Just an Update

Well as of this writing the combined total miles on both knees is around 9500 miles since the first surgery. There is no doubt that getting the knees replaced was the best thing I could have ever done fore my own health. These days I am aver ageing 125 miles a week. Trying to get in as many miles as time allows. The departure date for Key West has been moved up. I intend to leaven on September 3, 2017. It only makes sense, at that point I hope to be in as good a shape as I will ever be in. Why wait for winter to pass and have to make up lost time..

In the end recovery is up to you,you can do it…..

Updates and Where I am Heading

Well sorry for my extended absence since my last post, seems that sometimes the so called real world has to take precedence over the world of the blog. While everything is doing fine here it just seems like there is always something else that has to be done and next thing I know the day is over. The workouts don’t stop; if you really want to get it done then you will find the time. It may not always be the best time, but the workout will get done. It’s the only way to keep going forward and the only direction to go is forward.

So first things first, let’s take a look at how far this has come. In October of 2012, my left knee was replaced; today that knee has 8344 road miles on it. I really cannot complain about that. In January of 2016 my right knee will be celebrating its first birthday. It has 2491 miles on it. So looking at things from where I am, which would be above both knees, it’s pretty safe to say the knee replacements were successful. Very successful, in fact. That being said then this would bring the first stage of the project called “The Road to Key West” to an end. The first objective was get the knees back, well they are very much back. I cannot thank all the people involved enough for all the help that was given me to get to this point.

Now where do we go from here, well on to Florida of course. In theory the winter season is here now, even though I was out yesterday and it was 71 degrees. Eventually it’s going to get cold. So for the winter it’s indoor trainer sessions three days a week at least, and two days a week of weight training. I have a series of different training rides from Carmichael Training Systems to keep my legs strong and help improve my strength overall through the winter. They have served me well for the past few years so I know I will come out of the winter stronger than going in. But no matter what winter is a long, long time.

Come spring I start working on being able to do more miles. The game plan for Florida is 100 miles a day for 5 days a week. So with spring it’s time to start seriously start working on building up endurance miles: longer training days and more 50 and ultimately more 100 mile trips. I plan to ride the Course for the Philadelphia Bike Race in June for the civilian part of the race, more so to finally climb the Manayunk wall than anything else. I have hills here at home that I train on including one that is longer and steeper than the wall so I hope to be successful. Correct that – I will be successful. I plan on a week completely off between Christmas and New Year’s both to benefit my head and my body. Never forget rest is as important as working out. So at this point I just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank God for the things I was allowed to accomplish this year and ask for help in what’s coming in the future. I will return in January and hope to get back to being a little more regular. Next month I’ll tell you about the bikes I ride and all the reasons I’m told I shouldn’t. Until then play nice and be careful….Randy…

OF CYLE CLOTHING AND PERSONAL ACCOMPLIMENTS and BICYCLE RACING

Well, first off I have to say congratulations to Peter Sagan for winning the UCI Worlds Championship. It’ s not likely he will ever read this but just in case, it was very impressive. My wife and I had the privilege of going to Richmond VA to see the Worlds this year and it was just a tremendous experience. We worked as volunteers on the course and I have to admit it really is cool to feel like you are part of such a tremendous event; an insignificant part I will admit, but a part none the less. When cyclists turn a corner so close that your toes better not be hanging over the curb edge or they will get clipped, then that’s close. We watched team time trials while sitting in the median under a shade tree and it was so great. They pass by so quickly and with the solid rims on they sound like small jet planes. The amount of effort and skill needed to climb the cobble stone hills of Richmond was just unbelievable. There was a point when I considered taking advantage of an opportunity to ride the course on Friday night,but decided against it. In hindsight it could have only ended up in embarrassment and possibly pain. The entire week was well worth it and our deepest thanks to all the people at home who helped us out and made this trip possible. The Worlds have not been in the US for 29 years and most likely won’t be back again in my lifetime.

