Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Every Day is an Evaluation.

Every movement has to be evaluated. How will that affect the shoulder? How much will it hurt? Can I do it another way? Can I have one of the kids do it?
I'm not renowned for super-human levels of empathy, but I have new respect for those that deal with far worse conditions every day. Don't worry, that new understanding will fade as I heal. Douchebag tendencies don't change that quickly.
Every morning involves a period of time relaxing whatever tension developed during the night as my body tried to protect my shoulder as I slept. I don't think I'm going through any strange contortions in my sleep. I just think that sort of thing just develops over time. I'm usually fine once I find a neutral position and the Motrin and Lidocaine patch kick in.
Then I kit up and get on the computer to see what happened in the world of cycling and MyFace while I was in a Percocet-induced coma. When the stream of internet entertainment is exhausted, I climb on the bike.
Every day the trainer is a big question mark. How hard can I go? How much can I push it without hurting myself? So far it's been going pretty well. I've seen a steady improvement in various areas that has provided a mental boost that has even managed to cut through the dull pain and opioid haze.
Average power isn't bad day-to-day. My peak power, something that drops significantly on the trainer, is down by around 400 watts. This isn't surprising, since all-in efforts are something I'm hesitant to commit to at this point. My training load, which dropped significantly during the three days between the accident and the first ride on the trainer has leveled off. All promising signs.
Still, I start each workout with the big question mark. I really don't want to go too far. Get too enthusiastic, and the shoulder might take a hit. Run myself down too much, and the healing could be slowed. Each day I dip my toe in the water and go from there. So far the water is just fine, and I'd like to keep it that way.
The remainder of the racing season is blown. Without a clear target, I've just been focusing on maintaining fitness for my trip down to Mississippi in September. Two months of extremely flat riding on the Gulf Coast. Maybe I'll steal all of the highway overpass KOMs while I'm down there. Then again, that would require me actively using Strava, so that seems unlikely.
Instead, I'm going to log a whole lot of miles. I'm going to roll into trainer season with a ton of base in the can. Hopefully I can lose a few pounds in the land of deep-fried salads, but no promises. Mainly I'm going to ride until I grind my lady parts off, if only to delay the realization that, "fuck, I'm in Mississippi".
It's something to work towards.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Grind.

Every morning I wake up to bone grinding against bone. It sounds worse than it actually is in reality, although it won't make my Top 10 Most Favoritist Things list this year. I look at it as a reminder to not do anything to aggravate the injury, like rolling over to hit the snooze button.  
I roll off the bed in a complex maneuver, and if I stick the landing I am rewarded with minimal stabbing pain. Shuffling to the bathroom keeps me from tripping over random things on the bedroom floor, which would mean potentially arresting the fall with the wrong arm. In essence, my routine these days mainly revolves around trying not to make a bad situation worse.

Every day the sickly yellow bruise that covers my shoulder looks a little more repugnant in the mirror. The fact that the bruise exists at all, on a body that rarely bruises, is an indication of how badly I screwed up.

I grab a quick bite to eat, then down far too many milligrams of Motrin. That's all the pain relief I can give myself before I climb on the bike. I kit up and eventually find my way out to the garage, after exhausting all of my internet-generated excuses for avoiding the trainer.

Each day I try to see where the "ouch limit" is. Each day I find it, then back off to something I can sustain for the duration. Each day I go a little further. Each day I pay for it a little, but I don't stop. Stopping would mean surrendering to the fat, and I just can't do that. Even if my body is a little chewed up, my head is in a good place. I know how fragile a condition that can be, so I'm rolling with it.

Hopefully I don't do any more damage in the process.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Piling On.

