Friday, August 26, 2011

Keeping on Keeping on

When on the injured list maintaining a positive mindset is not surprisingly very very important. Although I have not had a lot of practice being slightly inhibited by injury, I am certainly embracing it if that is possible and doing all I can to not only keep pushing forward and finding ways to improve but also learn as much as I can from the whole experience. The broken rib has certainly been the most inhibiting injury or setback I have had in terms of the number of activities I am unable to do but fortunately basically the only thing I can do is ride the stationary bike. Immediately when I heard my fate from the doctor I processed the information for probably less than a millisecond before shooting back the question of what can I do and what cant I do. The rib was broken so no point crying over spilt milk as they say and all I cared about was what I would be able to do to achieve what I always set out to do which is return from a setback no less than in the same shape as when I suffered the problem and if possible find a way to come back stronger. I think being an athlete finding ways to keep moving during these difficult periods in your career can be some of the bigger hurdles you can face. You are used to day in day out smashing yourself and improving and enjoying the adrenaline and thrills that go with that, to having it taken all away from you and being told you cant do what you want for whatever the specified recovery period is. I therefore wanted to share the way I have kept of keeping on during what I would regard as the more challenging periods of my career.

As I have stated before I am not very good at taking a day off and usually find some sort of activity to occupy my mind for a large majority of the day to avoid getting a little grumpy as a result of not working up sweat. It may come as no surprize then that when I suffered my first sporting injury, a Labril or cartlidge Tear in my left hip in 2005 as a result of falling off my bike when a piece of wet ash felt from the rd got stuck to my tyre and inturn jammed in my brakes which subsequently threw me over the handlebars very unceremoniously on our one a week rower’s riding full gas send yourself hunger flat smash fest. I immediately knew there was a problem which would ultimately require surgery however being a true cyclist in the making my first instinct was to get straight back on my bike like I had seen the pro’s do on TV and pretend there was no pain infront of my mates. I was at the doctors first thing the next morning and was informed that I could not row for a while and that I could only swim and ride my bike. Therefore being able to go out and smash myself daily and work on my fitness was no trouble and for the following 6 weeks I reached I new level of cardio fitness from time on the bike and in the pool. The day of my surgery was fortunately pretty straight forward. It was only day surgery and through a bit of a white lie regarding a goo mate Tim O’callahan who pretended he was my brother I was checked out of hospital as soon as I had seen the doc to make sure all went well and asked all vital question of what training before I had recovered fully. Now the bike was out so it was just swimming for another 3 weeks so after a night in Melbourne I was home the next morning and drove straight to the pool. After a couple a km’s I was well and truly over the pool as I could not do tumble turns and had to stop and turn every lap so I jumped out of the pool and drove straight to the bike shop and brought a swimming wetsuit so I could swim in the ocean where I could swim for as long as I liked without having to do tumble turns. After a while when my speed started to improve I would even work on my technique and inturn could envisage picking up the water in the same way the blade would pick up the water in the rowing boat. It kept my thinking about my primary sport in a technique way that certainly transferred into me rowing with much more feel. When I finally returned to the boat I was fitter than ever and even had improved techniquely despite not being in the boat and so was happy with my maiden injury management experience.

My second injury would come later that year when I suffered Tendonitis on my wrist. This injury proved to be the catalyst for my changing to cycling. This time I was forced out of the boat and onto the bike and running track. Therefore I was certainly not concerned about being able to maintain my fitness, in fact the opposite, I was so excited to get to ride the bike, all be it on the stationary trainer and running around lago Varese in the boiling hot summer that I had to hold myself back so as not to over cook it, quite literally. I found particularly when I was running that i could use the sensation of my feet hitting the ground and propelling my body past that point as the same way you lock the rowing blade into the water and leaver yourself past that point. This lead to me being able to run much quick and more effectively and get more out of my time on the path around the lake. It also kept my mind thinking techniquely about the art of the rowing stroke. Sure enough following the surgery and the full recovery I performed the my best ever laboratory test after only being back on the rowing machine for 1week following 10 weeks without pulling a single stroke. It certainly gave me a whole new appreciation for both rowing and cycling. Knowing that I would return to the boat only 2weeks before the rowing worlds following nearly 3 months away from the boat I had mentally worked hard on rowing and executing what I thought to be the perfect stroke and race plan so many time in mind that when I got back in the boat I again felt at another level. Following this the worlds almost went perfectly the way I had practiced in my mind winning the heat and semi final with ease only to come up about 300m short in the final a fade to 4th place. Mentally I had been prepared for the event but unfortunately in a world championship final my lack of sheer rowing racing intensity caught up with me and I ran out of puff. In fact after the training I had done with the injuries in 05/06 I should have had a crack at triathlons to see where I was at. Anyway I am pretty happy it was just the bike I took up as I certainly enjoyed that more than time on the rd or in the ocean.

