The back story

Coming off a season of injury and recovery

Year 2010 wasn't my best cycling year to date. In approaching the season, 2010 looked to be a promising one. My previous season was my most successful yet. In the 2009 short track finals at Windham, I fought through a sea of blueberries (my nickname for the powerful LunaChix squad) for the win. I narrowly missed out on top 10 finishes at the last two European World Cups. I came off the season beaming, but the momentum was derailed when I suffered an unexpected hip injury.

No one can be sure when exactly I tore my labrum in my hip, but it started really hurting after a weight lifting session involving the inclined leg press. I will never do incline leg press again. January and February was spent consulting doctors and trying my hand at what felt like every healing art possible. I went through my fair share of awkward bodywork, but that's just what one can expect with groin pain.

Finally, with the Vermont Orthopedic Clinic, my PT, and Bernard at USA Cycling's help, a MRI revealed a devastating truth, torn cartilage that required surgery. My decision to forgo the bike racing season to go under the knife was in hopes of complete healing and a long, thorough build up to 2011.

I'll give you the brief synopsis of last summer. There was lots of time spent on the couch with my game ready, a hip-saving ice machine that I affectionately called my boom box and six weeks of clicking around the house on crutches. There were many hours spent with my physical therapist, working on range of motion in the pool, and using a Compex muscle stimulator that curtails atrophy.

I went sailing with my family, and, for once, reaped the benefits of our backyard garden. It was a very interesting mix of frustration and enjoyment. Crutches were challenging. I couldn't carry anything for six weeks. I had to use my sympathy sticks (crutches) to lure my family to refill the ice machine and carry a plate of food for me. Everyone who helped me for that period of time is truly a saint.

It was trying to be away from my bike. I finally had to mandate a rule to avoid Cyclingnews since reading it immediately rubbed salt in my wound. Hands down, the most difficult challenge was not being able to move. For an outdoor-loving exercise addict like myself, being stagnant and non-weight bearing was almost as painful as the surgery itself.

However, it was a unique opportunity to spend an entire summer in Vermont, which was something I hadn't done in nine whole years since my bike racing career began. I went to barbecues and social gatherings without having to worry about the next race. My injury really gave me the opportunity to rest. Taking my body to the limits day in and day out for the past eight years starts to take its toll. Simply put, I was tired. This past summer was the perfect time to rejuvenate mentally and physically. Having a year of pent-up motivation and competitiveness, I like to call the past nine months my motivation build.

All told, I guess all of this makes 2011 my comeback year. It also makes me very excited to be riding, skiing, strength training, and moving again. It's extremely easy to take this bike racing life for granted, but there's nothing like five months on the couch to put everything in perspective. Throughout the season, I'm excited to share my perspective on what almost every athlete deals with, setbacks, recovery, and return to competition. And, I'll dispatch the lighter side of cycling for good measure.

Be well,
Lea

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