Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hill Junkie Recovery Studio

My recovery is coming along nicely since breaking my leg in three places, but a tough couple of weeks it has been. The good news is my swelling has gone down significantly over the last few days, to the point where I can go a couple hours without having to put my leg up to let the swelling subside. Having never broken anything, I had no idea what swelling was about. I experienced discomfort and weird sensations like never before. One is after having my leg down for a while until it swells up, then elevating it. The sensation is like someone hooked a garden hose to my toe tips and cool, rushing water is gurgling under my skin all the way up my calf. Maybe there really is some fluid in there moving around like that, the sensation is extreme. Another positive is I've been off prescription meds for a few days. This does wonders for the digestive tract and clarity of thought.

So the not so good points. Percocet must tag some of the same receptors in the brain as natural endorphins do. I generally only took the stuff at night, but its sedating effects must last many hours after its pain killing effects. Once I stopped taking the stuff, my fuse got pretty short. I've made it through the first two weeks, and the thought of being in a cast with crutches for another two months just kills me. Meanwhile, Brett is set to climb Zoncolan in Italy on Sunday. The mental challenge of not being able to ride for some time is really only a small part of trying to stay positive. I'm utterly dependent on others right now for transportation and general assistance around the house. I cannot put any weight on my left foot and cannot risk doing something that forces me to have to catch my balance with it. I haven't even gone downstairs to look at my bikes. I assume my Gary Fisher Superfly that broke my leg is down there. I'm not even sure how it got back home. I don't think I like that bike anymore. I hinted in a previous post that maybe had I been on my plush Racer-X that day, I might not have bobbled through a completely benign section of trail.

I researched ankle breaks. Seems there are a lot of horror stories out there. Maybe people only complain when things go bad. I have to say though, given how serious my fracture was, I'm probably doing ok so far. I missed less than 40hrs of work through this. I'm thankful I have office job and can keep my leg up as much as needed. I've read others missed three weeks or more of office work with an ankle break requiring surgery. If I worked on my feet, I would have to go on disability for a few months.

I'm also just starting efforts that raise my heart rate. Have to be careful with this, as you don't want to exacerbate swelling. Hopefully I'm past the risk of blood clots too. I've had enough activity this past week I think I would have either dropped dead or any clots would have dissipated.

My Concept2 SkiErg arrived Wednesday. My lovely wife Cathy assembled it Thursday night. She did quite well. I found it entertaining that she has less patience than I do with stubborn screws that don't line up just right. There were two sections to the ergometer. One was the erg itself, which can be direct mounted to a wall or in an optional stand. I wanted to place the unit in our family room, so I ordered the stand to go with it.  Each section weighs 60+ lbs. The instructions noted that two people are needed to raise and hold the erg when attaching it to the upper portion of the stand. Cathy is only 5ft tall, and this was well above her head. I had a friend on call standby for this part if needed, but Cathy took on the challenge to managed to single-handedly finish the assembly. It required standing in a window sill.  What would I do without her?   The erg appeared to work flawlessly right out of the box.  I was really looking forward to trying it out.

My first "workout" lasted 10 minutes. I was seated on a stool, so I could contribute no leg and only limited ab muscles to the effort. I had to be sure I was not putting any pressure on my left leg. So how many Watts did I average for 10 minutes? 76W. Unbelievable. 76W on the bicycle wouldn't even nudge my HR above resting. Yet 76W was enough to turn my triceps into jelly.  Seated polling is almost all triceps, and I just don't have any. There's no way I can get my endorphin fix at 76W.

No way to come up on your toes with a broken leg.

Jump ahead two days to Saturday. I hobbled around much of the morning on crutches, pretty much destroying my forearms and triceps. I still was intent on  upping the effort slightly, in both duration and intensity. I managed 83W for 13min. I believe Olympic skiers can do over 300W while standing for this duration. I bet standing won't increase my power by much, as my triceps will still be the weak link. To fully demoralize me, Cathy stepped up and did 120W like it was nothing, although not for 10 minutes. My base SkiErg does not come with HRM function, so I used my Garmin GPS to monitor my HR. Towards the end of today's workout, I spiked it a bit and got my HR up to 137bpm. That's approaching tempo effort on a bicycle, so there is hope.

I did get some ab crunch while seated.

To save a little cycling specific muscle mass at risk of grossly unbalancing my body, I jumped on the LeMond RevMaster spin bike with left crank arm removed. Again, I was humbled. I experimented once with Power Cranks, those evil devices where each leg spins and works independently of the other. I barely survived 45 minutes on a recovery ride with those things. One legging the RevMaster was about as challenging. My hip flexor immediately rebelled. I lasted about 8 minutes.  I did manage to get my HR above 140bpm though. So I have another weak link on my quest for an endorphin fix. I will have to beef up my triceps and hip flexor before I can generate any real wattage in either modality.

A 40 lb flywheel was not enough to keep my
right hip flexor from crapping out.

Hopefully, between the SkiErg and spin bike, I can get through the next couple of months without totally losing my mind. I already have a half-baked idea of placing the spin bike in the SkiErg and working the two simultaneously. I probably lack the coordination for such a masochistic activity, but I bet I could squeeze another 10-20bpm out of it. I think that will be a few weeks away at best though.  Two of my three bone breaks are assisted by plates, screws and cast, but the third is left exposed above my cast and gives me the most pain if I do anything that remotely perturbs it. Need to play it safe for a few more weeks. Posting might become a bit sparse for a while. Thanks for reading.


Luke S said...

Good luck on your recovery Doug! Keep at it.

I'll take that Superfly off your hands for a while if you really hate it that much...

CB2 said...

I think you're on the right path; accepting what you can't do while searching for things you can. It take a great deal of humility to ask for help, but sometimes you just need to accept it.

Mookie said...

You'll be double poling like a bastard next winter. And to think, you might actually have abs after all this.

Wuss said...

Your story is actually motivating my mostly healthy ass to get on the bike. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation but will add a herniated disc to your problems if you don't pay attention to your posture when using your new machine. Flattened lumbar lordosis with any type of exertion equals HNP.

Hill Junkie said...

Hey Anonymous, explain more about HNP. Not sure I understand. I've watched a number of skierg videos, a few seated, and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

Steve from work said...

Does Dr. Heaps approve of you starting so quickly? Will you help him meet his quota of 1 idiot per year who pushes things too fast?

Anonymous said...

HNP= herniated disc.

Looking at the picture of you on the ski machine pulling down looks like a good way to start some back trouble.
Lumbar spine is flattened or reversed- i.e. no lumbar lordosis. Any type of physical exertion with that with your lower extremity unsupported is a pretty good way to come up with another injury.

the original big ring said...

man it' inspirational to see you 'get on with it' after such an injury . . . makes me feel like a chump b*tching and moaning about being sick and injured myself . . .

keep the blogging up - cool to see you keep your sense of humor about you too - dig the coffee holder on the crutches - too funny!