Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Closer to fine

Spring is creeping closer; the sun is up until 7; and I am starting to think about riding again. It's a tough decision and I'm not sure how to make it - where do you draw the line between smartly conservative and borderline hypochondriac? At the same time, where do you draw the line between doable and reckless?

There's not a lot of sports advice about frostbite and activity out there. One might wonder how a few measly blisters on toes would even prevent a person from riding a bicycle in the first place. My problem is the injury cuts a little deeper than skin-deep. Circulation has for the most part returned to my foot, but left in its wake strange sensations and pains. The lower half of my foot is at once numb and hyper-sensitive. A burning sensation has become a constant. I still can't put much weight on my toes without streaks of pain. But I can press down flat-footed indefinitely. So I can walk with only a slight limp, but I can't negotiate much in the way of inclines.

I've been running 90-minute interval sessions on the elliptical machine at the gym most days, with a little weight-lifting thrown in. It's a good hard workout in a short time, but there's not much variety in the routine, and nothing to really help me hold my endurance. I can also press down on pedals easily. Riding a bike should be fine as long as I can keep my foot warm and completely dry. But still, I have reservations about venturing outside. One, I can't feel my toes very well and wouldn't know if they were becoming too cold. And two, it's difficult to keep my feet dry even with overboots (In my three years in Juneau, I've become totally complacent about riding around for hours in 35-degrees-and-raining weather with wet feet. I think this complacency may have contributed to me not treating my wet foot with the urgency it deserved during the race. 35 degrees with wet feet is one thing. 20 below is another.)

Right now roads are pretty dry, but more rain, snow and snow melt is on the way. Spring generally creates consistently wet riding conditions, which complicate things. I plan to discuss cycling with my doctor, but I'm worried she's going to tell me to just ride the bike at the gym (I can't handle that thing for more than 30 minutes before saddle sores set in.) I sold my bike trainer earlier this year because I was convinced I'd never be tempted to use it again, so I don't even have that as an option. I want my doctor to give me the OK to set out for six-hour rides, but I have a feeling the answer is going to be "Um, better not ..."

But really, the fact that I am even thinking about the option of riding, and not scheduling surgeries, is an optimistic boost. I'm trying to be patient, and directing my energy into my new 50-hour work week. But overwork just doesn't churn out the same rewards as working out. And I've never been too enamored with the virtue of patience. :-)