Getting Back in the Saddle After a Crash

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Getting Back in the Saddle After a Crash

About 8 weeks ago I was post surgery for a busted clavicle and in the midst of a five day hospital stay after crashing out of the Cherry Blossom Challenge.  About 3 weeks ago I got back on the trainer for the first time since the accident, and since then I've been progressively trying to turn around 5 weeks of absolute inactivity (healing doesn't count for inactivity though…)

It's been an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and it's made me think long and hard about the process I've been going through.  Click through to read deeper into it:

Assessing the damage and picking up the pieces:

All said and done, the multiple fractures to 5 bones and punctured lung cost me dearly.  I lost about 20% of my threshold.  I lost almost all capability to stand out of the saddle.  I could hardly access my zone 5 level power (which had been on the road to possibly the best it had ever been) and I was limited to about half an hour at less than 16mph.  My overall fitness, which I worked hard on over the winter and was primed for the strongest spring of my life, had completely tanked (as evidenced by the precipitous free-fall of my CTL on my performance management chart.)  My sprint power, which I spent the winter building through targeted weight workouts and hard interval work, was literally non-existent (remember I couldn't even stand up, let alone crank the bars.)

But that ride was a moment of recalibration for me.

True, all of the above was the reality of my fitness at that moment in time, but it was also a brand new starting point.  I was back on the bike, back on the trainer, and I was truly starting the road to recovery.  For the first time since the crash, there was more than just a glimmer of hope that the season wasn't lost.  After the crash, everything changed.  My new reference point was laying on the pavement, and sitting on the trainer, I was a hell of a long way from there.

So with a sigh and a momentary bit of depression, I changed the FTP on my Garmin and resigned myself to a lengthy rebuilding process…

On the trainer…

Yes, one of the most demoralizing aspects of the last two weeks has been my banishment to the trainer.  That indoor torture machine has been pulled out of the closet and made ready for battle again.  But at this point, while everyone is riding outdoors, while I hear about how my teammates mingle on the Wednesday Night Worlds, and while I sit at the coffee shop and watch the endless stream of lycra-clad athletes ride in and out, my reality is a green frame with a resistance unit stuck on it.  I ride to nowhere each time I saddle up, but even a ride to nowhere is a ride to somewhere at this point in time.

Post crash PMC chart.As you can see, my post crash PMC chart is an ugly affair, showing how far my fitness dropped along with the steady build back towards actual training.  June 2nd, the day with the little orange top on the vertical bar, is indicative of the very first interval workout I completed following the crash.

It was a beautiful day.  I was grinning like a schoolboy with an A+ paper destined for the front of the refrigerator.  I had managed to handle the one thing that had defeated me since I got back in the saddle: intensity.  And for that I'm proud.

And I'm proud to say that each ride on the trainer is another chance to get back in the saddle, a chance I'll gladly embrace until the whole thing is just a distant memory.

What's your experience getting back in the saddle after a setback?  Leave a comment below and let me know.


About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.