The 3rd stoppage of my sporting career was a little more complex when I suffered Glangelar Fever in 2009. Having raced most of the season with it, when it was finally picked up I was forced to have a very long 4months of pretty much doing no intensive training. After a while I could ride the bike but only for periods up to 1hr so I used the mountain bike as it was a great opportunity to work on my very limited bike handling skills and as a result felt much more comfortable handling my bike particually in difficult conditions when I resumed racing last year. Stil 1hr each second day was not enough to keep me occupied so I decided to have a good crack at my golf again and get my handicap which I had neglected for a few years back down to 9. I played golf most day’s and while it is far from a physically demanding sport it would keep me entertained for the time I would usually spend training and not only that but I focused fully on what I was doing the same way I would approach my cycling training. I improved to a level I had certainly not envisaged and even won the club completion every Saturday for 6 weeks in a row when it was finally time for me to get back on the bike and put the clubs back in the shed I was undefeated in the club comp days I entered. Sport for me is all about rhythm and timing and particularly in golf. You can apply all the power in the world but if your timing is out you won’t go anywhere. When I resumed full training on the bike I really tried hard to think not only about applying power as I had done for my first years on the bike, but seeing if I could apply it more effectively and as a result going faster for the same effort or going the same speeds for less effort. I found this to be a good little tool I had basically subconsciously taught myself particularly while riding on the front of the peleton controlling breakaways. In this role you always have to go a certain speed to bring the break back but if you can do it more effectively you can stay on the front and be more use to your team. I had previously just got on the front, rode as hard as could and got spat out the back of the bunch content with my work. Now simply with a little bit of added thought regarding rhythm and timing and adding to that power, I was finding I was getting a lot more out of training and racing. So although initially the glangelor fever had basically restarted my system and I had to rebuild my engine, as often happens sometimes you need to take a step back to take a couple of steps forward, when I finally got back up to condition I felt like I had finally learnt to apply the energy or power I do have in a much better way and as a consequence improved as a cyclist. So again I was happy that I could draw some positive’s from the episode.

As for my current predicament, being the busted rib, it has required a little more thought to try and gain something from the forced time off the rd. With the fracture so close to my Lung breathing has been difficult so invoking a high respiration rate was out of the question. Secondly I could not put any wait on my arms which lead to weight on my torso so standing out of the saddle, abdominal work, and gym work was out of the question. Finally another crash and potentially making the fracture worse could have sent it through my lung so I had to be very attentive. So firstly I was confined to the home trainer. This does not worry me as I am more than happy rolling along for hrs watching tv. For the first 10 days or so I had to keep my heart rate nice and low so this was not so exciting sitting at 110-120 heart rate for 4-5hrs a day but also it give you a chance to work on building the base of your energy system as normally you are working well above this zone. Being on the ergo fan you have the advantage of hearing the fan and can also pick up how smooth your pedal stroke is. I find that when I am working efficiently the fan has a nice consistent wurring sound. If I can achieve this I always feel much better when out on the open rd. As my rib healed I slowly build up my respiration rate first with 5min efforts then up to 30min and then multiple lots until now I am able to work at threshold for short periods again. The only thing that still causes a slight amount of discomfort is out of the saddle so now I have been doing the mindless endurance out on the open rd before returning home to complete my intervals in what now seems like a relatively short 90min-2hrs on the bike ergo. Staying inside for 16days now has one other benefit and that is I cant wait to get back outside and get stuck back into racing next weekend. So from this latest time of adjustment to my routine, I have been able to work long hrs at a low level which also has my batteries fully charged for the end of the season, and after so many hrs of the wirring sound of the ergo fan I am confident that I have made a few subtle improvements with the efficiency of my pedalling. In 2 weeks I am pretty confident you should not lose to much condition and I am reasonably content that I have been able to gradually rebuild the intensity to a point that I hope enables me to get back to doing the job I love the best I possible way I can for my team, Liquigas Cannondale.

I am well aware that everyone has different recovery methods and there are many different ways to skin the cat, but these were just a few simple little things that helped me through these difficult periods and I feel in some ways was able to turn what appeared to be a negative situation at first into a way to learn and grow from the experience.

I am well aware this has been very long winded which is another side effect of having way to much time stuck inside recovering on the couch!!!!

cjw