Road Stories: Grit and a Skilled Surgeon Make for an Amazing Seagull Century

Monday, August 31, 2020
Grit and a Skilled Surgeon Make for an Amazing Seagull Century
By Mark Mildorf
 
 
My third century ride and first Seagull. It was fun. My riding partners were great. Note the jersey, though. It’s a gift from the Anderson Orthopaedic Clinic Spine Center and is a clue as to why this century was special.
 
In the spring of 2017, a friend asked me to join her for the Seagull Century. I signed up. However, over the next few months, and despite physical therapy, pain and numbness in my left leg, foot and hip increased - all caused by my back. Even spine injections didn't help. I saw Dr. Corey Wallach, a surgeon for the Anderson Clinic and the Medical Director for the INOVA Spine Institute. 
 
On July 6, I had spine surgery. Dr. Wallach performed two spinal fusions and much ‘decompression’, i.e., widening the channels for the nerves.
 
For the next eight weeks, I was not allowed to bend, twist or lift anything - no BLT! I had to be taught how to get in and out of bed. The only activity allowed was walking. I used a walker for the first few days. I built up to walking 9 miles most days of the week up the steepest hills I could find. I asked Dr. Wallach and every therapist I met if they think I can do the Seagull. They all said “maybe” except for one occupational therapist. She had done many Seagulls and told me there is no chance.
 
On September 1, I saw Dr. Wallach. He said I was cleared for all activities including cycling. That day I rode my bike for the first time in over two months and, ironically, had my only moment of doubt about completing the Seagull. My first climb up a moderate hill (5%) that I am very familiar with was way harder than I expected, but I kepat cycling.
 
Six weeks later, Oct. 14, 2017, I finished the full Seagull Century. It turns out this was exactly 100 days after the surgery. Credit to a skilled surgeon, a great medical team, a lot of support, and some grit!

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