11 July 2011

Dear Geneva Bicycle

Once upon a time I went down to Geneva Bicycle Center in Geneva, New York to be fitted for my new Kestrel 4000. Little did I know then, that I was making a decision that would profoundly change my life. You see, I never knew how comfortable I could be on a bike—or rather—how uncomfortable I was on my previous bikes until I was fitted at GBC.

With that said, I have always maintained that I believe 
there are only a few people in your life that you should keep happy pretty much all the time if possible:

1) Your spouse (although it is fun to push their buttons because after many years of marriage you have mastered what really irks them).

2) Your librarian. Look, I have an unbelievably fantastic relationship with my music librarian. I take him out to lunch, I buy him the occasional cup of coffee, I go to his photographic openings. Somehow, my fines—which have at times exceeded the amount that I have had in my bank account at any given time—have miraculously disappeared. 

3) Your friendly neighborhood bike mechanic.

You see, unlike my spouse and doctor, my bike mechanic has the responsibility of not only making sure that my bike does not fall apart midway through a steep descent at speeds any husband and father of five children should not be attempting, but also to make sure that my fit is—and remains—comfortable throughout my season. What I soon learned about GBC is that not only do they want you to have a great bike fit when you are there, but they want you to come in and talk about how it is going and to make any necessary adjustments as you need them. The owner, Jim Hogan, and his staff are terrific and ready to work with you to make sure you are comfortable on the bike and also comfortable expressing what you need to in layman's terms. In short, an elite bike shop without the elitist attitude—which this athlete really digs. 

The wizard of bike fitting, Chad down at  
Geneva Bicycle Center has over 25 years
of experience fitting athletes.
THE KNEE: Right before I ran the Ragnar Relay in the Catskills with ten of my friends, I came down with some debilitating knee pain. It was just dreadful. I really debated whether or not I was even going to race Ragnar because I did not think my knee would handle it. As it turns out, the Ragnar experience was one of the best and worst athletic experiences I ever had. I mean, I was in a 15-passenger van with ten smelly, tired, hungry, delirious runners. It was so much fun.  On the other hand, I agitated my knee so much during Ragnar that I was unable to run for another 8 weeks following the race. That seemed like forever. 

When you sustain an injury, a couple of things happen. First, you sit around brooding over how you have been training since January for a race in September, asking yourself and anyone else who will listen how this could possibly happen to someone so good-natured human being. My coach had finally had enough of my whining and told me to go and see the doctor, which I did. 

The first orthopedic I went to said that the pain that I was experiencing on the left side of my right patella was an overuse injury, and that it is just bursitis. He recommended that I remain off of it for a couple of weeks and try to see how it feels after that. Before I left the office he suggested that I could try a cortisone shot if the pain continued. It was right there that I lost all faith in this orthopedic and immediately started planning a visit to another doc. 

The second orthopedic I went to was definitely more thorough. He asked me questions that I thought were relevant including whether I had ramped up my training recently, changed my training, etc. However, his diagnosis was the same: bursitis. Take some time off and see if it feels better in a few weeks. 

So, Coach Mary had given me some pool running and a lot of biking to stay fit along with my usual swim workouts the last four or five weeks. Pool running is effective, but about as exciting as watching fireworks from your car parked on the side of the road from miles away. What is with those people?  Plus, I get a little squeamish about all the seventy year old ladies partaking in aqua aerobics undressing me with their eyes as I run in the water with my bathing suit. Seriously ladies, I am a man with feelings, not a piece of meat. 

A week after my second orthopedic appointment, I am on a little ride in the town of Geneva when I notice something a little amiss about my feet. My right foot feels a little off-center (i.e. I was not hitting squarely on my foot, but rather it felt as though the outside of my foot was bearing most of the weight). I also noticed that my body was overcompensating a little bit by turning my knee inward. This was creating a considerable amount of torque on my knee that I had never really noticed before. I immediately thought "I need to see Jim or Chad at Geneva Bike and tell them." 

I did. 

The Diagnosis: I told Jim that I think I figured out where my knee pain was coming from. He listened carefully and sort of nodded here and there. He said, "...let's get you upstairs and check it out."  The owner, Jim Hogan, had me kneel down on a padded bench and checked my feet for something called varusa term for the inward angulation of the distal segment of a bone or joint. Jim put me on the trainer and made a couple of adjustments based on my feedback to him. He then suggested that I put an insert in both of my bike shoes of four degrees. He said that this would help with the varus, and that we would start here and see if it felt better after a couple of weeks of biking. Jim cut the inserts and put them in my shoes.

The Result: Two and a half weeks later, the pain subsided completely. I noticed no more stress on my knee, or residual pain at night from my rides. What I felt was normal fatigue from riding a couple of hours. Three weeks out from the inserts, I decided I would have a go at running again. I had a pool run scheduled, but decided to go out and hit the proverbial pavement. I ran 3.5 miles with NO PAIN!  Thank you Dr. Jim Hogan!

