Friday, October 30, 2009

Hill Repeats

Kevin and I at the top of Pennsylvania Hill

A big thanks to my real-time and BlogSpot friend Lourdes for inviting along on what was likely the last of her hill repeat rides Wednesday night. I was running a little late on laundry (hey, sometimes life calls :D) so took a shortcut to the start, but got there early and decided to ride back towards the rest of the group rather than sit and wait.

Me, Lourdes and Kevin, taking a break to catch our breath moments before her scary fall

I met Kevin and Chris about half way in their direction, turned around and rode to the base of the Pennsylvania hill with them. The rest of the group was not far behind. It was really nice seeing my buds and budettes again. I did have one little twitch in my calf getting there, where the muscle fiber seemed to tear loose from the collagen "scaffolding", kind of a sick feeling, but getting used to it now. No harm, no foul. It seems to be part of the healing process.

I did the first 3 hill repeats without a break, catching and passing the early group with the tight rotation, and getting my HR up there steadily as the extra effort and minimal recovery time kicked in. I took a long break before heading up for repeat #4 to catch my breath, and found it hard to stay in the saddle at the short 15% grade section. My calf felt weak standing too, but I could tell my cardio wasn't up to par and that seemed to be a bigger limitation than my calf.

We headed up the hill on what was #5 for me, regrouped at the top, and took some pictures. (I had brought my camera and then forgot all about it, so thanks to Lourdes and Fred for the pics) before heading back down in a loose group.

I got through all the gears, shifting from low gears to high, slowed for the small cross street, and looked around the curve for other riders. Intending to pass a couple of riders (I go downhills like a rocket sled) I was about abreast of them when I looked up and saw two drivers stopped, talking to each other, blocking the entire road - except for the 4 ft or so between.

I didn't know exactly where my riding partners were at that instant, but was pretty sure slamming on the brakes would have them piling into me, so I hit the brakes as hard as I could, pushed my weight back, and squirted between the two parked cars.

I heard a scream and then a bike crash into the road, and as I feared, my friend Lourdes had crashed hard. We were almost abreast when I'd first spotted the cars, and assumed she had realized a split second too late that going down a 8-10% grade there wasn't enough room to stop. As I turned around and came back up the hill I was relieved to see her sitting up, conscious and apparently, lucid.

She seems to have locked her front wheel and high-sided right over the handlebars. I think she was really lucky, but happily so. A steep downslope can often blunt the effects of such a fall as the road drops away from under the rider. In any case, one of the new riders, Andy, and I did some wrenching on Lourdes bike while Kevin and Sharel took care of her. We rode gingerly to the bottom of the hill, regrouped with the rest of the riders, and headed home.

Lourdes immediately started to complain of shoulder pain, and that was worrisome, but after a thorough exam from her chiropractor this morning she reported only bruising and road rash. Whew... that was a close one, and more than a bit scary.

I wanted to hammer a bit on the ride home, and soon found myself well ahead of the pack, with Andy on my wheel or next to me. We had a nice chat and I found out he's almost my neighbor. We waited up for the rest of the group at William Pond Pk, said our good-byes and then rode home together - except for the last few blocks. About 22 miles and 2,000 ft on the Garmin.

We've had a rash of crashes now in the last 2 weeks, and it reminded me that statistically you are about 15X as likely to have an accident after daylight savings time ends than after it begins. I'm going riding again tomorrow, a nice slow 31 miler with many of the same riders, and will remind myself to slow down on the hills a little. Mostly though, it was nice to be able to ride with my friends and not have to beg off or quit early. Having just gotten through a long rehab, I am not wanting to repeat the experience anytime soon.

It's so pretty out there with the fall foliage and crisp air, I want to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Torn From My Sport

Playing beach volleyball on a poorly maintained sand court, which was not rototilled properly, I tore my calf muscle digging for a ball last month. About 2-3 inches under the surface of the sand the soft sand gave way to something as hard as concrete. I also broke both toe nails on my big toes jamming them into this hard-packed sand. When digging my foot initially gave way in the soft sand as expected, and then suddenly hit the hard unyielding "concrete" below.

