Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beginning the Ride Back

The ride (click to view) was supposed to start at 10am but by 9:45 I knew that it wasn't going to go as advertised.  Due to ice on country roads there would be no big gathering in Greenville to keep this group thinned out and it seemed a week of being pent up in our houses brought out everyone who had a bike.  I didn't count, but we looked like a swarm of hornets as we pulled out of the YMCA parking lot.  I was hoping for a ride on the more leisurely end of the 17-18 mph advertised pace but with the brisk 32 degree air almost puffy with the aroma of liniments and oils that would normally be reserved for an early spring race - I knew I was in for it. 
Back in early October I torqued my right knee.  After a week of fretting I decided to go ahead and participate in a one day 240 mile ride to the beach.  The combination of the injury and the mileage on that day resulted in me having part of my meniscus and some cartilage removed in mid December and now I am on a plan of my own making to get over the surgery and back into the Upstate cycling scene. 
So, armed with a jersey pocket full of foolish optimism and a brick hard energy bar, here I was scrolling down the road with a lot of folks I pretty much hadn't seen on the road since October.  My goal for the day was to ride with the group for motivation and stay within the pain limits given to me by my surgeon.  My last training was three days ago on rollers with some pain in the 2 range while standing and no pain while spinning seated.  Total workout was 30 minutes and it gave me my first real confidence boost since the injury almost three months ago.

Spinning an easy gear as we negotiated down Pine Street in a big wad of colors and laughter brought back all the good feelings I associate with cycling, especially with all the "glad to have you back" comments and the "how's the knee" questions.  After 10 miles of verbally catching up with some of the guys the pace was faster and the group was split up and I was still having fun in the middle as I had barely encroached on the pain limit my doctor had set.  My plan was to just bail out and ride at my own pace if my knee hurt.
The reason I came out, even though the ride seemed a brutishly long 60 miles at this point in my recovery, was that I could stop at any time and meet up with the group on their way back to town as it was a straight out and back course on a wide highway due to the ice on all the secondary roads.  Perfect for me if the pace and the pain was right.
At the 30 mile turnaround the ride leader decided to split the group into A's and B's since there were a lot of guys struggling to hold back on the reins.  Feeling fairly confident with the lack of pain I decided on the A group.  Within about 30 feet I realized the maelstrom I was struggling to hang on to was going to be humbling.
Seriously, only about 30 feet.
A few of us chatted our way out of the parking lot and noticed the group was already lined out single file down the road.  They hadn't wasted a single second once let loose by the ride leader to go on about their merry warp speed way. 
During this section my pain went above the recommended limit by a hair.  I'm thinking a 4 or so and I had a limit of 3 - but who can say really.  It didn't last long and dropped off sharply even though I maintained my effort.  (By maintaining my effort I mean I was letting off the effort slightly to see how the pain responded and then increasing the effort slowly as I evaluated the pain.)  That seemed to work okay as I found a pace without increasing the pain that let me slowly catch the group with the help of a couple of other guys.
Once in the group, I was never comfortable with the high pace, and knew I would not stay with them long - but I decided to stay as long as I could if it wasn't a detriment to the knee.  I focused on maintaining a high cadence and taking deep breaths to try to keep relaxed but soon my shoulders were bunched up in a knot and my thighs followed right after. There's only so much you can do with virtually no miles in three months and soon I was idly discarded and blowing around on the road, off the back, like a losing lottery ticket. 
I was elated!  My limit wasn't knee pain but a lack of training miles.  I hope this pattern will continue until I don't get dropped any more.
I thanked Peter probably too many times for riding back in with me at a leisurely and then tough 16 miles an hour.  I was worn completely out with a couple of miles to go.  Once back at the car I strapped on an ice pack I had in the trunk.  I had taken two Aleve pills an hour before the start so I didn't take anything else after the ride.  I'll report back later with details on how my knee feels after this tough day!

Steve Verdell

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