Category Archives: Sport-Fitness

Ride report: first post-ACL reconstruction ride

Today was one of the toughest bike rides of my life, and I only went about 8 blocks – my first post-surgery ride on a real bike. I’m not sure my surgeon or physiotherapist would approve, but I just couldn’t resist, especially after watching today’s Giro d’Italia highlights.

  

I took Violet because she has an upright, step-through frame. I thought that would make it easier. First obstacle: I couldn’t climb out of the parking garage, perhaps because she’s a single speed? Perhaps feeling the weight I’ve gained? I was wondering if I should have taken my 11-speed Brodie instead. (My road bike – Jon Snow – is completely out of the question for another several weeks – not sure I could even clip in/out properly…). 

Once on the road I felt fantastic. However even a small incline got me huffing and puffing, so I don’t think smaller gears would have helped. 

I felt like that was a big win for me. I needed that. I needed to feel like I’m making progress. I was so overjoyed, even with my eight-block ride, I was teary-eyed when we got back. 

This time next year I’ll be prepping for another metric century ride, no doubt about it!

Photo by Ken Jeffery. Taking photos while riding is a skill I have yet to master…

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Physiotherapist taping up someone's knee

Under the knife – coping with major sports injury

What happens when a triathlete suddenly can’t be a triathlete?

Physiotherapist taping up someone's kneeFifteen months ago, I tore up my left knee after a fall while hiking: meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament. Since last August I’ve been waiting for reconstructive surgery. I haven’t run a step since January 2014 when the injury happened, and it took several weeks to gingerly get in the pool, and several months to be able to get on my bike.

It’s been tough, especially since I was a runner first, and running is my main stress-reliever. It’s been my go-to for blowing off steam for as long as I can remember, because it’s so easy. No bike tires to pump up, no open pool lanes to find. Just lace up shoes and exit the front door.

“With people coming to sports as a way of moderating depression or stress, warding off illnesses like heart disease or cancer, or to lose weight, the stakes are higher. When injured, they not only have to deal with the pain and stress of being injured, but they have lost a primary coping strategy,” said one article I read (Tarkan 2000), and that has been very much my experience.

Last season I did a couple of relays, but it wasn’t the same. Triathlon is a sport in itself, because when you’re doing one leg, you’re always thinking of transition, and how the next phase of the race is going to be affected by what you’re doing now. That’s what I loved about both rock climbing and triathlon: the problem-solving.

And I haven’t been able to do it for more than a year. Once surgery comes, I will be in recovery for months more.

“It’s often said that being a triathlete is a life-style rather than a reflection of having raced in a triathlon. It is a cornerstone of a person’s identity and self-esteem … The unspeakable fear is, “What happens if full recovery never comes?” Serious injury can rattle the very foundation of one’s identity,” says a guy named, I kid you not, Dr. Charlie Brown in a blog post from 2000. As a result, many athletes can get clinically depressed after injury: “Research has shown that some of the more common psychological responses to injury (ie, depression, anger, anxiety) are amplified in cases of more severe injury, such as a traumatic ACL injury,” (McCardle 2010).

I have many friends who had major injuries requiring surgery, so I turned to some of them for this post, asking how they coped. Not surprisingly, the friends least prone to depression were the ones who immediately responded to my request.

My triathlete friend Connie has had two major surgeries in the last several years: to repair a hamstring avulsion (it was torn right off her sit-bone), and then a broken wrist.

My climbing friend Dave has had several surgeries: one resulting from a dislocated shoulder as a result of a fall, another a ripped biceps from a particularly strenuous move at a gym, and more recently some foot surgeries to deal with arthritis.

“There was a 7-day delay for the hamstring surgery because the first surgeon who was on call didn’t know how to do it,” said Connie in a text message. “This was June 2010, two weeks before the first Half Iron I was supposed to do …. I was in a specially constructed brace … I sat on the front porch for 8 weeks. Peter [her husband] would make me a pot of coffee, put cream and sugar in it and leave it in a thermos for me …. I was already signed up for the October Half Marathon. I shed exactly three tears, then started wondering from whom I could borrow a racing wheelchair. LOL. I didn’t get depressed but I did worry it’d never be normal again. I don’t think I realized how worried I was until my first “run,” which was about 8 minutes per K. I kind of lurched along.”

