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X-Ray Results and a Divine Plan

Tuesday afternoon I got the news I wanted: the collarbone is healing well, and ligaments are stitching the shoulder separation together nicely.  Already the separation is measurably smaller.  I’ve been cleared for physical therapy immediately.  I left the office absolutely elated.

Then I went home to make my PT appointments.  Reality check–they are booked an entire month out.  What.  The.  Actual.  You know how to end that sentence.

If you are a medical professional, feel free to cringe when I tell you my very next move was to Google search “rehab protocol clavicle fracture.”  They say you have to be proactive in your own healthcare–well most of the time, we aren’t left with many choices in the matter.  So I’m DIYing it until I get an “evaluation.”  Leave me unsupervised, this is what happens.

I did get some handy tips from the PA before I learned I wouldn’t get into therapy that I have already been practicing, like finger crawls up the wall, and just trying to get some gentle movement into the joint.  Nothing weight bearing for now.   That’s ok, I can’t lift more than a coke can at this point. I definitely need the PT.

Since this was the news I had hoped for, and I’m not looking to screw it up with being stupid, but I am not willing to wait around for another whole month.  While I’m not known to be terribly religious, I’ll take one from the Lord’s playbook, and quote Luke 4:23 and “heal thyself.”  How else can I put this? To make another pious reference,  I’ll quote the Book of Elwood:

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My original timeline for getting back on the bike and back to racing is intact, and the Lord helps those who help themselves and all, so I type this from the seat of my trainer.  I should be back riding outside by Labor Day Weekend and no MTB until October.  Racing by mid October.  I’ll miss cyclocross in September but still have October and November, that should be plenty.

What I can tell you, is the healing power of the human body absolutely boggles my mind.  It really is a miracle. That is some divinely elegant design.

More X-rays at the end of September as a final sign off to my health and onto new bike adventures.  I cannot wait.

-Karen

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Training Remix: Broken collarbone recovery plan

This year, I had a clear path to a big block of training in July–a little unstructured, but I had the time, great weather, and some nice momentum from spring.  With all that out the window, I’m looking at a recovery plan and how to get back all I’m losing now.

Last Saturday was the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo, a ride I’ve done in the past, features the vibrant elite & citizen cyclocross community in western Mass.  A couple of friends came over to visit me after the event (which is 2 miles down the road from me), and I told them of my plan to be racing cyclocross by October.  My friend Gail gently tried to dial me back.  “I think you’re out this year.” She said.  She cautioned one fall too early could easily rebreak newly healed bones.  I know she’s a little bit right, but this approach is super conservative–and cross season lasts until December.  I feel like that’s plenty of time to heal properly and still squeak out a few good races this year.

It’s been 9 days since the accident and little has changed in terms of discomfort and pain.  Breathing is painful when I breath deeply.  The shoulder feels a bit better but I think I’m doing a REALLY good job of keeping the shoulder immobile.  In another week, I’m hoping my rib stops hurting enough for more labored breathing that comes with some physical effort.

This is the plan:

