This weekend wraps my much abbreviated cyclocross season, with the eagerly anticipated Ice Weasels Cometh. Last year I had a great season, with more time to train. This year the clavicle fracture in July sidelined me almost the entire summer, and by fall I was just trying to pedal my way back to some fitness and learn how to lift my bike again. I was thrilled to race at all. I hoped, unreasonably, that I might rise to the level I was last year. The level being solidly average. Hey I take any small victory at this point. I had a couple good races this year and felt some progress being made, but never quite got to where I wanted to be. After the Northampton races in early November, I knew I was pretty done. My work schedule ramped up, available daylight ramped down, and I figured it was time to cut my losses.
So this weekend, I race cyclocross and the “Wookie” fat bike category, but Ice Weasels is more a going away party to the season than anything too serious. The cross race has more serious leanings (but there will be hand-ups). The fat bike race will be an all out party. After too many 10, 11, and 12 hour work days lately, I cannot wait.
I’m already thinking of next year, after this year being somewhat stifled in terms of bike related adventure. My adventure quota needs filling. Plans are brewing, stay tuned.
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:
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.
I didn’t know a bruise could last 5 weeks, but I still have one from my epic DH MTB Crash and subsequent collarbone bust-up (in at least 3 places, no less). But things are slowly getting better and I figured I’d check in about it.
Last week, at 4 weeks post crash, I went on vacation as it was planned many months in advance. That delayed my 4 week check up to next week. Fortunately cycling wasn’t on the itinerary for vacation, but the sea kayaking in Puget Sound was out. I went west in a sling, and came home without one, because I just couldn’t take wearing it anymore. It was hurting more to wear it than not to. Actually–that went back and forth a little. Let me explain: when you don’t move an entire part of your body for a month, muscles start doing weird stuff. Like spasming. That wasn’t in the brochure. I tried massaging the affected areas-biceps, triceps, trapezoids, etc. but at the end of the day–i just wanted to move. But not TOO much. And what is more important here is what was NOT hurting–and that was my shoulder. The only thing uncomfortable were the supporting muscles around the shoulder–and those were, at times, pretty painful. So for the week–I kind of went back and forth between hurting when I was wearing the sling, to hurting because I was not wearing the sling. I was walking a ton and hiking a bunch too (in Olympic and Mt Rainier National Parks in Washington State). There was definitely a correlation between my overall body movement and my discomfort. Flying all day in a sling to get across the country–horrible. I just wanted that sling off. Hiking 6 miles in The Olympics wearing a sling? That felt just fine. If I walked or hiked too much without the sling, well–that hurt too. It was a balancing act.
My range of motion is no where near 100%. Probably 30-40%? That’s my best guess anyway. I’m not pushing that part too hard but I’ve noticed that it is improving with just normal daily activity. Yesterday I drove for the first time in a month, and that was so nice to have some freedom back.
The big day is this Tuesday, when I finally go back to the Orthopedic practice for feedback on how I’m healing. My hope is they say “everything is going great, you can start PT next week.” Fingers crossed for that. It feels great to start doing more for myself. I can put a t-shirt on now! I can drive short distances! But I know I’m not fully healed yet (lifting more than a coke can is impossible and I cannot raise my arm past my chest). Regardless, I’m moving forward as if I’m going to get good news Tuesday. I have done a few trainer rides now and it has felt so good to spin on the bike, even if its on my back porch.
Good thoughts for Tuesday–wish me and my shoulder luck!
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!
|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|
|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|
|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.
I’ve credited cycling with a lot of good things in my life. Always presenting the upside, but that isn’t 100% honest. With some forced time off the bike due to my collarbone & rib fractures, I’m getting some more time to think about this.
I’ve held the viewpoint that bikes lend needed balance to my over-scheduled life. My brain is on bikes a disproportionate amount of time. My partner has to stop me from talking about training, races, events, because it’s what i gravitate to, my mind is always circling back to this really great thing in my life. At this point, most of my social life revolves around cycling, all of my fitness is attributed to cycling, and most disposable income as well.
In the last month as i looked to fill my calendar with cycling trips, rides, events, and adventures, I thought, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to skip cyclocross season this year. I had that same thought last year too. I thought, maybe I should switch out a ride with some running or a hike. I thought, maybe I should diversify my interests just a little. After all, I AM interested in other things. Was this burn out? I’m not sure.
