27 Jul 2016

Sidelined


I'm pretty sure that the last post I wrote was a whole pile of moaning about how I've not been comfortable riding the bike.

Little did I realise how much more that was to become.

I never thought I'd be an athlete, doing those things that athletes do, like stretching, and eating exercise food, drinking protein powder - and I certainly never thought I'd be seeing a sports doctor to get steroid injections to address physical injuries arising from the stress of what I've been putting myself through.

Around 300 days ago (not that I'm counting) I had a... mishap.

I was commuting home, just got back on the bike after moving house (and a bunch of kms further away from work), and was in the process of indicating to cross the highway to take the turn off to my suburb - because in New Zealand we put street lights along our motorways rather than these fancy 'interchange' things that are only just starting to catch on.

I'm not sure exactly what happened after that - I had my arm out and checked behind me to see if there was any traffic coming, then I hit the ground. I don't know if it was a catseye, or a slippery white line - perhaps I just lost my balance, or maybe one of these things happened and my arm couldn't take the strain of only having one hand on the bars...

Whatever did happen I hit the ground with my left elbow at around 40km/h.

I felt like I'd been dropped on my head - having actually been dropped on my head once I can testify that it was a very similar feeling. I kinda blanked out, and then came to in absolute terror as I realised I was laying in the middle of the motorway, which I will be eternally thankful was void of traffic.

The initially obvious mess was all the superficial stuff - the expected stuff like torn sleeves on my long cycling shirt, gravel firmly embedded in the bloody mess that was my elbow and knee, and the less expected like the holes in the top of my gloves (imagine you are holding a cup - the area on the base of your thumb which is facing towards the ceiling) and the scuffs on the face-plates for my shifters. Apparently I'd forgotten to let go of the bars when I fell off.

But it appeared that I was ok, and I was mostly concerned about the bike - had I cracked the frame on my new carbon steed? Would I ever live it down if I had, let alone be able to replace it? What ammunition had I handed my esteemed workmates for their humourous scathing comments?

I rode the last couple of kms home with a sore arm, a bit of a dripping bloody mess, left arm refusing to function correctly, and made the painful grind up my, thankfully short, 10+% driveway. I reported my injuries to my beloved, and based on my current position amongst the living and considerable inability to remember exactly what happened I'm guessing the berating and flogging weren't fatal.

It was sure sore (the injury, not the marital justice), but it wasn't Emergency Room urgent - it just seemed to be a good old dose of road rash and a mild case of bruised pride. I took a concrete pill along with a handful of anti-inflammatories, cleaned up, and got some rest.

The next few days were train days as I couldn't move my left shoulder properly. I saw my physio the next day and it was assessed that I'd done some pretty good damage, but not broken anything... I was under the assumption that it would go away, and a few weeks later it seemed to settle itself down and I was away laughing.

Or so I thought.

A few months later I decided to do Taupo, and started riding more intensely. Instead of riding to town and back I was putting in long efforts and hill climbs, sprints and max efforts here and there... pretty much doubling the amount of riding I'd been doing. I started to notice that my shoulder would complain after the long weeks, and then occasionally - usually when I had to put in quick reactions to keep balance on the bike, like correcting for a bump in the road - I would get huge pains.

This continued for a few weeks as winter started, until one week I had a few separate incidents in the work car-park, which is notoriously slippery-when-wet, where I was left with pain in my shoulder for the rest of the day, so I figured it was time to get some more physio.

I got a new physio at the recommendation of The Engineer, and started on those rubber band exercises, the light weight lifting, and as the weeks went by I noticed an increase in strength, and a constant increase in pain levels, until two weeks ago when I got to the point where I simply couldn't ride.

And I've been off the bike for two weeks.

I guess should have been more diligent when I had the original accident - something that I now know and won't let pass me by again.

I got a referral from Mr Physio for x-ray and ultrasound and and appointment to see the Sports Doc, whom I saw today.

After a thorough examination and consultation of the pictures he and confirmed what we thought - that I'd torn a tendon, and my bursar was inflamed due to the darn thing rubbing against it - likely in part having been aggravated by the strengthening exercises that I've started doing.

The theory is that when I planted my elbow into the road at 40kmh that my shoulder got shocked upwards upwards, my bursa got a massive bash, and my subscapularis tendon tore near the rotator-cuff while taking the strain of the impact. The tear is currently around 6mm long - and that's after 9 months of theoretical healing.

The remedy for this is more physio and an injection of cortisone as an anti-inflamatory to get the bursar to settle the heck down. I half expected the cortisone injection.

What I didn't expect was to get it while I was getting the consult done.

I hate needles at the best of times, and when Sports Doc bought out the needles I almost fainted. I started rambling like a crazed idiot and sweating like I was in a sauna. I did do Sports Doc the decency of explaining that this is how I, apparently, deal with panic and unexpected injections, and our combined laughing at my antics helped calm me so he could stick me with the darn thing. Thankfully he numbed the site with anesthetic as well so I didn't really feel anything as he did his thing, which seemed to take a long time, and then it turned out he was still waiting for me to stop rambling so he could stick me without being distracted.

And there was no topical anesthetic.

Ouch.

10 days off the bike then I should be good to go, and in 4 weeks I get another examination to determine if the steroids actually did what they were supposed to do.

Now it's one thing to have all this happening, but at the same time I've spent the last two weeks not riding, and when  you're doing upwards of 15 hours a week on the bike suddenly dropping to 0 hours has a surprisingly profound effect on your mood.

I'm still eating like I burn 4000 calories a day and I can actually see my stomach getting fatter. I've gone through mild depressive states bordering on deeper-than-mild, been irritable, slept really badly, and - of all things - started drinking coffee. I think the coffee gives me the adrenaline boost that I'm missing... or I hate myself, it's hard to tell. I've even considered taking up running - that's how desperate things are becoming.

The timeline for Taupo was also looking pretty shocking for a while there - originally it was looking like 6 weeks to see the sports doc, and after that another week to see the local outpatients for the injection - then 10 days on top of that, and rehabilitation on top of that... I was starting to get worried that I wouldn't be doing Taupo at all.

It also wasn't going to be helping matters that I have another bike fit this weekend to try to sort out problems I've been having with pain in my leg. There was one small point where I was almost... almost tempted, to throw the bike out the window and take up restoring antique siege weapons.

But all is not lost, and I've learnt two valuable things;

Don't wait on injuries, and don't give up on them either.
~~ ~~

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