Now speaking of cycle racing, what would cycling be without the proper cycle clothing, actually referred to as Kit. Those unusual tight fitting outfits made of Lycra Spandex and worn by cyclist all over the world, myself included. Are they tight, yes. Do they look silly, OK, kind of. Do they serve a purpose, absolutely. First, where would all the team sponsors put their names without them? They do make the body more aerodynamic, because they are so tight. The moisture wicking ability of the material does help the cyclist stay cooler. The padding in the seat of the pants makes a long race or just a simple ride way more comfortable, especially if you consider that when worn properly, the rider has nothing on under those shorts and a good saddle is very hard and very small (an issue to be addressed next month).One other observation worth noting is the way people treat you when you are in proper cycling clothing. When I first started riding a few years ago, I wore a tee shirt and shorts. One thing I noticed then was that it was like being invisible. People almost went out of their way to try and “get” me. Then I got my first jersey and shorts. It was definitely cooler and more comfortable and strangely enough, people started acknowledging me. They would give me the proper 4 feet of clearance (guaranteed by law, in PA) wave me through intersections and stop to let me go. It was really strange. I have inquired about this phenomenon and the best explanation is that people have more respect for you when you appear to know what you are doing. So dress the part, wear a helmet and look like you know what’s going on and maybe be safer.

Now I also have a personal accomplishment I have to talk about. When this all started a few years and a couple of knees ago, I was lucky to go a block and 5 mph was like breaking the sound barrier. Well today 25 miles is no big deal, even 50 miles is quite doable, and a couple of weeks ago I hit a speed number I never would have imagined a few years ago. In my town I have a quarter mile perfect flat spot that I have used to sprint on for years. I can now proudly say that I have broken the 30 mph speed barrier in that sprint. Now in the real world that may not be a big deal but in my world that means everything. With fall slowly coming upon us it will be soon be time to move inside and go on the trainer, and by the end of every season I am happy that I end the year stronger than when the season started. That works for me. Next season the focus will be more on getting stronger for longer distances. Slowly but surely, Key West will be upon me….Until then…Play nice,be careful…Randy

LIFE IN THE REAL WORLD

First, please accept my apologies for not checking in and posting for the past month. Sometimes life in the real world has to take precedence over the world I try to spend most of my time in. Not that I have a lot of responsibilities but every once in a while one pops up. So as I said sorry about the absence. But now, moving right along…

The last few weeks have really been the dog days of summer. I did cut down on my daily mileage a bit and traded that time in for some cross training. Already I have seen an improvement. Because I was focusing more on miles I was neglecting to do core exercises. That would be basic planks and side planks and things along that measure. Because of that I was starting to see the return of an old problem, numbness coming and going in my hands. When my core is weaker then there is more weight placed on my hands and even with the padded gloves there can still be too much pressure and the fingers start getting numb. I would imagine it’s more common with my age group than younger riders, but then again so is the joint replacement that got me here. When you can’t feel your fingers then it tends to prove a bit harder to shift; don’t even ask about getting a water bottle, and with the kind of heat the last few weeks have had, hydration is very important. I always take a bottle with me, even on a short hop. My hydration drink of choice is good old fashioned Tang. Yes, that orange stuff that you drank as a kid and that the astronauts took to the moon. It probably has a lot of things I don’t need but it does have carbohydrates and it taste better than a lot of sports drinks I have tried. Tang combined with black cherry shot blocks can keep me going all day long. Not that I would recommend only that combination, but it works for me. So, as I said, these last few weeks have been the dog days of summer and even though sometime going out and riding just seems like a chore just remember you won’t get any stronger watching TV in a nice air conditioned house. I am sure Michael Jordan didn’t always want to stay those extra hours after regular practice to make free throws but look where all that extra practice got him. Only way to get better and stronger is to ride…