Now, post crash– I’m forced to change my focus. I’m still scrolling through my Instagram feed which is about 95% cycling focused, and on Strava every day, and thinking about what kind of training I’ll need to do to squeeze out a few cyclocross races this fall. But I’m doing other things too: I’m taking walks twice a day to keep active. I’ve reassessed my approach to retirement and saving for some of my other goals. I have started reading a new book–a hobby I love and have been really bad at making time for.
What I’m sure about is that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m sure this break will serve to rebalance my life a bit, and getting back to cycling will feel fresh and even more appreciated after this break. That’s my hope anyway.
I usually do a “hey this is what’s up for 201X” post, indulging my proclivity for planning stuff. I end up doing some things, not all. Actually–let’s review my track record from last year:
- Fat Biking. CHECK!
- Dog Sledding. D’OH!
- Kingdom Trails-again. CHECK! Twice! A day trip & a weekend!
- An island…..or a canyon? D’OH! This trip never happened.
- At least one Mountain Bike race. CHECK CHECK CHECK! I did three! Podium for 2!
- The JAM Grand Fundo. CHECK!
- The Muddy Onion Spring Classic. CHECK!
- A Dog. D’OH! I’m lobbying hard for this, but right now I’ve been vetoed until we get a bigger place.
- Bikepacking, V2.0. D’OH! This turned into a MTB Women’s Camping Weekend instead, which was still pretty awesome.
- Mystery Getaway. Sort of–Not really. I ended up going to Vermont. Not THAT Mysterious.
- 3 more OCR Races. CHECK for 2. I bagged out of the last one.
- Cyclocross! SUPER DARK EMPHATIC CHECK MARK. Best Season Yet.
I’ve been a little unfocused, coming off a great cx season that I found the most joy in since taking up the sport, and dealing with a winter that has been intensely cold. My work situation is very uncertain, as I learned last week my company has lost the contract for the Program that I run. I’m working with our HR folks to find placement and have had some encouraging leads, but nothing’s a guarantee, and I am unwilling to to relocate. Planning fun adventures feels out of place when this piece of my life is not locked in.
But I might want to change my thinking, in case I am suddenly find myself with a lot more time on my hands. I am looking at another Women’s MTB Weekend with Laura and Gail, and whoever else wants to come. I’d also like to take another stab at bikepacking, and we are looking at TATR-The Adirondack Trail Ride. That’s a 550 mile ride, and we’d do a super short segment of it over a long weekend.
I’m very interested in gravel rides this year. Last year I had a great time at the Muddy Onion, The JAM Fund Grand Fundo, and the NEBRA August Adventure. I like the adventurous feel of roads that aren’t quite roads. And I’ll most certainly be mountain biking too. Beyond that, I can’t be certain of what this year will look like.
After a few days of rest, and no more yoga, my back is feeling better. The mid back pain was the first to slowly subside. Then the sciatica. Eventually, the tingling and numbness left my feet first, then my arms and hands. I’ve restarted workouts–easy ones, followed by gentle, reasonable stretching. Really the only pain left is the one I started with, the pinched nerve in my upper back/shoulder.
Today I went for my annual physical exam, which was a pre-planned visit, and just good timing. I was given a neurological exam (insert a variety of jokes here), tested my reflexes, etc. All good. After examining my back, she observed my trapezoids were super tight, with lots of knots in my back. She concluded most of my issues were muscular, not spinal. This was a relief. She said it was probably that I had some degenerative disk issues, as “most people middle aged people do,” but this was a perfect case for Physical Therapy, as I had thought. She said some PT and some disciplined exercises at home, and continuing to practice better posture at work should rebalance me.
Yoga is still on the menu for me. I want to start PT first and then incorporate Yoga twice a week to increase my flexibility. Basic, gentle stretching after workouts should be a no brainer, but my rushed lifestyle omitted them from the routine. That must stop or I’ll risk injury again. If not my back–something else. This incident was a good teacher for me. It’s hard to realize sometimes that I have to practice a little self care if I want to keep doing all these crazy things. Our bodies can be made strong with hard work, but I need to learn to take care of myself after running myself ragged. A little self care could prolong my participation in this sport, hopefully indefinitely. That’s my game plan.