A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Break in Training Retrospective


I was scrolling through my Twitter feed early this morning when a particular headline caught my eye. "Yes, they do," I thought, "and I did." So I clicked on the article and as I read the memories came flooding back.
“It has to do with the way cyclists tend to fall," says Dr. Brian Cunningham, MD, a Minnesota-based orthopedic trauma specialist. "When you fall directly onto your shoulder, your clavicle [or collarbone]—which has an s-shape—compresses and is prone to breaking.”
Yep, that's exactly what happened, shortly after a car passed me on the left (as I flew downhill at 35 mph), turned right in front of me (causing me to slam on my brakes and start fishtailing), and I slammed into the passenger side door (taking the rearview mirror off with my left knee), flew over the hood and landed on the pavement in the middle of the intersection.

You’ll know you’ve broken your collarbone almost immediately, says Dr. Subir Jossan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the DC-area Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics. It’s not a subtle injury—moving your arm will be agonizing, and you may hear an audible crack as you hit the ground.
Well, I don't remember hearing a crack. I don't even remember hitting the ground, but when I tried to sit up the pain in my right shoulder was agonizing. I knew I had broken my collarbone even though the paramedic wouldn't confirm it. He told me later that they don't want to freak people out. I hated to break it to him, but I was already freaked out as I rode in the back of an ambulance for the first time in my life! 
The big issue with this break is that when it heals right, it won't impair your long-term function—but that doesn't always happen, and the repercussions extend beyond your collarbone. The collarbone acts as a strut connecting your arm to your chest; any kink in that system could mean you’ll have prolonged problems.
Tell me about it. I had no idea how important the collarbone is to the rest of the body. My doctor explained that there were two treatments options, as outlined in the article:
A sling: A tiny, hairline fracture is a pretty simple fix. Usually the doctor will put your corresponding arm in a sling and tell you to come back in six weeks. 
As my x-ray shows, I had more than a tiny, hairline fracture!
The surgical option: If there’s any sort of displacement—meaning part of the bone has shifted—things get more complicated.
Well, even though I had significant "displacement" my doc recommended putting me in a sling and giving it an opportunity to heal on it's own. He explained that even though he is a surgeon he prefers to avoid the inherent risks of surgery, if at all possible. I agreed. 
“If you don’t have surgery, there’s a zero percent chance you’ll get an infection and a zero percent chance of needing to have hardware taken out," Cunningham says. If you skip surgery but the break isn't healing properly, you may endure six to eight weeks of mild discomfort only to find out that you have to have surgery anyway. 
Unfortunately it didn't work and I began having issues with the nerves in my right arm affecting my ability to grip with my thumb. Not cool. So after six months I went under the knife to put the pieces back together.
Collarbone surgery entails placing a small plate over the fracture. In about 10 percent of cases, the plate may have to be taken out later; this is especially common in women who report irritation with purse or bra straps rubbing over the area above the plate.

I can feel all seven of the screw holes through the skin over my plate.
I did not have the hardware taken out. For the most part I don't have any issues with it (it doesn't even set off metal detectors) but I do experience some irritation when my computer bag or backpack strap rubs on the area above the plate. 

I also think the nerves never healed completely because I get some tingling on my forearm from the crux of my elbow to my thumb. But I can live with that, given things could have been much worse, and ten years later I am riding more than ever. Looking back, it really was just a break in training.

Ride on!

Daren

Next up: the long, sordid story of the legal battle over "Whose Fault is it, Anyway?"

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Winter Training

Colorado winters drive me indoors to
our library/workout room.
My number one fitness goal this winter is to avoid the winter weight gain that hit me hard last year. I stuck with my maintenance miles goal after Cycle Oregon and ramped up my miles on my CycleOps Fluid2 indoor trainer in December to account for the extra calorie consumption I knew would come with the holiday celebrations.

So far, so good. I gained a few pounds between Christmas and New Years but have already dropped back below 220, which is about 15 pounds lighter than I was at this time last year. I didn't get below 220 until July! I'm looking forward to NOT hauling that extra 15 pounds around when I get back out on the road.

My CycleOps Fluid2 indoor trainer.
In the meantime, I am working on building my aerobic and endurance base with my indoor training. My biggest battle with winter training is boredom so I have several routines I follow on the trainer to vary my workouts and keep it interesting. Some days I will do intervals for 30 minutes while others I will keep it at a pace I can maintain for 60, adjusting the resistance up and down gradually.

One of my "go to" routines is a take on a workout I remember from high school track called ladders. My version looks like this:

  • 1 minute at my "flat road" gear (~90 RPM)
  • 1 minute at a moderate climbing gear (~80 RPM)
  • 1 minute at a steep climb (~70 RPM)
  • 1 minute at a moderate climbing gear (~80 RPM)
  • 1 minute at my "flat road" gear (~90 RPM)
For a 30 minute workout I will warm up for five minutes spinning at 10 RPM then do 4 sets of ladders (20 minutes) then cool down for five minutes.

