Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stick A Fork In Me

I'm officially done following pro cycling. Forever. Every single rider of any consequence is slowly but surely admitting to or being accused of past doping offenses. Many are suspected of currently doping, even as the scandals multiply.

The simple truth is this: pro cyclists cannot be competitive without EPO and human growth hormone---they cannot rely on their own physical conditioning and mental preparation to deliver them victories in races. It is a constant race to the bottom, as new riders find themselves forced to dope just to compete with the veterans and maintain their contracts.

Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong and all the other stars have been or will be implicated in doping scandals. The accusations, denials and counter-accusations will only multiply from here.

Why follow a sport that cannibalizes itself by forcing its stars to cheat and then destroying their names and banning them from competition when they are caught? Even professional baseball isn't this despicable.

It's a shame, but this will be the first year since 2001 that I haven't watched the Tour de France. Why bother? Will any great riders be left to compete? Are they even truly great riders?

I'm done.

Progress Report

Slowly but surely, my left leg is recovering from the trauma it has endured over the past month and a half. I am now walking without a limp and can even muster a couple of jog-like strides when crossing a street with oncoming traffic. I still wear my knee brace everywhere but in bed, but I'm not in any significant pain and only the most strenuous activities cause discomfort in my knee.

Yesterday I was able to pedal for ten pain-free minutes on one of the stationary trainers in the gym. A couple of days before I could only handle five. Every once in a while a pedal stroke will cause sharp pain in my kneecap, but for the most part I can spin at a reasonable pace (80-90 rpm) without wanting to stop immediately.

While the pain and discomfort (and the swelling) have subsided, the sorry state of my left leg has become more apparent. The injury, surgery and subsequent physical inactivity have significantly atrophied my once-impressive quads. What remains is a skinny, asymmetrical waste that barely passes as an adult limb. Compared to my other leg, the difference is striking:

Please disregard the fact that I naturally have chicken legs and focus instead on the difference that is obvious in the photo. My right quad is much larger than the left, and my left knee is still somewhat lumpy where the knee scopes and cartilage removal incision have left small scars.

So it's now been about seven weeks since my initial injury and almost four weeks since surgery. As is obvious, rebuilding my muscular strength is going to take time. Rebuilding my aerobic strength won't be as difficult, but it will take time as well. I highly doubt I'll reach competitive form before the racing season ends. I'll give it my best shot, though.

Tomorrow it's back on the trainer and hopefully next week I'll be in good enough shape to actually ride my bike outside for the first time since April 3rd. That would be awesome.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Moving About

My knee has steadily improved since surgery a week and a half ago.

The days immediately following the procedure were rough, with a lot of pain, a lot of pain medication, and a lot of lying around. And still I was on crutches.

Two days after the month anniversary of the original injury that reduced me to a crippled waste, the orthopedist evaluated my post-operative progress. All is good, he said, and promptly removed my stitches. Of the five, only one hurt.

I've had my right kneecap completely covered in tattoo ink, and I know how bad that region of the leg can hurt when subjected to repeated injections by vibrating needles. It's not fun. But the removal of one stitch at the very top edge of my left kneecap put the tattooing to shame. I thought for a second I was going to die, seriously.

I take pain pretty well, and try to avoid pain medicine whenever possible. I fancy myself a tough guy when it comes to hurting. This was more than I've ever felt in my life, no joke. Luckily it only lasted a few seconds and the final stitch was out of my leg for good.

The doctor then brought me the best knee brace ever invented, because after getting the thing on (which felt GREAT after the stitches were removed), I strolled out of the office like it was nothing. For the first time in over a month, I didn't need crutches to walk.

The feeling of liberation is hard to describe.

I've been walking again for four days now, and though my leg is still extremely weak and sore, and there is still some odd swelling, I feel much better. I cannot yet fully bend my knee, nor can I twist it or put an exceptional amount of weight on it, but the progress I've made is noticeable.

Because I can move around without crutches, I'll be making my triumphant return to the gym tomorrow. Upper body only, of course, but it's a start. I'm dying to be back lifting weights again after losing a full month to this injury. I will be resigned to machines only, though, since I can't carry any kind of weight and therefore won't be able to load the barbells to work out with free weights for a while.

When I'll be able to start riding again, I have no idea. I can't yet complete a full pedaling motion with my leg, and putting that much pressure on the limb hurts too bad anyway. Hopefully soon I'll be back out on the road. We'll see.