Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How (not) to prepare for race season

This Sunday marks the official kickoff of the Mid-Atlantic bike racing season, with the 50-mile Monster Cross at Pocahontas State Park. I did this event last year with poor results, retiring after one lap with a busted bike and absolutely no idea why anybody would ever voluntarily ride a bike on dirt.

But after some significant equipment changes and a whole lot more time riding off-pavement, I was feeling ready-er. And good thing, too, because after this weekend there's not a single weekend without a race until May.

But 12 days ago, I snuck out for a late afternoon ride and wrecked. The 'cross bike seized underneath me (caught on a root, maybe?) and I went flying, landing on my right side and whacking my head into the dirt. The Garmin's accident sensor started wailing, and in an effort to kill that horrendous noise, I forced myself up and dusted off quickly.

I knew I was hurt, but I had full range-of-motion, and the head-hit wasn't hard enough for me to be concerned (the helmet did its job). But of course, more important was to determine if I could successfully get back to the car on the bike. Astonishingly, though the handlebar and tape were destroyed, everything else was fine. Dirty, but fine.

I got on and started home tenderly, constantly probing and testing to see how badly I was really hurt. No holes in the kit, but pain was building under my armpit.

After replacing the heavy aluminum bar with a fancy new carbon bar & matching tape, I finally admitted it might be time to go get an xray a few days later. The doctor confirmed at least one, possibly two broken ribs. But they were clean breaks, and the doc didn't argue with me when I told him I was going to keep riding while I recover (I also didn't bother to tell him I'd put in a couple of crushingly hard rides in the interim).

So there I was, 9 days away from the start of the racing season, nursing a broken rib, and riding 6 - 8 hours per week, when my left knee decided to get in on the action. It started to hurt during a particularly tough ride on the trainer, and I'd damned myself by ignoring the first twinges and pushing through. The next day I could hardly walk, and was scheduled for a 25-mile team ride the following day...which I did anyway.

Fortunately for me, I'd brought Alastair along, and while it was his longest and most aggressive mountain bike ride to date, it was just exactly the level of output that would not risk further injury. Though the knee still hurt a bit, it was not throbbing by the end of the ride, and minor adjustments in pedal-stroke and seating position could alleviate any pressure that started to build.

Last night I pushed a little more, testing the waters of a 30+ mile ride on the trainer. Again, some twinges, but nothing serious, and today the knee actually feels less awful. In addition, the rib pain is abating day-by-day, though I've found myself over-compensating and creating nasty cramps that come and go. In theory, barring any wrecks this weekend at Monster Cross, I should be sufficiently recovered from the break to go hard in the peloton at William & Mary.

Now my daughters are sick, so I'm confident I'll move straight from broken to sick.

2017 is off to an interesting start.

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