Another simple interval workout is to spin at >100 RPM for one minute, then drop back to ~80 RPM for one minute, adjusting resistance up and down every two minutes.
Check out these five Quick Cycling Workouts for Power and Endurance from Bicyling.com.

My goal for January is to ride a minimum of 50 miles a week (30 mins a day for five days) to maintain my current fitness level. I will bump that up to 75/week in February and March. By April I hope to be getting back out on the road for longer rides on weekends and in May I will start riding to work (25 miles each way) when possible (depending on work and weather). 

What is your winter workout routine? Please share your secrets!

Ride on,

Daren

Monday, January 2, 2017

2015 vs. 2016: What a Difference a Year (without injury) Makes


2015 was the year I learned that the IT Band is not a nerdy rock group.
I've seen a lot of posts this week about how many miles people ran in 2016 and people setting a goal to "run the year" (2,017 miles in 2017). I don't run much these days (if at all, for fear of inflaming my IT band, as I did in 2015) but this made me wonder how many miles I had ridden in 2016 and what my goal should be for 2017. I jokingly told one Facebook friend I would match her 2017 goal to run 2,017 miles -- on my bike -- but knew that would be far less than I had ridden this year so I need a better goal than that (like resolving to BEEFit)! 


So how many miles did I ride this year? Of course I tracked all my rides on my Garmin Edge 810 so was able to quickly look up my total miles for 2016 on Garmin Connect. I was actually surprised to see that I rode 3,737 miles this past year.

This screenshot of my 2016 rides from May to December shows the lead up to Cycle Oregon (Sept. 11-17) and maintenance rides through the end of November.
Without even going back and looking up past records I know that is the most I have ridden in one year. Given that I was close to 4,000, my daughter suggested I could set a goal to ride 4,034 miles (doubling up on 2017). I kind of like that idea but I spent a LOT of time on the bike this year (219 hours, 15 minutes and 52 seconds, to be exact) and am not sure how much more time I want to spend in the saddle!

By comparison I decided to look up 2015 miles. This time I was surprised how low they were. I only rode 1,779 miles in a year? How could that be? I didn't think I'd ridden fewer than 2,000 miles in a year since my first Ride the Rockies in 2005. 

This screensot of my rides from May to December 2016 paints a very different picture. My IT band injury put me out of commission for nearly five whole months!
So I looked at the calendar more closely and the answer was clear. I only rode NINE times between July 1 and December 1. Remember that IT band injury? Probably not, since I never wrote about it. So here goes...


All along the Water Tower in Chicago
One week after Ride the Rockies 2015 I was running in downtown Chicago. I love to run along the Miracle Mile and the trail along Lake Michigan. I was cruising along and stepped off a curb and felt something pull in my right hip. I limped along the remaining miles and could barely walk the next day. 

The run along Lake Michigan can be a little uneven in spots, which is one cause of IT band injuries (running on an uneven surface)
I tried riding a few times after but had knee pain that was unbearable. The IT band can wreak a lot of havoc when it is not happy! After reading up on it I decided rest was the best road to recovery and literally sat out most of July, August and September. The good news it worked! The bad news is I gained about 20 lbs. during all that sitting, and holiday eating. As a result it took me a lot longer than normal to lose my winter weight this past year. 

I wrote about why old guys get fat in winter several years ago, focusing on the hibernation theory. This year I think the answer is pretty obvious. I burned 170,310 fewer calories in 2015 (153,160) than 2016 (323,470). 

Getting out of bed to ride in winter is hard!
Fortunately I had more time to get into fighting weight before Cycle Oregon in September than I normally do for Ride the Rockies in June. I would have had a hard time hauling my ass over the mountains weighing 235 than I would at my normal 215!

Training for a ride in September meant that I stayed motivated throughout the summer and early fall. Typically I have a hard time getting back on the bike after my big event. This year I was determined not to let that happen and set a goal to ride at least 50 miles per week in October and November, which I did. I stepped that up to 75/week in December.
I like to set up my CycleOps trainer in front of the TV and watch the AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs! 
A lot of these miles were ridden on my CycleOps Fluid 2 indoor trainer, which involves constant peddling (riding outdoors it's normal to coast 10, 20, even 30 percent of the time and provides a great workout.
 
So here I sit on January 2, 107, weighing in at 223 lbs., ten pounds less than last year at this time and around my normal for this time of year. I want to get that back under 220 ASAP and hold it there until warmer weather returns and we emerge from hibernation!

The question is: which big ride am I going to do this year: Ride the Rockies or Cycle Oregon? Another possibility Jonny Rocker and I have discussed is doing our own ride, either self-supported or supported by our wives. Let me know if you have any suggestions for other week-long rides or planning your own route.

Ride on!

Daren