I'm holding my head a little higher lately, taking some things into control. Creating music. New fervor at work. A return to school. Push-ups.
I'm fighting back.
Being injured makes you feel old. Headed back to July 7th, kick-boxing - my cross-training program came to a bitter halt when I side-kicked the 150lb. heavy-bag incorrectly, landing my left foot's big toenail firmly into the leather seaming on the bag. The bag won. They always say, make sure the seam is at the front... I knew this, but the bag had rotated, and I wasn't paying attention. I didn't hold back, landing a hit that immediately sent feedback to my brain that something bad had happened. Thankfully, I was jacked up on adrenaline and endorphines enough to push my toenail back down into position and tape it in place quickly enough that the nail-bed didn't start to heal over. So, the nail was saved and has since grown back to full recovery - but, my ankle. Maybe I don't give myself proper leg-strength credit, but I imagine that kicking the bag hard enough to cleanly separate the big toenail 3/4s of the way off might also have twisted something. Ever since that night, the back of my ankle - specifically the Achilles tendon - has hurt, a lot. Daily.
Initially, I thought it was plantar fasciitis - but, either that part healed, or I was wrong. The Achilles tendons right near the base of the heel have been a struggle, however, for the last eleven weeks. Regular routines of stretching and massage have helped, but it's been frustrating. Each morning, after a full night of immobility, that first weight-bearing movement getting out of bed literally seems to re-tear them, every morning. Although, over time, over the last three weeks, it has gotten better. My weakening Shimano sandals had begun to offer less and less support, and finally the fore-strap failed on - you guessed it - the left foot. I was sad to see them go, super-comfortable in the early days and simply perfect for commuting and utilitarian in the last couple years, I don't think they were doing the ankle any good when they started to fall apart. Having since switched to my "weekend shoes" full time has helped things along.
As a last-straw, it seemed that any compensation I was doing to save the ankle began to translate to my calf becoming very, very tight while riding. Initially nervous that it was my IT-band, I ended up being wrong on that count as well - thankfully. Still, it makes me nervous, the tightness being so close to the knee. I think things are progressing, finally; continued massage and stretching have begun to loosen things again. The weird thing is, it's like I'm 2nd-guessing everything: the bike fit, the way I pedal, the way I do or don't point my toes during the pedal stroke - seriously, overthinking things I haven't thought about at all in a while.
The bike fit? Okay, that's dumb -- enough time and mileage has passed, and the injury didn't occur while riding. It never hurts while riding, even when sprinting or hammering a climb... or slow, totally wrong-geared mashing out a climb. No issues. So, that's not it. Don't touch anything.
The pedal stroke? Overthinking. Just pedal. Easier said than done... when the calf tightens up, it makes me naturally want to alter this detail or that - for better or worse. The best medicine: don't compensate for it - just pedal. Trying to keep that in mind.
The whole thing, however, solidifies my R-12 bail-out decision of a few weeks back. I completed the July 24th permanent on the Border Patrol route, and really didn't have any complains in the ankle department, though I was very mindful of it. Recovery afterwards was the same as it ever was. There is a good chance, however, that whatever subconscious compensation I've been doing to keep the ankle out of risk, it's migrated to my calf - perhaps. Or, perhaps as the ankle heals it simply can't bear the strain - thereby transferring tension to the other end of the muscle, where it meets the knee area. Still, it's been limited to muscle tension, not tendon pain. I need to make sure it stays that way. Maybe it was partly subconscious, but the injury didn't affect the July 200K, so I don't see where it would have affected the now-we'll-never-know August or September rides... but, I'm certain it wouldn't have HELPED. Stress, planning, and just flat running out of time killed the R-12... but it's probably better, for my ankle's sake, that I made that decision before it was stubbornly made for me. It'll be out there, I'll be back.
