Revving the engine

This past week has been a little rough on riding. Not the actual riding being rough, but my job has been demanding more time since my boss quit and I haven’t been able to ride as much. Last week I rode 6 out of 7 days and this week I’ve only ridden 3 days so far. Not terribly far, either, and not terribly hard. I’m trying like hell to keep my speed and hard efforts until later, I want to build my base miles smartly and keep my hip flexor from flipping out and putting a stop to my riding. I really don’t want that. I am working the heck out of my core, too, so I can alleviate the strain on the hip flexor and get my normal life back.

So far, so good. I’ve done mostly little ring rides that last about 45 minutes to an hour and am getting into a good groove in what I believe to be my Zone 2 (threshold test pending, of course). Last Saturday I took my SSCX bike out on the tow path and rode for almost 2 hours. It felt great! I plan on keeping the intensity and duration at this level for the next few weeks, with some exceptions. Because, like Jack says, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Today, for example, I was able to wrap up work and then head down to Hains Point for a couple laps. The first lap I took fairly easy, with a short spin in the big ring on the back side of the road. When I made my way to the front side by the golf course parking lot for my second lap I just grooved a good pace, about 21 mph or so, with my heart rate at about 165. I planned to do this the whole lap. I got to the back stretch of the second lap and was about halfway down the back side when I started to pass a slightly older gentlemen on a road bike. Well, this Fred apparently didn’t want to be passed and sped up. I felt good, REALLY good, so I put the bike in the big ring and stomped it. My jump wasn’t great, but I motored past the guy. I hit 30 mph, and probably could have hit 32 had I done a clean jump. Yes, my motor can rev!!

After my ride, I stretched, worked my core and iced my hip flexor. Later I took a hot bath and soaked for quite a bit. I haven’t taken an anti-inflammatory, but may need to tomorrow. Right now it feels great I couldn’t be happier with what I accomplished today. I’m a long way from racing a road race, but I will get there. I know I have it in me.

I joined Strava and have quickly become addicted. Here’s a screen grab of my last ride, in graph form:

And you can track my activity here at this link: http://app.strava.com/athletes/329942

Rolling Along Again, With Purpose

Damn. It’s March. March!!! What the deuce? What happened? Where did winter go? Where did I go? Why haven’t I posted anything for two months!?!?!?

I’ve been busy with work. I’ve had setbacks with my hip. I’ve been really busy with work. I’m riding again now.

January was pretty good. The pain in my hip flexor subsided and I began riding more and more. I even picked up a set of Powertap wheels and a Garmin 500. I was getting prepared to stop meandering and start riding. Then, Feb. 2, something happened and my hip flexor tweaked. I moved some way and I felt a decent amount of pain. So I took easy. I stopped riding. I continued PT once a week but limited what I did at home. Frustrated that I couldn’t ride, I sold the Powertap wheelset. I sold my super sweet November RFSC 58s. I stared at my bike and got pretty pissed off. Do you know what it’s like to have something you absolutely love doing pulled away from you?

A couple weeks ago I went back to my doctor. We scheduled an MRI to find out what exactly is going on in my hip. Of course this means another contrast MRI, which means another giant needle jammed in my hip socket. I can assure you it’s not fun. My MRI was last week and then a couple days ago I finally got the results. My hip has healed just fine. The surgery was great, the labrum is fine, there are no issues in my hip socket. Everything has healed just fine there. The issue is my hip flexor and it’s “angry.” It’s swollen and inflamed. I need to keep up with PT and keep up with my exercises and core work at home. The important thing is my hip is structurally fine. The labrum is fine, the work done last July is fine. By working my core and building that, it will take the stress off the hip flexor. So I’m riding my bike again. The funny thing is, my hip flexor actually feels BETTER when I’m finishing my ride than before I get on the bike. I rode for an hour and a half two days ago, and for 45 minutes yesterday. I’m going to build some base for a while and as my hip flexor gets better I’ll begin to ramp up the intensity of my training. I ordered a Power2Max power meter and will be able to monitor and track the intensity of my workouts again. Training with power is the only way to go, I believe, and if you are serious about training and racing bicycles this is what you do. And I’m serious, folks, and I’m riding with purpose now. My schedule is skewed, compared to my roadie friends, but my hope is to be ready for a few cross races in the fall.

