Completing the 101 miles of the 2012 Tour de Poway is a good measure of my microfracture recovery. In 2007, I had microfracture surgery on my right knee. Ultimately, I went to the doctor because I couldn’t ride anymore. In the 5 years since the surgery, I’ve been able to get back on the bike.
Getting Back on the Bike
My recovery from the microfracture was slow. I don’t think it was slower than most other peoples, the reality is microfracture recovery is slow. The core challenge was it the complete loss of muscle due to being non-weight bearing. As you lose muscles, the tendons get tight, creating a challenging paradox. To loosen the tendons, you need strength. Adding strength too fast with tight tendons can cause swelling from not being balanced. It is a slow process.
Within about a year of the surgery, I was riding again. I didn’t push it too far. Why? It could have been because life is busy with two young children, the weakness or both. Again, I started conservatively; 20 minutes until that was east, then 25 until that was easy, then 30 … I plateaued at just over an hour since that was my lunch ride length.
I’ve been using a Garmin GPS cycle computer for a long time, so I’ve got lots of stats. After the microfracture surgery, I switched from miles to kilometers. I did not want to push myself to hard.
Here is what the years after the surgery looked like:
- 2008: 47 rides, 1,168.4 km, 6,639 m climbing @27.8 km/h
- 2009: 94 rides, 3,086.6 km, 19,363 m climbing @28.8 km/h
- 2010: 81 rides, 2,567.6 km, 17,676 m climbing @28.5 km/h (some pain in left knee had me off bike for a bit)
- 2011: 71 rides, 2,393.8 km, 14,245 m climbing @28.4 km/h (off bike 2 months from left knee swelling)
- 2012: 133 rides, 5,179.4 km, 41,065 m climbing @28.4 km/h
In 2012 I was riding much the same as I was before the surgery. In 2010 and 2011 I was having some pain in my left knee. The surgery was on my right knee, so this was something different.
[update 2013] – The 2010 and 2011 pain was likely from my tight hip flexors and bad posture which landed me into back trouble. So, again, knees are ok, but everything is linked. My strong cycling back hid other core weakness. Sitting too much had me get into degenerative disc disease and a disc herniation challenge. Again, a different and unlucky story.
A New Bike for 2012
By midway into 2011, my Lemond Chamberey was wearing out. It has close to 20,000 miles on it with some original parts. In early 2013, I started to look at new bikes. Ultimately I settled on a 2012 Felt F4 with Ultegra from California Bicycle Inc. “Cal Bikes” is a great shop and I’ve enjoyed being a customer and visiting with them.
To me, one of the best things about new bike gear is the motivation to ride. This generation of carbon frames is truly a pleasure to ride. Laterally, I could instantly tell this frame was stiffer, but it was very vertically compliant. Road buzz is cut way down and bumps are much more tolerable. A few pounds lighter isn’t a bad thing either (but I could use getting that off my mid-section). So, this is an efficient bike that is fun to ride and doesn’t beat you up.
Riding in 2012
Even though I’d been riding a fair amount for a few years post surgery, I hadn’t done a good long ride of more than maybe 40 miles. I’d put on 8-10 pounds and was stressed at work. With the motivation of the new bike, I was suddenly having a blast riding again. 2010 and 2011 were also very cold years. Yes, San Diego and cold. I think I had 4-5 rides total each year above 65 degrees. Knee warmers on almost every ride. 2012 was much warmer; breaking a sweat feels good sometimes.
My left knee was giving me problems still. So I eased into the year with shorter rides and fewer hills. By concentrating on form, my body adapted and both legs felt strong.
My dad asked me to do Levi’s Grand Fondo with him sometime in the March or April time frame. My left knee was bugging me and I still got stiffness and pain in my right knee, so I didn’t think I’d be doing any kind of distance like that.
I kept riding, and since I was riding more frequently, I was getting strength back. I could see my average speeds going up, hill climb times come down and most importantly, my legs were getting stronger and feeling better. Endurance was quickly improving.
By July, my climb times were as good as they had ever been and I was doing 50+ mile rides on the weekend fairly easily.
My right knee was feeling great; like it was the “good” one, not the one that had microfracture surgery.
Deciding to do an Organized Ride
Dad had planted the idea in my head to do an organized ride. Now my body was feeling like it could do it. The problem was that Levi’s Grand Fondo was sold out. I could do the metric century, but not the full. I’d done a few metrics just riding solo on weekends, so that didn’t have a lot of allure. The I saw a century in San Diego that was late fall; the Tour de Poway. I decided to aim for that.
I’d ridden unorganized centuries before, but not an organized one, so this as exciting. I was doing longer rides on the weekends and was having fun. My local hill (Mt. Soledad) became a nice thing to go up and down after work. There are many ways to go up it from 10-20 minutes and many ways to speed down it.
My legs still felt good and pain free.
I made it. Rolling through the last 5 miles you are in a valley of Poway. The thermometer on my Garmin said 102 degrees. Almost 6 hours of riding and the heat was brutal. The blacktop was radiating a ton of heat. The ride is very well supported with route markers and plentiful rest stops. I do hope to do the ride again. It was fun.
But, I’m happy I finished. It was a good ride. I’d done a lot of the roads already and I like them.
Most important, my knee didn’t give me any problems. I even went out fishing in the boat the next day.