  • Walking.  I started doing this immediately and got a 4 mile walk in yesterday.  My rib hurts, but my shoulder feels ok during the walks now, and just a bit achy after.
  • After 2-3 weeks, stationary bike and/or trainer. I have access to both at home, but the stationary bike, while less like actual bike riding, is more stable and comfortable for these early recovery workouts. The pain associated with breathing will inform how intense I can do this, but my main goal is to spin a bit, and mitigate the loss of overall fitness.
  • Assessment.  I have an appointment after my early August vacation (where I’m traveling to Seattle) to see how the healing is going.  I’m very hopeful that things will be progressing well and corrective surgery won’t be needed at that time.
  • Physical therapy/gentle use. Providing the assessment goes well I’m hoping to come out of the sling at that point.  My assessment is supposed to happen at 4 weeks, but can’t happen until 5 weeks due to my trip to Seattle.  So in the 5th week, I’ll know more, and if things are good…..maybe I’ll be able to come out of the sling.  What the doctor thinks will largely determine what’s next. See a physical therapist, do my exercises.
  • Riding on flat surfaces.  I’m really hoping to start this by September.  Minimize risk of falls by keeping surfaces even and flat.  Continue to heal.  Listen to the advice of medical professionals.  Focus on intervals, rebuilding overall endurance.
  • Graduate to gravel & mixed terrain. Hoping by late September/early October to be on some gravel or tame forest paths. Can I start dismount and remounts by now?  I’m not sure.  I don’t want to be stupid, but with daylight fading and cross season in full swing, I want to ensure my training is moving forward.  There are a couple of gravel rides I’m looking at like the Dirty Apple (my friend Laura is organizing this for her bike club, and she’s the queen of route planning, so it’s going to be freaking awesome).
  • Start racing in late October.  This is my amended plan.  Originally I thought I could start racing in early October, but this is probably too ambitious. I thought about how probable crashing is during any race.  Last year, out of 11 races, I crashed at least 6 times.  That’s a 54% chance of crashing. I can’t count the crashes practicing, warming up, doing regular rides, pre-riding, etc.  I think giving my bones 2-3 more weeks before racing is probably a smart way to go.  Remember, there are no shocks on cross bikes!
Date Race Name Place Racers Points Crash?
7-Sep Wendolowski Farm Cross 19 20 692.08 Yes, 2x
30-Sep KMC Cross Festival Day 2 12 25 589.58 No
1-Oct KMC Cross Festival Day 3 16 16 723.37 No-flatted
8-Oct Minuteman CX 29 58 602.12 Yes
14-Oct CRAFT Sportswear Gran Prix of Gloucester Day 1 48 72 653.26 Yes
15-Oct CRAFT Sportswear Gran Prix of Gloucester Day 2 29 58 600 No
29-Oct Wicked Creepy Cyclocross Race, part of the NYCROSS.com Series 5 11 583.06 No
11-Nov Northampton International Cyclocross Day 1 18 35 583 Yes
12-Nov Northampton International Cyclocross Day 2 17 27 620.49 No
25-Nov Secret Squirrel 8 28 552.78 Yes-Preride
8-Dec The Ice Weasels Cometh 14 26 609.53 No–but one close call!

If I start racing late October/Early November, I think I can get at least 5 races in.  I usually am pretty done by the end of November, and the Ice Weasels is just the end of the year party.

I’m sad to lose this summer for riding.  I was exploring new roads nearly every ride, feeling relatively strong this summer, and I wanted to see where I could take that. Last fall was a breakthrough season for me in terms of my cross performance, and I know with focused effort and an actual plan that I follow, improvements are possible.  I enjoy this the most–improving against my own results, especially as I grow older.

-Karen

Don’t Jinx It! My CX Season So Far…

I’m hesitant to write about this at all, but dare I say, I’m finally having the cyclocross season I’ve always wanted.

I have long had the modest goal to finish in the top 50% of the race.  And this year–it’s actually happening.  Not every race, but 4 of the last 7 races this year I’m in the top half. If I don’t get a flat tire, or other calamity, I’m making it.

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Minuteman CX–29/58 was good enough for the 50% cut off.  The rain came down the whole time and made for a sloppy – fun race.

This feels so good, it was an achievable goal I set for myself but never quite managed to pull off more than once a season. It always bugged me because I knew I could do more, but I always found it so hard to train and prepare for the season the right way. By no means do I have everything figured out, but there are reasons I’m doing that much better this year.

1.) I’m following a training schedule. It’s general and not ridiculously specific–but I’m doing intervals on Wednesdays and threshold when I’m supposed to and resting on days I should rest. I generally try to stress my body into an uncomfortable feeling on hard days and genuinely take it easy when I’m supposed to.

2.) I’m able to ride during the day, outside.  Last year I was still working in Springfield in an office for 9-10 hours a day, without an outlet for exercise. Training was isolated to the trainer at night and weekends, and occasional afternoons until the light was gone (which wasn’t long). Now I work from home and while I still commute to the Boston suburbs once or twice a week, I’m able to ride 45-60 mins at least 3 days during the week plus whatever I do on the weekends. As an additional benefit, I find I’m much more alert during my work days because of the mid-day exercise, and I no longer have back and neck pain from sitting for long stretches.

3. I’m eating a little better. I still have my treats, but I’m eating more veggies and less sugar in general. I’ve lost a couple of pounds and overall feel better.

4.) I’m recovering better.  I find I can endure more discomfort and recover faster from hard efforts. The intervals help with that. But some of the big rides I did last summer seem to be paying off now too.

5.) I am serious about racing, and not serious about the results. This is probably the best development–I seem to have found a healthy mental balance between my enthusiasm, my nerves, and my internal competitor. When I race, I am focused and I’m constantly thinking about what i need to do to pass the women in front of me, and expand gaps between me and the women behind me. But the fun is still there–I joke with the hecklers and while I have had results that are an improvement over years past, I know I’m still not winning races here. I still don’t expect to move up a category. My perspective is intact. I’m still having a lot of fun.

6.) I’m in one place. This is a simple one–but something I haven’t had for a long time. No longer am I packing a bag every other weekend to visit my significant other. Now that we are under the same roof, there is no more back and forth and that has helped me focus on things I want to…..like cyclocross.

