Tip of the Week -- Rebounding

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Tip of the Week -- Rebounding

Postby natellerandi » Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:21 am

Rebounding from Injury and Perspective

Just over 5 weeks ago, I was sitting on the pavement, in shock and wondering what bones I might have just broken. A high-speed crash on a descent at Day 2 of the Tour of the Gila left me with a smashed helmet, an aching head and neck, road rash and a seriously messed up pelvis. After getting my bearings, I remounted and tried to keep going. My legs felt completely disconnected from my body. Pedaling 10mph on the flats was a huge effort, so after 15 minutes and no improvement, I climbed off and unceremoniously climbed into the sag vehicle. While I did crack my sacrum (as I found out a bit later), I feel very lucky nothing more serious occurred. I joked that the impact was so forceful my ancestors felt it.

Crashing is part-and-parcel with cycling. The existential axiom is that there are 2 types of cyclists: those who have crashed and those who will crash. By many accounts, I consider myself lucky. No plates and screws, no hospital stays, no permanent damage. So, when can I get back to riding?

Well, not for nearly 3 weeks it turned out. At first, I could barely move my left leg due to shooting pain. I had to think about how to enter and exit my car, how to sit down and stand up and do countless other mundane things without seizing up with pain. For about a week, I woke up drenched in sweat -- my body was working overtime trying to repair itself. After a week, I put the bike on the trainer and tried to spin. Nope. Aside from the pain, this is when I noticed how violently my pelvis had shifted up and forward on the right side due to the impact. I felt cockeyed in the saddle and at the bottom of the pedal stroke, my right leg was extended as if I were astride a giant's bike.

After about 10 days, my body was calmed down enough to start aggressive chiro work, 4 days a week. What I quickly found out in that first visit is that "pain" as a definition of being OK or not OK is a bit misleading. As the body heals up from a crash, the pain moves around. Despite smashing my right side, my right side actually felt fine aside from the road rash. The pain was moving over to my left side, from my ear to my knee. The left side of my pelvic girdle was so locked up that when I would lie on my back, raise my left leg to a 90-degree angle and try to cross it over my body, I could move it from 12 o'clock to 12:30 and that was it. My first trip to my massage therapist was as comical as it was disheartening. After some diagnostic questions and very light probing, his comment was, "I can't work on you yet." My pelvis was too inflamed and the muscles were still locked up, as if they still needed to protect the bones they surrounded from the impact of the crash. Lots of NSAIDs and icing, let's try again in another week.

Over the following 3 weeks, my body started responding to the chiro work -- it started to "take". My massage therapist was able to force -- and I do mean force -- my body through a wider range of motion. I somehow managed to stay on the table as he stabbed his fingers through my skin and grabbed the adhesions. And, I was finally able to get back on the bike. At first, all inside and short duration. Gradually, longer and outside as well.

Today, 5 weeks on, there are still residual issues. My sacrum is still cracked and causing a bit of discomfort. My entire left arm is numb, about a 6 on a 10-scale. My left groin feels like it's being stabbed with every pedal stroke. Yet, for all intents and purposes, I'm "fine." I can function as I'm supposed to. And then I realize how far there still is to go. The other day, the bus to work was about to pull away from the stop 2 minutes early. I went to run to catch it and immediately had to stop. My body gave me a big "What the heck???" But, things are good enough so I can ride, can train and can derive joy from being on the bike. And, right now, that's good enough.

My first race back was a local criterium on June 1. I needed a gauge of where my fitness was at. On the start line, I was nearly sick with nerves. Part of me was scared of crashing again as well. So why in the world did I pick a crit as my first race back, you might be asking. I asked myself that many times as well. The simple answer is that it was time to get back out there. Long story short, it was the right choice. I had fewer matches to burn, they burned quickly and I needed a lot more recovery between matches. But, I now also had a baseline -- here's where I am vs where I need to get to.

Now, a week on, I placed 2nd in the 45+ Open field at the Sunshine Hill Climb on June 8th. Not an earth-shattering time, but a victory nonetheless. Improvement to fitness is coming literally by the day. What I enjoyed most about the race was the huge number of my teammates across all the categories. Riding to the race with Andy and finding Fleetwood en route. Chatting it up with Travis and Marco beforehand. Catching Marco (who started 7 minutes before my race) with about 400m to go and then him outsprinting me at the line because he thought I was another rider with whom he has a friendly rivalry. Travis getting kudos for his selfless work on the early pitches of the race. Seeing Bart back at it in full swing after coming back from his broken hip (see what I mean about my injuries not being so bad?). Having a chat with Ryan before heading back down the climb. Riding up Flagstaff Mountain afterwards with Andy and Bart.

The racing happens, regardless. It's the stuff that happens around the race that's memorable, that makes the pain and suffering worth it, that's fun. Without the camaraderie, why do we do this? I wouldn't do it.

I ride for an awesome team. Most endurance sports can be lonely ventures. If you lack the camaraderie, try to find some. Even if it's finding one like-minded person to train with. Find folks to sit with at pre-race meals or connect with after crossing the finish line. Share stories, smile and laugh. There's something to be said for introspection during training. I think there's more to be said for camaraderie.

Happy Training,
Nate Llerandi
Posts: 33
Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:44 am

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