Saturday, 4 June 2011

100 Miles in the Tasmanian Antipodes.

I remember sitting in my surgeons office back in February,  as we worked through one MRI scan after another, each one highlighting yet another part of the demolition job I had done to my right knee when I stepped of a six foot ledge in the dark a couple of weeks previously.

I didn't understand much of what he said after he got past the "it's broken and needs surgery" bit, but when he looked at me expactantly after the last slide, I knew I was supposed to ask him something, so I asked the first question I could think of "So, when do you think I can get back on my bike?"

Given the look he gave me, I figured that this wasn't the question he was expecting, so I quickly launched into a second question to try and appear more in sync with the seriousness of the situation ... "Do you think I'll still be able to fly over to Italy for my cycling holiday to watch the Giro D'Italia in May?".

Well, to cut a long story short, apparently when you've fractured your right knee and mashed up all the soft bits inside, ripped the tendon above your left knee, and got a blood clot in your right calf, flying half way around the world to watch the Giro D'Italia isn't high on a surgeons recommended priority list, and as to getting back on a bike his best guess was that if I was lucky I might be back on an exercise bike around August, and on the road by October.  I was ecstatic, as all I heard was that I would get back out there.

My life through February and March was lived almost entirely with the 20 metre corridor between my bed and my couch, and by the start of May, although I was shuffling around a bit more on crutches and doing a bit of rehab in the pool, it was still a long, long road ahead.  That's when I saw Johan Bruyneel's challenge post on Fatty's site to do the 100 Miles to Nowhere and thought to myself ... I can do that.  I can.


The T-Shirt Says it All.



I paid my entry fee that night, and told my physio the next day.  He seemed less than excited about the idea, and made me put his mobile phone number into my speed dial list with strict instructions to call him when it went wrong so he could fix the damage.  I should point out at this stage that I had stacked on 8 kilograms, lost an incredible amount of fitness,  and there was also the small problem that I could barely turn a full rotation of a bike pedal.  In fact it had only been that week that I'd managed a full 360 degree rotation.  It had taken me 10 minutes.


I had a small set back a couple of weeks later in the process of trying to accelerate my exercise plan when I  uncovered a second small fracure in my leg (and by uncover I mean, after using a seated rowing machine for the first time, I stood up and suddenly had a feeling like a horse had just kicked me in the leg), so as June 4 came closer, even I had to admit that 100 miles in a single day wasn't going to happen, and so I set myself a new challenge which I called "The division for Tasmanian's with a Fractured Knee".  The aim now was to cycle 100 miles on an exercise bike, in a nice safe gym, over 7 days finishing off whatever distance had gone unpedaled on June 4.

A humble plan in most circumstances, but for where I was right then, I felt that this was the equivalent of the blind man entering an iron-man competition.  This would push me to the edge of my current physical limits.  On Sunday May 29, I set off on my challenge ...

Day 1: An easy start...

I'd planned on starting easy on Day 1, just knocking off an easy 10 miles (16kms).

Yea, well taking a picture in a dark gym whilst pedalling
an exercise bike isn't that easy.
46 minutes later I almost had to call a paramedic to lift me off the bike.  Something was wrong, that was murder, exercise bikes have to be the most uncomfortable invention on the place, my backside felt like I had cycled 100 miles, and my knee just wasn't happy.  90 more miles to go ... luckily I'm one of those "the glass refills" kind of people, and figured tomorrow will be better.

10 Miles and 46 minutes done.

Day 2: The Recumbant Bike Hypothesis


The one advantage of a recumbant bike.  Easier
to take pictures.
OK, so ignore the glass refills hypothesis, there was no way I was going through yesterdays torture again, so today I sat myself down on the nice broad seat of a recumbant bike, plugged in my music and set off to show how easy 10 miles should be. 

30 minutes later I was shaking back and forth on the bike, not because the riding was hard, but because my backside was killing me again.  After three months sitting on a nice comfy couch, my backside just wasn't used to this kind of a workout, oh and my knee was a little sore as well.  Still managaged to get through the 10 miles, so 20 down, 1.5 hours into the ride.

