Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Life After Bike Racing

For a limited crowd out there, bike racing is a way of life. First you get hooked on the sport by the challenge and simplicity of seeing roads and places you may not have ever been before. Even the places you'd been a hundred times seem different when rolled passed on a bike. Then comes the desire to go up that hill faster than the last time you were on it. The few of us that continue to push that envelope sometimes find that the sport is a pure addiction.

It consumed me entirely for many years; all hours of the day, every day, all week, every month, every year. Lining up training programs that might eek out another percentage of improvement. Finding ways to get onto faster equipment that might take a few seconds off up the hills or in the time trials. Reading countless number of articles of what might make the tiniest of gains for the sport and following through on all of them to the perfect T. Then you give up all of your vacation time (and maybe a sick day or two thrown in), to get to all the races you need to be at.

After years of advancement and improvement, I had actually earned some results to be happy about. Not really the ones that I set out to get in the first place, but it's better to set the bar too high than too low right?

In 2007, a couple things happened that started my snowball rolling in a different direction. First, A long term relationship melted down and my perspective on life altered. Not too long after, my back gave out on me in a way that made me wonder if cycling was doing my body right.

For the next three years, my back continued to give out from time to time. About the time I thought I'd figured the problem out, it would give out again. Each time worse than the time before. By the last time it popped out (September 2010), I had scaled back my cycling so much that I was pretty much not effective as a cyclist anymore. Muscle imbalances from a life of intense training and racing had pushed my back into a real case of lordosis and a tipped pelvis.

Little by little, the reality of being a regular guy who does regular life stuff (well, sorta anyways) was sinking in. Outdoorsy adventures took cycling's place as best as I could make it. No amount of adventuring could quite fill the void of competition at a top level though.

My body proved time and again that the whole muscle imbalance was for real and no amount of stretching, myofascial release, or antagonist muscle workouts would put me back in the game enough to be where I was before. Profane words here.

So I moved on... or so I tell myself to this day. Battling my muscle imbalances has kept my attention quite nicely luckily. Weight lifting (upper body even), hitting the punching bag, yoga, paddling the kayak, pilates, and others can all be attributed experiences that I wouldn't reverse now. No longer do I have to follow a very specific time line all year long. If there's a concert in the middle of the season, I can go to it. If there's a reason to get drunk in April, or May, or June or... who the hell cares when, I can!

The roads are still paved and I can ride them anytime I choose with the addition of a few spacers at the stem. Although, there is a significant difference in riding them as a top form cat. 1 racer versus a "only technically a cat. 1." It's tough to take a step back and let myself be an average person. What if I got caught on the dump loop or going up Bogus? My ego can take that hit I suppose, but it doesn't want to! I used to get to beat guys down on a regular basis on the bike. The punching bag on the other hand never shows me the pain face as I drop it's ass a minute back. Guys need that affirmation that they can kick some ass at something sometimes. Cycling was that something. Right up until it kicked my ass, or should I say my L4/L5 disk.

Luckily, I found myself a hot lil' woman that helps on the ego front on a daily basis. Oh and I can still be obsessive. Now it's just about learning how to correct posture, protect my back from ever going out again and make myself more gym rat worthy. Having another 15 to 20 pounds of muscle in the upper body hasn't hurt the ego, that's for sure!

For you hardcore cyclists reading this, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of correction. Get your ass into the PT and pay attention before you do what I did.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Don't worry Matt-Though we've yet to hit the road/trail together, you can be sure I'll be around whenever you get that need to drop someone. ;) In exchange, I get the satisfaction that comes with hanging for as long as I can, be it a few seconds or a few minutes. Looking forward to it.

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