Monday, February 10, 2014

Smalesy - Trials & tribulations of the off season.

The National Cyclo-cross Champs was my last cross race of the season. Whilst cross is my first discipline, having the event behind me couldn't come soon enough. I was looking forward to laying some high quality road miles in to build some base fitness ready for the road season.

I set to. Well and truly, I was in the groove. I always put a couple of kilos on through the cross season and was sat at a reasonable eight percent body fat the day after the champs with my power to weight on the turbo 'there or thereabouts' from last year. On track, reasonably rested and good weather conditions available for road training. 

Two weeks in, I'd laid down two back to back weeks nudging ten hours of volume, moreover quality volume. Perhaps the fact that I'm currently helping a couple of local riders with advice around training at the moment was helping me keep rigidly in the zone, as knowing that they would be looking at my training files - they'd be certainly wanting me to practice what I preach. Perfect, feeling physically tested at the end of each session but also like I could have done a little more.

At 9.30am on Tuesday 28th 2014, everything changed. As I ran back into the house from nipping out to my vehicle for a phone charger, I fell. I heard the crack. To cut a long story short, as I sit here writing this, I have an eight inch long set of stitches, a titanium plate and four screws that I didn't have before. I've also had my first experience of an emergency hospital admission, hospital food and morphine.  The low point was undoubtedly being told ten days in that I had to have my leg re-broken to adjust the alignment which had shifted. Back to square one. 

The standard of care I have received under the NHS was second to none, however I am now left to feel like I am subject of a one size fits all recovery schedule. Despite the surgeon telling me that the plated bone is very nearly as strong as if nothing had happened, it would seem that the timelines are set much the same as if I was relying on natural knitting of the bone. It would seem that the fact I weigh less than 75kgs makes no difference to the point where I can load bear. Perhaps the consultant's seen it all before....obsessive endurance athlete's who start load bearing early, resume full training when they'd normally still be in plaster and then end up getting airlifted of Helvelyn half way through a fell run. So it would rather seem I'm stuck with six to seven weeks in plaster. 

My son sent me a text - "You're the master of timing, love Callum x", to which I replied "So when is it a good time to break a leg? Love Dad x". But ultimately I can manage this. The break to my fibula is about 2" up from the ankle and the surgeon's work has not impacted on any muscle mass. Once I get the cast off, I can ride. I've done lots of reading on the subject and in summary, it sounds like the bad news is that I'll suffer some muscle wasting and around a 20-25% decrease in VO2max etc over the eight weeks. The really good news is that the longer and deeper an individual is trained, the faster it all returns back to pre incident levels. The key principle for well trained riders would also seem to be you get it back at the rate you lost it. 

Realistically twelve weeks training then after the cast comes off in early mid March. Nineteen weeks from now, I'll be pinging again. 23rd of June it is then. 

The challenge now is to make sure the day the cast comes off, I slip a pair of S-Works shoes on and gingerly climb onto a turbo (note the rollers will have to wait), I'm in the best physical condition I can be. If I'm going to be initially down on power, then there needs to be a little of me as possible to haul uphill, push through the wind. My BMR is about 1700cals, plus activity factor puts me a 2150cals. Out come the scales, the rice cakes and the cottage cheese. 72kgs is the target. No sugar, desserts, biscuits or cakes. The core is getting an hour of solid training a day along with some modest quad work.

In terms of racing, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I start in mid April, and race below par? Or do I delay and lay down a solid 100hrs of base before turning a wheel in anger. Mixed emotions and lots to consider. But I've got lots of time to think about it.

One thing's for sure - I'm not retiring yet.


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