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Thursday, March 26, 2015

leadership lesson you won't find in a text book

Dear Readers,

Near 20 years ago I got my first promotion to a  management position. I was the youngest supervisor on the floor of the bank credit card center. I had a lot of energy, and while I had not managed people before, I had been a coach and somewhat of a natural motivator. Initially,  I had 20 employees reporting to me and after a short period my call center team quickly rose through the ranks in pretty much every statistic that was measured.

I was young. I had fun. I made jokes and I think I inspired my team. My team, and the bulk of the call center was young, so having a common nomenclature was big advantage for me. While many of the other supervisors used carrot and the stick tactics, I treated everyone as an individual and challenged them to be their best.

I was young and a new supervisor. My desk, and my team's work area were strategically placed near the manager and vice president's office. While no one ever told me, I kinda suspected that I was there so they could keep an eye on me. That was cool with me.

One Monday morning, one of the reps that reported to me, came into the office super excited. Her name was Rita. Rita came straight over to my desk beaming.

"how was your weekend?" I asked her.

Rita replied, "it was amazing, I had such a great time. I got my first tattoo, I LOVE IT!"

"Congratulations! " I replied to her.

Before I knew what happened Rita followed up asking, "would you like to see it?"

With out thinking I answered, " Sure I would love to see it!"

Rita standing between me and the Vice President's office, turned around bent over and pulled down her skirt. Rita revealed her new tribal tattoo on the very low back. The tattoo was well done, but she also showed just a bit more of Rita than I wanted to or expected to see. I felt my face turning red with embarrassment I realized how badly I had blown this exchange.

I looked up and saw the Vice Present looking out the office at me, and Rita essentially mooning me on the floor. His eyes as big as saucers.

Rita turned back around still really excited and asked, "what do you think?"

Still somewhat shocked, embarrassed and frankly not sure what to say, "ah, it looks great! congrats"

I pretty much figured that I was about to be fired. I sat at my desk and just sweated it out.

Two hours later I got a call from the Vice President. "Marc, can you come down to my office?"

I walked down to his office and walked in. I was pretty damn sure I was about to have my last day.

"I understand that one of your employees wanted to share her new tattoo with you?" he asked.

"yes, sir" I responded. I looked down at the floor and braced myself for what was about to happen next.

"Son, in the future if someone asks you if you want to see their new tattoo, you respond by asking,"where did you get it ?"  He said to me.

"Do I make myself clear? " he asked firmly.

"yes sir, I absolutely." I said looking up, and for the first time thinking I wouldn't need to apply for unemployment.

"get back out of the floor with your team..." the vice president said.

"yes, sir!" I said and I scampered out of his office...

thanks for reading.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I rode my bike today...

Dear Readers,

I rode my bike today. First time in over 6 weeks. I have been resting and stretching. I've felt steady improvement in my knee. Friends and professionals assure me to be  patient and time will heal this. Following those recommendations, today was my first ride.

In my mind for weeks, I imagined the first ride would be amazing, that somehow like Forrest Gump when I started to go the braces would come off and everything would click into place. It would be like some awesome training montage from the movies and I'd be propelled back to my former self.

But reality and my own life experience teaches me that the Russians aren't really cheering for Rocky, and no matter what pill Morpheus offers you there is nothing easy. The ride today was horrible. I spent entire 24 minutes terrified. I was scared my knee would be tight, that I'd feel something. That there'd be  some pain. I was hyper-sensitive. While I'm pretty sure there were no issues, I might have imagined a few... This was not the triumphant return I had imagined.

The ride itself wasn't much to speak of- 4.3 miles of bike path in 24 minutes. My bike, which six wheels ago felt like it fit like a glove, felt awkward under me. The seat height, which has been the same since I got the bike 2 years ago, felt a hair high... And I, I was scared to do anything, to change anything for fear of setting off my knee... I wanted joy today, instead I was just scared.

it will come. it will come...

I've got three more weeks of bike path. That I can handle. The fear, the fear may cause me to come undone like weezer's sweater...

thanks for reading


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pes Anserine Tendinitis

Dear Readers.

After an amazing cross season, but one where ultimately I felt like my fitness level was below where I wanted it, I set out to make the 2015-2016 cross season my best. Armed with a new power tap, and lots of motivation I set out to have my best December and January on the bike ever...

The winter was tough with ice and rain, and like most riders I supplemented my outdoor riding time with time on the rollers. The challenge I found was to get the power numbers indoors that I was achieving outdoors. I was feeling good on the bike, maintaining race weight through the winter, and watching my power numbers improve each week.
I like when I can have full block on the strava. never expected that I'd 
accomplish this with empty blocks! 

In hindsight, with half my volume on the rollers for weeks, I should have known that it was really not sustainable mentally or physically.

I'm writing this not to elicit sympathy, but for a few reasons. One to serve as a reminder to myself that achieving balance is important. Secondly, to document for myself the process of injuring myself, and the path to recovery. Also, as I benefited from reading other athlete's experiences, perhaps someone can learn from my mistakes. (don't go swimming). Writing this is also part of how I process this stuff and for whatever reason it helps me to share... so here's the time line... I also know this in hindsight that while symptoms didn't start to show until January 19th, I was doing damage up to that point. None of my positions changed on my bike, the volume of hours was not higher than normal. The variable is the volume of rollers, and efforts on the rollers and not just using them for recovery or endurance riding. I believe that the torque on my knee to generate equal watts on the rollers that I was producing outdoors was a factor in my injury. Additionally, I often would force myself to stand on the rollers, (for variety and to keep my junk from falling asleep) but I really wasn't that good at it (standing on rollers). I believe this motion was also not the same as when standing and pedaling outside. I believe that all of this contributed to my overuse injury.

here's the timeline that I have kept:

Monday, January 19:
experienced a little odd pain in my right knee walking up and down stairs. I write it off to getting old. I do my recovery ride on the rollers with no issues.

Tuesday January 20:
walking around I feel tenderness on the inside of my knee. Stairs have a little pain... Diane and I try to ride trails but it's a shit show. I end up doing an urban ride. Put up some good times on some of my favorite winter training hills- I'm pretty happy with the ride.

Wednesday, January 21:
Rollers. I'm doing 2x20 and frankly looking for a new best 20 minute power effort. I fall just short of my best effort- achieved outdoors... At the end of the ride for the first time on the bike, I feel an odd twinge of pain on the inside of my knee. I am concerned.

Thursday, January 22:
no pain walking today. I ride fire roads with Sharon and Brian. It was fun. I rode my single speed fire road bike which I love, but also causes me to grind a bit more, and stand and climb most climbs. I rode this bike a lot this winter, it's really fun but I recognize grinding climbs out chasing Sharon and Brian, both riding really strongly,  didn't help my situation. No issues on the ride, mentally I begin to question if riding indoors was the issue.. In hindsight, mashing out tempo on fire roads on  a single speed couldn't have helped. (note, I didn't say gravel grinding)

Friday, January 23:
Rode before work. 30 minutes recovery on the rollers. No issues.

knowing bad weather is coming, I head out and do a quick loop at lunch outdoors. I pick up a few 2015 KOMS/PRs. I'm pretty happy. Feel fine on the bike... heck I'm kinda stoked...

Saturday, January 24:
Total shit show outside. I ride 2 hours on the rollers. I do intervals and try to keep my power levels similar to what I would do outside. No pain on the ride, but I feel something subtle climbing stairs the rest of the day.

Sunday, January 25:
My last training ride. The Mr. Belvedere Hates You loop. The groups was stacked, and frankly the guys I want to ride with, who I want to be my peers, but frankly have historically been stronger than me. It was a great ride, and I'm really happy with how I rode. I'm not sharp, but I'm riding strong. I think I made Matt Doyle curse at me once. I have no knee pain. I feel fine on stairs.  In hindsight, this may end up being the peak of riding season for 2015.

check out the ride here.

Monday, January 26:
I have pain up and down stairs. I figure whatever is going on it is a product of riding indoors, and I'm not going to that this week. I'm off the bike this day.

Tuesday, January 27:
I rode by myself very mellow at Middlerun. I wear a knee brace. It keeps my knee warm and it responds well to this. But it's tender the entire ride.

Thursday, January 28: 
I ride with Sharon, Brian and Thayer on snowy trains at Fairhill. No knee brace this time. Knee is tender from the time we leave the parking lot. Ride is fun, so I stick it out, but I feel it the entire time. I comment to Brian as we are leaving the park for the night, that I'm gonna be off the bike for a while.

Saturday, February 7:
I've been off the bike for 10 days. I'm feeling better, but still feel something on the stairs. We do an easy bike path ride, followed by a fun loop at Lums Pond. Diane tells me that I did too much first time out. I scoff at her...

Sunday, February 8:
Peoples ride, super short loop, as Diane and I pull off after Chesapeake City,I'm kinda cracked to be honest. The knee feels okay, but not great. Frankly, I'm tired from yesterday.  Improvement, but not where it should be. Diane pushes the pace a little, I give her grief for it. Flats don't cause as much issue as climbing...

Tuesday, February 10:
Kita and I do a townie ride. I'm chomping at the bit, but knee is bad on the hills. I probably overdue it.I feel tender, weak, but not specific pain up each one. Stairs are killing me. I'm resolved to not ride again until I can walk up down stairs with no issue. This is my last ride of 2015 thus far.

Wednesday, February 25- 
I go to see an orthopedic. I have been swimming 2x a week, got up to half a mile in around 22 minutes. It's not fun, but it's something. Started seeing an awesome massage therapist. Swimming seems to be making my knee feel worse frankly. Where initially I thought the pain was on the lower inside of the knee, I have experience pain pretty much everywhere. I am not an easy man to live with right now. (Sorry Diane). I stopped swimming the previous week and finally the knee pain gets centralized again. Dr. Andrisani diagnoses me with Pes Anserine Tendinitis. He comments if it was bursitis he's give me a shot and that would pretty much clear it up, but I'm not that lucky. Recovery will take time and patience. He gives me some stretches and says no bike for 4-6 weeks, then 3 weeks easy riding, and if no set back, 3 weeks endurance... Touch and go recovery...

Thursday, February 26-
Diane who has had a similar injury complicated by a bad reaction to a cortisone shot (resulting in a hole in her knee) has been very helpful through this process. She's shared what has worked for her, and what hasn't . She has had this diagnosis previously, and helps me through. I comb the internet reading every forum post, ever you tube video... I start stretching 30-40 minutes a day. Icing off and on 3-4x a day. I take a course of prescribed anti-inflamatories. Self Massage has also been helpful. I get something called a rumble roller, which I'm convinced is really a mid evil torture device.

Realizing that I have been substituting drinking beer for my riding, and very frankly drinking my feelings, I stop drinking on February 26. Just one morning too many waking up for work with a hangover. I know my family history, and while I don't believe I have an issue, I'm not tempting fate either...

Saturday, March 14
Making improvements. Continuing my course of stretching, icing, massage and self-massage. Been off of anti-inflammatories for almost a week. Knee is improving, but it's not there yet. If being inactive when the weather was awful was tough, when the weather is getting better it is even tougher.

I've been pretty good about keeping a 2000ish a day diet going. I try to eat smart. That said, I've gained 15 pounds. That's hard for me. I always fight my weight. When I'm riding a bike and burning 7000 calories or so a week, I can better control it. Being inactive- not so much.  Not doing anything has taken it's taken it's toll. That said, for now there's not much I can do. I can walk stairs normally. Pain is centralized and no longer constant- it had gotten there when I was swimming. I had to get to the darkest point to get better I guess... Swimming set me back I am convinced.

I want to take a moment to say that Diane has been a saint through out this. She's been here, and frankly still dealing with the hole in her knee. She's been supportive. I have pouted a lot. I looked forward to the 6 hour of Cranky Monkey and the battle royale shaping up there. I wanted to be in that fight. I have been mopey. I had to stop listening to Morrisey and the Smiths. I have not always had a positive outlook on this process. I get really moody.  I am horrible at sitting still.

I'm tempted by good weather and good progress to jump on the bike. But I also want to put this behind me. So I'm not rushing anything. I'm resolved that I won't be racing mountainbike this year, but I plan on a full cross season. I am going to Nationals in Asheville.  I have some rides I want to do in the late spring  and summer too. I do see progress, and I will continue to be patient.  My mental state is getting better, perhaps a product of progress, maybe daylight savings, maybe acceptance of my injury and timeline. Progress has given me hope.

I also want to say that I do have perspective on this... I'm not sick. No one is dying. I don't use the word blessed often, but I know that I am.  I have a wonderful wife. I have an amazing life. Great friends and family. I really do have a kick ass life. I just can't use my knee right now. If I never rode/raced a bike again- I would be bummed... But I can say, I'd be proud of what I did accomplish while racing, cherish the memories and times I had riding and I'd turn the page. I'd find something else... It's only masters bike racing after all... I hear croquet is the new aging hipster sport anyway... Maybe I'll take up baking.. hmmm...

anyway, thanks for allowing me to get all this out there, for me it really is part of the process for me...

good on ya!

thanks for reading.