Friday, March 02, 2007

Still can't ride

Date: March 2
Mileage: 1.1
March mileage: 1.1
Temperature upon departure: 11

I tried. I tried.

The bike box was covered in several inches of snow by the time I finally dragged it into the house and sliced it open. I went to work restoring Snaux bike from a duct-tape-covered mass of aluminum and cables to something that might move forward again. But I had to make sure.

Juneau was in the midst of a "blizzard warning," but it seemed pretty tame ... about nine inches of new snow and only light powder falling at the time. Most of the streets weren't yet plowed, so I couldn't just coast and spin easy for a while. I had to set right into the crank, and the knee pain came instantly. I winced through it for a about a half mile, thinking that my knee was probably just stiff and needed to loosen up. But it just became worse. Eventually, my leg started involuntarily jumping off the pedals. If I had pedal cages, I probably would have just let it dangle there. But I needed the leg's dead weight just to keep the crank turning, and the angle of the up-stroke of was too much. I got off the bike and pushed it home.

As I was carrying my bike down the stairs, it somehow slipped out of my hands, bounced a few times and dropped into the yard. I'm not really sure what happened then. I lost it, a little bit. I plopped down beside it and had my own private temper tantrum, right there in the snow, swiping up clouds of cheek-stinging powder and everything. After that humiliating little pity party subsided, I propped up the bike and got out my camera to document the meltdown. I'm not sure why I did that, either. I'm still really embarrassed about it. Why am I writing about it? But it seems important to remember the low points. And today was definitely a low point.

I can't say why I became so consumed with frustration. I'm not exactly suffering, and there are people out there - like Lynda, who broke her collarbone in a mountain bike race on Feb. 17 - who obviously have it so much worse. But I guess that, as with any injury, there is always a lingering thought that "this knee is never going to work again." It's easy to push the thought in the back of my mind when I have an inexplicable little injury with no known origin and no real reason to exist. I can even tell myself that it's all in my head. But when that thought of permanent disability comes raring back ... no amount of denial can hold it off. And there I am, sitting in the snow, clenching my mittens so tight that my fingers hurt and thinking, "It's not supposed to happen like this. Not here. Not now."

I know. So much melodrama. I'm usually even-tempered, but every once in a while I revert back to the maturity of a 16-year-old. It's a good emotional release. I'll be OK. I promise. I even went a short snowshoe hike after that. With all of the new, deep snow, I really worked my calves without putting much pressure on my knee.

I have an appointment at a sports medicine clinic on Tuesday. I look forward to finding out that it really is nothing, that it's all in my head, and that I'm just acting like a toddler.


  1. It's not in your head, it's in your knee. Riding 100 miles on snow -- not to mention the training beforehand -- can do nasty things to the human body.

    Take it from someone who played fast and loose with his knees for too many years, and is paying for it now: Take care of your knees.

    Denial doesn't do any good. If you're going to participate in endurance sports, you should view your doctor as a partner in the effort. Otherwise, you'll hit your 40s and find yourself scratching things off the list of sports you can do.

  2. I agree with Tim and Shawn.

    I'm one of those old geezers that ignored knee pain a few times and tried to "push" trough it. I've learned a few things in my 47 years....the difference between injury and soreness is easy to ignore if you are strong willed.

    You're not strong willed, are you?:-)


    I know it's gonna kill you-but go to the doc and listen to what they say.

    If you need to take a few weeks or even a few months off-do it, your knees will thank you when you're 47:-)

  3. Jill,

    Injury is really hard. Really really hard. Much harder than a failed race, believe me I've been though both. Especially an injury like this that has no face and no name yet. You can't take medicine. You can't have surgery. Right now what it needs is time until the doctors or whoever can figure out what's wrong. It's so easy to feel good for a second one morning and push it a little futher but you never know if you're doing more harm than good. All I can say is spend your time trying to figure out how to make it better, even if that's just lots of rest. It seems like the whole world is racing out there without you, leaving you behind but we're all thinking about you too, just like Lynda. Soon you both will be healed and the torture of sitting around will fade into your memory. It's not easy to sit around doing nothing but right now, healing is your training.


  4. I hurt my knee while training in the mountains a couple years ago. It was hard to stop riding, since I was spring training for my race season. I got home and put my bike away for 3 weeks. I did everything but ride my bike. I took ibuprofen every day, stretched, and tried to keep my weight in check. After about three weeks, I put the bike in a small gear and spun out short training rides, making sure to modify my pedal stroke so I wasn't stomping on the pedals as much anymore.

    I don't have persistent knee pain anymore.

    Give up the bike for two to four weeks, and when you get back on it, pay more attention to how your legs move. This'll make you a better rider, no doubt. You just have to be patient so you don't destroy your knee.

  5. awe, now your just beating yourself up. You just have a draggy thing going on, you never said you had sharp pains so I am still thinking it is just fluid in the wrong place, do you have a trainer, when you can finally turn it start with that. Your going to be fine, tip top, yep I knew patience was not your thing, it is not mine either, that why I am doing the pep talk, luck on tuesday. ICE. lots of it. Oh yea and if the sports place says frustrating things to you on tuesday, like well I do not know if you should do that again blah blah blah, ignore that. Just take away the valuable stuff, people with good knees have no perspective.

  6. After years of intermittent knee pain and random, unpredictable blowouts, I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee last summer - the doc plucked out a piece of cartilage that was floating loose in there wreaking random havoc. I was in and out in less than a day and the only evidence anything was done are four tiny little scars circling my kneecap. Just a couple weeks later, I rode my bike to my follow-up with the surgeon.

    It took a little while for a full recovery, but I'm 43 and lazy.

    The end result was a fully functioning knee that doesn't sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies anymore. I'm able to sprint and do lunges and all kinds of stuff that the mere thought of would have made me cringe ten years ago.

    Point being, there's no reason to believe you're anywhere near the end of the road.

    (Also, that's a great picture...there's beauty in sadness. Good for you for having the curiosity and courage to look it in the face, and then to share it.)

  7. P.S. I've thrown my fair share of tantrums, ask my wife. We all give in to the frustration now and then.

  8. Jill, I understand your frustration (and your fear). I just got over a bronchitis that took THREE LONG weeks to heal...three weeks that I couldn't ride my bike, couldn't work out at all and felt like doo-doo. Being on a training plain to prepare to the coming MTB race season (even though, I just do it for fun) that was a major set back, after riding in cold and yucky weather to get my training hours in. Now, I feel, I am back at zero:(
    I know, it is even worse with an injury, but don't give up hope and take the time. Your patience will be paid back in "GOLD". I am glad, you made an appointment at the Doc. It will give you the knowledge to make you feel better. You are strong and in GREAT shape. You will recover in NO time and be back in time on your bike!! Take care of your most precious property: your body:)

  9. A few years back I snapped my fore-arm when the front wheel of my road bike washed out in a corner. What I thought I was doing riding like that at 37 years old I don't know.

    They cut me open and bolted a plate to it and sent me home. Maybe a week after the surgery I slipped on the stairs and slid to the bottom on my ass, splinted arm waving in the air. I lost it, ended up sobbing and crying "I can't do this anymore." over and over. My lovely wife-to-be yelled at me for scaring her, not very helpful that. Not helpful, but understandable.

    We all have a point where it just gets to be too much. It's healthy at that point to get it out in the open by whatever means are at hand. Just as dwelling on things too much is counter-productive so is ingnoring them.

    It's not a pity-fest unless you sustain it long enough to have commerative t-shirts printed. It's just being human.

    Hang in there, even if you're worst fears come true you're still going to be ok.


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