Check out what I’ve been doing on Garmin Connect here:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/157754900

Getting there

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve posted! Whoops! Things have been a little busy, so forgive my tardiness. I wrapped up shooting and editing for Red Right! You can by a copy of it here. The book came out really well, I’m thrilled to have published it. I spent the better part of three months shooting and editing cyclocross and I hope that the hard work I put into it shows. I think it does 😉

I also spent some time on the campaign trail, covering the the New Hampshire primary. That was chaos. Pure chaos. Imagine a cyclocross race, but instead of bikes you have cameras. And the course tape is ever-changing and moving. And security guards with those little earpieces and microphones are the obstacles you have to hurdle. I even saw two video guys get into a shoving match following a Ron Paul event. There’s a pic below. Like I said, it was chaos.

See the TV guy shoving another TV guy on the far right? Crazy.

Heath-wise, things are getting there (hence, the title of this blog post! Hazaah!). I had stopped going to PT all together for November and started up again in late December after my second, yes, SECOND cortisone shot. Getting the shot in my hip flexor tendon is not fun. The lovely needle has to go about 1 1/2 to 2 inches into my leg and then Dr. Ochiai injects it into the tendon. It has given me a little relief, but it’s not like it’s “oh my gosh, I feel so much better now!” It wears off quicker than you would think. I’m pretty confident that I will not be getting one of those again.

I’ve been going to PT once a week and doing their prescribed modalities, stretches and whatnot while I’m there. It does help and it is what the doctor has prescribed so I will stick with it. I have started a regime at home that includes a variety of core exercises as well as stretches. Abs of steel coming soon! I am also spending a little time on the bike each day. I can’t do a heck of a lot on the bike yet. One thing I have come to realize is that whatever skills and fitness I had in 2010 are history. Long gone. I am starting over completely. But, I am riding. I ride outside when the weather and time make it feasible, but mostly I am on the trainer. I rode with fellow Coppi-rehab rider Richard Elder last Sunday and we both couldn’t keep up with the first part of the Sunday ride that goes through Rock Creek Parkway. We tried to tell the guys ahead to just go, but they couldn’t hear. I decided to bridge the gap and tell them to go ahead, and that zapped me. It was hard as Hell! They slowed up a little but before we got to East-West Highway I had to stop and turn around. My hip flexor was hurting a bit and I was cooked. We headed back to the Java Shack and called it a day. The way back, even slightly downhill, was bugging my hip. By this point in the ride my form was terrible. I could see my right leg was stronger pedaling than my left. Not trying to make excuses, but I haven’t trained on the bike in over a year. I used to easily carry a conversation on the first part of the team ride. After 20 miles I could barely push the pedals. When I got home, I stretched quite a bit and iced it for 20 minutes. I can’t begin to explain how good ice feels to a sore hip. Surprisingly, the next day I was OK. I wasn’t in terrible pain and I wasn’t having the mobility issues I have had in the past. But, I’m not going to be trying to keep that pace again for a while.

The trick is going to be finding a balance between building base fitness and what my hip flexor can handle. The last few days I have spent 20-25 minutes on the trainer. I’m finding that 39-19 is a good gear ratio for me to start in, and I’ve been adding intervals of 30 seconds at 53-16. Yesterday I did 10 minutes at 39-19, 30 seconds at 53-16, 5 minutes at 39-19, 30 seconds at 53-16, 5 minutes at 39-19, one final 30 seconds at 53-16 and then 5 minutes at 39-19. Today I took it easy and just spun for 20 minutes in 39-19. Mind you I’m keeping my cadence at or above 90 rpm. I’ll probably keep my indoor work on the bike to 30 minutes or less for at least a couple more weeks and of course continue the core exercises. I’m confident the core work is helping to take stress off my hip flexor.

