Being a professional cyclist means living on a knifes edge. Its a constant battle to find equilibrium and central nervous system balance. You train yourself to your breaking point; you fine tune your diet so you get just enough calories to recover and nothing more, you do your best to honour your personal obligations...you do all of this and more but sometimes you fall off of that edge and cut yourself on the way down.
This is exactly what happened to me in what was a roller coaster of a race - the Tour of Sonora. My early season build up was brought to an abrupt end with a double broken wrist in stage two.
Having spent the winter months training in CT, I arrived at my first race of the year, Valley of the Sun. It had been a while since I'd felt the pressure of riding at full race pace; I'd focused primarily on base and tempo work outs since October, 2005, and the training paid off I felt strong and our teammate Ryan Blickem took third place on GC. Next stop, Mexico!
Arizona confirmed that I was carrying some of the best early season form that I have had in years. I went into the Tour of Sonora full of confidence and eager to get know my new teammates. Stage one went excellently; Anthony Colby got third and Dustin MacBurnie and I finished in the lead group in the hilltop finish. However, as I said earlier, balance is everything. In stage two, Colby, MacBurnie and I all crashed. I broke my wrist in the crash, although I somehow finished the 150km stage. That night, I watched Colby get his dislocated shoulder wrenched back into place while I received my x-ray results. I knew at that moment that I had fallen off the edge of the knife. In a take out of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, it took Colby and me three days before we could make it out of Mexico and back into the good old USA to seek out modern medical treatment. By the time all was said and done, it was almost a week after the accident before I was pieced back together by my faithful chiropractor Dr. Scott Haig, who at this point has a yearly appointment with me.
Finding inspiration in my teams dedication for success, I gingerly climbed onto my trainer after wrist surgery - cast, pins and all. I admit that I needed mentoring at that point. It was very helpful that Rick Crawford was there to lessen the fall.
Like everything in this world, fighting back from injury is easier said than done. Crawford pushed me to build, yes, build! I was not exactly jumping for joy at that point. But I chose not to allow the injury to be a sentence of race deprivation; fitness degradation and central nervous system break down. I did my best to focus and stay disciplined. Perhaps I am kidding myself, but I think I have actually maintained and even built form during this wrist-in-cast period.
Along with Rick Crawfords encouragement, I happen to live close to Targetrainings indoor training facility. Its easy on the eyes and uses Velodyne equipment for power-based training. These machines are ideal for the base fundamentals of training. Ok, I felt I had a chance to make something good happen balance had started to sway back in my favour. (Picture of the facility in Westport).
Build is all about the quality and not quantity of training. It's about achieving very high levels both in power and in heart rate. I put my time trial or road bike on the Velodyne and put on my music. Usually I get to do this when no class is going on. I jump on and I go for an hour, but it's a hard hour. I do 350+ watt intervals ten minutes on, ten minutes off. It's all about the bike and I am enjoying myself. Again, maybe because I am tied into one place and cant hurt myself, I feel balanced. It helps that I did 160 hours of base and completed three full weeks of zone three riding. The long hours are over, and I get to spend 8-10 hours per week to finish my build portion. This work is all sub-VO2 max build efforts. My routine is intense; 10-15 minute blocks of just below flat out exertion followed by controlled recovery is manageable and painful. I stay right on the edge of the knife.
My cast comes off in two to three weeks. Its great and it's tough. I am glad my team has had good fortune before racing the Tour of Georgia on April 18th. We also earned our first NRC win on April 2 at the Garrett Lemire Memorial GP - my Targetraining teammates have good momentum. After doing the Southeast portion of our schedule in April and mid May, we'll have the boys based out of the Targetraining home in Westport, CT, where I hope to rejoin them on the road after they get some fresh Georgian peaches.
I just have to stay balanced on that Velodyne until then.