Saturday night, I went out for a night time run with my Ragnar teammates with headlamps for a 6.5 mile run. Again, no pain!!!   I have to tell you that when I went on that first 3.5 mile run, I think I was literally smiling the whole time. 

I went back to tell Dr. Jim of my, er, our success. I told him that it I thought it was unbelievable that I went to two orthopedics and that I did not start feeling better until I confided and sought counsel from my bike mechanics. 
His colleague, Chad was smiling in the background. I asked him why he was smiling. His response was, "I'm laughing because we hear that quite a bit." 

The moral of this little story is that when you have an injury, there is usually not one silver bullet, but a multitude of things that you need to cycle through and check off. I debated whether I sustained the injury from my breaststroke kick, from poor running form, from banging my knee on something and then going out for a run and not remembering that I had sustained an injury. I think that I only noticed my foot because I was hyper-conscious about my knee. Why I only noticed it that day is beyond me. I think it might have something to do with what my wife likes to refer to as Refrigerator blindness syndrome. This is a very common affliction for men of all ages, in fact, it seems as though my eldest boy has inherited this terrible condition of not being able to see an item in the refrigerator when you have to move another out of the way in order to see it. Many married men suffer from this serious condition. This should not be confused with I Have No Idea Where Anything In This House Is Because My Wife Moves Everything On Me Disease. This is a much more serious condition that affects many of your loved ones. For instance, if your child comes up to you and says "Daddy, may I have some letter cookies?"  A man might say "...sure, let me get those for you." He may even know where to find the bowl to put the cookies in, as he more frequently utilizes bowls to address his basic survival instincts. The cookies are another matter entirely. He could search cabinet after cabinet, only to find out one screaming and cranky child later that the wife has put them in a tupperware bowl on the counter that you did not see (because you may also suffer from Refrigerator blindness syndrome). I digress. Back to the knee.

Jim, Geneva Bicycle staff, you have one satisfied, healthy athlete who thanks you for your patience and knowledge!

The Other Stuff: Life has been crazy. Wifey and I are looking to move from our current house so that I can be closer to work. I coached Luca's Little League team this summer—what great fun! and I am finishing a new commission and prepping a new class for the fall. Okay, enough silliness for now. To all my blogger buddies, I look forward to catching up this week on all of your blogs. Here is what else I have been doing:

Luca on his All-Star Team
When wifey asked Julian if he wanted to try fencing after his
Lego Robotics Camp, Julian asked "What is fencing?"
Wifey said, "...it's like sword fighting."
Julian look at her immediately and said, "YES!"

My Girls at the Corning Museum of Glass.
No. Nothing got broken. An act of God. 
Amalia and daddy looking at some cool
We stopped at Glen Falls State Park on the way home (by accident).
We drove by it and went "woah! Let's check that place out!!!

I think that our trip down to the Corning Museum of Glass and Glen Falls State Park will be one of the defining moments of our young family. We had such a wonderful time together. The kids were unbelievably engaged in the modern glass art exhibit, saying things like, "that looks like two surfers on a wave," and "that looks like a flower with a sun in it." I love it. 

I have a 50 minute run scheduled for tomorrow—imagine that!  

More soon. Train Smart!


Medievalist said...

I am so glad your knee feels better, buddy!

Mark said...

Thanks, Vanessa!

Big Clyde said...

Geneva now has a new favorite customer!

I would add to that VIP list: my orthotist. Got this couch potato to actually believe that I can cycle, run, and move away from back pain.

Christi said...

I am so excited that you were able to get the knee back on the right track! That is so cool!

Have a great summer!

Caratunk Girl said...

That is so cool about your knee!! Think they want to open a shop in Caratunk? ;)

Also, I love that park!! How cool is that for a random stop?


Try a hedge trimmer on the knee. Trust me, it takes your mind off the other all other pains, even knee related ones

Kovas said...

Nothing like a good bike-fitting! And it's so important to share the good LBSs so others know where to go.

Kristin said...

Nothing like a good bik fit!! Glad your knee is better! Which now means more grueling training from coach Mary :)

Fred (aka ace) said...

Hey Mark, I'm glad to hear your knee is feeling better.

The one thing I that caught my attention from your post was the "varus" discovery. I'm surprised by that actually. Especially since neither orthopedic mentioned it. It makes me think the term is being used more as a description for what is happening on the bike and not an issue with your body structure. And that would make sense given how long you've been training and racing before the knee pain showed up.

That being the case I'm wondering if the angulation and the resulting pain aren't the product of a muscular imbalance somewhere else. The balance of the muscles are what help determine the alignment of our structure against the force of gravity. Things like a weakened psoas, groin, or hamstring can cause torque in the knee and lower leg. So can slightly weaker or fatigued muscles and tendons in the feet. Especially with the application of force.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Good to hear about the knee

Bike fit is the best money spent on any bike related items