. The added layer of mental gymnastics to avoid getting crushed, was one too many and it was over. I got a little taste of what I love and that would have to do until my doctor signs off on full contact kayaking. 

The real struggle is not physical at all. It is all in my head. I have ventured out into the surf and even tried some whitewater to satisfy my need for dynamic conditions. The extra layer of precaution is a bit much to bear while trying to focus on everything going on. Getting "in the zone" is only possible when caution is not the prevailing thought. Back when I was riding motorcycles, riding offensively not defensively, was how I went accident free for so meany years. It is my standard operating procedure and my way of being cautious. To flip the switch to a "defensive" posture in the surf zone, or in whitewater, puts me in a foreign thought process. Knowingly and selfishly putting myself at risk, is too much to process. I've been happily banged up in the surf zone. Now, the possibility of that happening while on aggressive anti-clotting medications is super risky. 

I also got an opportunity to paddle with Eric Jackson in November. We went to his training grounds and paddled the gorge at Rock Island State Park. It was incredible, but I also knew the consequences of getting banged up. Getting a chance to paddle with a world champion and trying to be careful do not go hand in hand. I had to finally relent when presented with a series of small narrow drops. In his words, "you have about three seconds to roll if you flip in the hole". Coming from the open water world, of having patience and waiting for the right time to roll, I knew that I could easily get myself in trouble. Having to back down from the challenge in the presence of kayaking royalty, was internally humiliating. I can't wait to go back and go for it, without the black cloud of medical restrictions.


When I was in High School, I was a skinny kid and a pretty good long distance runner. My cross-country and track coach, also coached the wrestling team. He wanted me to fill the gap between the fall cross-country season and spring track season, with some serious conditioning. I joined the wrestling team, he said that it was the most complete form of training anyone could do. He was right, the time spent with the team put me in the best shape I had ever been. I routinely got my butt handed to me on a silver platter, I stuck with it anyway. The wrestlers were called "Bagubas" and coach was (and still is) called "Baguba Bob". The name was an acronym for "Brutally Aggressive Grappler Uninhibited By Adversity" I wasn't much of a grappler, but the mentality instilled, is one that I have carried all of my life. I am relentless when faced with a challenge and adversity has been a motivator, not an inhibitor. This is no different.