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Guest Article: Coming Back

Guest Article: Coming Back

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Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, this off-season is the time for rest and repair. The body and bikes need some extra refurbishment. It’s fun fixing up the bike; buying new bits in the bike shop is easy. It’s not as much fun fixing up the body.

VLVV, Gianni

I’d been putting it off for months; the minor surgery that I knew would force me off the bike for two weeks. First it was put back due to me preparing for the season, then of course, it was put off by the season itself. I don’t race, but there were numerous big days planned and a weeklong pilgrimage to the Dolomites that wasn’t about to be scuppered. I determined that the best place to afford two weeks downtime was at the very start of November, ahead of my launching in to serious preparation for 2014.

And so it was that on November 1st I found myself under the knife. I’m not going to go in to details of the procedure, but suffice to say that Tom Boonen would empathise and I’m not talking about my elbow. I knew full well that riding was not going to be possible for those two weeks. Well, sods law often comes in to play when you least need it to and so it was with me. Two weeks after surgery and healing wasn’t happening. Infection had set in and the medical folks were prescribing antibiotics and telling me that “in these circumstances we recommend that there is no exercise contemplated for another month.” What?  That would take me to mid-December at the earliest and they weren’t guaranteeing anything. At this point, I needed large applications of mental Rule #5 and regular talkings to by my coach as I was already having very bleak thoughts about a season being lost, which at forty-seven years of age, is not a good thing. There are far more seasons to look forward to at twenty-seven than at forty-seven!

Then came the hallelujah moment. The medication quickly started to kick-in and I started to see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The day after I’d been incredibly fortunate enough to meet Sean Kelly, I determined to get on my turbo for the first time and spend no more than thirty minutes spinning at the lowest resistance that bastard machine could manage. The weirdest thing was, as I was dressing for the session, slipping in to bibshorts and jersey for the first time in a month, I felt as nervous as a kid on their first day at a new school. Maybe it was the weight of expectation I’d built up – this was either a restart or dead stop situation in my mind.

The session went well.  Really well. Painful at times but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Over the next week I spent time on the turbo each day; pain subsiding, time gradually increasing. I started my core routine again; one set rather than three to take it easy.

Then the big day came, 6th December, five weeks since the procedure. I was going to get out on the road for the first time. The previous day we’d had serious storms in the UK but I awoke to calm weather, cold with clear blue skies in south east England. Regardless of it being winter I shaved my legs and donned my Flandrian Best of V Kit, gilet, cap under my helmet, arm and knee warmers and headed to the garage. I may have been about to do myself no good at all, but I was going to be sure to look good doing it. Again, that nervous feeling that is stupid after only five weeks kicked in.

I set off on a local loop, and suddenly found myself immersed in sensations that I can easily forget when I’m riding as normal. The sound of birds and the breeze, the smell of early winter; damp leaves at the side of the road, dewy verges, car fumes lingering on the air, the sound of my tires on tarmac, the sound of my breathing. They were all an affirmation of what was happening. I was on my bike, on the road, not in bad pain, turning the pedals very gently, training properly and smiling my face off! I only rode for an hour. I admit I was tired at the end of that. It’s very true about how quickly you can lose condition but equally true about building up gradually.

I haven’t written this as some kind of self-congratulatory text but as a nod to the wonderful process of coming back; of returning to cycling, to this that we love, of flushing away the dark demons that so easily creep in to our minds. I’ve made a start, nothing more than that. But I’ve made that start and there are endless roads and mountains to look forward to. For any of you either off the bike or knowing that you will be at some point in the future, try to think positive and look forward.  It’s damn well worth it. Thank you cycling.

// Guest Article

  1. @Ti-Wiz

    It’s funny how this stuff always seems to happen just when you think you’re reaching some acceptable level of fitness. In the last two years alone I’ve managed a fractured skull, broken wrist, a stroke and a surgical procedure on my heart; just as I’ve bounced back from one thing, something else has knocked me for six. One constant has been the desire to get back on the bike – any bike, even just for a short ‘fix’.

    Last weekend I managed my first 200km ride in well over a year (smashed it, in fact), and we’re just coming into summer here in Aus. Perfect timing.

