Well, that was depressing.
Earlier this week, I redeemed a voucher for an hour’s massage. I was hoping to get some relief from the lower back pain that I reluctantly admit has been more or less constant since my first 2-day ride of the year. Which was Pink Flamingo. Which was in early August.
Time flies when you’re having Advil for breakfast. And sleeping on a heating pad. And letting yourself believe that it’s just muscle tension, because wouldn’t that be nicer than an actual injury?
You might recall that the lower back pain — which actually dates back at least to my high school era — became a real issue on multi-day rides. The stiffness of a single endurance ride transformed into gasping pain by Day 2. Trotting downhill was agony. My lower back was by far the worst, but my upper back wasn’t all sugarplums and roses, either.
I rode anyway. Sucked it up. Gutted it out. This is *endurance* after all. We’ve all seen each other out there with colds and flus and sprained ankles and bruised ribs and broken arms and cheery grimaces that say “Hell, yes, I’m riding today!” A little pain never stopped us.
(Except Ashley of Go Pony, who recently wrote: “[T]he bottom line is, I don’t really feel like giving myself permanent damage for the sake of a hobby, something I’m supposed to be doing for fun.” Which I’m pretty sure proves she’s smarter than I am.)
Anyway, my massage came with a detailed chiropractic evaluation. The good news is that my body composition is excellent (low-normal bodyfat, high-normal lean mass, ideal hydration, etc.). The bad news is that my back pain diagnosis looks like this:
- Cervical Kyphosis
- Severe Pelvic Unleveling
- Convexity – Lumbars
- Lumbar Hypolordosis
- L5 Disc Degeneration
- Plantor Fascia Collapse
Oh. Right. That explains it.
The doctor didn’t ask me to ride less. He works with too many athletes to try something that stupid.
Just in case, I made my message clear: “The riding is non-negotiable. It’s what I do.”
Don’t get between me and my passion.
He says I’m fixable. More or less. In exchange for an ungodly quantity of money and time, the good doctor should be able to restore me to painless function. After that, we’ll come up with some kind of maintainence regime. I’ll probably have to drop by his office after endurance weekends for mitigation of the acute banging-up I’ve incurred.
I won’t deny that I went home and sulked for two days. I cried some. Angry, mostly, because I feel betrayed. I am so healthy, so strong, and now this? I didn’t ask to have orthopedically challenged feet, which apparently precipitated most of the problems. I give my body more nutrition, exercise, and sleep than just about anyone I know — which, as the doc points out, is probably why my inflammation has remained under control and allowed me to get this far. Hmph.
When it comes right down to it, though, I reckon I’m lucky. The damage isn’t going to stop me from riding. I’m not that far gone. But I might have been, had I ignored this for another year. Even strong, well-nourished bodies can’t take a structural beating forever and come out unscathed.
And so, here’s my scrap of advice to all you other tough riders out there:
Quit being so tough. If you hurt, find out why. Do everything you can to heal. Your ability to keep riding is worth more than a boatload of cash. Find a way.