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Jacob Rathe Blog: Doing unspeakable things

Jacob Rathe (USA)

Jacob Rathe (USA) (Image credit: Luis Barbosa)

Twenty-four-year-old Jacob Rathe was recently diagnosed with Iliac Artery Endofibrosis after more than two years of struggling with cramping and pain in his left leg. The former Garmin-Sharp rider, who now competes for Jelly Belly-Maxxis, underwent surgery on June 27 to correct the problem, which has affected more and more professional cyclists such as Joe Dombrowski, Mike Friedman and Stuart O'Grady. Rathe will keep Cyclingnews readers updated on the progress and struggles of his recovery as he attempts to regain the form that led him to the WorldTour at 21 years old.

I’ve been doing a lot of one of the most unspeakable things a cyclist can do - walking. It’s right up there with air conditioning and eating bread crusts as the worst things for a cyclist, according to old-school European folk. Doctor’s orders trump cycling convention.

The world is a lot bigger on two feet. I walk three blocks down the street and realise that I would already be at the grocery store on a bicycle. By age three I knew that this strange mechanical contraption we call a bike was quite a thing.

Cyclists have an incredible output capability on a bicycle, and for the most part a pathetic ability to do anything else. I run for 15 minutes after a season of bike racing and I’m sore for a week. I hike three miles down a steep trail and the eccentric load ruins my legs even worse. I did some jump roping in gym one time. Whoa, that was bad.

This topic isn’t complete without saying something about my walking style - quite slow and with the rhythm of a sloth, that’s what people say at least. I can walk fast if I need to be somewhere, or even run fast if something is chasing me, but ultimately I’m a victim of this two-wheeled pile of genius. If it wasn’t so useful and fun I wouldn’t be stuck using it for my profession, transportation and leisure activities.

My first steps hours after waking from surgery for Iliac Artery Endofibrosis made my normal gait look like a sprint. I took minuscule steps with throbbing pain in my abdomen, only after getting lifted out of bed. The walks progressed from five minutes, to 20 minutes to a couple hours the first, second and third weeks, respectively.

My achy abdomen healed slowly but steadily. I became less limited in not only what I could do, but how long I could do it. The amount of time I could spend out of bed without achy fatigue increased day by day.

People assume that I’m going crazy doing nothing. The reality is that it’s just like professional cycling, minus the cycling. Eat, train, rest. Sitting on the beach isn’t resting, walking around town isn’t resting. Being horizontal is resting.

Not being able to do anything active has led me to some unlikely hobbies, like learning web-design coding. I’ve never been overly interested in computers but was curious how the internet worked. I had lots of time to waste, and I did exactly that, learning how to make a marginal site that could be made in five minutes by anybody on any basic web design site.

I was having trouble doing something basic one day and a strange error popped that said "Stick to Bike Racing."