    By all that is Merckx, Chapeau there.

  2. Fine writing; thanks for sharing.

  3. @ChrisO that’ll be why you’re so fit and lean then!  Seriously though, hopefully we may get to ride for a while rider the holiday .

  4. @Ti-Wiz man, I wish you well.  Sounds like it’s about time you had a great summer.

  5. Some say to get fitter, you need to get unfit….

  6. @Puffy

    Some say to get fitter, you need to get unfit….

    Do you have a source for that ?

  7. @ChrisO

    @Puffy

    Some say to get fitter, you need to get unfit….

    Do you have a source for that ?

    Maybe related to the Law of Diminishing Returns?

  8. @Teocalli

    @ChrisO

    @Puffy

    Some say to get fitter, you need to get unfit….

    Do you have a source for that ?

    Maybe related to the Law of Diminishing Returns?

    Hmm based on the training I did over the weekend I’d say it’s actually bullshit.

  9. @Mike_P   I suspect the theory has a missing component.  My understanding is that the theory is based on the supposition that the more unfit you are then the more relative improvement you get for a given effort.  What I fear the theory has omitted is that the more unfit you are the more that the same effort makes you feel absolutely shit.

  10. @wiscot

    Sometimes we have to stay off the bike to fix the body, but it is getting back on the bike that fixes the head.

    agree V00%; many thanks to Mike_P for the article–looking at a few months off post-crash, and starting to see some minor improvement this week, so the encouragement is most welcome

  11. Glad you’re back at it, Mike. I know that nervous feeling. It only takes a few days and I wonder if I still know how to ride a bike, if I still know my favorite loops, everything. It takes all of five minutes in the saddle for the tranquility to return.

    I’ve been cycling a lot less than I used to a few years ago. But, that’s okay. New things in life have come up, I still thoroughly enjoy the hour of riding I squeeze in a few days a week, and I still think about cycling, the steeds, and my next ride as soon as I get out of bed in the morning.

    Higher quality can be found, even if lower quantity.

  12. Good to see you back on the road and in a good frame of mind. I have been uncharacteristically banged up this fall and have found that my mind is my worst enemy. Couldn’t ride for a few weeks making me cagey and irritable around the house and office. Keep telling myself  “only a few more days- keep a good attitude”. Once I could ride it was at a greatly reduced capacity so group riding was out – but at least I was on my bike. Now that I am almost healed up I can do the group rides but still have to reign in my inner beast and let myself get dropped when the attacks begin to keep from re-injuring. In a couple more weeks I should be good and all this will a distant memory and I can go back to my weak minded ways. Stay strong Mike and know that there aren’t any short cuts to getting healthy!

     

  13. @Ron Here here.  If you can’t enjoy it, why do it?  Glad to hear your motivation is up there.

  14. @El Mateo

    I have been uncharacteristically banged up this fall

    Here in the UK, being “banged up” is a slang term for being imprisoned for a crime. That would seriously restrict your riding!

  15. Operations have held me out twice on the bike. The first time was following a broken leg, just above the ankle. 2 months later a tentative ride was made, all was fine until it came to clicking out of the pedal… Who knew a slight twist out could cause such agony!

    Second time was a week after a vasectomy… Sweet Jesus, I have yet to experience testiclular pain like the moment one of my nuts strayed out of the comfort of chamois to sit between thigh and saddle… Ended up walking 2 miles home as riding was excrutiating!

  16. I can empathize.  I was diagnosed with low-grade prostate cancer a couple of years ago.  No surgery required, just semi-annual visits to my urologist for the Fickle Finger of Fate to make sure it’s not getting worse.  (Thankfully, he’s got small fingers!) I’m required to take two weeks off the bike prior to the visit, since any pressure on the perineum artificially elevates one’s PSA count.  I’m usually back on the bike within an hour of the end of the appointment, and that includes the half hour drive from his office.  Sweet relief!

