Yeah, you heard me. I said fartlek. Most of the old school guys probably know the word but these young schoolers we have running around here probably have no idea what it means even though they partake in it. I think cyclists have morphed the original meaning to more of something like "riding hard and trying to drop your friends when they aren't looking… or are otherwise occupied" instead of the original "speed play" it really means. Traditional fartlek is actually structured and patterned and consists of training at various intensities in a single workout. We use the word to describe the varied intensity of our group rides as we try to hammer the sense out of each other. Having your friends chase you or you chasing them can be great motivation to extend your limits and we try to employ that method a lot around here. All in fun, of course! We should never take our spandex clad selves too seriously.
I had a local youngling mention to me just the other evening that "it's always a race" and he's pretty much spot on. At the least it's "always about to be a race." The starter's pistol is always there bubbling under the surface. It takes a lot of control on our rides from the participants as well as the ride leaders to keep them from devolving into an unadvertised free for all that leaves everyone scattered about the countryside hoping to find a Cliff Bar crumb or two to lead them back home before dark. We have developed into a more civilized cycling society in these parts and we prefer to have our carnage take place all at once, between two points, about 4 miles apart. Don't start one meter before or it doesn't count if you cross the line first. Seriously. You don't get a free beer for that and we'll talk about you on days you have to work or take care of the kids instead of doing what you should be doing which is training with us. If we didn't have a core of strong willed goodhearted guys that didn't mind keeping us on task, every ride would be one long attack zone from the days of yore and we'd never be able to keep anyone interested in coming back for a group ride. It's hard to get pack skills riding by yourself and a lot of us do want to help grow the sport by being a factor in whether someone comes back for another ride. Be it giving some sage advice, handing out a gel, helping change a flat, or giving someone a push or a tow, we are a courteous group… on most days!
Ok, on to the point. My initial recovery from surgery has been more rigid than the lead up to any event I've done. Every ride, except one, has been slow and deliberate and mostly by myself due to the fact that "it's always a race." I did a few group rides where my knee was pain free and yet I turned around early before I got out there and had some issues with pain. I did let my guard down one time and participated in a slugfest while I halfheartedly rationalized it and after that I didn't stray from the slow and steady path I laid out for myself. In that instance I was definitely the sluggee, not the slugger. I didn't make it to the front even when we were going slow at the start and my "participation" merely meant that I was present and then dropped. I haven't given any details of these structured exercises mainly because it has just been slow riding, concentrating on small chain ring spinning with no stress applied to my knee while going up any hills. These rides are typically followed by a short session of resistance training with an elastic strap where I tie the strap to my ankle and the entertainment center and then try to drag it across the carpeted floor. Once I am able to drag it 5 feet and then snatch the pebble out of the hand of the Shaolin master, I will be ready to ride with force. Eh, if you never watched Kung Fu with David Carradine back in the 1970's then that image will be lost on you, grasshopper.
A structured routine consisting of short pain free efforts to get the joint working and build some muscle tone, frequent icing to reduce swelling, visits to a local chiropractor to try some accelerated healing techniques, and lots of rest has served me well the past couple of months. Soon I'll begin a slow building process to get back strength and endurance. I'll include details of that later as they can be used by anyone regardless if they are recovering from an injury or just getting back into riding after taking the winter or a few seasons off. But the good news for me is that my doctor has released me to start applying full pressure to the joint and now I'm looking forward to some group fartlek before getting down to some hard core structure!