The most meaningful thing about this incremental improvement in my performance is that it is happening as I settle into what can be easily described as “My late forties.” I love this is happening at this time in my life. I love that I can improve my athletic performance at anything after age 40. I love that I can do this sport and my age doesn’t prevent my participation. I hope I can continue to do it for many years to come.

I registered for a small grassroots race this weekend in Vermont, and then next weekend is the Verge/Cycle-Smart Northampton International Cyclocross race weekend–the hometown race. If I can, I’d like to continue to do better than average among my peers for the Northampton races. The trick now is to keep up with the diet and workouts, and not get sick or injured.

Let’s hope I didn’t jinx myself by talking about it!

-Karen

 

Microworkouts

Last week we received about 20 inches of snow and ice in a series of different storms, the biggest coming Thursday which dumped 15 inches. My son was home from school 2 days and another 2 days were a delayed start, which was seriously disruptive to my work week. Work itself is intense right now, I have multiple projects and deadlines, and several high priority initiatives we are rolling out, on top of the day to day stuff which is busy enough. All this, and I am trying to continue to work out regularly and vary my fitness routine this off season.

Snow isn’t a dealkiller when it comes to working out. As a younger and less experienced cyclist, I considered winter as a break, which meant zero time on my bike. As my love of the sport grew, I began to question this forgone conclusion, especially when I realized other people were out there in the cold getting it done.

I used to be much more sensitive to the elements, in what I can only guess was my lack of exposure to them. Since making my fitness year round, and not just a token adventure in the winter months, I’ve grown much more tolerant to temperatures.

So last week I took what I could get. A couple of short rides on the fat bike in the beginning of the week, a Zwift trainer ride on Friday, followed by a short run in the dark over snow and ice. The most action was this weekend, full of shoveling snow, riding the fat bike, and downhill skiing with my son.

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These a little short little nibbles at workouts and not as “full on” as I’d like, but I’m managing time as best I can and considering everything–I’m pretty happy with last week.

I’m now watching another 8-12 inches fall outside.  I don’t really mind, bring on the snow! I’ll work in a work out somehow….

-Karen

Paradise CX Frenzy Twofer

Sometimes you have to wring yourself out to get somewhere.

I signed up for 2 races last Saturday, the Cat 4 and then the Open Category just 45 minutes later. After too little sleep, too little riding, too much travel, too much work, too much stress, and too much alcohol & food at client dinners (and breakfasts and lunches and coffee breaks)….. I needed the ass-kicking to get me back on track.

The Cat 4 Race

Staging was odd–I was in the second row but figured I’d be in the 3rd. My start was great and I was in the lead group through the squiggly, hilly turns after the first corner. Then the straightaway, and pick, pick, pick….they came. I slid back to the middle. The back fields were a maze of corners.  Around one corner I cut too close to one of the stakes and my foot slammed square into the post and nearly knocked me off the bike. Pick, pick, a couple more slid by me.  Then on a modest descent before a sharper right turn, a young woman blasted by me to the cheers of her friends. She passed, then lost control and wiped out in grand fashion right in front of me. I managed to avoid her crash but was forced to dismount for the sharp right turn and hill (which was totally rideable in any other circumstance).  I pushed on the the front of the course and the heckle-hill. They changed the hill a bit this year; the apex was characterized by a severe left turn on a sloping hill that slowed dismounts and caused some to topple down the hill.

About 3/4 into the first lap, I started coughing and my lungs started filling. My speed slowed to a non-race pace. I’ve had this problem before when the temps get cold: sports induced asthma.  It was in the high 40’s but felt colder somehow. I struggled through the rest of the race, trading places with one other racer a few times but in the end she won the battle and I lost yet another place. No Crossresults posting yet but at the venue I came in 15th/22? I think 22. Not so great and I am definitely capable of more.

At the end of the race, I was literally wheezing. I found my friend Kathy who was getting ready for the Women’s Open and told her exactly how I was feeling at that moment: I don’t want to race again. I went back to my car to warm up and lick my wounds. I called my girlfriend and told her how I was feeling. “You sound miserable. If you feel that awful then just come home and skip it.” Inside my brain, hearing her say this aloud was like a needle scratching across a record. I was miserable, but I was there, and quitting would feel worse than coughing up whatever was left of my lungs.

