Friday, January 28, 2005

Let It Snow

Well, I just got back from physical therapy. Although my therapist had originally thought I would still be able to ride, it appears that my knee is doing terribly again after just an easy spin yesterday. He has given me some new stretches and exercises to do, and showed me how to do deep tissue massage with a "roller" (PAINFUL). But the worst part is that I can not ride my bike, period, for at least a week until after he reevaluates me next Friday, and am to do nothing strenuous (other than the stretches and exercises he gave me) on that leg at all. He did say that I could continue to take dance class "for now", but that he will reassess even that at next Friday's appointment. The only saving grace for my emotional state right now is that they are calling for snow tomorrow, which if it happens, will probably keep most of the trails too wet to ride for at least a week anyway. But still, it's a sad day up here in my house this evening.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lessons

Lessons I spent this afternoon learning at the feet of one of the masters, Old Man Winter. And what did I learn, you ask? Well, for one thing, I learned that when riding mountain bikes in sub 30 degree temperatures with a blustery wind, clothing layers are good. I also learned that keeping my ears and core warm is vital. I learned that my husband is an amazing person - if you glance at my photo gallery from today's ride, you'll notice that he managed to take most of the pictures while riding one-handed, holding his glove in his mouth, and using his free hand to snap the photos! Finally, I learned that I'm apparently not as tough as I used to be. The cold just cut right through me today, despite multiple layers of very appropriate dress for the ride, and I found that even the simplest stretch of trail taxed every fiber of my being, both mentally and physically. Perhaps it was the very thick bulky windproof gloves or the fact that the rubber tread on my tires had frozen during the ride - yes it happens, test it yourself - but I had a very difficult time "feeling" the bike and I felt very disconnected, more like a hapless passenger than the driver. Regardless, it was good to be back out on the trail, especially after being away from it for a while, what with the uncooperative weather we've been having as of late, as well as my own necessary preoccupation with physical therapy and my job which have been pretty much consuming most of my time for the past couple of weeks. We even ran across a couple of other foolhardy souls out braving the stinging chill of the bitter icy wind, just to feel the crunch of the frozen ground under equally frozen tires. Despite all the difficulties of riding when it's so cold though, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and even a few birds were out and about chirping and foraging, along with the couple of deer I was fortunate enough to spot at the opportune moment when I had my camera available. Now that I'm thawed again and in the comfort of my own home sitting by the warmth of the fireplace, the beauty and joy of just being out in the woods with all of nature on today's ride is much move vivid to me than the icy wind or how my toes seemed to burn with cold when I clipped in to my pedals. Funny how the mind works, isn't it?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Knee Therapy Photos Added

Since my last entry, I've had three physical therapy visits, with six more currently scheduled at twice weekly intervals, at which point I will be reevaluated to determine how things are looking then, and have also had my bike fitting session. Photodocumentation of some of these visits are available in my galleries linked to the left of this page. Unfortunately, it's looking like this is going to be a long, slow and frustrating healing process. My bike fit was yesterday, and perhaps I would feel more enthusiastic about it had more changes needed to be done, but it seemed like a lot of money and time for just a couple of the most minute adjustments - raising my stem a few millimeters and lowering my saddle 3 mm - in addition to moving the cleats forward on one pair of my shoes - things I possibly could have figured out on my own; but then again, who knows if I really would have or not, since obviously I hadn't so far. I know, I know - most of what you're paying for with a bike fit is the experience and time of the fitter. But this whole situation has just been very frustrating, time consuming - and expensive - and has not been keeping me in the most pleasant and tolerant of moods! Of course, the fact that my bike was already set up nearly perfectly for me is a wonderful testament to the skill of my husband who is also my very capable mechanic. And I will give Lori, my bike fitter, credit for being quite a good listener who paid close attention to the answers I gave to her questions regarding my pain, my cycling history and goals, as well as my likes and dislikes about my biking. She also sent me a detailed summary of her biomechanical exam and findings, although I'm not completely certain I know what to do with that information (well, other than the comment that said to follow the advice of my physical therapist), and would have liked to have gotten a little more feedback on the multitude of data that appeared up on the Computrainer screen during my fitting. One disappointing thing to me about the summary is that the data recorded by the Computrainer is not accurate, since I was never told when or if I was actually being tested. The only thing I was ever instructed to do while on the trainer was to "Just pedal easy and warm up", so that is all I did. I was never told the test was beginning or anything, so all those measurements reflect is me just toodling around, not actually the way I really ride following warming up. The other disappointing information in the summary was the recommendation to either drop down to basically a granny gear on my singlespeed or switch to gears (singlespeed is my bike of choice and also is all I have), cut my rides short (I'm an endurance specialist and that is my greatest strength) and to not ride hills (going to be difficult since I mountain bike). But the most disappointing thing was when the shop owner Laurin, who had never met me before, walked over and told me "You treat your cycling like crap!" I'm sure she didn't mean it to sound so harsh, but I honestly didn't know how to respond to that so said nothing - all in all that whole day was a pretty depressing experience for me. On a more positive note, physical therapy still encompasses heating pads, deep tissue massage and ice application, along with routine iontophoresis. However, tonight we also began some light exercises. The interesting thing was when the therapist had me exercise my unaffected leg to the point of exhaustion, I noted an improvement in strength in the injured leg. His explanation was that by doing that, I was equalizing the muscular fatigue level on both sides. So I am to fatigue my good leg 3-5 times per day, and as that happens, retest the strength of the injured leg, but not fatigue that leg - just test it - until both sides appear equal. He is allowing me to continue riding and wants me to perform this fatigue/muscular equalization procedure prior to my rides. He still is not having me do any stretches yet, preferring deep tissue massage instead to help lengthen my iliotibial band. He also determined at tonight's session that there is very likely an additional component of patellofemoral pain syndrome associated with my iliotibial band shortening which is causing the pain to extend down in front of and below the kneecap as well, particularly with walking up and down stairs. Fortunately, the treatment for both is virtually the same, so we are on the right track.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

