Guest Article: Karl Moritz on the thrill of a century

Guest Article: Karl Moritz on the thrill of a century

Karl Moritz is back on the bike.
(Photos courtesy Karl Moritz)

[Back in June 2010, southeast Portland resident Karl Moritz was involved in a horrific crash while biking on SE Ladd Ave that left him in a coma for three weeks. We’ve shared his recovery since then and posted an update — in his own words — in May of last year.

Yesterday I heard from Karl again. The man has refused to give up. Not only is he back on the bike, but he completed the recent Portland Century — riding over 100 miles in over eight hours on the saddle! Read how his recovery has progressed in the update below.]
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    Hi BikePortland.org,

    “A friend asked me, why are you getting back on a bike again? I said that I want to show my three boys that when you get knocked down, you get back up, dust off and get back in to whatever you were doing before.”

    I wanted to give you an update on my progress since my last update in June 2011. My Family has reconnected and rebounded. Whew, but I had to be persistent and have a positive attitude, being loving and silly with my kids. As of early 2012, I have been released from all Physical and Speech Therapy. On my last visit with my Speech Therapist I asked her, ”will I ever speak normally again”? She responded, “From now on, you will have to speak slowly, over pronounce and speak loudly! Keep doing this and it will soon become second nature to you.” It has been difficult to change my manner of speaking when I have been speaking the same way my entire life. Like anything in life, to get better at anything you need to practice, practice and practice. I will keep on practicing my speech and it will improve!

    I never knew that your eyes have so much control over your body. And when you’re eyes and their supporting muscles lose their strength, this transmission of information from eyes to brain is compromised. Weak muscles can slow down or incorrectly transmit the information. Perception is a great deal of your balance and judgment. Just walking down the sidewalk, your brain is making split second judgments from the visual perception you receive, so you don’t trip and fall.

    Because of the accident, I was in a coma for three weeks or, as I now call it, my “unplanned-unpaid sabbatical from life”. I had to go see an Eye Specialist physician for Vision Therapy: an Eye Specialist that treats traumatic brain injury patients. I went there once a week, for an hour for three months, and also did eye exercise homework, like working on near-far focusing exercises. Who knew?

    Every morning before my family awakes, I do an online Brain Training for an hour to help improve my cognition, memory, speed, attention, problem solving and flexibility. This also helps my eye strength. I now keep a lot of notes on my phone and in a journal so that I go back to review and to refresh my memory. Thank goodness for smart phones.

    Karl and his training partner — a 1950s Schwinn cruiser.

    I have been bike training to get back to where I was prior 6-29-10, which was riding an average of thirty to fifty mile s a day. In late 2011, I started to ride my bike again. Woohoo!! My Physical Therapist wanted me to start off with a cruiser type of bike with the brake controls at your feet and wide tires for better balance. By doing this, you gain better control in the beginning and can improve your biking balance. The cruiser I used is actually my first bike that I bought while I was in college, a 1950 Schwinn. Oh, that bike has taken me many places. Getting my bike balance under control took me about 2 months of riding through the neighborhood at an hour every day. Then I graduated to my road bike. I would ride my road bike in my neighborhood and once I felt confident that I had controlled my balance at starts and stops. I went for longer rides and rode clipped in. Half way through of this year, I rode from my place in NW Beaverton to S.E. Hawthorne and back to my old house and neighborhood.

    On the way there, which was my former everyday ride from work to home, I went through Ladd’s Addition and passed the same location that changed my life. No fears, flashback, only the wonder of how it could have happened on such a wide and open street. I have read the Police report and am still curious what really happened. There has been no communication to me or my family from the 22 year old driver of the car that ran over me and ended my life as I knew it.

    I am moving forward and have accepted my new life. That was then and this is now. I also went by the bike shop of the first bicyclist witness at the scene, David. He did not see the initial impact, but saw the immediate aftermath. He saw me getting dragged under the car, down Ladd St., for thirty feet. He was really surprised to see me there in his bicycle shop, standing there with the same bike that I was in accident with! My wife calls my riding that same bike “an act of defiance”–showing that I will get up and go on, despite the odds.

    I have been doing this ride every other weekend at about fifty miles round trip, from NW Beaverton to Hawthorne. A friend asked me, why are you getting back on a bike again and committing to do a Century ride? I said that I want to show my three boys that when you get knocked down, you get back up, dust off and get back in to whatever you were doing before …oh yeah, and I love cycling! By riding in a Century, it will help make my life feel more complete and fulfilled as it was prior to the accident.

    Karl at the Portland Century.

    The Portland Century ride was absolutely awesome. The course was well staffed and good visual markings for route turns, support vehicles, medical help, rider’s rest stops with water and sport drink mixes, and good food. Thank you Century volunteers!

    Although I thought I was in pretty good shape, some of the climbs were difficult for me. I’m sure the thirteen titanium screws holding my pelvis together had something to do with that. A few times my legs just did not have it in them to climb anymore. At one point while I was climbing, I was going so slowly that I thought that I might just fall over. I did not have enough wheel centrifugal force to keep vertical. So, I got off of my bike and walked for about twenty minutes, I had to do this a least twice during the entire century.

    Pride of finishing! Then when I got to a stretch of road that was not too steep, I climbed back on and peddled through. My bike computer clocked 141 miles, not sure if that is accurate or not but I did ride to and back to the event. The entire trip took me eight and a half hours including rest stops. The only pains that I noticed were post ride on my rear end. Otherwise no pain.

    The picture of me at a rest stop is my century bike; that was a Trek 5200 that I customized myself. I disassembled it down to the frame, sanded the frame down smooth with 600 grit wet-dry sandpaper and designed the Flame graphics on my computer and sent the flame art file to a Vinyl Graphic shop where they cut out the graphics. I took the frame to an auto paint shop and had them spray it white, and then they applied the graphics. After graphics applied, they sprayed a clear coat over all entirely. See you at the next century ride?

    If you ride a bike in the city, ride wise, be aware and please use common sense and wear a helmet, it SAVED MY LIFE! Exercise your body every day. I am not saying that you should run ten miles, but if you do, good for you! Exercise both physically and mentally. What I am saying is read a book, learn a new language, or go for a long walk or a bike ride. Exercise benefits your body, also your memory and cognition. Dancing, Martial Arts and bicycling are some of the best exercise to help improve these brain activities.

    Okay, now my sad note on this update. Thank you to my employer, Nike, for all the assistance in helping me get back to work. I worked part time until my doctors approved me to return full time. However, because of my head trauma, I was having difficulty with various elements of cognition; specifically short-term memory and learning new information, which were required to go to the next step in my job. As a result, my work with Nike is coming to an end. I will keep on pushing myself, as I am one of those individuals who loves his job/profession. I WILL get back to my profession and the work I love, just like I got up and got back on my bike.

    Sincerely,

    Karl “Kajomo” Moritz

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Way to go Karl! Your story is an inspiration to everyone. Keep piling on those miles.

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