Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back in the driver's seat

It's been a month since I've driven a car. Last weekend I was unsuccessful in clutching either of our cars. The Scion xD looked most promising, as it had much more room to either side of the clutch pedal. One problem was just starting the car, as the pedal must be pressed to the floorboard to trigger the starting switch. Hill Junkie reader JRL noted in my last post how to get around this problem. It might have worked with my xD, but I wanted a little extra margin.

I still have a wood workshop buried behind bikes and related paraphernalia in my basement. After taking some measurements of the clutch pedal and clearances of the AirCast boot, I figured a two inch tall spacer was needed at about 2.5"x2.5" in size. This could easily be cut out of a 2x4 and piece of half inch plywood. Here is what I ended up with:

When mounting the spacer, I found the clutch pedal was curved and the wooden block would rock on it. So to the belt sander I went, shaping the back side of the block to precisely match the curvature of the pedal. I still haven't lost my eye for such touches. In one try, it was a perfect fit.

I secured the block to the pedal with about 10 strips of heavy cloth based duct tape. It is probably more secure than the rubber pad that comes on the pedal. So how did is work? With my cast, the pedal just nicely bottomed out before overhanging bits of boot touched the floor to the left of the pedal. This solved the hardest park, starting the car, as the disengagement point to shift is only part way down.  Here's what the finished job looked like:

Cathy was apprehensive about getting in the car with me. I first drove to the Pelham transfer station, then through Lowell to the Drumhill Starbucks to get a New Guinea Peaberry Clover machine coffee. Lot of clutching to get there. The force to actuate the clutch did not bother my ankle at all, and driving seemed completely natural. Cathy was actually more relaxed with me driving finally, as I tend to be a bit of a back seat driver.  This will be a huge mental boost. I now have more of my independence back, another step closer to normalcy.

Another two weeks to my next orthopedist visit. I think I will get set up with physical therapy at that time. If things go very well, the cast could come off in another month. I've probably achieved maximal calf muscle atrophy already. There's nothing left but a limp flab. I can't even isometrically tension it up. It's like the muscle flew the coup. The muscle in back used to be about twice as wide as the front of my leg, now it is skinnier than the front. Looks pretty gross actually, and it is still discolored from the upper fibula fracture.  My right calf seems to be holding its ground. Going up stairs gives it a major workout several times a day. It goes through almost full range of motion bearing full body weight. A cycling friend from work blew out his Achilles tendon 11 years ago. To this day, that calf muscle never regained the size of the other. His injury no doubt involves the calf more than mine does, but this info was not the most encouraging. So I'll stop jabbering with this short clip of muscle atrophy.

Broken ankle muscle atrophy from D. Jansen on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

I know you're cheap, but you seriously couldn't spring for black duct tape?

Hill Junkie said...

That is actually black duct tape, at least the blackest I could find. I guess it washes out with flash so close to the subject matter.

Anonymous said...


I got really sick in 2007, Lost 30 pounds of muscle, I was 155lbs (6'1) went down to 125lbs. Somehow the body has good memory, I lost that weight in 2 months, gained most of it back in 3. I was doing a 48-49 minutes whiteface during the 2005-2006 years. I came back to a 52-54.. Although I was never able to get back to my original fitness and stop overall competition last year at Mount Washington were I lost 10 minutes over my usual time. I don't think a broken ankle and an atrophied calf will affect your performance in the near future. Healthy people get back to health much faster. Regular doctors are not used to dealing with athlete. My surgeon told me I would probably never climb a big mountain again, I proved it wrong! I really feel for you and good luck and quick recovery

E Chevrier