I heard a loud *pop* and felt the muscle give way catastrophically. It seems all of the tension/strain sensors in the muscle realize at the same time something is terribly wrong, and every muscle fiber in the entire calf relaxes instantly. After waiting for the pain spike to subside I hobbled off the court with my arm around a friend's back, got in my car and went home.

Once home I immediately took 6 200mg Advil tables, took a shower to get the sand and sweat off of me, then laid down on the couch, elevated the leg and iced it with frozen peas. After about 6 hours I found my ACE bandage so I could add Compression to the R.I.C.E protocol. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Before going to sleep I took 3 more Advil and two Aleve tablets so I would have something to suppress the swelling all night long. Based on many years of experience with my bad back, taking 6-8 Advil (ibuprofen) ASAP is critical - more so than ice or compression. For my back injuries the rehab time is cut from 3-4 weeks to 3-4 days.

After 3 days the blood from the torn calf begins to reach the surface of the skin and turn it red.

As you can see, at about 40 hours it was swollen to twice it's normal size, in spite of Advil, and R.I.C.E

The blood from the tear continues to migrate to the surface of the skin, and after 5 days it was fully bruised. It looked like this, more or less, for 4-5 days. In the mornings my urine would be very dark from removing the waste products at night when getting full rest. You can see the ACE bandage affects the blood's migration path.

After 14 days the tear had stopped bleeding and most of it had been absorbed by the surrounding tissues leaving it with a definite yellow hue but just a few remaining red splotches.

At about 20 days there was just a small amount of bruising along the Achilles tendon and just below the ankle joint on the anterior side.

At about 4 weeks there was no discoloration left of any kind anywhere, though when folding my leg under me the calf still feels swollen, with a definite ridge in the muscle running across the tear zone. I hope this is mostly scar tissue that will eventually disappear.

Based on the research I found taking a Google safari, my calf tear was a most severe Level-III, but a bit on the mild side of that. The expected time to rehab a Level-III is 2-3 months, and I went riding tonight after just over 5 weeks, so I think I did a pretty good job managing this wound. I only had one small re-injury pushing off taking a giant step up over some mud to get out of the way of a car, but otherwise have been able to avoid any re-injury to date.

I will say the fatigue was staggering the first 2-3 weeks. In fact, the first 2 weeks I was sleeping 12-18 hours a day. I also drank a lot of Welch's red grape juice for the vitamin C, a lot of Florida's Best OJ with calcium, ate a lot of Dannon yogurt, and almost 5 lbs of almonds. I'm still not sure what's in the almonds, but a lot of magnesium for sure. I was also taking a calcium, magnesium, zink supplement several times a day. Protein was unexpectedly something I didn't crave, although I ate a dozen or so eggs and drank a lot of milk just to be sure. Looking back, I think it was minerals more than anything my body was craving.

Initially the torn muscle fiber is replaced by collagen, which uses a lot of vitamin C. This holds the wound together more or less until the healing process is complete. At the point where the muscle started to reincorporate, I had the weirdest sensations like someone was loop-stitching each muscle fiber together, cinching the two ends back together one by one until the muscle was reattached to itself. (muscle fibers are very long and run the entire length of the muscle) I would wake up in the morning and have this tweaky sensation until I got up and started walking on it. Rest seemed to invoke this healing process, and use stop it, so I tried to rest it.

I went riding tonight and had trouble retraining my leg to fully extend after limping for 5 weeks. When my foot got near the bottom of the pedal stroke my calf and leg would start to pop back up to avoid rolling forward past the balls of my feet onto my toes. This isn't possible on a bicycle, as you can't put pressure forward of the balls of your feet where they rest on the pedals.

Within a couple of miles though I shifted into a higher gear and mashed a little on a hill to keep the leg from "kicking back". That strategy worked quite well. I MAY also have solved a persistent problem with my right knee sticking out as my foot now seems to want to point in, instead of out. That would be a very welcome change!

