Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Rehabilitation, Potential and Mindset

One week after getting the bad news that my latest surgery wasn't as successful as we originally thought, I'm settling into my new rehabilitation schedule nicely and getting my mind around what lies ahead. My new rehab regimen includes physical therapy sessions three times each week and home exercises five times a day. All of this is limited to "passive range" work designed to increase the shoulder's mobility without any weight-bearing or strengthening that could jeopardize the healing and attachment of sensitive muscles. After only a week, I feel a difference from my pre-surgery self. My arm really does feel better this time around. This upper body work is in addition to the ongoing work I'm doing to increase the strength and flexibility of my hips and legs which includes walking, riding, strengthening and stretching.

I was at an conference this week in which several of the sessions addressed the intersection of cognitive science and learning. One speaker, in particular, discussed how new developments in brain science influence our thoughts on potential. Unfortunately, most of us still see the world through what social psychologist Carol Dweck has termed a "fixed" rather than a "growth" mindset. As such, we perceive human potential as fixed from birth. Some people are smart, others are dumb. Some are fast, others slow. While individuals all have certain temperaments and physical characteristics that influence success, each of us also has tremendous potential to expand these boundaries through commitment and hard work. Scientists now believe this is true in both the cognitive and physical worlds.

So while my eventual mobility is now a mystery, it's a mystery I intend to solve.There are certain limitations I'll face. No amount of physical therapy and hard work can strengthen muscles that are no longer connected, but exactly what power connected muscles will have and what adaptations and compensatory strategies I may be able to develop are unknown at this time. I'm in it for for the long haul, though and hope to surpass whatever obstacles come my way. Several things I know for sure. I will race again. I will complete pain-free 1200K grand randonees. It's simply a matter of how long it takes and what work is needed. Enough writing, already,  I'm off to do a few exercises.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recovery update: A little more good news than bad news.

“That’s not what I had hoped to see,” are not the words you want your orthopedic surgeon to utter as she scans the x-ray taken moments earlier. Apparently, she recalls reattaching a piece of my humerus which is now unattached. So that’s the bad news. The good news is that despite serious stiffness, I seem to have more muscle strength in the area of external rotation in my left arm than I did before the surgery. She explained that this likely means that 2 if not 3 of the rotator cuff muscles remain attached. This is hopeful because this musculature is tied to the ability to raise the arm in a forward direction which was severely limited before the operation and which is critical to a variety of things, including riding an upright bike.

So my rehabilitation protocol is to undertake passive range exercises with a physical therapist three times a week along with daily home exercises until the middle of March when I go back in for a follow-up exam. I've also been granted a reprieve from sling-wearing and have returned to the ranks of suburban automobile drivers. If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's patience. All told, I wore a sling for over 100 days this year and was restricted from driving for over 14 weeks. I have to wait on my bicycle riding privileges, though. No road riding until after mid-March when we’ll see how the recovery is going. So there's no more surgery for me at this point; it's onward and upward as the next stage of recovery begins. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again (Literally)

Back on my Bianchi Imola's Brooks B-17 to be exact. While I set up my bike and trainer in my wife's dance studio several weeks ago, one thing or another has stood in my way until now. Last week I came down with a stomach bug that (like a boomerang) hit me twice before leaving, I've been working full-time again, and the gym down the street has both weight machines and stationary bikes which makes for easy one-stop rehab shopping. While I've been to the gym many times, today was the first time since the accident that I clipped in for a spin on a real bicycle.

The feeling was better than I could have anticipated. At first, I had to remove a little grass that was still embedded in my left shoe clasp along with a crushed Endurolyte tablet that somehow found it's way into my right shoe. It was also my first time in cycling shorts and these, too, felt comfortably familiar. Throwing my leg over the top tube and pedaling while looking out the window at the driveway and the road beyond connected me more directly to the sport I love and will enjoy again before long. After clipping in, I cranked an Amadou and Miriam CD and got down to business cycling through one of Dirk Friel's great 60-minute base-building workouts in Workouts in a Binder.

I meet with my surgeon one week from today and anticipate that she'll release me from my sling internment and allow me to again begin rehab on my shoulder in earnest. I have (so far) spent 91 days with my left arm in a sling this year and I am officially sick of it! Once I get the green light, I'll be back to driving, stretching, lifting and all other forms of PT. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the surgery was mostly successful but the actual range of motion I'm able to regain will be discovered through the physical therapy process. I'm eager to get started so I can get back on the road in March.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goals 2.0

I realize, less than two weeks into the new year, that there there is a fatal flaw in my plan for 2011. It's not that I'll be unable to achieve any of my stated goals individually (who knows at this point) but rather that two of them are mutually exclusive.