Women’s Open 1/2/3/4

So I lined up for the second race, the harder and longer race with the fast women. Again, they staged us in an odd manner….someone realized it must be alphabetical, which was really bizarre. I found myself in the front row, which I had no earthly business being. We started fine and on the straightaway I moved over on purpose. I did not want to be in anyone’s way. I didn’t want to interfere with anyone’s race. It didn’t take long for the field to pass me and my wheezing lungs and leave me by myself.

This was just fine.  I concentrated on form and smooth execution, and tried to push where I could, but the previous effort left me with very little. My lungs seemed to settle down but my energy was zonked.

On heckle hill, there were issues. Most heckles are in good fun. I joked with the spectators at the top and let them know I wasn’t taking myself too seriously. At least one heckler’s comments were what can only be described as condescending and pandering. I heard similar complaints from the other women post race, so I was not alone in this perception.

I got lapped and finished last–unless someone DNF’d (which happened last year).  I felt 100% destroyed and 100% better than after my first race.  If the first race tore me apart, the second pounded me into dust,which was exactly what I needed.

I’m hoping for a halfway decent showing next weekend in Northampton.  It’s always difficult to keep momentum during cross season–it’s a big frustration for me to not be able to do my best because “real life” demands don’t allow me to race or train or even get enough sleep to be healthy.  Hopefully Paradise CX’s pain will have some value next weekend.

-Karen

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3000 miles in 2016 (or bust)

Goals are funny. We want to achieve them but we like our routines. We like our habits, even the bad ones.  

I set a goal of 3000 miles. I’ve wanted to do this kind of mileage before but never (I don’t think) put it in writing. 60 miles a week doesn’t seem insurmountable. But I’ve never been able to pull that kind of mileage off. Here are my most recent stats:

2015 Stats
Distance 2,114 miles
Elevation Gain 92,450ft

2014 Stats
Distance 2,345 miles
Elevation Gain 89,850ft

2013 Stats
Distance 2,710 mi
Elevation Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)

2012 Stats
Distance 2,127.8mi
Elevation Gain 81,385ft

2013 was my best year for miles and climbing, and there is a great reason: I was laid off from my job for the first time in my entire life. Being out of work and being COMPLETELY stressed about it is a perfect recipe for high miles: high stress to pedal off and lots of free time to do it. Honestly I can thank cycling for getting me through that dark time. But things are on the upswing these days, so it would be great to log even higher miles and have them just be for fun, not exclusively for mental health.

Mid summer in 2015, I was feeling a loss of wind in my sails around training, about the approaching cyclocross season and how invested I could be or wanted to be in the race season. I got it together, mostly.  But my miles dropped off hard as soon as daylight saving time came around, and with that, so did my overall fitness.

So why 3000 miles?  It feels like a magic number to me. In 2013 when I was riding a ton, things started to shift for me in terms of my cycling performance. I got faster, I climbed better, I became a more capable cyclist. It felt so great. I moved off the plateau and onto higher ground, and it was nice, and surprising, to learn that was still possible in my forties.

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So-3000 miles for 2016.  Hopefully the mild winter will continue, my personal schedules fall into place, and I can get the saddle time I need to get there…..and hopefully I’ll move off that plateau and onto that higher ground I’m looking for.

-Karen

Slow Ramp Up

I’m lying on my couch right now, looking at my road bike which needs a tube change before tomorrow morning’s ride. I cannot summon the energy to do it.

I worked out twice today, once on the bike, again with a 4 mile hike, and I can’t tell if I’m just that out of shape, or if I’m really feeling my age these days.

My rides have felt slow to me in 2015.  It’s almost May–I got a late start (we all did here in the Northeast), but I’m still feeling like riding is taking more effort than it should.  Was my hibernation that profound?  Is the hole I’m crawling out of that deep?  I don’t know.

I’ve set some goals for myself and I put some serious thought into them to make them reasonable, yet not too soft.  I’m still super pressed for time, sneaking in rides here and there–an hour on the bike when I can grab it. When I do ride, it’s almost always on the cross bike, and I almost always try to add something different:  a new path.  A piece of dirt road I haven’t explored yet.  Even just riding the grass next to the road. If it’s going to be an effort, I need to keep it fun.

Today I stayed local while my son was at baseball practice, and explored the banks of the Connecticut River.  I saw a loon and came across these raccoon tracks.  These are the perks of exploring with a cross bike.

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I finally hired a sitter–who starts tomorrow, The extra time I buy (literally) will allow me to push into rides that are 2, 3 or more hours. I need the base miles, more time in the saddle, to stretch and build my conditioning.

But again, right now I’m barely able to lift my arm to change the channel on the TV with the remote. Hopefully as I slowly re-enter my exercise routine my fitness will return and I won’t feel so shattered every weekend.

-Karen