Tag Archives: Recovery

You don’t know what you didn’t have till you’re done

It is something that has been in the back of my mind for the last couple weeks. It was hard to put my finger on it, but it seems to have crystallized in my thoughts. It leaves me feeling nostalgic and hopeful.

It is hard to grasp what you are learning through an experience while you are in the midst of it. Often the lesson isn’t obvious until after you have the opportunity to look back. I find that is the case for me when I look back at this last season.

I think I fooled myself into thinking that I was over my June 2010 accident. The fact that I was so quickly able to get back on the bike and even complete the 2010 Ride for Mike only a month after ditching my neck brace gave me the illusion that I would quickly be back up the speed. Surely an off-season and some good spring training would get me right back up there.

It didn’t happen. It was a very frustrating racing season for me. There were multiple DNF’s and I didn’t race nearly as much as I did the previous year. I was mentally out of it and not positive at all. Sure, there were flashes of power and the data showed that I was physically close to where I was in early 2010 — the best months of my life on a bicycle.

First, there was the lingering issue of my hip. I rode through the entire season with hip pain. While my legs were putting out power, my right leg would fatigue. Over the last month, I have started to notice a significant decrease in the pain. My ability to hold an effort has also improved.

Not sure what has caused it. Perhaps it is the shift in focus from big power intervals to more tempo riding. Perhaps this has taken some of the strain off my leg and has allowed it to heal. Then again, maybe it is just that time has finally started having its affect. Whatever the case, I didn’t realize how much of an influence that pain had on me until it diminished.

Second, there is a difference between strength and power. Power is what you can apply to the pedals to make the bicycle go. Strength is the ability to sustain that effort. I was able to return to the same power numbers pretty quickly. However, I just didn’t have the strength to maintain it.

This year I would go out to do intervals and I could match the same intervals as the year before. The difference was what happened after the interval ended? In 2011 I was aiming for the end of the interval. My guess (looking back) is that the big difference between 2010 and 2011 was that in the earlier year, I could have done much more with the time following the interval than in 2011.

It is just a feeling. Fact is I feel stronger right now than ever before this year. I feel like going out and doing an FTP test just to see if the feeling matches reality. The questions that swirled in my mind during the season are settling down. I’m not questioning my strength anymore.

Last, I’m just feeling much more comfortable on the bike. I realize now just how stiff I was on the bike. Now I’m finally getting my hands out comfortably on the tips of my hoods with my back flat. I’m able to bend my neck without becoming so quickly fatigued. My legs have a feeling that it is a supple power I’m producing instead of a chunky kind.

Again, had you asked how I was doing during the season, I would have told you that I was back. Now I realize just how much I wasn’t. It is a good feeling.

I realize this might all just sound like crazy talk to you. However, to me it is so clear. I begin to understand how a major accident can have long-term ramifications. Even when you think you have gone beyond it, there are lingering affects that just require the passage of time to bring you healing.

So, going forward I realize that 1) I should not fool myself into thinking I’m in some place that I am not. Don’t oversell yourself to yourself. Be willing to accept that you aren’t what you once were – yet. 2) I should look for the improvements. The diminishing pain, the flexibility on the bike, the suppleness of the legs — these are all encouraging signs. Look for more of them and focus on the confidence they bring. 3) I should focus on those things that allow me to improve – emotionally, physically, and mentally.

For now, I need to put racing out of my mind. Rediscovering the joy of the long ride, the anticipation of exploring a new road, and just riding my bike have helped bring back something I was missing. The fact that I am looking forward to the pain and suffering of the 2011 Ride for Mike is definitely a good sign!

What will 2012 hold? I don’t know. I’ll pedal over that bridge when I get to it.

Please don’t send me to the doctor

There is a little strangeness going on since I returned from the 2010 Ride for Mike. At the end of the day my calves and ankles are swollen. I first noticed it Tuesday evening. Now I’m starting to get paranoid and the Beautiful Redhead is getting ready to send me to the doctor.

It is true that last week was a shock to my system. You might recall that I even weighed in a under 150 pounds the Wednesday I came through Greenville. However, that seemed to be the turning point and by the time I reached home at the end of the week, I was back at my normal weight of 165.

