Saturday, December 29, 2007

My year in miles

Date: Dec. 29
Mileage: 14.4
Hours: 1:30
December mileage: 710.3
Temperature upon departure: 28
Precipitation: 4"

When I break down my 2007 miles by month, I realize I've had a fairly inconsistent year:

February: 361.1
March: 14.4
April: 25.3
May: 168.9
June: 598.2
July: 874.6
August: 1,009.1
September: 475.6
October: 648.1
November: 793
December: 710.3

What surprised me is the total: 6,572 miles. That's still about 1,000 more than last year, despite a three-month period between mid-February and mid-May in which I essentially did not ride a bicycle. Looking back on my year of riding, I'd say the "most challenging" month was January. The "most fun" month was August. The "most eye-opening" month was February.

Cycling hasn't been the same since February. I'm beginning to understand that it never will be be the same. When my right knee locked up on me in February, I began to realize how precariously close I am, all the time, to not being able to do this thing I love. The threat rolls beside me like a shadow, much more well-defined than vague fears like death and disaster. The shadow reflects my weaknesses and muddles my strength. My strength is my willpower. My weaknesses are my knees.

I set out on a short ride today and cut it shorter. Several inches of new snow made for some hard pushing, but that didn't justify my inclination to pull my left knee off the pedal at rapidly increasing intervals. I realized at mile 7 that I wasn't in great shape, and wasn't going to improve, so I turned around and soft-pedaled home by sliding as far back on my saddle as I could sit and pushing the edge of the pedal with my heel so I was practically recumbent on my bike. When the surface wasn't too slippery, I stood. I felt despondent, for a little while. But after I got my head together, I realized that this is not the end all. I have eight weeks until Feb. 24, and this is only a minor onset of what feels a lot like (and probably is) chondromalacia. Not nearly as advanced as my right-knee symptoms earlier this year. I can be proactive about it and still stay on track. First, I plan to stay off the bike for several days. I'll revisit my old swimming haunts, go hiking, and the gym is always good. Today bought a bunch of different over-the-counter arthritis medications and supplements, and I'm going to try them all. (Glucosamine, yum). If I don't feel substantial improvements after a week, I'll get my doctor involved. I'd rather avoid that route for now, because a new year means a new deductible.

2007 has been a year of dedicated cycling accentuated with cross-training, IT band stretches, low-weight-high-rep lifting, attention to pedal stroke and regular icing. I tried to do this injury free. I tried the prevention route. I tried my best. So this is where I wrap up my biking year. Not with a bang, but a whimper.