I mentioned to the orthopedic surgeon that my right shoulder close to my neck was aching a bit, although range of motion wasn't limited. He enthusiastically began prodding me to elicit new sounds of pain, then sent me down for more x-rays to further refine his search for all of the places he could make me hurt. I wish he would get it over with and just kick me in the lady parts.
Well, the x-rays indicated I had cracked a rib on my right side, which lies directly under the sling they gave me. While trying to stabilize the left shoulder, I was compressing the cracked rib. I can't win here.
Nothing they can do about it, so there's another bit of my skeletal system that just needs to heal on its own.
This morning I climbed back on the trainer, making sure to tweak my shoulder as I did so. Gotta remind myself that the blame falls solely on me. Once the searing pain stopped, I started pedaling, glancing up occasionally to watch the Zwift-generated scenery. I successfully resisted sprinting for another day, putting down a solid Zone 3 workout that had everything within arms reach soaked in sweat.
In the winter, the trainer dungeon varies from 50F to 60F, mainly depending on the ambient temperature outside and how much it radiates through the garage doors. When it gets colder, I have a small heater I fire up for a few minutes until the warmth of the workout kicks in. I may throw on a long-sleeve jersey, but that never lasts past the first couple minutes. My body is acclimated to those conditions.
Theses last few days have been averaging over 70F in the dungeon at 5:00AM, and I exude moisture like Niagra Falls. My single fan is pointing at my head, and while it does a fine job most of the year, right now it's not cutting it. You'd think that after being in the heat and humidity of Virginia would have conditioned me for this, but the lack of airflow is causing me to melt.
I need bigger fans, and lots of them. Think wind tunnel.
I'm healing. Ever day I feel slightly better. Every day I can go a little longer before I start sweating and counting the minutes until my next pain medication fix. My range of motion is improving. Movements that caused me pain yesterday only trigger a mild warning. It's not just me adapting and ignoring the discomfort, but the body actually fixing itself. I'd like that ugly yellow bruise on my shoulder blade to go away, but eventually it will fade. I just have to try to avoid overdoing it and let the body do its thing. I may heal a little crooked, but I'll heal.
Hopefully the good doctor doesn't find anything else wrong with me. I have quite enough to deal with already.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sweat Box.

Last night I rearranged the piles in the trainer dungeon. I booted up Zwift and did the three hours worth of required upgrades that have been released since I stopped using it back in the spring. I dragged my heavy LeMond Revolution trainer back in from the car, where it had been pre-positioned in anticipation for the Tour of Anchorage. Actually, I never took it out after the Tour of Fairbanks. This proved to be a bad idea, so as soon as I was finished preparing the dungeon I had to crawl into bed with my best buddies, Percocet and Motrin.

This morning I got up early and got kitted up. It quickly became clear that maybe I didn't really need both straps of my bib shorts, because the left one was causing me to whimper a bit. It usually takes me a few days to get my routine for the trainer, so that everything flows efficiently. The placement of various things and the order in which I do tasks is just different when I'm stuck in the dungeon, so it took me a while to get ready. There might have also been some dread involved, because this was the moment of truth- can I turn the pedals over at all without causing significant pain?
The first move almost ended the workout for me. I wasn't careful climbing onto the saddle and twisted my body in a way that put pressure on the collarbone. As I curled up from the shock, I compounded it by grabbing for support with my left hand. Minutes later, when the pain faded, I started cranking away slowly.
Can I handle this? OK, push it a little more.
Can I sustain that? OK, see how long you can do it for.
Zwift is hard for me without sprints or other out-of-the-saddle efforts, but I knew what they would bring. I knew I could beat the times on the leaderboard, earning the prestigious/temporary/meaningless green jersey with a moderate effort. I didn't go for it. I'd rather avoid poking my clavicle through my skin.
When the hour was up, I felt pretty good (given the circumstances). A solid workout that left me no worse off than when I started.
Next I went to the doctor, who did some range-of-motion tests that had me nauseous and sweating. So much for feeling good.
I can ride the trainer and not die, and that's about the most positive news I could have hoped for. Little by little, I'll try to build up the intensity and maintain what I've worked so hard for the last few weeks. Hopefully I'll be off the pain meds soon. Marginal gains.
The first thing I need to get is a bigger fan, though. The cooling requirements in March are much different than those of July. I think I lost three gallons of water in that hour.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The New Normal.