Let me just add here that Connie is one of the sunniest, friendliest, most fun-loving people I know, and I wasn’t surprised at all to hear that she coped well with this injury, which happened before I knew her. However, I did know her when she broke her wrist a couple of years later, and that was a little harder to deal with.

“The wrist was more debilitating than that. I had never been in so much pain and I completely underestimated the recovery that would be necessary. I knew I’d be in a cast for at least 6 weeks after surgery. And I was; that was all fine. I couldn’t cycle, even on the trainer, because I couldn’t hold myself up. I couldn’t run/walk because it swelled. I couldn’t do anything for myself,” she said.

It was when the second surgery to remove the pins happened that finally threw Connie into a funk. “I TOTALLY underestimated how that was ‘like another break’ because of the space left by the pin. Was in the cast 8 weeks and then 6 more weeks of recovery.

I lost 40% of my range of motion. For example, I can’t pull myself out of the pool by putting my hands on the side and hoisting myself up. I have only just gone down on the drops [while cycling]; it hurt for a long time and I think I was a bit depressed because I couldn’t even cycle. …. [But now] I am back to training … and it feels good!!!”

As for Dave (a retired teacher who lives in the Kootenays), after the second injury in 2001-2002, he never did technical rock climbing again, “I figured maybe it was time to quit. I started that stuff late in life, so it wasn’t a big deal. I realized I couldn’t climb the way I could before – but I never could climb very well. I was always uneasy about technical rock climbing. I learned a lot about movement of body and rope management though. For me it was almost a minor relief that I didn’t have to do that anymore. I got more into mountaineering.”

What has been more difficult for Dave is recovering from foot surgeries to correct the effects of osteoarthritis: “My feet have caused me big problems. They would be so painful after spending a day in the mountaineering boots.” Dave has had joints fused in three toes on one foot, and big toe surgery in the other one. “I’m just finished the recovery process and I’m still hiking and bushwhacking – but long days on rough terrain is becoming too hard. Although we trekked for three weeks in Nepal last year … as long as I can still hike it’s OK.”

Dave has never been the type of guy to let little things like injuries get in the way of doing what he loves – being out in the mountains. Both he and Connie are inspirations to me as I wait for my ACL reconstruction surgery. I can still walk a bit, and I can still cycle and swim. It’s an adjustment, but humans are adaptable.

Or, as Dave says: “If you get out and do anything, stuff happens. And then you get older, and different stuff happens. You just deal with it.”

Further reading:

Image: “Sports Injuries and Physiotherapy” by Durrah Ramli, used under Creative Commons License

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My once-yearly, you know I’m good for it, and I’m really sincere fundraising ask

Little known fact about me: several years ago I thought I might like to be a Victoria Hospice volunteer, and I signed up for an information session and tour to see if it might be a good fit for me to go on and take the training.

20140206-082914.jpgIf I’ve already convinced you to donate, just skip to my fundraising page: bit.ly/ToriRide and leave a donation. If not, please read on …

Turns out it wasn’t right for me at that time, but my eyes were opened to what Hospice care means for terminally ill people and their families. I saw first hand the importance of hospice facilities and care, the unique requirements involved, the dedication of the staff and volunteers. After experiencing the loss of family members myself, I am astonished (in a good way) at the strength, caring, and courage of people who work to make someone’s last days and hours more comfortable.

Those who know me, know I’m not one to throw a bucket of ice on my head and post the video on YouTube (more power to those who do!), but I do like to help my preferred charities in other ways.

This year, I’m riding my bike for 60 kilometres to raise money for Victoria Hospice on September 7. My team (Team Blood, Sweat, and Gears) has set ourselves a modest goal of raising $250. It won’t take much to meet that goal, and that’s why I’m asking for a little bit of help from my friends.

It goes all the way up to 11

It goes all the way up to 11

You know I only go to the well (my friends and family) at most once per year. You know I only raise funds for organizations I’m personally involved with in some way, doing good work in the community. I believe wholeheartedly in the work of the Victoria Hospice. Won’t you help me reach my team fundraising goal today? I won’t ask you again. Not even at Christmastime!

Just a $10 donation will help. Twenty or more would be better, but $10 is all I ask. It only takes a minute: bit.ly/ToriRide. And you have my gratitude. If you donate $50 though, you have my gratitude and an invitation to our next dinner party. 🙂

I’m only asking once, so please head over to bit.ly/ToriRide and get out your credit card.

 

 

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