Extreme Sports as an Adult – where does fun end and responsibility start?

I’m really really tall (see my emotional stance against heightism in video form -or- written), and relatively coordinated for someone of my height, and I really love playing sports both in the traditional sense (Tennis, Basketball) and EXTREME sense (Mt. Biking, Skiing, Inner-tubing); but lately I’ve been thinking that playing sports just isn’t in the cards for me if I want to live an adult/responsible life.  I do have a kid and all and recently I took a pretty horrific spill Mt. Biking at Duthie Hill Park in Issaquah, that resulted in breaking my thumb in 2 places and displacing it (yeah, it was gnarly and only adrenaline allowed me to yank it back into place).  Regardless of the pain in the a$$ its been trying to type with my busted wing, parenting has been the hardest part.

Baby-rearing with a busted wing isn’t as easy as I make it look.

Duthie Hill is an interesting place and a great barometer for what I like to call the extreme scene here in Seattle.  It’s fashioned after a North Vancouver skills area, has some runs that are appropriate for pretty much any skill level… but it’s definitely catering to the more extreme/downhill set.  Now, I wasn’t exactly there with the under-30 crazy-downhill set of the extreme scene, but I was there with pretty accomplished weekend warriors.  Like me, these weekend warriors like the exercise benefits and going fast without endangering themselves – because they all have responsibilities too.  I usually ride with SPD pedals, and when navigating Duthie’s gnar-ness, this gives me the ability to lift the bike up with my feet to get over an obstacle –or a bit more air.  This time however, I had just returned from a night riding trip in Oregon (another story) where I’d broken one of the pedals – my friend Peter generously offered to let me borrow his flats.   Shoulda just taken the day off.

I was riding in Vans with these flats and basically had to rely totally on my speed, body position, and lift to get over the obstacles that I generally get a bit of a cheat with my SPD’s.  This was making me ride uncomfortably, however, not so uncomfortably that I stopped and said to myself, “hey, maybe you should slow down a bit?” I was leading and we repeated a run where I’d barely made it across a gap on the first go-around.  Always one to push my luck, when we did it again… disaster struck in the form of me not getting the back tires over (primarily as a result of no SPD-cheat) the end of the gap which shot me at 25 miles per hour over the handle bars, and onto the dirt.

I was definitely in shock and when the group approached and asked how I was, I said, “oh I’m fine, looks like I just scraped my elbow and banged my hip.”  But then as I was giving a “thumbs up” with my right thumb to signify that I was ok, I realized that this “thumbs up” was actually pointed at China or Alaska, or whatever is on the other side of the earth.   Luckily I was wearing gloves so the true visual impact wasn’t felt and I quickly yanked it into place.  Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeow.

When I broke my femur in High School, that was some traumatic shit (more to come on my vast and checkered injury history in a future post – complete with infographics).  That was displaced too, and it’s the biggest bone in your body.  It’s actually quite difficult to do, as I recall the doctor saying… which, uh, I guess made me feel a bit special.  So this broken thumb (which actually only required me to wear a cast for 3 weeks + ball-work to get the range-of-motion back that’s still ongoing) ultimately wasn’t that big of a deal in terms of recovery and inconvenience.  The hardest part, as I’ve said, is being daddy and not yelling at her when she slams into it, and this has helped me with restraint; but, I try to learn from mistakes and accidents and I think perhaps I’d pushed my luck too long.

I gave up playing basketball because of all the knee injuries I’ve sustained (torn ACL, no MCL’s, torn Meniscus, et al.), unless of course I’ve had a couple beers and am in flip flops.  This sounds insane, I know.  Why would it make more sense if I was worried about getting injured to not play in the proper footwear — and after imbibing?  The answer might surprise you.  Alcohol lowers your inhibition and makes you do stupid stuff!  Just kidding, that’s only part of it. Really, I figure that the most likely way to blow out my knee (and the way I’ve done it before) is coming down on someone else’s foot and hyperextending it.  Basically going barefoot and with a little loose equilibrium, my thought is I’ll probably just blow out the flip flop rather than my knee again.  So far so good, but I’m starting to think that there is even a flaw in that logic.

This guy was probably “on beer” when he played too, and it didn’t work out so well for Vin.

As I get older and responsibility mounts, do I need to curb all extreme sports and sports in general?  I definitely ski cautiously, and even more so as I now only get 2-3 days per year in, but there are still times where I’ve put myself in dumb positions or have gone too fast (generally because I’m tired at the end of the day and don’t want to make that extra turn).  Things to think about, and I’m sure I’ll probably end up skiing more days this year than I have in a decade (mostly because the world’s supposed to end in December), but maybe not?  I don’t think I can ski in flip flops, so I’ll have to come up with some other strategy.


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