The scale indicated I lost five pounds in the last 3 weeks.

I hadn't weighed myself during vacation, so this was validation that my scientific diet of Coke, brownies, and pork BBQ worked as intended. Maybe the increase in riding volume played a role in there too.

Too bad I'm likely going to regain it in the next few weeks as I sit around feeling sorry for myself. Nothing says "pity me" like a big bag o' Doritos.

Today's appointment with the orthopedic surgeon was less gentle than the ER visit. I got my ass kicked as he tried to see just how far he could tweak me until I pooped. When he finished, he gave me the OK to ride a stationary bike, which kinda evened the score. Well, that and the Percocet. Beautiful, beautiful Percocet. Oh, how i love thee.

Why do I suddenly crave heroin?

The little things take some getting used to. Climbing out of bed in the morning is a multi-stage process to designed to minimize family-waking screams of agony. Dressing myself is an exercise in balancing pain with my desire to wear a shirt to work. Reaching for things with my left arm is a habit that I need to break in the short term. Using the turn signal while driving takes advance planning. Which pants pocket each item goes in even takes some thought. Avoiding pain is my new normal.

If I can't... well, there's always the pills.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tha-Th-Th-That's All Folks!

Tuesday I confirmed what I already knew.
My race season is over.
We flew home Monday. Every person who walked by on the aisle jostled me just enough to show how much they care. I could have cried. I probably did. My young son kicked me a couple times to make sure I was still OK, because I obviously didn't look gray enough. Even the pilot joined in, slamming the plane's landing gear into Seattle's tarmac with such force that I almost wet my pants. Truly a wonderful flight.
The doc at the ER didn't cause me excessive pain while confirming my self-diagnosis. A couple of x-rays was pretty much all they needed. I did threaten the x-ray tech with bodily harm if she moved my arm, but even she was gentle. After the outpouring of sympathy I received on the plane, it was a bit of a let-down.

Fractured clavicle. AC joint looks in good shape. No surgery. Six weeks to heal. I considered asking her to surgically narrow my shoulders for better aerodynamics, inserting carbon fiber fairings for torsional rigidity and enhanced airflow. I decided not to push my luck, because she might have considered it.
All things considered, it could have been a lot worse.
Saturday I input all of the dates for races I was wanting to do for the rest of the season in Training Peaks, to include the Tour of Anchorage, and bunch of crits, and a Point MacKenzie TT/road race doubleheader. Tonight I will remove them.
Luckily I hadn't registered for them yet.
Tonight or tomorrow I'll start cleaning up the trainer dungeon. As soon as I feel like it, I'll start riding the trainer to try to maintain some fitness. Nothing intense, but solid, steady state workouts to keep the fat down and the legs moving. I didn't ask the doc about any of this, and she didn't come out and prohibit it either. I prefer it this way.
What kills me is that the weather is perfect right now. Other than a wildfire burning down the hillside, it couldn't be better out there. I'll be in a garage going nowhere, until I feel ambitious and sufficiently healed enough to push that six-week timeline. My current estimate for that to happen is 8 days.
At least now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hopefully Not Broken, Just Bent.

In all of my years of falling down, I've only really broken one bone. When I was seven, I broke my thumb when my front wheel came off my bike while I was jumping curbs. When the fork dug into the ground, I went flying, and my front teeth and the thumb took the hit.

Sure, I cracked ribs falling down in cyclocross, but that was child's play.

I don't know if I did something serious this time around. I'll go to the ER on Tuesday when we're back home, and hopefully everything will show I just did my usual soft tissue mutilation. That's a lot easier to bounce back from, and I have a real problem with staying off the bike. Not racing I can probably live with, but riding? I need to ride. Even a lot of long, slow distance. Turn the pedals over. Fight back the fat and get my endorphin rush. Center myself and process the day's chaos.

I really, really hope I didn't screw up big time. I'm almost afraid to find out for sure.

One way or another, I'll heal. I'd just rather heal sooner rather than later.