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Guest Article: Karl Moritz on the thrill of a century

Posted by on September 20th, 2012 at 9:57 am

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.]
——

    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

——

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

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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jjfantastic
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jjfantastic

Thank you, Jonathan, for this update! I don’t know him, but I think of Karl often as I bike through Ladd’s and have wondered how he is doing. Inspirational, to say the least!

9watts
Guest
9watts

Incredible determination and recovery! Karl, you are such an inspiration.

“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.”

Maybe the whole thing freaked him out? We’re not very good in this society about accepting cars as potentially lethal, and internalizing that realization. The fact that something so horrific can occur, with – and I’ll say it again, wsbob – what amounts to a shrug from our justice system, is beyond my comprehension.

Thanks so much for posting an update Karl/Jonathan. I often wish for more of these (Reese Wilson, Essya & Martha, Christeen Osborn, etc.).

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…and I’ll say it again, wsbob – what amounts to a shrug from our justice system, is beyond my comprehension. …”
9watts

9watts…just what exactly do you expect our justice system to have done that the law allows it to do, with regards to the person operating a motor vehicle, involved in the collision with Karl Moritz? What happened to Karl in a mishap with someone driving a motor vehicle was terrible, but we’re not living in a society that considers punishing someone without proof they’re guilty, to be acceptable.

Karl Moritz recovery is impressive…actually…somewhat of a miracle. There’s that to be grateful for. I think of him and others who’ve overcome major obstacles in life, as inspiration for help in overcoming my own trials and tribulation. Karl is blessed to have family and kids that believe in him and care about him, something his writing reflects he’s aware of, and is very much appreciative of.

Everyone that believes in freedom of the road and access to safe travel on it by more than motor vehicles will do well to keep in mind the inherent danger to people riding bikes where bikes and motor vehicles are in motion together. There’s a need for effort to envision new ideas and ways to reduce that danger.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“just what exactly do you expect our justice system to have done that the law allows it to do?”

wsbob,
your often precise but convoluted phrasing points to the problem here. A justice system that fails someone in Karl’s position is not in my view one worthy of the name. Our justice system always seems to find ways to make an enormous exception for people driving cars. Had the driver of the car not been behind the wheel, but wielding a knife or a club, or been riding a bike, even, I have the feeling we would not look back on this horrific event and characterize the consequences for the wielder of the all-but-deadly weapon as a shrug. Why is that?

Oh, right…
http://tinyurl.com/thats-what-people-do
“Have you ever drifted? Have you ever looked off the roadway?” Mark Stevens asked jurors. “That’s what people do.

(from this week’s Monday Roundup)

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

9watts…I feel like attempting to respond to the type of assumptions you’ve again posted to this thread, but will not do so any further than I already have, amongst comments to a story that for the most part have been, and should continue to be a celebration of Karl Moritz extraordinary appreciation of life and people that care about each other, his determination to advance his recovery, and his encouragement to everyone to defy odds.

Thank you Karl, and keep those happy pedals spinning!

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Hey wsbob and 9watts.

I love you both, but can we have this debate elsewhere? I would really like to just recognize Karl here. A lot of his family and friends are reading. Thanks.

velvetackbar
Guest
velvetackbar

good on you, Karl. Keep riding.
We’re with you all the way.

Brian Willson
Guest

Fantastic! What an example of the depth and strength of the human spirit.

Joseph E
Guest

Wow, this is an amazing story! I went back and read all the updates. I am most impressed by Karl and his recovery.

But I have to agree with this: “wear a helmet, it SAVED MY LIFE”.
Wearing a helmet is fine, and probably helps. I wear mine almost every day — not today, because it got stolen along with my bike yesterday 🙁

But Karl’s helmet was KNOCKED OFF by the collision, along with his shoes, according to the report. If the helmet was not on his head, how was it able to save his life?

Helmets probably work when someone falls off a bike and hits there head, or gets clipped by a car and falls down, but in a frontal collison with a car they don’t always work. And that’s why it’s so important to try to prevent crashes in the first place.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

A *properly fitted* helmet, secured tightly enough so that it will not fall off your head when you crash can save your life.

pdxmama3
Guest
pdxmama3

This is Staci, Karl’s wife. Yes, his helmet was knocked off, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t save his life or that it was ill-fitting. The entire back of his helmet (which we still have) was completely caved-in. Were it not for the helmet, it would have been Karl’s skull and brain stem that were caved in and destroyed. The helmet saved his life, period. Thanks to bikeportland and everyone for your support and encouragement. It’s been a long road back.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Awesome, and inspiring story. Thank you Karl, and keep at it!

