Thursday, March 15, 2007

Acute angles divide my path that I have lost

March snowfall in West Juneau as of 3/14: 68.6"
Season to date: 220.8"

It seems like the snow is basically coming nonstop now. I think this makes me happy, although it’s difficult to tell. A hard seven miles on snowshoes definitely evens out my emotions for the rest of the day.

But during the hike, I felt positively giddy. I marched through the powder into the heart of Douglas Island, stripped down to bare hands, bare head and only a thin outer layer of clothing. Whenever the wind chill crept through my sweat-soaked shirt, that was my signal to work harder. One thing I’ve noticed about most Alaskans is they don’t get up very early ... or at least, they don’t get out very early. At 10 a.m., I was the first up the trail. At one point, a couple of snowshoers intercepted the path from the snowmobile trailhead, but I caught them pretty quickly. I climbed out of the woods and found myself in a bald, U-shaped bowl that really pushed the word “avalanche” into the forefront of my thoughts. I lost the trail across the sweeping meadow and continued for about 20 more minutes through thigh-deep snow. I stopped when I could no longer lift my right leg high enough to pull myself out of the drifts. All I could do at that point was plop down in the powder and soak up some of that delicious chill before commencing my race against the clock back down the mountain. As I was sitting in the snow, I noticed the other snowshoers winding their way along my erratic trail. I hurried back down the hill to intercept them and tell them they were going the wrong way, but they didn’t seem too keen on turning around. They told me they would just follow my trail because they didn’t think they were too far from the cabin at that point. I later learned from Geoff that we had likely all passed the cabin at that point. I feel a bit of residual guilt for leading people astray. But I can’t say it’s the first time.

One of the advantages to “cross-training” as a way to get around a bicycling disability is that it’s really pushed me off my plateau. Even though I’ve been by definition less active, I’ve spent more time weight lifting, stretching and snowshoeing, all of which seem to be great for building muscle. Just today, while examining my knee for swelling, I noticed new lines along my legs that I had never seen before. They could be fat rolls from all of the Rainbow Food I’ve been eating, but I like to think it’s the snowshoeing.

I haven’t made as much progress this week as I was hoping for. What keeps me off the bike is, to put it simply, pain when I bend my knee too far. It’s not pain caused by pedaling, sitting in a bad position on the saddle or pressing too hard on the joint. It happens regardless of the situation, whenever I bend my knee into an acute angle, every time. It’s almost as though a rubber band has been wrapped across my knee cap, and it snaps when it gets stretched too tight. I’ve been able to get away with riding on my trainer because my knee's “too far” angle is almost beyond what I need to bend it in order to pedal. And the pain is no longer prohibitive; it’s just nagging. But there’s no way it’s 100 percent yet. I still have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for next Tuesday. I'm still looking forward to it.


  1. Jill,

    I wonder if while you are off the bike you can just check that your seat position is correct.

    It is possible that it is too high or too low or too far forward or too far back.

    Differences of only 3 mm make quite a difference.

    I keep my seat slightly forward (5mm) and slightly lower (3mm)than theoretical for comfort with just a slight loss in performance.

    I notice my bike requires different settings loaded and unloaded. Loaded I like the seat slightly lower and slightly more forward.

    Check on the internet, measure yourself up properly and calculate the best position for yourself.


  2. Your title reminds me - thanks for turning me onto Pinback with your post that listed some of your favorite cycling tunes. I'd never heard of any of the artists - credit my age, I guess - so I sat with iTunes one night and sampled all of it. Some I liked, and some you can keep, but Pinback is(was)an instant favorite and is showing up a lot in my playlists.

    Mary in NC

  3. Hey Jill,

    Again, this is just based on my personal experience and research, but I would say that difficulty bending the knee like that is likely the result of swelling and inflammation.

    Compared to a muscle, ligaments (patella, MCL, ACL) have little blood flow and take much longerto heal. The inner cartilage -- the meniscus -- has almost none and can take a long time to heal, if it ever does.

    When I damaged my knee, it took me 2 weeks of total bed rest and then 2-3 months of physio before I could fully bend it again. Even though it didn't appear swollen, there was still swelling in there.

    It sounds to me like your knee is coming along very well, much faster than mine did. (I tore my MCL). Be patient with it.



Feedback is always appreciated!