This morning I weighed in and found the scale reading 176 pounds. I reset it and tried again… 176. Hmmmm, that isn’t that much over my normal weight. Also, I haven’t ridden my bike since I returned. Without exercise, it isn’t that hard for me to pick up 10 pounds. I guess the only weird thing is that would be 10 pounds in a couple of day.

When the wife saw me this morning, she was checking out my hands, wrists, and face. “You are swollen,” she said with that nurse look on her face. “Look, my legs are fine this morning and I don’t think my face is really swollen,” I replied. Then she gave me the “I am the mom” look and said, “If you don’t look better by lunch, you are going to the doctor.”

Turns out she had been researching stuff on the Internet while I was sleeping in a bit. She has me near death with blood clots and who knows what all else. I think I just need a little more time for my body to equalize after going from one extreme to the other. Probably a good spin on the bike would help that along.

I walked into the office this morning and looked at my assistant. “Okay, this is not a joke,” I asked first thing. “Does my face look swollen?” She replied, “Your left side does.”

Well, here’s hoping it goes down by lunch.

Crashes are chasing me

In Sunday’s post I wrote of the crash I witnessed on my Saturday morning ride. It seemed that crashes were chasing me all during that first group ride back. One of those crashes happened back in 2008.

I mentioned in that post a rider who was one of the stronger riders out on the Hour of Power that morning. He was a visitor from Pennsylvania participating in the ride for the first time. His name is Ben Fetterman and he is famous — or infamous — for his distinction of being one of only two riders to go over the wall during a crash at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center velodrome.

Ben Fetterman goes over the wall

Ben Fetterman goes over the wall - Photo © Anthony Skorochod

Ben, a promising track racer, was racing Pro-1-2 on the track at the time. Several riders brushed on the back stretch causing a collision which sent riders and their brake-less track bikes sliding across the ground. That is, all the riders but Ben. As you can see in the photo above, Ben went up on the railing — and then over.

He would have probably been okay except he landed at the base of the grandstands you see to the left of the picture. He slid on the concrete at the base and slammed into the support structure holding up the seats. The ground caused such a bad road rash that Ben said he spent more time in the burn center than he did with any other doctor. It must have been pretty bad rash because looking at his shin, it looks like he spent a good amount of time with the doctor on that one!

There was a huge scar running down the front of his leg. He said that he has very little feeling there. He also continues to battle back and neck pain. Still, it hasn’t kept him off the bike.

Fetterman currently races category 3 road and criterium races — no more track. He said it was a combination of physical limitations and nerves that keeps him off the track. He is currently trying to find his way back into competition. He looks good. He rides well. He is young.

We both agreed. It is just good to be able to go out and turn the pedals. The competitive urge isn’t gone, it just isn’t the most important thing about riding our bikes now days.

As for crashing? It actually isn’t something I dwell on while riding. Sure, after a near miss like Saturday it all comes washing back over me. A couple of times as I’ve found myself in a tight spot, I have felt the nerves grab hold. However, with each new hour on the bike the thoughts fade farther and farther from my mind.

I’m coming back. My top end power is back. My functional threshold is increasing. I’m building my endurance. Most of all, I am growing more and more mentally confident on two wheels. I’m outrunning the crash.

Here we go again

Last night was wonderful. After getting off work, I argued with myself about getting on the bike. A meeting had gone long and I knew the beautiful redhead needed me at the house that evening. Maybe I needed another day off the bike after the rough Friday and Saturday. I’m glad the “get on the bike” side won.

When I got home my wife said, “You’re going out riding, right?” I replied, “Well, I’m home later than I planned. What works for your schedule?” She looked at the clock above the stove, “You’re going out for an hour? That would work perfect for me.”

So, after saying hello to the Things Three, I headed out on my bike. I could tell right away that it was going to be a good ride. Yes, I was a little sore after my efforts over the weekend, but I could even tell my legs LOOKED different. They were even starting to FEEL different. There was a little bit of the snap coming back.