Day 3: It IS about the bike.

I know that we're all doing this for The LiveStrong Foundation and all, but today I discovered that while it might not be about the bike when you're out there cycling around France or choosing book titles,  but it most certainly is about the bike when you're sitting in a gym. 

You see today I tried out a different upright bike, a new one, and suddenly it seemed that my output had jumped 25% for the same effort, I was a speed demon legend.  Well, I was a Speed Demon Legend who could now cycle 10 miles in just around 30 minutes.  OK, so maybe I'm still a way off my first road race, but I'd found my new partner in this 100 mile challenge, and I was going nowhere.  30 miles and 2.5 hours in.


I was so happy, that a few miles before the end of todays ride I decided to take a couple of photos of myself. Who knew that if you stopped pedaling that the distance on the machine resets?  Now was I into kilometer 13 or 15? I cycled an extra couple of miles, just in case.

Day 4: Hump Day

I realised last night that I had to pick up my game, I was into day four and I'd only done 30 miles.  You need to remember that down here in Tassie we're entering winter, not summer, the sun doesn't rise until 7.30am and the thermometer is nudging freezing, but I still set the alarm for 5.30am, drove and walked the eerily quiet streets into the gym, and set off to do my first 15 mile ride. 

Given that my knee was holding up better than my backside, I decided to lift my cadence up from the safe 80-90 range to 95-100 to get through the ride quicker.  I also decided to lift the effort a bit, so increased the difficulty setting from 6 to 12 ... This type of thinking might give you a glimpse into how and why I stepped off a ledge in the dark and broke my knee in the first place ... I tend to go from "yea, I can do this" straight to "I'm unstoppable" fairly quickly, perhaps too quickly.



I got through the 15 miles in record time, and felt so good that I came back at lunch and did a second 10 miles, how good am I?  55 Miles down, 4 hours on the bike.

Day 5: Oh ...

I could barely sleep last night. 

My knee ached and kept on half cramping.  Had to get up and ice and stretch it.  Finally drifted off into sleep in the wee hours, only to be woken what felt like seconds later by that stupid alarm I'd set for 5.30am.  It got turned off in no uncertain fashion, and I went back to sleep.

Subsequently, I only got into the gym after work and pumped out another 15 miles, this time at a bit slower cadence and with a slower build up in the difficulty level.  70 Miles and 5 hours on the bike.

Day 6: How easy is this?

I woke up this morning and knew I had this one in the bag.  This morning when the alarm went off I was out of bed and in the gym by 6.30am pumping out my second last 15 miles.  My mind was already claiming victory on this one, and starting to think what I could do next - maybe I could do that MTBNav event at the end of July after all ... maybe.  85 miles and 6 hours.


Just to round out a perfect day, my 100 Miles to Nowhere T Shirt finally arrived, so I could do the ride in style tomorrow.  Sweet.  My glass overfloweth.

Day 7: June 4 - The End. 

It was almost an anti-climax. I walked into the gym with my T-Shirt and Race Plate, fired up my music,  posted on facebook and set off on the home run.  To keep myself honest, I posted race up-dates on facebook, in the process discovering that I'm not particularly coordinated when it comes to texting and riding - who knew?  The miles ticked by prtty quickly (well strictly the kms ticked by, but I'm converting here) and then it was done.




As I did my cool down, The thought occured to me that really all I'd done is cycle 15 miles, which is nothing really.  Heck it's my daily commute to work and that includes a 300 metre (1000ft) climb every day, but that wasn't the important thing here.  Three months before I had been told I wuldn;t get on an exercise bike for six months, and instead this week I'd managed to push out 100 miles.  I'd proven to myself that I could ride again.  I could.

It might be the 100 miles to Nowhere over there in Utah, but down here in Tassie, that 100 miles has really taken be somewhere special.


Thanks Fatty.

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