Keeping the wheels in motion

October 15, 2007

Michael Smith-Wheelock, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist specializing in cataract surgery at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, Ann Arbor, makes his escape from the hectic pace of teaching and practicing ophthalmology on two wheels. Dr. Smith-Wheelock said he savors the quiet time he spends on his bike.

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Dr. Smith-Wheelock said he savors the quiet time he spends on his bike.

"The physical benefits of cycling are a huge factor, but the mental benefits are so important to me," he said.

He believes running and cycling require similar stamina.

"Both require pushing yourself and ignoring discomfort," said Dr. Smith-Wheelock. "Both also give you time by yourself, time to mull over problems and solutions, time to concentrate."

Perhaps his medical training aids in his success cycling.

"Physicians are used to pushing hard and sacrificing personal time to accomplish a goal," Dr. Smith-Wheelock said, admitting that he is competitive with himself.

Around home, Dr. Smith-Wheelock said, he enjoys a 40-mile trek on rural roads.

"There are trees, hills, lots of farm smells," he laughed. "It's beautiful. On summer weekends, I like to ride centuries (100 miles) when my family does not mind my being gone for half the day."

Dr. Smith-Wheelock said he, again, stays in rural areas north and west of the community of Chelsea and also in the Leelanau peninsula in northern Michigan-away from traffic. He rides non-stop for about 5 hours, carrying water on his bike.

"In addition to riding my road bike, I bike 19 miles to work twice each week on a mountain bike," Dr. Smith-Wheelock said. "I find that when I ride to work, I am more relaxed and calm throughout the day than if I don't get any exercise in the morning. And I particularly enjoy the ride home as a way to wind down from the stress of the day."

Different scenery

Dr. Smith-Wheelock said he takes his bike out west, too. "I go out to Utah or Colorado every year to ride in the mountains and national parks," he said.

He rode up Mount Evans in Colorado, on the highest paved road in North America. "It was a 30-mile climb, from 7,000 feet to more than 14,000 feet," he explained. "You're going uphill a long time. You have to find a comfortable gear and maintain pace."

He also rode across Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is the highest paved continuous road in North America. It goes from Estes Park, CO, to Grand Lake, CO. And he's been to Moab, UT, twice to cycle at Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The first trip was to be involved in a fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

"This summer, I cycled for a week in Vail, CO, and climbed Vail Pass several times during the week. The scenery was unbelievably beautiful," he said.

"My family thinks I'm crazy," he admitted. "But, happily, I have a brother-in-law who's like-minded."