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Way to Go, Karl! Congrats on the recovery and the Century.

Steve B.
Guest

Karl, you are a total bad ass. I am truly humbled. Thanks for inspiring all of us with your amazing story.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

Karl, you are a good person, and we’re glad to have you as part of the bicycling community. I hope you continue to recover, and continue to bicycle – but I’m sure we don’t have to worry about that last part!

dan
Guest
dan

Karl, thank you for sharing this update on your recovery. My wife and I also commute through Ladd’s Addition, and we have been wondering how you have been doing. I’m happy to see that you’ve recovered so well; I find your strength and good cheer very inspirational. Best wishes to you and your family.

Rol
Guest
Rol

I admire the determination and the steady, methodical effort here. Seems like the best possible way to respond. After all, the brain is adaptable as heck, it just needs repetition to forge those neural pathways again. I have no doubt that Karl will continue to make amazing progress. Although even if he never made a shred of progress, he’d still be able to look at himself in the mirror and be proud of what he chose to be. That might be the most important. But, doing all the things you love is pretty darn sweet too.

Uncle Muscles
Guest
Uncle Muscles

Jens Voigt has a challenger in the “hard as nails” classifications.

Paolo
Guest
Paolo

Karl, you are the best, the part of your life that you DO have control over you have hit out of the ball-park. Maybe its just me, but Nike should use you as an inspirational campaign….

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

Karl, I am blown away by your positivity and by all you have accomplished. You are such an inspiration. I love that you ride the same bike as ” an act of defiance.” Steve B. is right: you are a Badass.

Ellen
Guest
Ellen

Karl, I was just wondering about your recovery a couple of days ago. How wonderful to have such a detailed update of your journey. Bummer about the job, though.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Karl, you are an inspiration. Keep fighting the good fight. Your commitment for your boys is beautiful.

Karl Moritz
Guest
Karl Moritz

Thank you all for your comments. I would like to state, I wear a helmet to protect myself and not for decoration. The helmet was knocked off my head, but this was not at initial impact but while I getting dragged under the car for thirty feet. The same with my road shoes. They both looked like someone took a lot of wacks with a sludge hammer to them. This could have been my head, if I were not wearing a helmet. I have been cycling for the past fifteen years + and know how to wear these articles. If you know someone who cycles without a helmet. Buy a helmet for that person as a present. I think this would be a gift of love.
Cheers and ride wise, Karl

Samuel Haek
Guest
Samuel Haek

Karl,
This is just fantastic to hear about your recovery and the Century ride, I was just thinking of you as I rode down Ladd’s Ave and wondered how you are? I am sure it was difficult to get back on the bike again? But I am really proud of you and your determination! I don’t know if your remember me; I would ride at about the same time and distance as you did and would talk when we were at the same pace. Any ways, there is no other cyclist out there that I would rather ride with then someone like you, because I have noticed that you are law abiding and attentive to your surroundings. That’s why I was so very shocked to hear about your accident. So, did the Police report investigate the Driver Phone use, just thought, was he text driving? Sorry for the late note, I was out of the country for a period of time. Like Jim said “Your comments for your boys is beautiful”. Heal fast and sorry about your job, I am sure Nike would be losing someone awesome and maybe this could be in your best interest to do something else? I find it odd that a company such as Nike, An athletic sports company doesn’t do more for an athletic employee such as you? Maybe they have; I just don’t know?
Thank you Jonathan for keeping us posted!
Samuel

Karl
Guest
Karl

PDX CENTURY was a great day to think and spin. 2012 PDX century was my first century post my ‘6-29 Life Change’. This year for me, nine hours of blissful spinning cognitive meditation! I also improved my total time/speed by two miles an hour for the total 100 miles over from last year ride! Not too shabby for this “young man”? See ya next year?

Karl Moiritz
Guest
Karl Moiritz

Hello fellow B/P, PDX cyclist,
I wanted to share a update on my status.
Hum…, My thoughts are what should a bicyclist survivor do after surviving a nearly fatal bicycle accident? Volunteer at B.T.A. (https://btaoregon.org/) and at Bike Farm (http://bikefarm.org/). And Oh Yeah and you got it, Learn how to build a custom bicycle and here’s the link to my bike build story!
http://cyclingperspective.com/art-therapy-my-self-propelled-dream-machine/
Thanks for your time to read my build story and Ride Wise<Karl