Another benefit I have found to getting all those miles in is in the form of an app called Charity Miles. I was told about this by a lovely runner person who thought I would be interested. It is an app that keeps track of your miles whether you are a runner or a cyclist, and at the end of the workout a sponsor donates usually a penny per mile to a pre-selected charity of your choice. My choice happens to be the Alzheimer’s Association of America, lately a cause I have become all too familiar with. So here’s how it works, you load the app into your smart phone then when it opens it asks you which charity you choose, you pick one (and there are a bunch to choose from) and tell it to start. When you are finished you tell it you are done and it tells you how much you earned and who made the donation. It’s not a lot of money but a lot of little donations add up to one big donation. I always ride with Map My Ride running on my phone anyway so it’s no big deal to turn on another app. And one last request, if you read my blog please comment good or bad that’s up to you but we finally got the comment section working and I would really like to know who’s out there. So that’s it for now…Play nice and be careful. Randy

WHEN LESS IS MORE

If you want to ride faster, further and better then maybe don’t ride as much. I know it has never made any sense to me either but over the last few years I do know it works. When the season starts and spring is in the air we all want to get out and ride as much as we can. Harder, further and faster, but once we start to get a good base laid back down all of the sudden a lot of times we seem to start going backwards. Improving your cycling skills is in some ways just like improving after you had surgery. It’s all about recovery time.

The amount of time you spend recovering between rides is every bit as important as the amount of time you spend on a ride. If you get out there every day and pound the streets as hard as you can, in no time at all you can discover what is called over training syndrome. It’s kind of like getting burnt out but worse. It’s one thing to say we don’t like getting up at 5 am to go ride in the morning, which is what I said in the last post, nobody likes getting up at 5 am. But it’s a whole different thing when you absolutely hate getting up and going out, and when the pain from the last workout doesn’t go away, and no matter what you try and how hard you try it you just keep getting slower. We have all been there. Every time you ride you work muscles and every time you work muscles they need time to recover. Believe me I was up to 125 miles a week, just a few weeks ago. I was so focused on cycling that I had put all the other parts of working out on the back burner. Then I noticed my times were going down, and on the days I was doing “easy” rides I was still ending up feeling pretty lousy at the end. That’s when I realized it’s time to step away and rethink things a little bit. Why are easy hills becoming hard hills and all flats are going up hill? It’s time to lighten up. So it’s time to get back to the fundamentals.

Instead of riding 5 days a week, now it’s ride good and hard for 3 days a week. Do 75 miles a week but they are all good miles. On 2 of the off days it’s time to return to cross training. For me that means going back to the weights, and doing a good core workout. For some it can be running or swimming. But the bottom line is letting your body get some time to recover between rides. Everyone needs time to recover and rebuild. During each week I also take two days to do nothing that is workout related. I would much rather be riding and some times on the off days I still take the bike out but on those times it really is for easy rides. Already I have noticed an improvement on my times and how I feel every day. Getting back to basics has made me feel better both in my performance and my attitude. So as I said, sometimes less really is more…Play nice and be careful…..Randy

TRAINING STINKS

OK, so then let’s not candy-coat it: there are no two ways about it, regular training stinks. I know I’m not a fan of getting up at 5:15 in the morning. Even the sun is not up that early in the morning. Honestly it’s about all I can do to get into my gear, put something of nutritional value into my stomach and go. But from that point on everything gets better. There is nothing as awesome as hitting the street first thing in the morning, when you find that zone, that place where it’s just you, the bike and the air passing around you; that’s when you know you are where you want to be. Yes, training means giving up things, time you could spend with other people, time spent sleeping, a life spent living on Big Macs and Whoppers, all the great things life has to offer. But yes it is so worth it.

So six months after having my second knee replaced where am I on my training to get to Key West? Well currently I ride 100 to 125 miles a week. You have to remember at this point in time I am more interested in making my left knee stronger than anything else. At this point I have 1064 miles on the “new” knee and well over 6000 miles on the one that was replaced in 2012. I have two circuits in my neighborhood that I ride; one is 12 miles the other is 19 miles. I prefer to do laps on the12 mile course, mostly because it’s easier and it is also a lot easier to count in multiples of 12. To count in multiples of 19 requires me to pull out a calculator.

