Two weeks ago, I went on a training ride. In 57 miles, we did nearly 6,000 feet of climbing. That is more than a vertical mile. It is also pure insanity.
About 40 miles in, right before the last big set of climbs, my right knee started to feel a little twingy. I have yet to start, but not finish a training ride, and my stubbornness about that may have been what did me in. The last set of hills, known as the Three Bears, are no small bumps in the road. They are each at least one mile long, and at 9% grade and above. We had already been climbing for what felt like forever, and strangely, I had until this point been feeling really good. Of course my hands were aching, and my feet were numb, and my ass was killing me, but that is all par for the course. So I shut down the pain receptors and kept pushing, waiting for my three mile epic downhill bomb, and the last two or so miles back to home base.
But between the BART ride home and the last pedal stroke into my driveway, it became very clear something was wrong. The last mile home was horrible – every pedal stroke hurt, just behind the kneecap. When I got up the next morning for my recovery ride, I felt pain even riding downhill. I was sent home from that group ride, and while working on the porch, I bristled with indignation, frustration, and anger at the endless stream of cyclists riding effortlessly past my house, as I iced and rested against my will. The following weekend, I showed up to the training ride and was again advised against riding. This week was 62 miles, with slightly less but more condensed climbing – not the place to test out my probably still injured ligaments.
So now I am almost two weeks off bike. Going from riding every day, to riding nine miles in two weeks is like slamming into a brick wall. I have friends who are injured, some of whom will never again ride in the way they used to. I have a different sort of empathy for that now. To be lazy, or hindered by bad weather is one thing – those are both choices. Do I like riding in rain and heavy wind? No. Can I? Yes. But to be on forced hiatus is awful. My road bike lives in my room (saying I ‘store’ it in the basement makes me too sad), and every day that I look at it, but cannot ride it, is a temptation I do not need to completely fuck myself and be out for the rest of the season.
It is a strange psychology that accompanies injury. I am constantly worried about what I eat, about losing stamina and all of the other things I have worked so hard to gain. From muscle in my legs to the muscles in my hands, I am worried about having to start all over again. Two weeks is a long time in a world where it is common place to do this every single day. Its not like going to the gym, either. I don’t see the gym rolling past my house at all hours of the day. Nor do really beautiful days taunt me to go inside and stay there, lifting things or whatever. But in the meantime, I will be doing what I can to work on the parts that will help me come back stronger. Core work is something I have been neglecting for a very long time, and I will be hitting the pool for some cross training with one of my housemates, who is himself training for an Ironman. With a little luck (and a whole lot of rest and ibuprofen), I will be seeing you all back on the road soon!