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Daily Archives: April 3, 2015

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Elbow Pain and Cycling:  Why and What to Do if it Happens to You.

Most people aren’t quite as nutty about cycling I am – and I am a freaking nut.  I spent the end of the 2013 cycling season on the perfect bike.  Meticulously set up, perfectly comfortable and exceptionally fast.  It was awesome.

Heading into the winter it was back to my Trek 5200 and the trainer.  I bought the Trek used just a few days into 2012 and its setup was off just a bit.  Not enough that I could see if I didn’t know what I was looking for, but enough that when I went from the perfect setup of the Venge to the Trek, bad things happened.   It started out as a slight twinge in my right elbow and shoulder, and rapidly grew into full-blown tendinitis in my elbow.

Now, I did fix the problem, my right hood was just a couple of millimeters higher than my left which meant I put more pressure on my right arm than my left.  The trick was that I figured all of this out just before the 2013 cycling season started, we’re talking just days into March.  For most people who get tendinitis of some sort, this means a couple of weeks off with regular icing treatments, elevation and so forth.  I’m not most normal people.  I didn’t miss a day and rode the whole season with the pain and began the healing process after the snow started falling.  It took a month before I was able to shake people’s hand without flinching.  Through this whole mess I only missed maybe a week of trainer time on the bike but I wouldn’t exactly recommend doing what I did either.  I’m not a doctor, I just figured they’d be able to fix whatever damage I did if it got too bad – after all, it’s just tendinitis of the elbow.  I took a chance and it turned out okay.

In any event, the main point is this:  Cycling, other than the odd saddle sore from an abundant jump in saddle time, should not hurt.  As soon as I realized there was trouble, I started looking for causes.  In this case, it was that my right brake hood was a little too high on the Trek and they had to be leveled a little better – riding the Venge, in its perfection, exacerbated the problem – up until I brought the Venge home, my body simply got used to what I’d trained on from day one.

Other than the hoods, another place to look is reach, how high or low the hoods are on the bars, the angle of the handlebar relative to the ground…  Whatever is causing your arm or shoulder to flare up, always go back to the rule that cycling doesn’t favor one side of the body or the other and it doesn’t hurt, barring leaps in mileage or average speed.  If your neck, back, either leg, butt (or the nether regions – especially one side or the other), shoulder, or arm hurts, either try to look logically at what could be causing the problem or take it to the shop and have your setup looked after.  Just be prepared to give a full accounting of what’s going on so they can figure out what’s wrong and correct it.

So, in my case, this is specifically what I do if I run into pain trouble:  

1.  Try to source the pain back to the bike.  If I find something off, address it, fix it, change it.

2.  If I can’t figure it out, I go to the shop and talk it through with the most knowledgable staff member available or the owner of the shop.

3.  My answer for everything pain related is “ride through it” until or unless I can’t ride through it.  I know the difference between being a wuss and being injured and I am honest with myself about which is which.  

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A Few Milestones… Well, 20,000 Milestones

A spectacular start to the 2015 cycling season!

The weather, when it comes to temperature, hasn’t cooperated much in March.  As far as rain went, I really couldn’t have asked for better.  When it did rain, it was at off-cycling hours.  Once the snow began to melt and the weather broke on March 7th, it was all guns on deck.  Out of those 24 days, I was outside on a bike for 21 of them.  Not only that, I averaged 25 miles per ride – unprecedented this early in the season.  If I’m hitting 20 miles per ride in March and end up with 18 days on the bike, I’m a happy man.  Add in the first week of trainer miles and I had 623 miles for the month, 200 miles better than my previous best for the month.  March also saw a tremendous uptick in calories burned, as one would expect.  I jumped from 3,600-4,400 a week to more than 8,000 (though last week was light – only 6,930) and I’ve been enjoying the added flexibility in my eating habits.  I can’t tell you if I’m any lighter (I don’t have a working scale in the house) but I look quite a bit better in the mirror and the belt is a lot looser.  I can call that close enough.

Those were the small milestones – some cool big things that have happened so far this year as well.  For the bigger picture, I finally added in the mileage that I rode and kept track of last year but didn’t want to log directly into Endomondo (I went a year without tracking to see if I was happier without all of that data – I’m still on the fence with it but tracking again)…  I was a shade north of 6,000 miles for the year so I subtracted the 1,045 miles I logged and added the rest manually, just to see where things shook out.  Lo and behold, I crossed the 20,000 mile mark last week, Tuesday on the warm up for the Club ride (2011 – 1,823; 2012 – 5,364; 2013 – 5,630; 2014 – 6,000; 2015 – 1,242 so far and barring something out-of-the-ordinary happening I should be able to beat last year’s 6,000 pretty handily).  What all of those miles work out to, in terms of calories, is I also passed over the 1,000,000 burned mark in just under four years – or, to put a finer point on that:  I burned 306 pounds worth of calories in the last four years.  Also, in those four years my resting heart rate went from a decent 60 bpm all the way down to 43 – I’ve even had a few readings in the 30’s.  Finally, and I’ve mentioned this before, after my last checkup at the doctor’s office, my doctor opened my chart, shared all of the numbers (all healthy) and concluded with, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it”.  I have and will continue to.

My personal bests in terms of speed over distance haven’t changed since the 2013 Assenmacher 100 (we did the first 58 miles at a 23.8 mph average, on open roads – I’ve come close to that a couple of times, but folks, that’s fast.  The numbers below were taken directly from Endomondo:

  • Cycling, sport

    • One hour 23.64 mi
    • 10 miles 24m:28s
    • 20 km 30m:58s
    • 50 km 1h:20m:37s
    • 50 miles 2h:10m:03s
    • 100 km 2h:44m:25s
    • 100 miles 4h:36m:40s

Incidentally, and this is kind of fun/cool, my fastest mile to date occurred in Lake Nantahala, NC in the summer of 2012 (downhill of course):  1 minute and 28 seconds:
LkNan_NC

Then there’s the Tuesday night club ride…  Those personal best times don’t show up on the Tuesday night club ride for a number of reasons not related to effort… In 2012, my first year, my best was at 20 mph for the 30 miles.  In 2013, I was up to 21 and in 2014 all the way up to 22 average for the 30 miles (and we hit that 22 on a regular basis in August and September).  This year, on the last day of March in 45 degree temps we’re already at 21…  Suffice it to say that I can’t wait to see what this year holds.