The short course has one 5% grade and the longer course has three. It definitely is more work and it hurts but in the end its worth it. Because of time restraints, and sometimes the weather, I find I am better off doing 25 mile rides daily during the week but recently I have been able to do 50 mile rides on the weekend. Two weekends ago I did 60 miles. As I said 60 miles is real easy to count when its 12 miles at a time. My average speed is about 13+ MPH . Not any kind of a record by any means but I’m happy with it, and that’s all that really matters to me. At this point both knees act just like perfectly normal knees, no pain ,no swelling and no issues. That’s not to say I don’t ache in the end but not from anything that is knee replacement related..

Japanese world class marathoner Toshihiko Seko was once asked “does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today” his reply, “of course, all the time” So as I said in the beginning training stinks and nobody likes doing it, but we do it, and it’s the only way we can improve. In my case it’s the only way to get stronger and the only way to get to Key West…..

Until the next time…..play nice and be safe.

Reality, Key West and Things That Go Bump in the Night

 

So up to this point hopefully all is going well, you have been doing the exercises from rehab and all is progressing properly. If not definitely call your doctor and find out what to do. So for a change rather than tell you what I had done in the past, I wanted to tell you hopefully where you can be. After putting time in on the trainer, the day comes when it’s time to go back out into the real world. After all the indoor time finally getting out is a good thing.

So, seven months ago I could hardly walk; this morning I rode 50 miles for the second time since my surgery. During the week I try to average 25 miles daily. Sometimes the weather or personal commitments can cause me to only get 12 miles but generally that’s the minimum I do. I have a course around and through my town that is 11.75 miles a lap, so for the time being I ride laps. Don’t forget when you start out after being on the trainer or exercise bike that the muscles you use in the outside world are still very weak but they will come back with time, and if you work at it, in a lot less time than you may expect. It will take time and just remember “baby steps”; don’t go out and try to ride 25 miles the first day back. Be happy to ride 1 mile in the beginning. Then in time the 25 will come and that will turn into 50 and 50 turns into 100 and the 100 turns into Key West, Florida.

So while we are on the subject of Key West, which as you may or may not have read is the ultimate destination for this entire adventure. In a nut shell here’s the game plan. This summer of 2015 is about getting my leg back in shape. Personally I feel like that’s working out pretty good. I no longer have swelling or pain after a work out. At least not pain that is related to the knee replacement. Yes there are muscle aches but it is in both legs and because I keep increasing my workout miles and the amount of hills I ride. By the end of this season I hope to have more 50 mile rides closer together and possibly end the season with at least one century ride (100 miles).

From Philadelphia, PA To Key West, FL is 1891 miles one-way give or take a mile. I plan to average 100 miles a day which puts the actual riding at 19 days. Add into that at least 1 day off after every 5 and the total one-way becomes 24 days travel time. So in order to prepare for this part that means the next two seasons, 201 and 2017 will be about increasing miles. This seasons’ 25 mile workouts will be replaced with 50 mile workouts and there will be more 100 mile trips. The other issue is putting the trips back to back so that eventually I will be able to do several 100 mile days back to back to back. Eventually the plan becomes ride, eat, sleep repeat.

The route for the trip is what the Adventure Cycling Association calls the Atlantic Coast Route portion of U.S. Bicycle Route System. The route incorporates many state and local highways and is a little further inland than the interstate in many cases. Surprisingly enough, the trip has been already made by many people, quite a few of whom are in my age group, which will be 60 when I finally leave. So for now be safe and I’ll keep you posted on my progress…….Randy 

Oh and the “things that go bump in the night” part well I really just liked the sound of that in the title.