The way things are going it is doubtful I will be able to race this road season. I had high hopes. I even dreamed and wished and boasted I would be trying some TTs this year. No way is that going to happen. The strain on the hip flexor in an aero position is something I can’t handle and won’t be able to for a long time. Even when I go down to the drops on my road bike I can feel it. My racing future in 2012 all depends on how fast I can get over this tendinitis. It’s a shame because I bought an amazing set of custom-built November Bicycles RFSC 58s with Chris King R45 hubs. The wheels look amazing and roll great. Am I able to take advantage of the aero benefits of 58mm carbon wheels? Not now and probably not for a while. The wheels have about 45 miles on them and will probably sit all season. My hope now is to build up enough base and get training in time for cyclocross season this fall. After photographing it all last season I have got to race cross! Not just your run of the mill cross racing, mind you, but SINGLE SPEED cyclocross. Sure, it’ll be hard, but isn’t that what racing is supposed to be? Honestly, the fields are little smaller and I know there are guys that race it that I’m sure I can be competitive with. Wish me luck! Hopefully no one is filming…

Time to ride

It’s been 4 months since I had my surgery and I decided that yesterday was the day. The day I head outside on my bike. It was nearly 70 degree, how could I not go out on my bike? I pumped up the tires, strapped on the heart rate monitor and kit and headed out the door.

I think it was May when I last rode outside and it felt amazing to be on the road. The first thing I noticed was the front end seemed a little more twitchy than I recalled. I had replaced my 42cm aluminum bars with carbon 40cm ones and it took me a moment to get a feel for them. But geez they felt good. I headed down the hill on 14th St. toward the Iwo Jima statue and pressed on to the trail toward the Memorial Bridge. It felt just incredible to be outside, the wind in my face, and my legs moving the pedals. I made my way to Hains Point and settled into a good cadence, around 100 or so, in the little ring and just rode. I got my hear rate up for a little bit, far more than it had been in a while. I cruised around the point and noticed a little tail wind so I went up to the big ring and dropped a couple cogs on the rear and pedaled hard for 30 seconds. The burn in my legs never felt so good. Back into the 39 and and a lighter gear on the back and I cruised back toward Independence. I rested my forearms on the bars and felt a little tightness in my hip flexor so I popped back up on the hoods. It’s going to be a while before I can get too aero on the bike, that’s for sure. I kept the cadence up the whole ride, and paid particular attention to my form and my ability to ride as smooth as possible.

I did one loop around Hains Point and figured I shouldn’t over do it and decided to head home. Back over the bridge and down the trail by Arlington Cemetery, I noticed the bike felt a little sluggish. Sure, my fitness is crap, but it can’t be THAT bad, can it? I looked at the front wheel and noticed I was seeing a heck of a lot of sidewall. My tire was going flat and I had to get back up the hill on 14th street! I dropped to 39/21 and I put a little more effort than I had wanted/expected, but I made it, with no significant discomfort/pain. I spun a little around my neighborhood to cool down and that was it. I have no idea how far I rode, or what my top speed was, but for about 40 minutes I was on my bike. Outside. And it was awesome.

Anniversaries

Anniversaries are special, right? I have passed a couple of them, recently. It’s been one year that my amazing girlfriend Madeline and I have been living together. It’s been a wonderful year and I look forward to many more. I couldn’t be happier to share my life with her.

The other anniversary? It’s been one year since I first started experiencing pain in my hip. One year since this pain began and snowballed into multiple doctor visits and MRIs and X-Rays and surgery and physical therapy. I’m getting better but I still have moments of intense pain. Hopefully this new year will bring less pain, and I can get back to riding and training on my bike for the “good” kind of pain.

I photographed the Rockburn Cross race yesterday, here are a few pics and a link to a gallery is here.

Teammate Brad Evans over the barriers

Do it, do it.

It’s time to do it. The hip is feeling fine. I’m not 100% but I feel good. I will be going for a ride on my bike this week.

