Back in the Saddle Again!

Hello everyone. I’m back! I’ve had a tough time of it, but the surgery is behind me and I am ready to move forward. Many people have asked me if I still intend to bike around the world. The purpose of this post is to answer that question. But first things first…

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To all of you who helped me and showed me kindness and patience during my recovery—thank you very much, from the bottom on my newly oxygenated heart. Recovering from the surgery was the hardest thing I have ever done. Most of the problems I encountered were between my own ears, and not in my chest. This was a tough lesson in humility, but I have learned it and the surgery is in the past.

I started cycling again about November 1st. On my first post surgery ride, I actually met another person wearing a JWST World Bicycle Tour jersey! What an affirming thing to have happen on my first post-surgery cycling experience! (It turns out that the rider was the wife of a co-worker who purchased a jersey.) I now cycle every day that it is over 40 degrees. (I find that cycling in colder weather is OK occasionally, but counter-productive long term. I use a gym on those days.)

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As near as I can tell, my heart is now 100% healthy. I have pushed myself way beyond levels that would have caused me problems pre-surgery, and I have experienced no heart pain. I have been monitored while exercising with an EKG many times and everything looks good! I do have some residual physical problems that are new since the surgery.

First of all, my left leg hurts near the knee. This is the area where the surgeons removed a vein to use in rerouting the blood supply for my heart. I am a bit concerned about this, because knees are actually sort of important on a long bike ride! Those of you who are athletic will understand when I say that there are two kinds of pain associated with extreme physical activity. The first type of pain is just “there.” This pain does not get significantly worse with time or with use. The second kind of pain, however, is a warning sign. It’s a message from your body saying “stop what you are doing or else!” If you ignore it, it will get worse and the affected part of your body will eventually stop working. The challenge of the athlete, therefore, is to figure out which category to place a pain in.

I believe that the pain in my leg is of the first type. I feel this way for three reasons: First, many bypass patients complain about leg pain associated with nerve damage post surgery. The pain is not actually real. Secondly, I hardly experience the pain at all when I am actually cycling—it’s only after I get off the bike, or spend hours sitting. Finally, and most importantly, this is the answer that I want. So, like a good scientist, I am going to state my conclusion and then filter and distort the data in order to fit my conclusion. (just kidding). In any case, I am going to carefully monitor my leg and just push through the pain.

I have a couple of other lingering physical problems: I get physically tired a lot easier than I did pre-surgery, and my stomach is upset more often than not. I think there is a good chance that both of these problems are caused by some of the drugs that I am taking. But I also think that the surgery changed me in many ways and this is what life is going to be like from now on. I can live with that.

My fear, however, is that some combination of leg pain, fatigue and stomach problems will cause me to have to abort the trip in the middle of somewhere like Albania. Boy, won’t I look stupid then! To have invested so much time and effort into this journey and then be forced to quit. The truth is that I fear failure and public humiliation more than anything. I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

Jesus actually said this! If you start a great work and don’t finish it, you’ll look like a fool. And friends, I really, really don’t want to be that poor fellow who starts a huge project but can’t finish it and everyone laughs at him for failing. I suppose that would be a very good reason to stay home—I can’t fail if I never try. But what am I supposed to with my life then? Never attempt anything great for fear that I might fail and end up looking bad? Spend the rest of my days playing it safe? Watch adventure films on TV?

Do you suppose that my heart surgery was God’s way of helping me overcome the fear of failure? Think about it: I’m nearly 55 years old and I just had a quadruple bypass operation. Everyone already KNOWS that I must be stupid, or I wouldn’t be trying to bike around the world. And OF COURSE I am going to fail! I’m a 55-year old heart patient for crying out loud!

The only way to go from here is up! That takes a lot of pressure off. I mean no disrespect to Jesus, but I think I am going to ignore his admonition (or rather my interpretation of it) and instead concentrate on what Teddy Roosevelt said in a speech over 100 years ago:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Whew! Don’t you wish we had presidents like that nowadays?

So, to answer the question posed at the start of this post…

Yes!!! Come April 1, if there is life in my body, I am going to bike around the world. It’s crazy, and I realize that. But I am reminded of something that my friend Rich Dixon recently said:

“Every ‘That’s amazing!’ started out as a ‘That’s crazy.’”

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By the way, I met with Rich several days ago for lunch. What a remarkable man! He is actually the person who inspired me to give my life’s dream a second chance, but that’s a subject for a future post. If you are not familiar with Rich and his mission, check out his web site:

http://richdixon.net/

Things are going to start moving quickly now. You can expect a post every day or so, so check back frequently.

Cheers,

Scott Acton

Scott

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