One Step Forward Can be Two Steps Back

So now you are feeling pretty good about things. All hope is not lost, yes you will be able to ride a bike again. At this point every time you go to therapy the first ten minutes are spent warming up on the exercise bike. So if we can do this then how far away can spending time on you favorite road or mountain bike be. Yep, that’s pretty much what I was thinking at that time also. So the only thing to do was saddle up onto my trainer and start logging miles. I am not sure what the difference is, whether it’s the angle of the seat post or just the height of the seat but I can tell you this much, that exercise bike is not the trainer. The seat is definitely smaller and harder, but these are things that you can live with. Once you get on the trainer, start by slowly pushing the pedals backwards a few times. I don’t know why but I know it makes the whole thing easier. When you finally feel you are ready push the pedals the normal direction.

Now it’s at this point I am reminded of the advice given to me by my Orthopedist, “let pain and swelling be your guide”. So if it hurts a lot or swells up a lot then maybe you should consider stopping for now. Do not tell youself you just have to play through the pain and tough it out and it will get easier. Because I am here to tell you that’s not necessarily so. Trust me when I tell you this because as with everything I have been telling you, I am speaking from experience. If it hurts so much that you scream every time you turn the pedal then just stop. It’s not time yet. I realize I am repeating myself at this point but it’s because this is really that important. As this week’s title said, one step forward, two steps back. While I thought I was doing a good thing by putting the extra time on the trainer, the extra swelling and the damage that is being done by forcing the pedals around only caused my recovery to slow down that much more. Rehab therapy is just like training, it requires recovery time. If you go at it too much and too hard then you go backwards. The point is, if it hurts a lot when you do it and swells up a lot when you do it then stop doing it. I finally got off the trainer and waited and things went a lot better the second time around.

Recently I have run into a couple people who are going down similar roads as I did. In both cases they were convinced that cycling was over. Well all I can tell you is this, the daily 25 mile ride is now routine and I was able to do a half century a few weeks ago. There was supposed to be another half century last week but well you know if enough things go wrong then some times it’s better to just walk away with what damaged pride you have. But anyway the miles are coming a lot easier now. Every daily ride starts out with a few minutes on the trainer to get things loose, but after that it’s time to rock and roll. By the time this summer ends I am confident things will be back to the point long before this adventure began…Be safe…Randy

The Road Begins Here

So now we reach that point when everything is pretty much up to you. Assuming everything went well in the hospital and with the surgery itself then you are happily going through rehab. Somewhere around week three or four you will finally get to sit on a bike. Even if it’s only the rehab exercise bike it’s still a bike. Now you know what you have to do next is going to hurt. But as it was told to me “ you have to get past this point in order to go forward”. This is why you have gone through all this so that you can get on with your life. So as I said now it’s up to you. If you do what your therapist tells you then you will know it’s time just don’t try to do more than what he or she tells you. That’s important also. So sit on the bike, and put the saddle up as high as you can so you can still touch the pedals and you will not have to bend the knee too much in the beginning. Start out just rocking the pedal back and forth. You will know when to stop and change directions, but sooner or later you will have reach that point when you take a deep breath and make your first full revolution around. Oh and did I mention that it will hurt. Well it will, but you have just started down the final road to recovery. Just take little bits at a time and eventually you will be able to turn the pedals easier in each session. Every time take a few minutes to start out just rocking the pedals back and forth and then finally go for it. It will get easier every time. Now as I said, do what you are told to do, don’t be an idiot and go home and climb on your trainer and be the tough guy who pedals each day for a little while, as my Doctor wisely said let pain and swelling be your guide. In other words if you are in pain and the leg is swelling for gods sake stop and ice it. What I learned after being an idiot was that the extra work was simply a way to take my progress backwards. Progress is measured by how many degrees you can bend the knee from week to week. Suddenly I was losing ground. It will come in time, just do what you are told. After a few weeks on the exercise bike then you will finally be able to start on the trainer. Eventually you will be able to pedal for five minutes,  then ten, then fifteen and eventually a full half hour. Eventually you will even start to measure progress in miles… And now the adventure really begins.