I end up taking a lot of pics at ‘cross races. Why? Because it’s awesome! Cyclocross embodies everything that I love about cycling: speed, intensity and camaraderie among teammates and competitors alike. Spend a day at a cyclocross race and I dare you to walk away without a smile on your face. Except when you have to leave early for work (which I had to do today). Below are a couple of my favorites from today’s race, and here are a few links to the races I photographed. They are grouped in race start times to make it easier to sort through. But I’d recommend looking through all of them anyway.

2011 Schooley Mill CX 8:30 am races

2011 Schooley Mill CX 10:00 am races

2011 Schooley Mill CX 11:00 am races

2011 Schooley Mill CX 12:00 races

Dave Kirkpatrick getting it done on his way to a 7th place finish.

Let’s get it started

Yesterday was a bell weather day for my recovery. I didn’t get great news at a doctor’s appointment and I didn’t have a good physical therapy session. I walked. I walked from my 4th floor apartment to the Rosslyn metro station, down a steep hill and up another, all while carrying my laptop and camera gear over my shoulders. I walked 3/4 of a mile in about 12 minutes carrying a full load of gear and had no issues. No strains, no pains, no problems. If I can do that, I can ride my damn bike.

Once my new wheelset from November Bicycles comes in, I think I’m going to have to take them for a spin. Time to get it started.

I had a great time shooting the Ed Sander Cyclocross race on Sunday, here are a couple of my favorites and my full take is here.

Sol Schott gets upended on the drop in.

Gus Grissom charging hard.

What’s next

As rehab’s go, mine is going slow. I’m in physical therapy once a week and all I do is basic stretching. I continue the basic stretching at home and try my best (unsuccessfully) to stay off my feet. The cortisone shot has relieved the pain in my hip flexor, for the most part. I still have some tightness in my hip flexor and if I am on my feet too long I get a little pain late in the day. The anti-inflammatories I have been prescribed don’t seem to be doing much except tearing up my stomach so I decided to try over the counter pain relievers. One thing that is helping a lot is Advil PM. After weeks of restless nights it’s nice to be able to sleep through the night, it makes the next day a lot easier. The only downside is the “medicine head” feeling when I wake up but a couple cups of coffee take care of that.

There have been a few moments where I am relatively pain-free and trust me, I’ve been enjoying that! And they seem to be happening a bit more frequently. But if I take a little too long of a stride when I walk, or I put a little too much pressure as I go up a flight of stairs, I feel a strain. I am trying to be cautious throughout the day and not overdue it. I also make sure to ice it plenty when I get home.

So, what next? I don’t know. I have an appointment with Dr. Ochiai on November 12th and we will reevaluate my rehab then. Hopefully I can resume a more robust physical therapy regime and include some spinning on the bike with it. I was hoping to be able to ride outside by now, but I will take what I can get at this point.

I’ve been a little slack on the blog, but I promise to pick up the pace. Look for regular posts on Fridays and Tuesdays.

I’m a little late with pics from DCCX, but since the past weekend was an off weekend for the MABRA Super8, I’ll indulge a little. Here are a couple of my favorites, and check out a gallery of my pics from DCCX here.

Racers reach the top of the turnaround as the sun rises.

Gus Grissom descends in the morning light.

Postponed

Somewhere, down there, someone is riding a bike. I am not. For a while.

Yesterday I had my first post-cortisone physical therapy session. I did the usual 15 minutes on the table hooked up to the electro-shock machine and then was stretched. Sounds like torture, right? The electro-shock pads are placed around my hip near the surgery scars and then I select a level of stimulation I can tolerate. It contracts the muscles in a sequence for 15 minutes. After that I am stretched by the therapist in various ways. I usually do a sequence of spinning on a bike, weight machines, and exercises, however on Monday all I did was the stretching. And it is going to be like that for a month. No bike. At all. Not even the 5 minutes a day of light spinning I was doing. No strength training, no leg lifts, no squats, nothing. Because of the tendinitis I’ve been experiencing, I am relegated to the bottom of the recovery timeline and I don’t like it.

