This weekend saw some awesome racing in New Hampshire and lots of fun with teammates. The race report will be here later this week. Till then, my friend Doug is a fellow Fattie and avid mountain bike racer who’s getting ready for some tough races this year and sent me this post. After dealing with my own knee issues this year, I can relate to his tips on how to train while injured, so here they are!
Almost two years ago I made a decision that has influenced my life since. I decided that I was going to buy a mountain bike and race the Leadville Trail 100. The why’s for that are really many the best place to find out is to start here: A Quick Introduction. I managed to get a spot in the race through the Wilmington Whiteface Qualifier last summer and decided to defer my race till this summer. So on August 10 I will bike the hardest ride I have ever taken.
I decided that I wanted to train for this race in a purposeful way. I read Joe Friel’s book The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible. Then realizing I knew enough to be dangerous but not enough to be useful, I hired a coach, Drew Edsall. I’ve been training with Drew since October.
Training has been going well. The weather and roads were a little slow to clear up, but I started to get outside for longer rides in March. My first race of the season was the Tour of the Battenkill in April. It was a low priority race that I was doing just for the sake of a fast training ride. Somewhere during that race my right knee started hurting. But since “everyone hurts” during a race I didn’t think much of it and pushed on. The next day I was still sore and my recovery ride was painful. The pain continued and finally I had to admit something was wrong.
It was time to learn something new: How to train while recovering from an injury.
Here is the set-up. I was going to race the Wilmington Whiteface Qualifier (June 16) again this year. Drew and I were aiming to peak for that race and use it as a tune up and yard stick. Then a second build to Leadville (August 10). The week after Battenkill I was supposed to really start building seriously. I was amped and had been ready to get going for real. But I could barely bike an hour. I could hear the clock ticking in my mind. The universe was using this as a teachable moment. It was time for a lesson. It was time to learn how to train injured. At some point everyone who is training or competing is going to have this moment. Here are the things I learned:
- Be patient. The extent of the injury will dictate how long it takes for it to get better. It’s going to take as long as it will take. (BTW. As you get older this takes longer. Bummer, but that’s reality.) You might hear that clock ticking, but rushing and pushing creates a situation where you can stay injured or injure yourself worse. This one was really really hard for me. I’m a doer and resting is really really hard (especially when that darn clock is ticking).
- Stay positive. I was communicating with my coach through this all. One of the things I talked with him about was my frustration. Drew told me to stay positive and control what I could control (which was rehab so I could get to training, not training). That struck a chord with me. One of the challenges at Leadville is the altitude (its run between 10,000 and 12,600 ft). Many people have asked how I will prep for the altitude. My stock answer is I am controlling what I can control. I can’t do anything about the altitude all I can do is be as strong as I can be. So during the injury what I could do was what the PT was asking me to do. That’s it. My head got better when I made the conscious decision to give up the Whiteface race if I needed to.
- Listen to your doctors but don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to search out the help you need. That’s pretty general to anything when you are dealing with a medical problem. For me this was the key. I was pretty sure my knee wasn’t a structural problem. The PT was helping but not making things go away completely. So I decided to try a chiropractor. That turned out to really important and led to me discovering the root problem AND fixing it.
- Communicate with your coach. If you are working with someone make sure you communicate with them. Your training is going to be affected. Pushing on without modification risks longer term injury.
- Trust your body. I have often heard professional athletes talk about needing to learn to trust that they are healthy and they can go back at full strength. When you are better, ease into it. Then at some point you need to trust it. I have LOTS of biking to do before Leadville. I cannot be focused on the injury. Its a distraction.
In the end I figured out what my problem was and fixed it. I lost two weeks of training but am back on track. My knee feels great. Drew made a schedule that was a little easier than it would have been. We talked about the schedule (communicated) and I said I felt like my knee was good to go (trusting it!) and we agreed it was OK to go harder.
I am on track for Leadville…and I will be strong (even though we are not on the original plan) at Whiteface. In the end I think this little detour was a good thing.
30 Days to Whiteface….
Doug started biking 7 years ago when he became a professor at Clarkson University. Two years ago, never having ridden a mountain bike, or been in any kind of race, Doug declared he would race the Leadville Traill 100. His wife says its a midlife crisis. who knows she might be right.
Visit his site here: A Year of Living…humm…dangerous?