The Knee Saga Continues

Well, I went back to the orthopedist yesterday for him to review my MRI films. As it turns out, the initial radiologic diagnosis of a meniscal tear was incorrect. What I do have is fluid around the iliotibial band, along with inflammation and a shortening of said band which runs around the knee and up to the thigh apparently, or what is known as iliotibial band syndrome. While this is most commonly a runner's injury, the repetitive motion of cycling - coupled with my inability to resist overtraining - can contribute to this overuse problem. Fortunately, the treatment of it does not generally require surgery. What I have to do now is get physical therapy which is scheduled to begin next Monday, where they will employ stretching exercises, deep heat, massage, and iontophoresis whereby they will instill medications into the tissues via an electrical impulse - I certainly hope that is less painful than it sounds... Once I receive my exercise information and the other various findings from the physical therapist, I will be taking that information with me to Cycling Specifics to have a comprehensive bike fitting done. This will include checking and correcting any biomechanical abnormalities, cleat positioning, shoe fit and the potential need for orthotics, pedaling dynamics, etc., as well as a training and rehabilitation plan specifically related to cycling with iliotibial band syndrome. They will also go over the physical therapy exercises and help me incorporate those into my bike training program. I'm hopeful that I am finally on the road to recovery - as always, keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Photo Galleries Updated

As a result of my wanting to play around with the new little digital camera - not to mention the outstanding weather we've been having lately - new photos have been added to the galleries. Enjoy!

Just Dance

Dance With Joy Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to do. I had my first dance class last night after about a six week hiatus over the holidays. Despite the fact that I am entering my second year of dancing, I felt as if I had never performed the moves before in my life! Once again the terms "left" and "right" were totally lost on me, and every step felt foreign. I struggled to concentrate on which muscles were supposed to be working and when. I was trying to keep an eye on the instructor, while still sneaking a periodic glimpse in the mirror, mainly to make sure my classmates weren't noticing my awkwardness! I tried to concentrate on what Qadria was telling us as she described the dance moves, but felt like my mind was somewhere else, racing along at 100 miles an hour, worrying about everything and about nothing. And then she said them, those magical words she always uses which seem to somehow quiet my frantic mind and bring me back to my center - "Don't think. Just dance." And I did. I danced. Not necessarily gracefully, not smoothly, unaware whether I was using my right side or my left side, and not even really following the choreographed steps. But for that one brief moment in time, I danced.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Happy Ending

Riding Buddies Mother Nature looked must have been happy on December 31, 2004 because the weather was unbelievably mild for early winter here. It was such a gorgeous day that one of my dearest friends and favorite bicycling companions in the whole world decided to head out to Beaverdam with me and Steve for a ride. Finding that one person whose riding style is nearly identical to your own is a rare find, and Sherri is a treasure to me. We seem totally compatible on bike rides. Our skills are comparable, as is our preferred pace, and I never feel as if either of us has to wait for the other or struggle to keep up. We even measure out nearly identically on the bicycle fit kits, so much so that we could swap bikes without the need for any adjustments at all. I never feel the need to apologize to her for holding her up, nor do I find that I have to wait for her. No matter which one of us is leading, the other is always right there on pace, and it seems like no effort at all is required for us to ride the same speed. Even our riding styles are compatible - we are able to encourage each other technically since we both are relatively similar in skills (and fears!), and somehow there never appears to be any competitiveness - only support and encouragement - between us. Our jobs, responsibilities, and the fact that we live far apart limits the times we get to share these bicycling excursions, which makes mine and Sherri's rides together even more precious to me, and I count myself fortunate to have a riding companion like her. I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to 2004 than to spend it on one of my favorite bike trails with dear friends. Happy New Year!