It was like going back in time. Jim, my coach, hasn’t given me any training objectives yet. I’m just going out and trying to find my legs again while working through the stiffness in my neck and getting comfortable on the bike. I simply headed out to Cleveland Park to do laps just as I did back in the beginning of cycling days.

The 8 minutes or so it took me to get from my house to the park gave me time to loosen up a bit, so when I got onto the loop within the park I started to open up a bit… though slowly. I still wasn’t paying much attention to the computer. It was all about feeling the bike again.

On one lap about 25 minutes in I came upon two riders who were spaced out. I could tell they weren’t together. I went around the first and then came up on the second one just as we started the climb onto Woodland Way. I really wasn’t trying to drop him or anything. It was just that I had been pushing it a bit — though I admit that coming around him on a climb made me put out a tad bit more of an effort. 🙂 I launched up the grade and took a glance at the computer. I was climbing at over 600 watts! Ahhhhh, I was leaving that guy in the dust!

I crested the hill and then swooped down toward the doggie park. Suddenly the effort caught up with and at the same time, so did the rider I had passed earlier! He didn’t slow as we started to climb this more shallow grade. I put out an effort to get on his wheel. I found it harder to stay there. Later while looking at the data from my ride, I saw I was pegging 187 bpm during that period. Yeah, that would explain that feeling I had in my stomach!

Then we got separated at an intersection. I thought he was long gone until I reached the Woodland Way climb again. There I could see him just ahead of me on the climb. Once again I put out an effort and got up to his wheel before we reached the crest. However, this time he dropped me for good on the Woodland Circle climb. I let him go.

In the past, I would have kicked myself for not being able to stay with him. Here I was all duded up in my Low Cadence kit, shaved legs, and fancy bike. Yet, here was a guy who looked more like a recreational rider taking it to me. I didn’t kick myself. I laughed at the situation.

No doubt three months ago I would have been able to leave him in the dust. No doubt three months from now I will be able to do so again. Right now it is just kind of reinvigorating to go back to those early days when it was all new to me and every rider was a question mark. Also, just being on the bike is enough. I have nothing to prove.

On the other hand, it was an evening with my first feelings of that competitive urge. That too was a welcome feeling along with the new snap in my legs. In so many ways I am beginning again. This time I am going to take the opportunity to enjoy the journey even more.

You made it!

9:15 in the morning I sat in a waiting room for Dr. Johnson to come and give me the verdict concerning the status of my broken neck. My emotions were mixed. I was really excited because I figured there was a 95% chance that he would say I could get back on the bike. On the other hand, that 5% seemed a little too large!

Dr. Johnson came in and with very little explanation just said, “Your X-rays look great. I don’t see any reason to not let you go.” I tried to keep my excitement in check and think rationally. I asked, “So, should I work to minimize any risk?” “Well, I wouldn’t go bungee jumping,” he replied, “but you are free to go back to doing things you used to do.” That would include riding a bike!

Forty-five minutes later, I was on the bike. When I climbed on board, I didn’t have a plan. First I just wanted to see if I could find the beautiful redhead who was riding with her sister-in-law around Cleveland Park. After a little time cruising around there I headed out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Northern Greenville and Pickens County

The route of my first ride back! (Click for expanded map)

That is when I found them. We talked for a moment and my wife asked me, “So, are you going to head out to TR?” Well, yeah, that sounded like a plan. I would ride to the end of the trail and then come back home. We said our goodbyes and headed in opposite directions.

Before long, the end of the trail arrived. I was feeling pretty good! Well, why not just continue on to Marietta? It was only a few more miles down the road.

Hmmmm, after getting a double cheese burger at the Burger King there in Marietta I started to wonder what I would do next. It even crossed my mind to continue on to Caesar’s Head. That thought didn’t last long! However, I did want to expand my ride.

The answer was to head down 288 through Pumpkintown and on to the intersection of Highway 11. After checking for phone messages, I started on my way. About 38 miles into the ride, I started to feel my neck getting sore. Actually it wasn’t so much sore as just tired. My neck and shoulders started getting tired of holding my head up.