  17. Great article , and congrats on getting back on the bike. I had ACL reconstruction in ’09, and also put it off until the winter. I tore it in February, but since it didn’t hurt to ride, why waste the season? Had surgery in December and it was a real shocker riding the trainer in the PT’s office three days post surgery. Was all I could do to turn over 45 rpm for 10 mins.. But kept at it,  and soon was spending an hour on the trainer at home, on flat pedals, no twisting to unclip! The PT thought that was too long too soon, but he also thought that 30k is a long ride. Another PT’s husband was a racer. She understood. I was determined to do my first road ride Feb. 1, did it on Jan. 31. Many of us here know how good it felt to be out there again, and 2010 was my best year on the bike in twenty years. Thanks for describing it all so well. The VMW shall read this article.

  18. Great article, an inspiration to all who may have to face time off the bike.  As a relative new comer to cycling I find that the words of the guys who have been there and done it in various parts of the world both encouraging and re-assuring that I am not actually really as ‘odd’ as my non (& less committed) cycling friends would have me believe!  I have found in a very short space of time (1 year) that I am craving the ‘ride’ and all that entails in a way I have rarely craved anything outside of my VMH!  This lifestyle is contagious and I love it, thanks to all of you for sharing your insights, your wisdom and your encouragement! Have a great holiday season wherever you are.

  19. @Gary R-F Welcome to The Path.  Enjoy the journey and all the experiences it will bring you.  Happy Christmas to you too.

  20. @Gary R-F

    I am craving the ‘ride’ and all that entails in a way I have rarely craved anything outside of my VMH!

    Nice One!

  21. @Steve-o I’m with you on the PT thing.  I ruptured an achilles in 2011 and had a complete reconstruction and was startled at how quickly my calf muscles atrophied in plaster.  So, as soon as I could hold some tension in my calf again I started gently turning over the turbo while still in the plaster cast and then subsequently in the plastic boot.  My theory was to limit the loss in my calf but also to start breaking down the extraneous scar tissue as early as possible being that the longer it was left the harder it would be later (and painful).  I had checked out my theory with a sports PT before actually setting my own programme.  When I came to my first Hospital PT session based on their “normal recovery programme” the hospital PT had me remove the plastic boot and see how much movement I had.  She was somewhat surprised to find I had just about full range of movement already.  So I said I’d been doing 20 mins on the turbo 2-3 times a day.  She near had a fit and told me I shouldn’t be doing anything like that for another 3 months!  I’m convinced that my approach massively aided my recovery but clearly needed to be done carefully not to risk re-rupture, though my right calf is still significantly smaller than my left even now.

  22. This article now means more to me as I have just returned from hospital where I was undergoing surgery for a broken hip ( metal plates and pins) sustained after slipping on some black ice last Sunday. It was a bright sunny morning, the first for a while and it was too good to miss – now i am off the bike for at least six weeks but I fear it could be much longer. Plus I need to go for a full skeleton scan to rule out bone weakness because apparently 34 year olds should not break their hips!

  23. @withoutanyhills   Gutted for you.  I know a few people who came a cropper that Sunday.  Worst apart from you was some torn knee ligaments.  Re the scan, best wishes but I suspect that the medics may have misunderstood how hard you can hit the deck when you come off a bike with your feet clipped in and the first thing to take the impact is you hip.  Speedy recovery.

  24. @withoutanyhills

    This article now means more to me as I have just returned from hospital where I was undergoing surgery for a broken hip ( metal plates and pins) sustained after slipping on some black ice last Sunday. It was a bright sunny morning, the first for a while and it was too good to miss – now i am off the bike for at least six weeks but I fear it could be much longer. Plus I need to go for a full skeleton scan to rule out bone weakness because apparently 34 year olds should not break their hips!

    Wow, heal up mate. Hell of a way to start a year. Slipped on some ice myself and came down hard enough on my hip to punch the pedal through the crank arm. It took ages to get back to normal, but I was lucky not to have broken anything.

  25. Thanks @frank and @teocalli. Just gutted that after finally having some time to recommence riding I am now off the bike again but I have a recovery plan sorted out and a few weeks off work to just chill and catch up on reading. the injury seems more common than I first thought and many have returned to cycling with no problem so hopefully I will be lucky.

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