So I have been asked a couple times about where this adventure is going to take me and why. I’ll try to explain. It’s going to take me to Key West Florida. That seems pretty simple. Why, well because there isn’t a road to Cuba of course and I don’t speak Spanish so going there would just be stupid. But if you are looking for a better explanation then here goes. I had made a comment to my wife that when everything was over I was going to take my van and just drive south for three days and see where I ended up. Her reply was well then why not drive to Key West. Then she suggested, why not take your bike there. Foolish me I thought she meant take the bike in the van, no she meant ride the bike. My first reply was because it’s really far away. But the more I thought about it, I kept asking myself ,why not? So it’s Key West because that’s where the road runs out. The answer to why is quite simply why not. After I turned 50 I found a lot of things started to change, both mentally and physically and I just accepted them as things that happen as you get older. But you know what, you don’t have to accept changes just because they are. As you get older you don’t have to put on weight, you don’t have to just accept aches and pains and you don’t have to pass up adventures just because people say you are too old. I will be 60 years old when I make this trip and I am going to make this trip just because now that I have two good knees I can….Be safe….Randy

Thank You and Shameless Plugs

Up to this point I have been trying to give you some idea of what to expect with a total knee replacement. Yep it’s going to hurt to get back, yep it’s going to be some work to get back and yep in the end if you do everything that’s asked of you it will surely be the best choice you could make when dealing with worn-out, arthritic knees. Trust me, it’s worth it. Now I would be doing a great injustice if I did not stop at this point and acknowledge and say thank you to the numerous people and organizations that got me to this point. Everyone who is mentioned is mentioned because I had some involvement with them along the way. At no point am I recommending anyone or any place, as much as I might like to, I really do not want to offend anyone or get in any trouble. That said…

First and foremost I must give my deepest thanks to all the folks at Rothman Institute, certainly without them none of this would have happened. Through both knee replacements they have always given me the best of care and always been a pleasure to visit and work with. Now I really do not know if this is proper but I am going to do it anyway. My favorite person at Rothman Institute has to be Dr. Eric Smith. To say the man has the hands of a surgeon is a definite understatement. He in fact is a surgeon and in both cases he has been my surgeon and in my humble opinion he’s the best. From the beginning he put me at ease; he has always take the time to address any concerns I have had and left me feeling really good.

I had both my surgeries done at Riddle Memorial Hospital in Media, PA. Paired up with Rothman they are the best care you can get, at least I think so. Both times I had private rooms, fabulous nurses, great care, good food and plenty of it, even the bed was comfortable, although sleeping in the chair the second time was actually better. If I needed something and they could help, then they did. I was comfortable, never worried and never in the dark about my care. So from the bottom of my heart to all the folks at Riddle and Rothman any who were involved in either replacement you have my deepest and most sincerest thanks.

That brings me to at home therapy and rehab. The at-home thing I will save for last for an obvious reason. I had my rehab done at two different places; for my right leg I used Advanced Physical and Aquatic Therapy in Springfield, PA. For my left leg I went to ATI Physical Therapy, also in Springfield,PA. I have nothing but the highest regard for both, I was always treated well at both places and in both cases they helped me and did not let me take an easy way out and for that I will always be grateful.

Now I saved two special thank yous for the end. One for Lisa my home health therapist for both knees. If ever there was someone who was sent directly from heaven to help me it was her. This fabulous caring women was so good and so kind and put up with so much of my crap, thank you will never be enough but I am afraid its all I have. But I know without her help I would not be at the point I am now.

And last but by no means least I have to thank my family who has and is putting up with all of the grief and complaining that I bring with both these replacements. Having a loving and caring wife to help you get through some of the early rough spots and some one who will help you bend that leg no matter how much she knows it hurts and hurts her doing it makes it all possible…Thank you dear…

OK so that takes care of that and if I missed any one it was not intentional and as I said earlier not of this is in any way any kind of endorsement, theses are just all the people who helped me, and each and everyone of them can always say they helped me make it to Key West and back.

Now on the cycling front, with my next post I will start telling you more about what I went through that was more cycling specific. However I do want everyone to know that on this past Memorial Day I did 50 miles, or a Half Century if you prefer. I feel all things considered that’s not half bad…Until next time,be safe…..Randy