Monday, May 7, 2012

The Layoff

When I got back from PBP I was truly exhausted and the urge to ride my bike had been pushed into a small corner of my mind. However, after a few days I thought I should at least get back on the trainer before the legs completely seized up. The first spin went fine but subsequently I started getting a pain on the inside of my right knee. Now, I had partial meniscotomies on both knees a few years back from years of soccer and running, but never had any trouble at all on the bike. Browsing the web I discovered that delayed onset pain is not an uncommon consequence of a ride like PBP. It didn't go away in a hurry, and mindful of the time and care that it took to get over my bout of peroneal tendinitis, I decided to cancel my upcoming rides, in particular the Knoxville double, and work on recovery. Well, it took longer than I expected and I ended up cancelling all my organized ride plans in the fall.

I also had some unfinished business with my right elbow. I had been diagnosed with a slight tear in a tendon on the outside of the elbow caused by improper lifting back in the spring and had delayed dealing with it because it didn't affect riding (in fact it actually recovered on a bike ride) and I was advised that the typical rehab time was 3 months, during which time riding would be off limits. So I decided to schedule the surgery for early November, hoping to be ready for the 2012 season. Since I'd had some less critical but chronic issues with the inside of the elbow, I decided to have that taken care of as well. This involved moving the ulnar nerve from its usual position under the bone to relieve stress. The surgery was on Nov 10th and evidently went well. I had a cast for 10 days and then had to wear a wrist brace for 6 weeks.

Knowing that I wouldn't be able to ride a regular bike for a while even on a trainer I borrowed an unloved Baccehtta recumbent from a friend and was able to ride that pretty much from the outset. This helped keep my leg strength and aerobic fitness up. I got to like the relaxed position on the recumbent, which was definitely easy on the upper back, which is one of my pain points on a standard road bike, essentially due to a disk bulge in my C7 vertebrae.

It was hard to tell quite how the rehab was going until after I could take the brace off in early January, as I wasn't allowed to do anything that could stress it. However, it's impossible to not use your arm unless you are in a cast, so I got some feedback and, honestly, it wasn't very encouraging. When I went back to see the surgeon on January 2nd I was off the brace but the elbow still felt pretty sore especially the side with the nerve transposition. I also seemed to have picked up wrist pain (that I didn't have before) likely due to stiffness from the brace - which was really a wrist brace to prevent me stretching the muscles leading to the repaired elbow tendons. He said it would take six months before I was really back to business and the nerve might take a year or more to fully settle down. Now I'm wondering why didn't I ask more question before the surgery! I schedule the next visit for six weeks out. The next two weeks are really bad. I'm having physical therapy, doing some light stretching, no resistance work allowed yet, but I have a lot of pain, even when doing nothing, which I never had before the brace came off. Lots of heat and cold help to get me through it but not before I schedule an early return to the surgeon because I'm really concerned that it's not right. Just making the appointment does the trick as there is significant improvement in the few days before the I see him. So there's not a lot to say other than to be patient and time will heal.

Trouble is it's been three months and the riding season is starting up. I cancel the 200K I had scheduled in January, then the one in February, feeling gloomy. However, progress is steady but slow. When I go back to the surgeon on the last day of February, my wrist pain has mostly gone and the outside of the elbow seems recovered, although the muscle will spontaneously hurt in an low key way for no apparent reason. But the inside of the elbow is still very painful. I can tell the surgeon is a bit concerned about this but, again, time is the healer he says. I ask a lot more questions this time - better late than never perhaps.

I pulled out of the SFR 300K in March as I was still not ready. That ride has memories since it was my first ankle-pain-free ride in 2011 after I got my orthotics. Fortunately, by the end of the month I'm ready to start some riding and do a 40 mile flat spin on the Portola Valley loop on April 1st. The following weekend I went on a Western Wheelers club ride that involved climbing Kings Mountain Road and Alpine Rd, two fairly tough climbs. I was the lantern rouge on the descent of Tunitas Creek, feeling decidedly dodgy on the very technical descent. A nice lunch in the neat coastal town of Pescadero where I met several old friends also out on rides, which was great. Then the climb back over Haskins Ridge and up Alpine Road. I suffer on this climb, not in the aerobic sense, but my legs and glutes are toast by the end. A long descent on Page Mill and back home for a 60 mile ride and just shy of 7000' of climbing. A bit too much of an increment really.

Continuing that theme, the next ride in the Brevet series is the SFR 400K on April 21! I did this ride at the top of my game in 2010 in 18:15 thanks in part to a fast paceline on one flat 40 mile section. In 2011 I took 20:00 to do the much easier (less hilly) SCR 400K. So, I know I'm looking at no better than that and likely worse. I decide to crash for a few hours in Petaluma in a hotel and then ride in the next morning, taking almost all the allowed 27 hours for the ride. That will still have me riding 205 miles on day 1 however.

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