Sunday, December 30, 2007

Walkin

There's something underrated, and yet subtly satisfying, about putting on a pair of shoes, stepping out the front door, and going for a walk. There seems to be an cultural perception that it is difficult to have a good time outdoors without strapping oneself to some sort of toy. I definitely buy into this idea, what with my penchant for dragging and hoisting my bicycle over every near-unrideable trail I can find. The temptation to bring a toy on my walk today was nearly overwhelming. "I can bring my bicycle," I thought, "and only ride it downhill." But even downhill snowbiking involves a fair amount of pedaling, and I am trying to cut back on the deep bending of my left knee for the time being. Then, I thought about carrying my snowboard. But if cycling is bad for my knee right now, then snowboarding most definitely is. So, almost grudgingly, I strapped on my snowshoes (which could be considered a toy, but I like to think of them as a "walking aid"). I walked out the door and marched up the unplowed surface of Fairbanks Street, waving at children as their plastic sleds whisked past me.

The reason I can walk through my various knee injuries is because my pain is caused not by impact, but by bending the joint further than 90 degrees - achieving that ever-elusive acute angle that pedaling demands. The impact of running can be too much to bear, but walking I can do forever. I make it an honest workout by pushing as hard as I can uphill. Today I had stripped down to my base layer and snowboarding pants - no hat or gloves - by the time I reached the Douglas Ski Bowl. From there, I commenced my ongoing quest to find a walkable route to the ridge - and by walkable I mean a route where I can keep my snowshoes on my feet rather than removing them to kick steps up the steep slope. I follow snowmobile high-marking tracks because I feel that if they can make it up a mountain, so can I ... but that's really not the case. During my final attempt - while I was still sans hat and gloves - I lost my footing and began to slide, on my belly, backward down the slope. I decided mid-slide that this was probably a good time to "head down," so I flipped over on my butt and continued to careen downward, dragging my naked fingers through the snow and trying futilely to use my snowshoes as brakes. My coat ripped from my waist, and several dozen feet went by before I finally rolled to a stop and crawled back up to retrieve it. No more high-marking for me.

The knee's already making progress. My pain-free range of motion is increasing at a fairly encouraging clip, and I spend my day wearing these arthritis patches that smell like an old lady's medicine cabinet and make my skin feel like it's pressed against a hot oven - but they seem to be working. Optimism will prevail.

12 comments:

  1. "The reason I can walk through my various knee injuries is because my pain is caused not by impact, but by bending the joint further than 90 degrees - achieving that ever-elusive acute angle that pedaling demands."

    I don't know what size you currently use, but have you thought of switching to a shorter-length crank size? If you use a 175, switch to 170, or 170 to 165, etc. It theoretically should cause less of that beyond-90-degree-angle bend in your knee, thus possibly alleviating some of the pain. Of course, you may have to start pedaling w/ a higher cadence to maintain the same speed if you do this.

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  2. Now strip snowshoeing I had not heard of. Interesting. Be careful with the non stop heat patches. As long as they are on the circulation is increased but as soon as you stop moving the joint it will likely swell again. Which in all likelihood is causing the pain anyway. Obviously not possible to give accurate opinions without an accurate evaluation but pain usually means damage which means swelling or edema. Subpatellar swelling decreases patellar tracking efficiency which could lead to your self diagnosis of chondromalacia. That or twenty other things. Take care of yourself. Enjoy your writing even tho it makes me feel like a wuss for not riding in the 40s.

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  3. walking is good, jill! keep it up! have a great new year!

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  4. Clara Esther5:58 AM

    Happy New Year Jill!

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  5. Just stopping by to wish you a very happy new year -- and to say thanks for your wonderful blog. Your beautiful writing and photos start my day and I'm grateful for them. Wishing you the best for 2008!

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  6. geoffrey2:51 PM

    wow. I think fonk is on the right track but I suspect you might try raising your seat first. Please try searching some of the bike fitting sites. Quite a number of high mileage blogging cyclists have gone down to knee strain and most of those have traced it back to low seat positions. Your knee shouldn't be at less than 90' but it should be REALLY close to 180' at the bottom. That you can reach the pedal with your heel at the bottom suggests something is wrong.

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  7. There's also something overrated, and yet subtly unsatisfying, about putting on a pair of shoes, stepping out the front door, and going for a walk.

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  8. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Wow! Your daily experiences are something to be envious over! Thank you for the wonderful blog you have. I love the pictures! Have a happy new year and I hope your knee heals soon.

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  9. Re knee pain and fit issues: there's no one right position, but to be able to change your position is good. Consider riding "free", without direct connection to pedals when recovering. Or maybe "powergrips", so you can move around to minimize strains. And, just the thing for mukluks & mickeymouse boots... ;-)
    Bill in Tempe, AZ, USA.

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  10. PatFrench2:54 AM

    Tous mes voeux de bonne année 2008! Et que l'Iditarod t'apporte tout ce que tu désires....
    And thanks for your blog, it's such a treat to read your articles!
    Patricia, France.

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  11. the top pic is amazing. blow it up and look closely at the tiny spider web in the middle of the pic. the unintentional caption of nature's creation is what make is awesome.

    hannah

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  12. Jill.
    Very Nice Pics! Stay warm and yes... a little extra chub will do you good once you are in the UltraSport.

    :=) p

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