I've gone easy on the ibuprofen, barely touching the stuff - and only taking mild doses before bedtime. I do need to reinvest in some of Hammer Nutrition's Tissue Rejuvenator supplement, but financially it's been out of reach lately. Just being careful, and trying to be my own best sports-masseuse have paid off so far... just a few more weeks, I really hope just a few more weeks. So, to avoid "burn-out" since I'm still car-free these days, I've adopted a plan of riding "soft". Which immediately makes me feel like i'm giving up. It's hard to get past... but, geared lower, and riding slow. Painfully, guilt-producingly, slow... for at least a month. I need to perform consecutive rides that do NOT produce the calf tension that I've felt at some point near the end of every commute, and nearly every recreational ride I've ridden since late August. This stuff simply HAS to heal. It HAS to. Mentally, spiritually, I just don't know if I can let go of the bike quite yet. As might be apparent here, I've clearly not sought a doctor's professional advice on the subject because I'm afraid of those dreaded five words: "no riding for _____ months".
"Well, I don't have a car, doc"... and even if I did it quickly becomes a matter of "don't tell me what I can't do." Yes, perhaps that attitude will someday put me in a hand-cycle, or a wheelchair. I just remember those long months off the bike back in 2006 after the Tejas 500 attempt... caused by, yes, ankle pain. It seems that my Achilles Heel is literally my Achilles heel. To be clear, though, the pain I've been experiencing these last eleven weeks is NOT the same pain, nor is it in exactly the same location, as the pain from Tejas '06. But, it crossed my mind more than a few times - I've been very mindful. Could it be over-use? Hard to tell - but really, it's just not the same circumstances at all. I just know that as I age this is going to be the thing to care for and watch.
It's completely silly, I know ... but the first time, in 2006, when my ankle grounded me I have little doubt that it was somehow for a reason, and that reason was keeping me close to home when my Dad's health was failing. I don't look at that injury as frustrating and I don't care that I didn't finish that race, or that I lost ride time... I look at it from the perspective that if I had been out in the country on a bike somewhere when that last phone call came in, if I hadn't been able to get there that last time, I never would have forgiven myself. That injury gave me the best last month with my father I ever could have hoped for, and the weird thing is that I can't remember the pain *I* was feeling at the time... but I do remember his. I can't help but wonder if this injury is trying to tell me something, too. I've been listening. Maybe I'm just sad that he's not here. That's okay, too. I do miss him. There; I said it.
I've been surviving, enduring, I've been on a randonnee of life. It's all relative, it could be worse - of course. And I say that because I know there ARE people going through FAR worse that I will ever have to endure... but, darn it, I'm tired. I'm frustrated. Sometimes I feel lost. We all go through these things. It shows. It's been a roller-coaster since June of 2007. I've never worked so hard, I've never struggled like this mentally, spiritually, financially.... and it shows. I used to write ride reports with such VIGOR and LIFE... man, even about the shortest commutes. I used to inspire people to ride, and I'm not so sure that's still the case. I used to pour over maps and plan and plan, I used to race, I used to drive cross-country to do rides, and I used to attend all the local haunts and pub rides and such. Good times.... good friends. The best.
I've been gaining the proper perspective lately, though, trying my best not to become isolated - talking about things, listening to friends.
I have no doubt that I'm making things harder on myself than they really are.
Perhaps I set my personal standard too high... frustratingly out of reach for the only one really keeping score... me.
Why did I start this blog?
Why do I organize rides? Why DON'T I anymore??
Why DO I ride so far, so long with no real destination, so fast when no-one is chasing me?
This post took on a weird tone, I know ... no need to worry.
This is kind of therapeutic in a way, just typing out randomness like this... not sure what any of it means, or where it's going.
I'm not even sure if anything in these last few paragraphs has been bicycle related... but, hey. I'm paid up.
Does any of it make sense? Probably not.
I'll read this in a few years, and probably wonder what I was drinking.
To be clear, I haven't been.
So, let's stop this dribble and get back to healing.
Life, slowly, surely, is getting better all the time.
It is, after all, up to me.. and it's also up to me to let certain things go, like the negative stuff.
I can't control everything. That's okay.
Thanks for reading.... as always.
I'm sure we'll return to normal programming eventually.
I'm not going to put any additional pressure on myself, but I am looking towards 2012 for a return to more active participation in some of the things I used to love.
I look to be ready for big changes, in my professional and personal life.
There is a massive list of things I've not been able to do over the last 4 years, and one-at-a-time, I'll check them off.
Thanks, if you're still out there, for reading -- it's appreciated!