By that point I had to make a decision. I could keep going on to Highway 11 where I knew I would find a store to get some more water and fuel. I was closer to the Pumpkintown station, but I knew they only took cash. All I had was my debit card. So, I kept pushing.

What a welcome sight to see the store! I was out of fluids and the temperature had risen up to 91 degrees. The fact I was going to have to go back as far as I had come was starting to sink into my mind. I knew right then I was going to end up with nearly 70 miles in my legs by the time I got back home.

Only one thing to do… start turning the pedals. At 50 miles I was still on the wrong side of Marietta. I started breaking the ride down into segments. Rather than focus on the entire route, I just targeted the next waypoint and kept only that in my mind.

Once I got back on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, I knew I was going to make it. The closer I got to Greenville the more I started to weigh my options. I could stay on the trail and wind my way home or I could take to the road and take a more direct route. Good thing I did!

I got off the trail onto Pete Hollis. As I was climbing over the bridge above the railroad tracks my left leg seized up. I had cramps rolling through ALL the muscles in my leg. I kept saying to myself, “Relax and spin. Spin and relax.” I found a gear that got me into a cadence that offered some relief. By the time I made it back near Hincapie Sports I was back in shape, but I knew one wrong move and the cramps would return.

Finally, I rolled home. Later that Friday afternoon I drove over to Sunshine Cycle Shop. I spent some time talking to the guys, but I was pretty wiped out! Later when I stopped by the shop on my Saturday morning ride the guys expressed that they had been concerned for me. They said I was losing my voice and seemed a little disoriented. Can’t say I could argue with them!

The Saturday morning ride was much better. I headed out over Paris Mountain to check out the action of the morning’s Paris Mountain Time Trial. It was good to see all the cyclists once again — and feeling that I was a part of things. I even came back up the Furman side. I didn’t push it and reached the top in 17 minutes.

The Paris Mountain KOM line

This message was symbolic on several levels

Yes, I’ve made it. The doctor told me that he didn’t need to see me again. I’m clear and free! I am so thankful to be back. I’m looking forward to the road ahead. That is one KOM behind me.

A wonderful life – twice

Wow, it is a busy time! The blog has had to take a back seat. It isn’t that I don’t have things knocking around in my head that need to get out. It is just that I know how much time it would take to sit down and get it down on the keyboard. I never get around to it.

I am excited though. As I wrote in a tweet earlier today… “Wednesday… Thursday… ‘Ride-my-bike-day!'” Friday I should be able to ride my bike on the road again! It will be interesting to see what happens.

1) I have not exerted myself nearly to the point where I have in the past. Most of my trainer rides have been one hour spins. Recently they have had an average of 130 -140 watts with some efforts in there of 5 – 10 minutes at around 250 watts. The max wattage I’ve been hitting would be in the low 400’s. In other words, I’m starting to wonder if I might fall over on the side of the road if I attempt a ride of any distance.

2) Now that I am actually going to put the bike out on the road without the safety of my Cycleops trainer holding me up, I am starting to wonder how I’ll feel about that. Will I find that I’m nervous about staying upright? Will I freak out if I find myself in a tight spot? That would not be good. Confidence on the bike can be everything when it comes to handling.

3) What if I get out there and it is a big let down? I’ve been counting down the days for three months now. What if I get out there and the thought comes to my mind, “What did I ever find enjoyable about this?”

Friday morning I go in for more X-rays and I am 95% sure that Dr. Johnson is going to release me to be able to ride again. He will probably tell me that he doesn’t want me to race in a field where there would be a greater risk of crashing. However, I won’t be ready for that anyway.

My boss has given me the rest of the day off. My plan is to spend a good portion of that day out on my bike. I have no plans for a route. I think I will just go and explore some of my favorite places from my past times riding. Funny, even writing about it is somewhat emotional. The emotion doesn’t come because I will be back on my bike. It is there because of the realization that I was only a millimeter or so away from never being able to do those things again.

It is sobering… but liberating as well. The fact is, that didn’t happen. I refuse to live my life based on “what could have happened.” I have been given a wonderful life – twice. Everything from here is extra!

Stay tuned. I’m thinking of something interesting for Saturday, August 21. That is, if I get up the nerve!

