My recovery from nerve injury (part 2 – getting back on the bike)
24 Sep 2021
Part 2 has been a long time coming, but I knew that would be the case when I had the nerve to title my previous blog post “part 1.” My progress has been, as was expected, very, very slow. Tagging “part 1” on that post was, in many ways, an act of faith. Faith that there would be a part 2. That I would continue to get better. That maybe some of you would stick around to read a part 2 that was published four months later after part 1.
Also, in my defense, I swear I wrote this post at least a month ago, but now I can’t find it anywhere, so I’m starting over.
The good news: I’m back on the bike. Well, kind of.
In June, we shared a video of my first day riding in a bike park and someone commented “if you can ride Angel Fire does that mean you consider yourself back to 100 percent?”
I found this comment irritating. No, doofus, just because I can ride downhill and haven’t forgotten ALL of my bike skills, does not mean I am 100 percent. At that point I hadn’t even ridden a non-ebike for longer than 20 minutes. On flat pavement. Much less up a hill. I was furious and ranted and raved at Macky for about an hour about how people were going to expect me to just “be better all of a sudden” while I was still dealing with almost daily pain and progressing at a snail’s pace, and it just wasn’t fair. Finally Macky got fed up and pointed out that the person was trying to be nice. And also, that it probably wouldn’t kill me to just be stoked about the fact that I can ride park now, when a year ago, I could barely get out of bed. Oof. Point taken.
In many ways, that sums up this recovery. Slow progression, and a daily struggle to be grateful for that, and not be consumed by the wave that is “thinking about how far I still have to go.”
I started riding the ebike in May of this year, starting with 20 minute spins on flat pavement, and working up to 45min-1hr of ebike riding on trails by mid-June. In late June to early July, I slowly extended my ebike riding time, sometimes riding 2 to 3 hours. And on July 1, I finally rode an “acoustic” bike for the first time since December of 2019. I rode for 24 minutes, and then finished the rest of my ride on the ebike. For the rest of July, I slowly increased the length of my acoustic rides, usually adding less than 5 minutes of ride time per week. During this time, I was still training in the gym (well, our new home gym!) three times per week, and also riding the ebike a couple of times per week, so it was important to not add too much too fast.
August proved particularly challenging, as Macky was racing almost every weekend and I had to balance my training with race support and constant travel. But I managed to continue to make progress, and by the end of August I was consistently riding for about 1:15 on the acoustic bike. Over the past few weeks, I have increased time and intensity, adding in a bit more climbing, and allowing myself to go a little harder, while backing off slightly on the gym work. The plan was to “start training” in September, and while that hasn’t exactly happened (at least not in a structured way) I have certainly gained back some fitness, despite being limited to rides under two hours and with less than 1500 feet of climbing. My hope is to be able to race Iceman Cometh on November 6th, but that remains a pretty ambitious goal, based on where I am today.
To be clear, I still have pain, but there are many more good days, and the pain doesn’t typically worsen after riding or working out. So far, I have had a few “bad weeks” but no significant setbacks (other than the stomach bug I got at the end of August, but that’s another story), and I have slowly continued to inch forward, despite not always feeling amazing. From talking to other people who have dealt with chronic nerve pain, this is pretty typical. It doesn’t just disappear. Recovery will NOT be linear. I may never be fully “pain free.” (But honestly, who is? what does that even mean?)
Do I wish this whole process would go faster? Yes, yes, I do, but compared to last year, this IS fast. In May, Macky raced the Ironhorse Classic in Durango and I rode his warm-up with him…on an ebike. And that was my entire ride for the day. This week he’s racing the Pikes Peak Apex and I pre-rode the first stage with him. It was a short time trial stage (10 miles), but I did it on an acoustic bike. Of course my brain is going “how will I ever get from preriding one short stage to RACING FOR FOUR DAYS?”
But I have an answer to that question now. I’ll get there exactly the same way I got from riding for thirty minutes on an ebike to riding for two hours on difficult trails on an acoustic bike.
Slowly. And one day at a time.
Thanks for sharing, Syd! We are all “pulling” for you and wishing you the best success along the “path” and when you race again!
Thank you for the vulnerable sharing of your journey Syd. I too have suffered from chronic pain and yes, it’s a journey. Another resource I would add is looking into the mental side of the journey. Specifically, how I got here as all pain is ultimately signaled by the brain. The book “The Body Keeps the Score” has been an invaluable resource.
That is an awesome book!
I love that you have an answer and that you are feeling positive! Such an attitude must really help you with feeling empowered. Looking forward to seeing more of your journey.