Best of all, my speed didn't suffer much at all. I completed the short 14 mile route within 2 minutes of my average time. Obviously I was hammering pretty hard by the time I got on the back half of the ride. I'm a lot more tired than I should be, but all in all, I don't seem to have lost much leg strength. I will need some time to get my cardio back and get toughened up again for long rides, but that will just mean good rest after riding and pushing myself to get out of the door and get some miles in.

I'm back! :D

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beauty - A Man's' Perspective

I was making coffee, heard the front gate clang shut and listened as the lightest of footsteps glided up the stairs I share with my next door neighbor. He's a wanna-B rock star, and actually has some prospects. (the band is called "Bidwell") When others go up the stairs, it's with heavy "clump, clump, clumps", so I was intrigued who this might be.

Moments later the same light footsteps slipped down the stairs and I watched as a beautiful, fit woman in gym clothes slipped through the gate, into her car, and drove away. Her every movement was a symphony of motion. A true thing of beauty and grace. I believe she had a pretty face, but I can't say for sure. I was transfixed by the grace of her whole body, the way she moved, a confident vitality she possessed that seemed barely tamed. A woman for a man in his prime, able to be his companion, his equal in every way. Able to bear up under life's struggles, bear children, and be a supportive wife, mother, daughter.

Finished with making my morning cup of Vienna Roast, I opened my laptop to catch up with the day. A little good stock news had me in a good mood when I spied still another brewing story about the fashion industry.

I had the most intense emotional reaction reading this story, and thinking about it, I remembered why. I used to date a woman who was anorexic, and while I learned a lot about women's body image issues, it was a frustrating, and ultimately, heartbreaking experience.

You choose. Which is the more attractive woman?

I had met this woman at work, a temp filling in for a neighboring department's vacationing secretary. She was always very well dressed, and seemed always to be at the drinking fountain or copy machine when I was. (she admitted later she was kind of stalking me in this regard) She then showed up at the apartment gym where I worked out and I found myself inviting her to lunch.

One thing led to another, as I was newly divorced /=) and on the prowl. One night, after a wonderful night out on the town I lit a fire, cracked open a bottle of wine and took her on a soft, thick rug on the bedroom floor. I tried to ignore how gaunt she looked, even in the flickering firelight, and the sharp and bony feel of her body under me. I began to have the oddest sense that I might actually snap her spine in half if I weren't careful, so I was gentle with her until the very end.

Rolling her over on top of me (like a feather as it were) I was shocked at the complete absence of anything resembling a belly. Her ribs were like a rack her skin clung to like a limp rag. Her waist narrowed gauntly just above her protruding hip bones, and, perhaps due somewhat to my intoxication, I suddenly had the disgusting impression I was making love to an alien. I was reviled, and excused myself to use the bathroom.

When I returned she was rubbing her spine, her hand stained with blood. I had rubbed her skin raw between her lower back and the very thick "bearskin" rug. I was horrified. How was that possible when I had been so gentle with her? Applying some Neosporin I resolved to break up with her. The thought of being with her again became more and more repugnant over the next few days, and I ended it with her shortly after that.

The tragedy was we were pretty good together, but I knew her problem well by then, and knew she had fought the anorexic battle for many years, and loving me was not motivation enough to become what she subjectively saw as fat. This is one of the more insidious aspects of anorexia, that it changes your view of what "normal" is. Strangely, it did not affect her impression of men's bodies, as I was 5'9" and 165 lbs at the time. (I won an amateur body building contest around this time IIRC)

My goal in writing this post is to go beyond the timid admonishments of the popular media in saying that super-skinny models are not normal and are not healthy. I want to use the 'U" word, and say loud and clear that anorexia is UGLY.

Anorexia will destroy many relationships, your health, and your happiness. By contrast, health and vitality are always attractive and beautiful, in both men and women, and provide the foundation for emotional and physical stability through the many ups and downs life hands us all on our journeys. Anyone who is healthy is instantly more attractive, and this has always been so.

PS: It appears the light-footed beauty that glides up stairs is Brianna Bowie, an Olympic level gymnast winning several Canadian titles before turning to dance and jazz vocals.