You are in good hands with Lucy

Yesterday was a fun day. Turns out that it was a good day for me on the inside as well as the outside! It was a great day to help me get back some excitement for what I am trying to accomplish and a great day for getting some help to prep me for getting back on the bike.

I got started by heading out on my lunch break to deliver some Low Cadence kits. One of the first places I stopped was Eastside Chiropractic to deliver a kit to one of my strongest supporters toward my return to the bike and for the 2010 Ride for Mike. Thankfully, the kit fit the 6′ 4″  David Mruz. Better yet for me, he wouldn’t let me out the door without me getting an adjustment.

Later in the day, I arrived at the St. Francis location out on Innovation Drive. Here I was to meet Lucy Allen. She is a massage therapist that I have known for a year or so. We had always talked of connecting, but I just never got around to it. Well, yesterday we did and I am glad.

Lucy Allen and Jonathan Pait

A big thanks to Lucy Allen for the great work

For my February birthday the beautiful redhead gave me a gift certificate for an hour session with Lucy. My initial plan was to use the gift about a week before the French Broad River road race — one of my A events for the year. Well, I never made it.

First, Lucy sat me down and showed me a group of exercises to help loosen up and strengthen my neck muscles. They hurt, but I could tell they were zeroing in on some of the spots that have been the most problematic for me. Since my neurosurgeon hasn’t given me any physical therapy to do, Lucy’s instructions are most appreciated.

Then it was time for what I came for. Of course, being the journalist I am I was peppering Lucy with questions about why she did certain things. What was she looking for in the texture of the muscles? Were there pressure points that she focused on for a certain effect? Why were there the various oils? My guess is she wished I would just shut up so she could do her job!

Well, turns out she did shut me up. When I moved over for my upper back to be worked on, I had nothing else to say. It hurt so wonderfully! She found all of those “calcium deposits” that cause those rolling sensations. Slowly but surely I felt her work them out. Before long I was totally relaxed. I. Felt. Soooo. Good!

It isn’t a science with Lucy. “I just go to the spots that my hands tell me I need to work on,” she told me. Well, her hands must have been telling her the right things! Speaking of her hands. Wow, I would not want to get in an arm wrestling match with her! When you shake her hand for the first time, you immediately notice two contradictory sensations… 1) the strength of her grip, 2) the softness of her touch. I’d say those are great assets for a masseuse!

Thanks so much, Lucy!

End of a road to start a new one

Today at 2:10 PM, I’ll go to visit my neurosurgeon, Dr. Johnson. I have every reason to believe that he will tell me that I no longer have to wear my neck brace. Since my hand cast came off a couple weeks ago, that would mean that today the visible reminders of my May 22 accident will be gone. For months I have looked forward to this day, but this morning I realize that while it is an end of one part of my recovery, it is the beginning of another.

I’ll confess. I have cheated. I didn’t wear my brace a whole lot while on vacation last week.

I knew that when the neck brace came off it would be pretty painful. While the bones have healed nicely, I still have had a bit of neck trauma from the accident coupled with weeks of immobility. The bottom line is the muscles in my neck are a wreck.

The hope was that by taking the brace off a bit more last week, I could get a head start on the recovery. I knew that the bones were healed because we had originally scheduled my appointment during that week. Had I not been on vacation I could have removed it then.

Whew, when I first went several hours without it, I realized that just getting the brace off didn’t mean I was healed! The tendons in my neck were like hard rubber. Used to be it was the brace keeping me from turning my head right and left. Without the brace, it was the muscles.

By the end of the time without the brace, I had a headache and I was physically tired from holding my head up. It is kind of a weird feeling. You typically don’t think about your head. It is just there. However, when you go through a neck injury like this, you get reintroduced to the weight of your noggin.

Now for the good news. I have seen progress. If I can keep reminding myself to relax, I have found I can go longer and longer without the brace. I think I have gotten a weeks head start on recovery. I need it… the 2010 Ride for Mike is less than two months away!

