Tag Archives: recovery

Bike fitting in Boulder


I’ve rented a bike probably a half-dozen times while traveling. When I pick up the bike, I pull out my tape measure to set the saddle height, then ask if I can put on my 120mm, -17 degree stem. I tell them it just won’t feel right otherwise. Then they look at me as if I’m straight out of The Princess and the Pea.

For the last year my bike hasn’t felt right. I’ve told people that I felt “crooked” on the bike. It didn’t used to be like that.

The person who did my last bike fit (Andy Applegate) suggested that I visit the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM), as they could do a real ‘medical fit’. I filed it away as an interesting idea — maybe, some day. The thought of getting 2 bikes to and from Boulder seemed like a hassle. But then everyone I mentioned it to said, “wow, that sounds cool. You should do it.”

I exchanged a few emails with a guy who works at BCSM, and when he told me that I would be seeing Andy Pruitt were I to come, I said “ok, let’s do it”. How could I turn down the chance to be fit by a rock-star bike fitter? Andy Pruitt has literally written the book (well, “a” book) on bike fitting and has worked with many Pro Tour cyclists.

As an added incentive, there are like 1000 microbreweries in Boulder. “Beer is everywhere”, Shawn Adams told me.

Arrangements were made, the bikes arrived, and I showed up first thing Tuesday morning at BCSM.  I showed Dr. Pruitt a picture of my x-ray.  He had a similar break, years ago.  I felt like I’d hit the jackpot — not only someone who knew about cycling fit and problems, but who know about my specific problem, first hand.

He poked and prodded, noted the still-apparent muscle atrophy (18 months later!), noticed that I still limp a bit, have leg-length imbalance, and reiterated what I’d been told previously: the anatomy of my right leg is just different now.

We got a baseline with my current fit, with Dr. Pruitt watching me ride.  The motion capture confirmed what I had been saying: I was crooked on the bike.

First step was switching pedal systems (to Speedplay, since they are so adjustable). Next was putting a wedge and shim under my left cleat. Then moving the right a bit on my shoe.  Lowering the saddle a bit.  Raising the bars a bit.  Another capture, and I was indeed straighter, but  still a bit off.

Next step was putting a pressure-sensor pad over the saddle to get a ‘heat map’ of the pressure points.  Before doing it, I said that I felt like most of the pressure was on my left side.  The pressure map confirmed it — bright red on the left side. We tried a different style / shape of saddle — one where I would be sitting more on top, and that would encourage me to rotate my pelvis forward more.

Another look at the pressure map, and wow, it was amazing how it had evened out.  This got me pretty close to straight on the bike.  It felt good.  I liked the pedals.  The saddle would take some getting used to.

We moved to the TT bike, which went much quicker.  A few minor adjustments, but nothing major.

By the time I got dressed and got my bikes back in the car, it was after 3pm.  I’d been there most of the day.

It’s been over a month now, so I’ve had time to adjust to the changes.  The new setup is most definitely better.  I love being on the new pedal system.  It took a while to get used to the saddle, but I like that too.  It’s clear to me that I am sitting straighter on the bike, with more even pressure on the saddle.

It still doesn’t quite feel like the “old me” on the bike, but the gap is closing.




Filed under accident, cycling, recovery, travel

Race crashing

photo (1)
Yesterday I finally pinned on a number and raced again. My number said 224, but the real number was 364: it was that many days since breaking my femur. One day shy of the anniversary.

After the race quite a few people asked, “how did you feel”? They didn’t ask about the result. They knew: the result wasn’t important.

So, how did I feel? At first it felt as though I’d crashed a party that’s been going on without me for a year. It was a very strange feeling — like I didn’t belong. That’s one of the things about bike racing. You could show up to run in the local 5k after not doing so for a year, and no one would notice. But in bike racing, you race with the same people week after week, ride shoulder-to-shoulder and put a large amount of trust in them.

It didn’t take too long to get over that though. And then the breakaway went up the road, containing my former teammate, Tris. And then it felt like ‘old times’ again.

But I think the people asking how I felt were really asking how my leg felt. And the answer to that is not as good as I’d hoped, but better than I had feared. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the race.

A couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to race, period. I give my new physical therapist most of the credit for getting me to this point.

I’m not assuming that I’m back on the “race 2x per week” plan. But it’s a start.

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Filed under cycling, racing, recovery

Waiting game

It feels very strange: sitting at home on the first Saturday morning in April, drinking coffee, listening to music, and putting off doing my taxes. As opposed to being in the car, loaded with bike gear, on the way to a race. Which is what I’ve done on the previous 20 first-Saturdays-in-April (with one exception: the broken-collarbone-year).

Drinking coffee and listening to music isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I’d choose this morning, given the choice. Since people have been asking: I want to be racing. I just can’t yet.

I gave it a little test, out in Arizona, which didn’t go too well.

It comes down to: I can’t go hard enough without it hurting. Go too hard then I end up having trouble walking up/down stairs. Or it hurts to walk, period

There’s an ironic aspect to this: getting on the bike and doing a bunch of miles has really helped — both mentally and physically. But so many miles on the bike I think has reinforced the imbalances that we cyclists tend to have. Strong in very specific areas, but weak in others.

It occurred to me that I haven’t walked more than 10 minutes straight for several months. It’s been all bike. When I walk, it’s still a bit crooked. I can’t stand one-legged on the repaired leg. So my operating hypothesis at the moment is that I need to do some more PT to strengthen those other areas.