I have no idea what my timeline for training is going to be. I was hoping to begin riding outdoors at the end of this month. Now, I don’t know. I have a follow up appointment on November 12th with my doctor and hopefully I will get a better idea of what to expect then. As of now I’m in a holding pattern. I need to rest, follow my protocols for stretching at home, and go to physical therapy once a week. I will do as I am directed by the professionals and make do. Maybe I’ll watch Cancellara’s run of dominance in the 2010 spring classics. Maybe I’ll stock up on Honey Stinger Waffles.

I’ll definitely be photographing some ‘cross races, including DCCX this Sunday. I plan to have enough pics at the end of cross season to put together a book. I’m pretty excited about this, it’s my first attempt at a photo book that wasn’t a portfolio and I couldn’t imagine a better topic.

Unrelated to cycling or my hip surgery, I photographed the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter today. While it was out to sea. Which meant I flew out on a MV-22 Osprey to get there. It was pretty awesome.

Shots, Shots, Shots!

Ok, this stinks. Despite having a brief respite from pain, it came back. With a vengeance. I’ve had setbacks with physical therapy and my return to biking outside has been postponed. All I have is the fading memory of what it felt like to be relatively pain-free for 3 glorious, yet too-quick, days.

I developed tendinitis in my hip flexor while recovering and rehabilitating from surgery. According to my doctor, the hip flexor gets irritated from him messing around in my hip capsule. So it’s a little sensitive when you are coming off crutches and attempting to return to normal. He said if I was a couch potato before, it wouldn’t get irritated because I’d probably still be a couch potato after the surgery. No stress on it and there’s no problem. For someone like me, a photographer that runs all over Capitol Hill and a competitive cyclist, things are a little different. I’m on my feet all day long. I have to crouch, kneel, squat, bend and scrum to get pictures. I have to do what I have to do to get the shots I need. It’s the nature of the business and I love it. Except when I’m in pain.

Over the past week and a half the pain and tendinitis have gotten worse. It’s hard to describe, but imagine a constant dull pain that has moments of intense burning and soreness. And it hurts no matter where you move or how you position yourself. I’ve had a few sleepless nights. I had an appointment with Dr. Ochiai on Tuesday and explained what was going on. We figured the next course of action is a cortisone shot directly into the tendon. Oh fun. Dr. Ochiai commented, “hip flexor tendinitis is the bane of my existence.” I said, “yeah, mine, too.”

I am not fond of getting shots. Especially ones that require it to be placed in a spot so precise that the doctor has to use a live X-ray to find it. I’m also not fond of constant pain that doesn’t seem to get any better, which is why I had the surgery in the first place. Getting this shot is a small price to pay, in my book.

Madeline and I arrived at my doctor’s office and two other people were there to get x-ray guided shots, too. I let them go ahead of me, not so much out of kindness, but so they couldn’t hear me screaming like a 5-year-old. When it was my turn I changed into my skivvies and a gown and went into the room where Dr. Ochiai, a med student and the x-ray tech were waiting. Dr. Ochiai checked my hip flexor and called his med student over. “Feel that? It’s spasming right now.” Great, doc, glad I could treat you to a spasm. A quick x-ray confirmed where the inflamed tendon was located. He sprayed a coolant on my leg to help numb the area and began the injection. I felt the injection go in and it felt like it kept going and going. I winced a couple times and Dr. Ochiai apologized. “It’s ok, trust me,” I said. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable but I totally understand it has to be done. Before I knew it, it was over and I was on my way. As I left, I noticed my leg was numb. Really numb. The cortisone wouldn’t kick in for a couple days so I wasn’t sure what was going on. After my leg buckled coming out of coffee shop on the way to work I decided to call my doctor’s office. It ended up being a local anesthetic that had leaked a little on a nerve. If it didn’t wear off after a couple hours it was an issue, but sure enough, it wore off by the afternoon.

Monday I go back to physical therapy and will continue with that just one day a week instead of two. I will be working on stretches and my range of motion until the hip flexor calms down. Then hopefully I can get back on track. Right now my hip aches but the hip flexor isn’t burning like it had been, so I’m hoping the cortisone has kicked in. I’m very anxious to get back on my bike and back to training for next season.

I mentioned in my last post I would detail what I want to do for next season. I’ll save that for another post and leave you entertained by this: