Thursday, 14 January 2010

All About the Mind

As reported on various occasions, I became intimate with a couple of cars back in August 2009 and busted a number of bones.

While I am still experiencing some discomfort as a result of the injuries, day to day life is not far from normal including my cycling activities. In fact, I even managed to get back and do some races before the Christmas competition break.

From a physical perspective, getting back on the bike and performing the physical process of riding has been relatively easy. I still cannot throw a ball, carry a suitcase in my right hand and tend to swim more like a one armed person however I can ride and even go up hill now (slowly).

However the mental recovery in respect of cycling has been far more difficult.

Since getting back on the bike, I have been a very reluctant user of roads. I think every car is aiming for me. When looking behind to say change lanes, I look once, twice, a third time and sometimes again just to make sure and as such, my hesitation in making a decision and then executing it has made me dangerous and un-safe.

Virtually all my riding has been alone. I have been nervous when other cyclists are around. I also felt my tendency to be indecisive while riding made me not only dangerous to myself but to others as well.

Given the crash involved a parked car and its door, I tend to pass them leaving a space of about two car widths and on most roads, this puts me into the oncoming traffic. Again, not a good place to be and not a good place to be taking someone who may be on my wheel.

My inability to deal with the psychological recovery from the crash was really annoying me. I thought I should be stronger than that. It has also made me somewhat un sociable.

I confess to considering putting the bike in the rack for a few months and doing something else. E.g. Outrigger rowing has definite appeal and I have made some enquiries.

However, at the back of my mind were several thoughts including that if I do rack up the bike, I will do so only after I have dealt with my psychological demons.

As a competitive sportsman over many, many years, I guess I have endured my fair share of injuries. A double break to the fibula, a few occasions where I busted a finger, perforated medial meniscus, calf and hamstring injuries too many to mention and some ankle reconstructive surgery all come to mind.

On each occasion, there is the physical recovery and there is a mental recovery and on each previous occasion I dealt with both reasonably easily.

So why the problem now with the psychological recovery?

When you pull or strain a hamstring, the rehabilitation process is intense, persistent and painful. Competition pressure cannot be simulated in training so it is not until actually getting back into a pressure situation in competition that you know if the recovery is complete.

Until tested under full competition pressure, and this might take several games, there is a tendency to nurse the muscle. It is only when fully extended under pressure without the injury recurring do you fully regain confidence. That is, the psychological recovery is complete.

The same with a broken finger. My breaks have been playing cricket. You tend to subconsciously protect the area broken even after it is healed and it is only after you are struck on the same place without it breaking that you realise it is all ok and you regain your confidence.

So what does that mean when the injuries are the result of a cycling accident?

How was I to get over my psychological post crash cycling demons?

Does it mean I have to have a crash or a fall without injury to complete my recovery?

But how do you manufacture a crash and if you can, how do you do so while ensuring no injuries?

Something significant happened on Tuesday’s River Loop. First of all, I accepted a request from someone I have known for nearly 20 to go and ride with him. He is getting back into cycling so it was hard to refuse, even if it meant my plans to go to Mt Coot-tha were put on hold.

Just over half way through the ride we went into single file and I let him go through and took his wheel. As I did, it occurred to me that if I am ever going to get used to taking a wheel again (other than in a race) there is no wheel safer than his.

About 500 metres on, he hit a pothole and popped a water bottle form his cage. I not only hit the same pothole, but my front wheel went over the water bottle before also hitting my rear wheel.

Somehow I unclipped prevented a fall, and stopped.

To say I was badly shaken is an understatement. It was a very, very near thing.

My colleague stopped and apologised for the pothole. I took a few minutes to gain my composure before mounting again and riding very slowly to the start of Cemetery Hill.

My thoughts while riding slowly were many including giving up cycling. I had trouble getting my August crash out of my head and what I went through then and am still going through now.

However, it also occurred to me that I survived an incident successfully and this was the equivalent to stretching while at full pace for the hamstring injury

The rest of the ride I did as usual.

I also made the decision to join the regular Wednesday bunch the following morning. My bunch is usually the B grade group however as there were so few of us we joined the A grade bunch and went on to average nearly 36 kph before being dropped along with a few others on Highgate Hill.

I almost had a set back this morning though. When I arrived at the start of the ride, one of the cyclists (Ern) informed me the son of one of our regulars was hit by a car the previous afternoon. It was not what I needed to hear and momentarily I thought ‘what the hell am I doing here’.

I completed my first real bunch ride and enjoyed the coffee shop chat more than I have since before 19 August 2009.

I am not yet ‘fully back’ but I have made some significant progress.

Lets go biking


Groover said...

Very interesting insight into the psychology of recovery from sports injuries. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Some things just can't be rushed it seems. You just need to allow the time. There is no shortcut.

Lily on the Road said...

Groover sent me over to read your post. I have to agree with Sandra, there is no shortcut.

For me and maybe you, just being able to put your fear and anxiety down on paper helps...

I'm trying to get over the fear of falling down a particular hill while on xcountry ski's. When I fell two years ago I really damamged my ribcage and was knocked unconscious, so maybe we can both feel the fear and just do it anyway...

Good luck, I'll be interesed in reading more about your road to recovery.