We’ll see. The goal is that you see me with a number pinned on my jersey, before too long.

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Filed under cycling, recovery, training

One step back

Over the past 6 months I’ve not had to deal with the “2 steps forward, 1 step back” type of progress that people warned me about. It’s been a forward progression — linear at first, then exponential once I got on the bike and on the road again.

That changed about 2 weeks ago.

Thinking back even farther, I had these occasional “twinges” in calf, or back of my leg while walking. But it went away quickly or worked itself out while riding. Then something triggered it — some new PT exercises, or too much yard work or a combination of both (I think).

I went from walking with only a slight limp, to back to using a cane again.

Diagnosis? Consensus between doctor, PT, and massotherapist is sciatica. Something in there is aggravating the sciatic nerve. The crazy thing is that it moves around: back of the leg, all down the leg, in the foot, in the calf. Riding sometimes seems to help, sometimes doesn’t. I’m doing lots of stretching, PT, massage, and trying to pay attention to what might aggravate it. Chiropractor might be next up.

Dana, my wonderful massage therapist, says “you have a new anatomy now”. It feels that way — different. And I’m always aware of it — sometimes more, sometimes less. But it’s always there. Makes me think of all the different parts — the nerves, muscles, tissues, bones — that make up the body. All the different things that could go wrong. It’s pretty amazing that it doesn’t go wrong more often.

(BTW: Dana’s website is here: http://akronmassage.co/. She’s pretty terrific)


Filed under recovery

100km @ 30 km/h

100km at 30kmh

I continue to be amazed at the body’s ability to heal … and at the seemingly magical powers of cycling.

Today marked three weeks since my first nervous ride out on the road. Since then it’s gone pretty well — way better than I ever would have imagined.

This morning I left early to try to beat the rain. Figuring that the ride would be cut short, I started riding a little harder than I otherwise would have. But it brightened up, the rain held off, and so I kept going.

100km is my minimum threshold for calling a ride a “long ride”.

At 80km today I decided to go for “long ride” status. I made it, though the last 10km were pretty hard.

Crazy thing is that I still can’t quite walk without a limp, but if you saw me on the bike you wouldn’t think anything was out of the ordinary … until I showed you my scar. Which I did today while briefly riding with another rider I’d come up on. It’s always good for a “wow”.

I think I have to stop using my handicap parking tag though, when parking at work. People are starting to look at me in a funny (not-good) way.

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Filed under cycling, recovery

Return to Compulsive

goal 1

One of the ‘silver linings’ the last 4 months is that I’ve gotten a break from the daily obsessive-compulsive behaviors that come along with training. Always checking the weather. Keeping my bike and riding clothes in the car. Organizing my schedule to let me “get a ride in”. The constant cycle of washing bike clothes. Fixing flats, changing tires, gluing tires, and on and on.

It’s been like that for so long I’d forgotten what it was like not to be doing it every day. Like normal people. (Unfortunately I couldn’t do other normal people things for the most part).

More than once I wondered: when the time came, would I have the desire to jump back into that mentality again?

After one week I think I have my answer. Actually I had the answer earlier than that: August 6 was the first day I was able to ride a stationary bike. I then proceeded to ride 39 straight days on either the trainer or stationary bike, before going out on the road.

It’s been 9 days since I first rode outside, and I’ve been on the road 7 of those days (and 2 on the trainer). Every day I’ve looked at the weather, planned out a ride, the whole compulsive routine. And enjoyed every second of it.

I have to say, I’m more than a little surprised at the result: today I hit a milestone of 50 miles in under 3 hours. 9 days ago, before that first ride, I never would have imagined that to be possible.

You surely lose a lot, and quickly, when you don’t ride at all for 3 months. That first ride on the stationary bike lasted all of 10 minutes. But I guess 3 months off can’t completely undo twenty-some years … which is a nice discovery.

And I think I’ve discovered one of the reasons for the compulsion: after today’s ride I have that genuinely-tired feeling where I don’t want to do anything but sit with my legs up and eat. I don’t know any other way to get to that feeling.


Filed under cycling, recovery

Do it man

first ride

This is the post I’ve been waiting 132 days to write.

It almost happened last week, but I was still feeling a little too nervous so decided to wait another week … at least. I knew I wasn’t going to forget how to ride, but the thought of balancing on two wheels and coordinating the movements to clip in, clip out, put my foot down, start up again, seemed a bit daunting.

I emailed Tris and said “today might be the day” … but that I was anxious just thinking about it.

“Do it man. Even a short ride around the block will be a big boost”, he wrote back.

So I did it. First in running shoes, to the end of the street. It was easier than I thought it would be. I got changed and put my cycling shoes on. My WAS Labs jersey still had a number from the last RATL pinned on.

2 miles around the neighborhood and I felt ready to head out on the road. I’d been telling people I would try a short ride, but I knew that I was going to try to push it farther, as much as I could anyway.

It turned out better than expected. Nervous at first, but that got better. It felt amazingly good to be on the road, but at the same time every pedal stroke reminded me that I have a steel plate in my leg. It was a strange sensation to be going up a hill, slowly, knowing that I just could not push the pedals any harder. I wanted to tell every car or bike that passed me, “hey, I broke my femur 4 months ago, this is as fast as I can go”.

In the end, it added up to 60km and a bit over 2 hours, including the initial riding around the neighborhood. Way more than I had hoped for, and faster than I was expecting.

And I can eat pizza tonight without it adding to my waist (the best part).


Filed under cycling, recovery