Sunday, March 13, 2011

"You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience." Stanislaw Lec

Rapha Continental | D2R2 from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Patience has always been one of my strengths as a cyclist. It's what helped me become a successful randonneur. I'm not alone, of course; focusing on long-term goals and building towards long distance brevets over time is what sets randonneurs apart from other cyclists. The irony is that I'm also a fairly impatient person, intent on enduring adversity and pushing through specific obstacles to achieve my goals. Paradoxically, this too has made me a successful randonneur. Recovering from a major accident over the past six months, though, has taught me a level of patience I've never before experienced.

Anyone who's suffered serious crash-related trauma will tell you that bones heal much quicker than muscles and soft tissue. Since my bones were pretty well healed six weeks after the crash, I naively thought I'd be training hard indoors this winter and riding early spring brevets without too much difficulty. I didn't know how long it would take my muscles and soft tissue to return to normal. My body was bent in all kinds of unnatural ways and the tears and damage my muscles sustained has been taking some serious time to repair. It's slow going and there's really no way to speed up the process. Since I have to exercise and stretch 3-5 times a day on top of  a very full time job and family responsibilities, I have virtually no time (or energy!) to train hard on my bike indoors. I've yet to ride more than 1 hour at a time and fitting in even 2-3 sessions a week has been beyond my grasp. Healing also requires more rest than I'm used to and the chance to lie in bed with a book on Sunday monrning is hard to pass up.

Over the past several years, having a big seasonal goal to work towards has really helped to shape my training and keep me motivated in the off season. I began my recovery thinking I would ride PBP this August as originally planned. After realizing the folly in this plan, I down-shifted to a simple SR series as a comeback strategy. Now, due to event timing and perhaps a greater level of realism, I'm looking at simply riding a few short brevets this season and none of them until I've had a few months on the bike on the open roads to build my endurance, balance and confidence. Now to non-randonneurs, this probably seems perfectly reasonable. My family sure is pleased.

I hesitate to even formalize these thoughts about the year ahead as "goals." The ground is still shifting too much and I don't even have clearance yet to ride my bike outdoors. I meet with my surgeon on March 21 and will have a much better picture of my recovery progress and needs at that time. Specifically, I need to discuss long-term muscle repair and possible risks involved with riding on the open roads. Rebuilding slowly from the ground up makes much more sense to me now rather than simply rushing and pushing things too fast. The risks are too great.

So my first "event" of the year is now the Five Boro Bike Tour with my son on May 1. I hope to then build to a 200K brevet in late June. I also plan to sprinkle a few 200Ks throughout the summer and cap off the season with Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2) in late August. I've wanted to ride D2R2 for a number of years but it just hasn't fit into my schedule. Who knows, this may also be the year to tackle the R-12 award, earned by randonneurs who ride at least one 200K each month for 12 months.

I realize now that I'll need a longer period of time to grow back into being an endurance cyclist than I first expected. It will likely take over a year to get back into the kind of shape I need to be in to complete an SR series and a 1200K grand randonee. Now that I'm pretty confident that I'll ride long distances pain-free again, the wait won't be so hard.

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