My ace in the hole is Dr. Mruz of Eastside Chiropractic. At the beginning of this season I had quite a few issues due to a pretty bad crash at the end of last season compounded by overdoing it on the Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride that October. Dave took me on as a special project and he is one of the reasons why I was able to see such success during the first part of this season.

He is determined to get me moving again. He is going to be an important team member for a successful event this September. It all starts today once I leave the neurosurgeon. I’ll then head over to Eastside Chiropractic and start the road to strength.

It is a road I’m ready to ride up!

Better understanding my recovery rides

Last week I mentioned how hard it is for me to properly execute the recovery rides that I am assigned by my coach. You can read about my thoughts here. I asked my coach, Jim Cunningham, with the Greenville Cycling Center to explain his approach to these efforts.

Pedaling a ‘high’ cadence (i.e. 90-100 rpms) increases HR, ventilation, dilation, etc. more-so than low/lower cadence.  I often refer to this as ‘speeding up time’ as an athlete will recover more quickly (there are times when complete rest is called for) with this greater blood flow.

Think of it this way – one can circulate his/her blood:

1000 times in 1 hour lying on couch  OR
3000 times in 1 hour riding easy.

Further, torque is lower at higher cadence thus putting greater emphasis on the lungs/heart and less on the working muscles.  More, power can be low in the recovery ride (in your case, sub-180) as leg speed on it’s own causes some of the physiological response (note, spin-ups in very easy gear will often push HR in zones 3 & even 4).

Had you pedaled at an average of say 85 rpm’s would you still have a ‘recovery ride’?  I suspect so but not as much of one.

Jim said he was going to ask some of his coaching friends for their takes on the question. I can see what he is saying. The only thing that was throwing me was that the Quadrant Analysis seemed to indicate that this was not a recovery style ride.

The bottom line is found in the answer to the question Jim asked me at the conclusion of his explanation, “Do you feel your recovery ride was easy and refreshed you?” I have to answer yes to that. Even though I felt as though I was working during the ride, afterward I felt very relaxed, loose, and refreshed.

You ride how you eat

I learned a valuable lesson last week.  You ride how you eat.  Let me explain.

Looking at my Garmin I saw that I burned 9000 calories riding my bike last week.  The majority of those calories were burned in a three day period.  Yes, I realize that the Garmin calculations are not an exact science but the data does allow me to compare to past weeks.

Going back I find that this spring I have not burned more than 5000 calories during a single week period.  So, last week I burned nearly twice as much energy as any week in months.  Saturday afternoon through Sunday I was feeling it.

Starting Saturday afternoon I was weak.  I labored to stand up and when I would start to walk my aching legs would about lock up and then let go as though they were buckling.  All I wanted to do was sit down.  This continued through Sunday as well.  Now, Monday morning I finally feel as though I am coming out of it.

Why did this happen to me?  I’ve ridden my bike before and burned over 5000 calories in a single ride.  I think what happened was I did not eat properly.

It started on Tuesday with the Donaldson Center ride.  I basically didn’t eat that evening.  I rushed to the course after work and then rushed home afterward to relieve my in-laws who were watching the kids.  Only a light snack followed.

Thursday was race day and I made that mistake of eating the cheese steak sandwich for lunch.  Once again I didn’t eat much that evening after the race because I just didn’t feel like eating until very late.  Friday was a 2000 calories ride.  That evening I was already starting to feel the tiredness coming on and only ate a sandwich and some chips.

Saturday morning I wondered if I would be able to do the Hour of Power.  I had a yogurt and banana before heading out on the ride.  It was a great ride and I was putting out plenty of power.  However, after getting off the bike and sitting to watch my son play baseball, I got hit with the lethargy.

I didn’t keep track of how many calories I consumed, but I think it is safe to say I didn’t eat enough.  I’ve read that you need to eat before and during a ride not so much for the ride, but for the rides to follow.  If you do not consume enough energy giving food during that period, your body will not have enough fuel to recover.

It is true that I managed to go several days without proper fueling.  However, your body stores calories as well.  You might be able to get away with it for a bit, but improper fueling WILL get you.

This week will be another calorie burner.  I’m ready for it.  It will be different as I am already planning how to meet the eating challenge.  You really do ride how you eat.