Back On The Horse

Whenever I find myself in a reflective mood anymore this is where I find myself.  Tonight is certainly one of those times.  Earlier I spent some time tuning up my bike for an early morning ride.  Big deal, right?  Normally I would agree.  The difference here is the fact that I haven’t pointed my bike down a single-track trail for over two years.

Sunbridge Hills trails

The past two years have been full of a ton of changes for me- the vast majority all good- read:  finally being a dad, leading a successful edtech pilot, etc.  However, at that time I also had a pretty gruesome neck surgery stemming from an old wrestling injury about fifteen years prior.  From that time I fought with my neck going out several times a year.  Anyone who knows me close knows that I spent weeks each year in pretty good pain when it would “go out.”  That summer (2006) I finally had two cervical disks blow out completely and started rapidly losing pretty much everything in my right arm, including size.

All of that paled in comparison to the pain.  For a solid month it felt like a a dump truck had backed itself up onto my right arm and parked.  I didn’t sleep more than about 40 minutes solid at any time during that month.  After the surgeon very deftly put my spine back together with bone marrow from my hip and a solid bit of titanium, I was painless pretty much instantly for the first time in years.  My neck still feels like a million bucks today.  That surgery really is a rather raw and unsophisticated thing in some respects.  The guy put me back together with what must have been similar to wood tools.  If you don’t believe that, just look at the screws that are embedded in my vertebrae.  Awesome images.  You know me  -the sciencegeek-  if there is data to be had, I want it.  I got all of those images on CD not long after the surgery.  Hopefully you aren’t too freaked out by the ghastly pics…

cervical x-ray #1

Since that time I have completely removed myself from coaching wrestling after 18 years of doing what I grew up with and loved doing.  That has been a tough transition for me.  I wormed my way out gracefully though by contacting a smart guy to step in a take the reins at my school with my brother while I stayed on one last year as an assistant coach.  The deal is this:  wrestling is just not a “lifetime sport.”  I always despised those coaches who led by words alone.  The sport is far too technical nowadays to not roll up your sleeves and get into the mix.  learning wrestling is true athletic apprenticeship.  For me it was just too painful to stand and talk when I was used to actually doing for so many years of my life.  So today I remain fan #1 for our athletes and coaches, but I just wanted better for our guys.

cervical x-ray #2

So how does that relate to riding a mountain bike down uneven trails?  It is pretty simple really.  I have just never done “halfway” very well when it comes to anything.  Teaching- full blast.  Instructional coaching- full blast.  Educational technology leadership- full blast.  Mountain biking-  full blast.  Writing-  full blast.  You name it-  full blast.  My fear (or intelligence, we’ll see) has kept me off of my bike since that time.  I could have chilled down the concrete of the local trails or roads, but to me…  that felt too much like coaching wrestling from the edge of the mat.  It just felt too “halfway” to me.

cervical x-ray #3

So tomorrow, with a clean, toned bike and tight tires I will glide down the trails of our river bluffs for the first time in a long long while.  I can assure that the views I take in on that ride will be absorbed in a much different way.  At the speed I will be traveling I will likely take in more sights than I have ever seen even in some very familiar places.  But I think I am finally OK with that.  Though I’ll never really be able to coach wrestling the way I always did, the risk of a bike ride is a fair trade for the thrill.  It’s high time to kick off the second forty years of my life with the intent of returning to some semblance of the fitness I was used to.

Hey-  I might not being going full blast, but at least I will be back on the horse…  Wish me luck.

Park City, Utah trails


Sean Nash

Biology teacher in the great state of Kansas. Back at it in the classroom after a 30-year career in Missouri. Former District Curriculum Administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator, and Instructional Coach. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at


  1. Very best of luck, indeed. Here’s to serendipity and all the positives that a good bike ride can bring— at any speed

  2. Thanks a ton, Larry. So weird how just tonight I found your online space via our interaction on Will Richardson’s blog.

    Just when you think you are quite connected… you look around and see so many others doing so many good things. It is humbling, really. I look forward to learning from you as you are now squarely within my reader for the future.


  3. Good luck, Sean!
    I had no idea about your surgery. I guess I arrived in St. Joe after that. I look forward to hearing about your experiences on your mountain bike.

    I haven’t ran for 2 years due to back pain. You’ve given me some things to think about… I miss it tremendously!

    You truely inspire others in so many ways!

  4. @Jeanette & Terri – quite sublime actually. I almost forgot how intense the scents of the early summer forest are when you are breathing like a Pratt & Whitney.

    Good to have that deep burn back in my quads again.

    I certainly need to get back in touch with my gears though. Wow. It was like I was fumbling around with a new toy when I finally hit a few tight corners.

    Not gonna lie though… was a bit scary once I hit the trails. I just need to get back in touch with the bike. It was like the first time on it.

    And also… the mosses were glistening green with sporophytes popping up all ready to toss out some spores. Gorgeous. The facts behind that:

    But yeah… moist in the woods today. A bit muddy and with tons of water shooting over the waterfall way back in the back of Krug Park.

  5. I full-on enjoyed your post. Were you always full-on? As a child? An inspirational post. Hmmm… you’re making me rethink my motivation. Thanks as usual.

    • @Tania Sheko, Heh. Always full-on? I seriously doubt it. I can remember being so not-motivated toward formal schoolwork. And really… if I had the work ethic that I have had for the past fifteen years or so, I would have been a pretty amazing wrestler.

      That said, I think my opportunities to play -and roll at my own speed for so long- left me with plenty of energy for all of the crazyness of my life as it has been for a while now.

      So yeah… in some informal ways I always have a decent engine. But only when my professional life hit a point where I was empowered to really innovate and create new experiences for students did I shift into overdrive in many ways.

      Really- I’m just blabbing off the top of my head. That means you’ve given me something to think about further. A person really should know thyself better, eh?

      Thanks. 😉

      • @nashworld,
        you said:
        ‘But only when my professional life hit a point where I was empowered to really innovate and create new experiences for students did I shift into overdrive in many ways’.

        Now you’ve given me more to think about. I think this could apply to students too.

        • @Tania Sheko, Exactly, right? How often is it not true that what is good for the development of a teacher is good for the development of students? That crazy virtual barrier -in the heads of so many- needs to dissolve a bit in my opinion.

  6. Good for you, Nash! I’m loving the idea of you out on your bike again. Reminds me of your days back on Faraon (or is it Jules?) when I first saw your ‘high-tech’ bike. As usual, you get some credit for my biking frenzy, however I’m sticking to concrete 😉 Love seeing those pics.

    • @Trotter, hey thanks… what inspires me most is not so much the kind words as seeing you scribbling in public spaces! Yes, Jules street. Good times, for sure. And trust me… for most of that ride, I stuck to concrete as well. My bike and I have to make friends again before I can go even reasonably fast down a dirt trail.

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