Today is three full weeks after my ORIF procedure, and a month since fracture. I have been taking a conservative approach since I’m not intending to return to race form for four more months. I told the doctor that I would give it 2-3 weeks after my one week followup appointment to get back on the bike, and spend the rest on the trainer.
I actually felt good about this plan. I didn’t have any desire to ride the trainer the first weeks after surgery since it was still somewhat painful if I used the arm at all. The second week I returned to the trainer but found it uncomfortable to bear weight for the first week. I slowly went from riding sitting up, to placing a hand on the bars. I also flipped my stem over and cranked my bar hoods up to a jaunty angle. It looks like grandpa’s Pinarello, but is more comfortable.
The second week I had my hands on the bars and eventually completed two of my standard trainer workouts that I use during the base period: 4×18′ Zone 2 with 2 minute recoveries, and spinning drills (high cadence and isolated leg intervals). Once I had been able to complete some standard workouts, I felt I was ready to hit the road, even though it had only been 13 days.
Around the house I haven’t been wearing my sling at all. I can use the arm pretty comfortably at the level of my waist as long as I’m not picking up something with any weight (anything more than a pound or so). I can raise my arm so my elbow is above my ear. The bone doesn’t really hurt anymore but the muscles are still pretty angry. My shoulder feels weak and tight. There have been times when I want to reach to grab something far away from my left side. I gingerly put my arm out straight to reach for it and usually I’m surprised at what I can do now without pain.
The only problem I’ve found is that I have a rather large numb patch below the incision. I’ve done some quick reading and found that it is likely that I had one of the supraclavicular nerves cut during surgery. They are sensory nerves only, so I’ve lost sensation in a palm of the hand sized patch below the incision, extending down a few inches and just across my arm pit onto my shoulder.
I’m sure it is something I’ll get used to but I also get some strange sensations (skin sensitive to touch) around the border of the numb patch. Added to this is the minor pain at the incision itself and sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint the exact source of discomfort when I’m moving or sitting awkwardly.
The good news is that my bike ride went rather well. I took out the cyclocross race bike for a few reasons: an upright position, no need to remove my road bike from the trainer, safety (wider, softer, knobby tires, lighter pedal tension), and redemption. The bike was still in my living room in the same gear it was in when I crashed (48-23, which by the way at 90 rpm would have me at 15.4 mph). I put some training tires on it and hit the road.
I rode about 20 miles in 75 minutes. I didn’t bring any telemetry devices with me. My only goal was to get a feel for the open road again. I didn’t have any pain or discomfort on the ride (in my arm anyway, some of the smalls hills were a different story).
At this point my biggest disappointment is that I was hoping to build next year starting from the very high fitness I had a month ago. I was looking forward to being able to springboard to an even higher level. Now I will just have to take a different approach, as I have a long way to go, but more time to get there.