So Jake the Physio inspected me at lunch time today and advised that my brand-new back pain is caused by a strained joint, around L4 and S1. Which wasn’t a groundbreaking revelation because I did it whilst straining my joints, trying to pick up some wood that was far too heavy for me to lift.
Was it self-sabotage? No, I genuinely thought I could lift the wood – and I threw an epic tantrum when I not only failed to lift it, but collapsed to the floor and had to crawl back to the house in pain. I phoned my mum in tears to complain about the unfairness of my stupidity. Why couldn’t she have endowed me with smarter genes that knew not to lift heavy things 7 days before a race?
Anyway, I knew my back felt really really bad, so I had been ready to hear a really really bad prognosis. But then Jake said ‘strained joint’ and that sounded pretty mild to me and I thought everything would be OK.
Plus, even though I couldn’t bend over and had to roll out of the car to get to the gym, I had been able to cycle, run and swim in the 36 hours between injury and Physio appointment without the pain getting any worse. No better, but no worse either.
So Jake said ‘strained joint’ and I said ‘oh good’ and we proceeded to do the twisting turning thingy, but this time I was turning my whole body, not just my legs. And as I lay face down, staring at the blue nylon carpet of the Physio office and marveling that it appeared to be the exact same as my own living room carpet (soon to be ripped out, thank goodness) Jake broke the news to me – this injury usually takes about 2 weeks to heal.
I laughed, but mainly because he stuck a needle into my glute at the same moment and I am a pain-giggler, as we found out in session one.
Luckily, Jake knew the exact right words to say next.
‘You’re an athlete, obviously, so it probably wont take as long as that for you, I think. I predict you’ll be at about 85% capacity on Sunday for the race, and your transitions might be slower than they would in a real race. Remember this is just your warm-up for Straddie and Noosa so don’t push yourself too hard.’
All I heard was – I am an athlete, obviously.
You are an athlete, obviously
My ego kicked in and I reassured myself that my biking, running and swimming is not affected. I will need to be extra careful about not crashing or squirming over other people in the water – any twisting of my back needs to be avoided. I will also have to go back to the elastic laces for my shoes I think (even though I didn’t like them when I tried them) because I might need those extra few seconds to make up for the additional time that transition will require (slow bending, possibly sitting on floor to put shoes on feet)
In the meantime I am also banned from running. Back on the elliptical machine, again.
So, I left the Physio office feeling relieved that I can still race. I appreciated Jake’s commitment to making sure I get out there, no matter how determined my subconscious seems to be to sabotage me.
I went home, to pretend to work while I pondered the new problem of transitions.
Having studied the Bribie Island Triathlon Race Info pack I know that one of the main rules of the race is that you must not touch your bike (after the swim) until your helmet is on. And when you finish your bike leg, you must not remove your helmet until you have stashed your bike back into the rack and finished touching it.
I think I have that covered – I try to do this at home, for starters. I go straight to my helmet when I’m about to go out on the bike. Also, I am teaching myself to think in terms of ‘running from the swim to my helmet’ rather than ‘to my bike’ for Transition 1. And then for T2, visualising that my helmet is my hat, protecting me from the sun until I swap it with my running cap (which will be tucked under my shoes, so has to be the last thing I put on before I set off for the run)
But I haven’t really sorted out the change of shoe situation. I had assumed that I would put my bike shoes on my feet, then run with my bike to the mount line (you are disqualified if you mount before the line) then jump on and ride away, as I would at home.
In my only practice of the swim-to-bike transition, that’s exactly how I did it.
However, I know that all the pros have their shoes already clipped to the pedals, and they run barefoot with their bike, pedaling first with their feet on top of the shoes, which they slip into once they have enough momentum.
Obviously I am not a pro and the few seconds saved from having your shoes on your bike will not make or break my race time. Well, it wouldn’t… if I weren’t suffering back pain that makes it hard to bend over to put shoes on.
Furthermore, I had planned on putting socks on my feet to cycle in, which you don’t if you’re using the ‘shoes already on the pedals’ method. I have never biked without socks.
So I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I decided I needed to try out the ‘shoes on pedals’ method and see if I could make it work for race day. Shane pointed out that practicing anything unusual at this late stage may be another attempt by my subconscious to ruin me (oh what a surprise, she fell off and broke her neck) but I had to take the chance. I imagined it, I talked myself through the process, I could see myself doing it. It didn’t look that hard in my brain.
So I gave it a go.
We have a u-shaped driveway that goes down one side of the house, cuts across the yard and comes back up the other side. So I decided to open the gates to both sides and do my practice on it, making a full circle by cycling across the front of the house.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for deciding to start by clipping in normally, having a ride around my ‘course’ and then making sure I could get my feet out of the shoes, leaving them on the pedals. Why? Because that is the danger point for fall-offs – the shoe removal.
So for the first couple of laps, I just enjoyed being on the bike (cycling is seriously fun, guys) and having the dog chase after me. Then I gently reached down and unlocked my right shoelace, took my foot out and placed it on top of the shoe. The left was a bit trickier because I was a bit wobblier taking my left hand off the handlebars. But on lap 4 I managed it.
So then I did a couple of laps with my feet on top of my shoes and tried not to crush them.
And then I realised I had no idea what to do next. How to move my foot into the opening without losing momentum? I assumed I shouldn’t need to hold the shoe with my hand but every time I took my foot off the shoe it swung the whole pedal around to face the floor, because obviously it is heavy.
I didn’t rush myself, I didn’t panic. I stuck with it, peddling round and round my house trying to figure out the puzzle.
And then I had a brain freeze.
I got off my bike, slipped my left foot into the shoe and pushed off, deciding that if I started with just trying to get my right foot in a shoe (whilst the left foot was already in the other shoe) then I only had half the riddle to solve.
Why I chose the left foot to go in first, I don’t know. Since the day I bought my bike, I have always started my rides by clipping my right foot in first. If I have to stop, I always unclip my left foot and lean on my left leg at traffic lights etc. I have made a point of making that a habit.
So when I struggled to get my right foot into the shoe, and started peddling with my left foot to try and get some momentum, and my right shoe got jammed between the pedal and the ground, and I came to an abrupt stop… I leaned to the left. Where my leg was trapped, clipped in.
So I fell straight to the ground, where I let out a devastating guttural sound and looked up to the sky knowing that I had truly, finally, screwed myself.
Who needs a car crash to save them from themselves? Not me, because I can find a myriad of ways to ruin anything.
I thought I would never get up. Matilda the dog came bounding over, apparently excited by the weird noises I was making, and tried to suffocate me with her tongue, presumably to put me out of my misery.
The fall had released my clipped-in foot, so once I decided that the pain wouldn’t kill me, I rolled away from my bike and into the garden bed. I took some deep breaths and found my feet, then hobbled over to get my camera so that I could take a picture for my blog.
Have I lost my marbles? I don’t know, but my first thought after establishing that I wasn’t paralysed was ‘must blog this’.
So I got my picture, picked up my bike and conceded that I will be slow in transition, as I try to fiddle with my shoes without bending my back. I am not a pro transitioner.
My back… Well, I am in no worse pain as far as I can tell. Which might be good to know for race day – I won’t have to worry about worsening it! But I really need to be more careful in the next 5 days. Lesson learned.