Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Tester's "Personal Triumph"

This shot is of me at the Canadian "Continental Divide".
The tip of my board is in British Columbia. The tail
is in Alberta.
So I've been good to my word... I said I wouldn't talk about the "broken leg" until I had something important to discuss. Well, now I do :).

Quick and dirty recap for new people, on August 29th, 2011, I broke my leg in two places. The tibia was broken clean through two inches above the ankle joint. The fibula was broken clean through two inches below the knee joint. The tibia was reassembled and reinforced with a stainless steel plate. The fibula is basically fending for itself (and by all accounts doing just fine).

There was a genuine concern that has been haunting my dreams for the past six months... will I ever be able to ride a snowboard again? The orthopedic surgeon seemed to think that I could ride again, but that I might lose some performance due to diminished movement in my leg (that's a fact, I have about a 20% range of motion reduction), and the concern that I would feel an inordinate amount of discomfort if I cranked out turns or if I landed jumps.

This past weekend I was up in Calgary, Alberta for the POST testing workshop (and you will be hearing a lot more about that in the coming days, I promise :) ). One of the sweetening deals about going up there was that one of the conference organizers offered to take me up snowboarding at Banff (Sunshine Village specifically, but located in Banff). There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to ride in Banff, so I brought all of my gear, minus my board and bindings. I'd rent a board up there so I wouldn't have to put people out by lugging my board around.

On Monday, we made the drive from the Calgary area up through Banff to Sunshine Village. We geared up and we got up to the top of the mountain, grabbed a chair that accessed both green and blue runs, and I faced my moment of truth.

A note about testing on real people in real life; with software, I'm perfectly happy to do truly malevolent things to see if I can bring a system to its knees. That was not my goal today. Instead, I was aiming to see how much I could get away with without causing technical or physical failure. The plate is holding the bone together. It’s also much less flexible than bone would be on its own. It’s also somewhat compromised by the number of screws and pins that are holding it all together. One bad tweak could cause the plate to shear and the pins to pull. Not my idea of a good time. With that, I made sure to spend a little time to stretch, to be as limber as possible, and to ride gingerly at first and build up speed and intensity.

It wasn’t pretty or stylish, but the results were enough to make me smile from ear to ear. I was riding, on a snowboard, on my own power, down the runs that I would most likely ride down, and I was, mostly, doing what I’d always done. There were some noticeable differences. The first being that my right leg fatigues quicker than my left one does. That doesn’t really surprise me, as it’s still not up to the muscular size of the leg as it was before the accident. Landing jumps (even little bumps that give you a touch of air and that have you landing) felt a bit jarring and sharp, so for the time being, I know that big air is certainly not in the near term picture. Unstrapping my rear foot and pushing was a little more bothersome, as I didn’t have the endurance to go as far as I used to. Barring those minor issues, though, I felt about 90% of my former self. All things considered, that’s not too shabby :).

My thanks to my newfound friends in Calgary, Alberta for a great and informative weekend, and my thanks to my friend Lynn for taking me up to the snow to let me cross off a bucket list dream (never ridden in Canada, so glad to now say that Banff has been tracked by yours truly). You’ll be seeing much more about the POST conference in my future posts, so stay tuned!
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