  • Pay back my wife for all of the sacrifices she's made and support she's provided. 
  • Participate in PBP 2011. 

It's easy for me to be pretty self-involved when it comes to riding and especially when it comes to setting goals of what I plan to achieve on the bicycle. After the accident, though, I realize that I can no longer make decisions so flippantly or unilaterally. While I have no symptoms of PTSD, I'm not sure the same is true of my wife, kids and other close family members who had to imagine all too vividly a world without me. Getting a phone call at 6:30 in the morning from a hospital two states away has a way of leaving an impression.I think it's going to take more than a year to get my team to feel good about all that goes into completing a 1200K.

Some things are a lot more important than riding 1200 kilometers on a bicycle. Even though PBP has been my dream ever since I began randonnuering in 2007, it's not going anywhere. While London-Edinburgh-London is a longer, more physically challenging and intimate event, PBP is a ride to do at least once in one's life. Perhaps it's a ride to do every four years. It is certainly a life goal of mine. It's just a goal I won't accomplish this summer.

So here's another pass at the season with more thought about the impact my riding will have on my family. 

Goals 2.0

  1. Treat everyone in my life as well as I have been treated by others this past year.
  2. Pay back my wife for all of the sacrifices she's made and support she's provided.
  3. Complete a full SR series.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Passion: Rapha jerseys and Pegoretti frames

"Passion is something that can’t be produced, can’t be invented. Real passion is something that comes from within."
~ Dario Pegoretti ~

Man, do I love a good Rapha jersey. The feeling of their signature Merino-poly blend combined with the snug fit makes for the perfect performance jersey, in my humble opinion. A jersey that's warm in cool weather and breaths in warm weather; who could ask for anything more? Lucky for me, the folks at Rapha decided to have a Winter Sale just at the moment I was deciding how to spend a little holiday cash that came my way. With the Club Jersey marked down 30% with free shipping, I couldn't afford NOT to buy it.

The pink/white/grey jersey I chose was inspired by the legendary Italian frame builder Dario Pegoretti. As you may know, Pegoretti is famous for making some of the finest steel frames in the world. Now, if there's one thing I love more than a Merino jersey, it's a custom steel bicycle frame. Just typing those words makes me giddy and light headed in anticipation of the new Indy Fab Club Racer, which will be coming my way (God willin' and the crick don't rise) this spring. Pegoretti was also the subject of this short film by Ben Ingham entitled "d'acciaio" (of steel). The film makes me love and appreciate the beauty of my friend Mike's Pegoretti frame even more. I mean, steel is real, baby.

So do yourself a favor, watch this short film, check out the Rapha Winter Sale and treat yourself to something wonderful this week.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Goals: 2011

2010 was something! The season began well, but the ending I could have lived without. On the positive side, I achieved personal best times on each of my SR series rides this year. Unfortunately, I was unable to attain the Cyclos Montagnards R60 award I was chasing when I fell and broke my humerus at mile 310 on the NJ 600K. I had successfully logged R60 times on the 200K, 300K, and 400K, but the late start after a full day's work in June's 600K was my undoing. I finished the event in 25 hours and 50 minutes, which was pretty close to my 24 hour goal, but not close enough. As a result, I achieved a CM R70 designation this year and felt that I would avenge that 600K finish during the 2011 season. The accident kept me out of the Lap of the Lake 1000K in early July but did not ruin our family vacation to Europe nor my ability to ride in the Endless Mountains 1000K in August.

Needles to say, the EM1000K did not turn out as I had hoped. 1 hour and 45 minutes into the ride, I was hit from behind by a distracted driver and suffered 24 broken bones. A six week hospital stay and four surgeries later, I am riding again (on a stationary bike) and looking forward to a full recovery and getting out onto the roads again this spring. Speed is not part of the equation for me in the coming year. I simply hope to rebuild my endurance and strength on the bike, ride with friends and complete my first PBP which I been eying for the past four years. Thanks to everyone who supported me either directly or in your thoughts this past year. Safe travels and be sure to keep the rubber side down.

Goals for 2011

  1. Treat everyone in my life as well as I have been treated by others this past year.
  2. Pay back my wife for all of the sacrifices she's made and support she's provided.
  1. Complete a full SR series.
  2. Participate in PBP 2011!