By Kate Scriven
You may see groups of cyclists around town, zipping along the side of local roads in packs. They are unified by their snazzy, matching jerseys as well as their focused intensity. One such group is the Olympia Orthopaedics Associates Cycling Team. Made up of local cyclists who train and compete together, the group sees team cycle racing as a way to stay healthy, promote cooperation, and instill discipline.
Cyclists compete in road, mountain, track and cyclo-cross racing throughout the year. As with any high-intensity sport, keeping your body in top condition is important to these athletes. Their training and competition schedule demands they stay healthy. But when injury strikes, they know to turn to their sponsors, Olympia Orthopaedics, to heal their bodies, getting back on the bike sooner rather than later.
Two such athletes are Cindy Medlin and Katie Kolan. Both are fairly new to competitive cycling but have different areas of focus: road for Medlin and cyclo-cross for Kolan. Despite their diverse areas of competition, they share one big thing in common – stories of injury and healing with help from the team of physicians and staff at Olympia Orthopaedics Associates.
Cindy Medlin hasn’t always cycled. In fact, she never really saw herself on a bike. Medlin is a runner, having competed at the highest level, including running the Boston Marathon in 2003. “I loved the stress release running gave me and would never have dreamed of giving that up,” she shared.
The career military woman competed during her time in the Army, completing numerous races from 5Ks to full marathons both on and off base. Running was one of the biggest parts of her life – of who she was.
However in 2005, while deployed in Iraq, Medlin injured her right knee in an accident. It affected her running but she continued to train, not ready to give it up. But, in 2007 the pain became too much. Her doctor recommended cleaning up her right meniscus and after a short break she was running again. Yet, the pain returned, this time in her left knee.
By this time, Medlin had retired from her military service and was working a civilian job at the Department of Licensing. She was still running, but all the while knowing it was coming to an end. Finally in 2010 her doctor said, “Cindy – enough.” She was referred to Oly Ortho and to Dr. Thomas Helpenstell.
Dr. Helpenstell and Medlin were a perfect match. An avid athlete himself, Dr. Helpenstell understood the drive, and passion, a competitive running felt. However, he also knew the significant damage Medlin was doing to her body by continuing. Arthroscopic surgery confirmed his suspicions, that her knees had significant damage along with severe arthritis.
“He just looked at me,” recalls Medlin, “and said, ‘Cindy, I think you need to think about doing something other than running.’” She left with a prescription to bike.
Medlin began with indoor spin classes, but missed the outdoors. Dr. Helpenstall and Diana Roberts, her Physical Therapist, also a marathon runner and Ironman triathlete, understood just what she was feeling. They suggested the OOA Cycling Team.
Medlin hadn’t considered competitive cycling before but she was welcomed to the training groups and began with gusto. “The women on the team were so inspirational. They have so much knowledge and are so skilled. They have taught me so much in a short time,” says Medlin. For now, she is an official “fan,” training with the team to increase her skills. She hopes to compete next season.
Does she still run? “Dr. Helpenstell knew I needed the science behind what was happening to my knee, and that I needed to understand it, or I was never going to stop running,” she explains. “He made sure that I understood – he focused on educating me – so that together we could make the best choices for my health.” Medlin now says biking is her favorite form of exercise, something she may never have discovered without the OOA Biking team.
Katie Kolan has always biked. “In college I biked everywhere,” she shares, smiling, “but that was just because it was efficient and I was poor.” She has continued to bike regularly and about two years ago, she discovered the Olympia Orthopaedics Associates Cycling Team. “I really wanted to become a better cyclist and I thought there’s no better way to do it than to surround myself with people who are better than me,” Kolan shares. Those people were the cyclists on the OOA Cycling Team.
She joined the cyclo-cross team, loving the idea of combining the speed of road racing, the off-road nature of mountain biking, and the challenge of the cyclo-cross obstacles. Kolan discovered this new sport, and jumped in with the existing Olympia Orthopaedics Cyclo-Cross team members, ready to train.
However, her training was short lived. During one of her first training rides on the trails of Millersylvania State Park she fell. It was riding through sand, a common cylco-cross obstacle, when her tire skidded and she fell flew off the bike, right into a picnic table. “I realized immediately that something was not right,” she recalls.
That “something” was her arm, broken badly just above her wrist. “At first I was just irritated that my workout had been cut short, but when I got back to the car it dawned on me – there goes my season,” Kolan remembers.
After a trip to the emergency room, she met with Dr. Kurt Anderson, one of Oly Ortho’s hand and upper extremity specialists. Surgery was recommended and she was in the Oly Ortho Surgery Center within days.
“As inconvenient and messy as this whole ordeal was, everything at OOA was great from start to finish,” explains Kolan. “Walking down that hallway [at OOA’s Westside Clinic], was really cool. Seeing the bike on the wall, knowing that Dr. Anderson is a mountain biker too,” explains Kolan, “I just knew I was in good hands.” Her plan of care was tailored to her specific lifestyle by a physician who really “got it”.
After surgery Kolan began work with Kate Cisco, the OOA Hand Therapist. “Kate was super funny, generous, and got what I was going through.” From initial consult through PT exercises, the full team took Kolan’s values and her love of sport seriously. They knew how important being able to compete was to her and made sure they did all that they could to get her back in riding shape.
“I was motivated to heal and my motivation, combined with their care and expertise, has landed me here today, ready to ride again next season.”
For more information on the Olympia Orthopaedics Cycling Team visit the team webpage.