The Scott Sunderland Diary 2002

On the road again

Sunday, February 24

The first ride

Click for larger image
First ride – typical Belgian weather
Photo: © Sabine Sunderland

Absolute bliss it was; the sun even showed its face for a while and I almost had to strip off some of my training clothing because it was getting too warm. I was enjoying this first ride out on the road and my morale was high!

The legs were feeling far from okay, but a tail wind was helping me out.

Realistically thinking, I know it will be another six to eight weeks before I get close to the form I had beginning of January. The muscles need intensive build-up work over a period of at least four weeks. Suppleness, strength and speed on the bike will take an extra few weeks. I will need to pace myself to avoid stress-injury to muscles and/or tendons.

After 30km of training, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worst but it couldn't temper my good mood.

I know it sounds crazy, I left with a beautiful blue sky above me and now a leaden, grey sky threatened with everything it could. The cold rain wasn't worrying me too much at first. I looked up and grinned: it was my first ride on Belgian roads since my return from Australia and even the weather gods weren't going to ruin my day. Hey, after being indoors for five weeks I didn't give a shit. I was out there!

But then it started hailing, thundering and lightning and even snowing.

Only a few kilometres later my hands were getting cold and I knew I would be chilled to the bone in only a short while... maybe it wasn't such a good idea to bite the bullet after all.

Winter is still definitely still reigning in Belgium. Ironically enough, the last few weeks we had some beautiful, sunny and dry days. On my first day on the road, of course, winter had to raise its voice.

I had set out to do 45 to 65km but I knew Sabine would be worried sick if I stayed out longer; she'd probably be wondering if I was okay and where I could be in this thunderstorm.

That thought convinced me. The sanest thing to do was to give in, it was time to head back.

Click for larger image
Photo: © Sabine Sunderland

Once I got home, I spent half an hour on the Tacx home-trainer; just to get warm and to have the kilometres I wanted. After that, I had some warm soup and sandwiches and headed for the gym for a short while to complete my training for the day.

The good news

I had visited Dr. De Clercq, the orthopaedist who works in the local hospital in Zottegem, a third time last Friday. Before I went I was hoping for good news and that was exactly what he gave me after having seen the new X-rays.

His words "Looks good Scott, I think the fracture has healed up sufficiently for you to resume training on the road!" sounded like music in my ears and I couldn't suppress a sigh of relief.

When I had returned home with the good news Sabine confessed jokingly she had lit a candle while I was at the doctor. She almost seemed happier than I was! I have to admit I understood her honest excitement. After going through two years of rehab with me after the '98 accident, she knows I am a different man when I can't go out on the bike.

She refers to me as "The Caged Lion" when family and friends inquire about me... get the picture?

Rehabilitation program

I have had a number of e-mails from cycling fans asking me about the rehabilitation program I am following. There are quite a number of factors that determine such a program:

Every injury situation is different and it is necessary to gain proper advice from a doctor and a sports physiotherapist before you engage in any form of exercise, to avoid any further problems.

Because I fractured the tibia, and thus injured my knee and leg, it was impossible for me to train on the bike, something you can keep doing when you have got an fractured hand, elbow or collarbone.

This is a most difficult situation. When you can't train on the bike at all, and the Doc doesn't allow any other "exercising" of the leg, as was the case in my situation, what you can do right after the injury occurred is very limited.

This is, I think, the most frustrating part. You just sit, hang, lie there, on the couch, virtually seeing the muscles on the legs wasting away.

Especially after a neatly finished winter build-up this can drive you nuts, you can't afford to lose balance at that point. I did some upper-body exercises but they weren't satisfying my hunger for action.

On top of that hopping around on crutches isn't doing the back and posture any favours so it is very important to have almost daily visits to the physiotherapist.

Massage is a vital part of my program now, whether I'm racing or not.

Now I needed to have long, deep rubs, not only to loosen up the tight muscles but also in support of the rehab program that aimed at minimizing the atrophy (break-down) of the muscles.

Phase 1

As said in my previous update, I made use of electro-stimulation of the muscles. I wish to add that this has to be performed under medical guidance as you can overdo this type of stimulation quite easily. It's definitely not "more is better" in this case.

You need to get advice on which specific program to use. The intensity and the frequency of the treatment need to be carefully monitored. I have heard of quite a few pro's who injured themselves by using this equipment too intensively. I'm serious: it's not hard to overdo it!

I also filled in time with a bit of swimming and aqua jogging.

Click for larger image
Information central
Photo: © Sabine Sunderland

My new Tacx trainer got a good workout too. Quite ironic, isn't it: here I was, being a bit of a smart-arse running a home-trainer award and the words had only just left my mouth when I had to start using one myself!

The bad weather forecast for the North of Europe will force me to "enjoy" the home-trainer for a while longer. I have to say, I'm really impressed with the Tacx Grand Excel Trainer. It really is a great piece of training equipment, with different details of measurement (speed, cadence, power, resistance, etc). All data are easily downloaded on the computer so you can keep a perfect check on your progress; or send the information through to your trainer.

Phase 2

The fracture has healed sufficiently to enable me to put full body-weight on the right leg so phase two of the rehab program has started.

Training outdoors and doing leg-presses and extensions in the gym is now included in my daily routine. This will be so for the coming four weeks. By then I should have regained most of the muscle-mass and power on the injured leg.

Slowly, I will be increasing the kilometres and the intensity to rebuild the base condition.

Late March, I may head down to Italy for a week of intensive training -- in the sun -- with the AIS Squad.

The rest of the Team

The Team fakta guys have been giving it some stick!

In the Tour of Rhodes (2.3) they finished 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 12th in GC, and that brings with it a whole bunch of points (229 but only half of those go to the team's classification under UCI rules).

Great job fellas!

The other half of the team was racing in Italy, in the Giro Riviera Ligure Ponente (mouthful isn't it!) also a 2.3. They put in a few strong rides and made further progress form-wise. Everybody seems to be healthy and fit, which is crucial at this time of the year.

The team will be in Belgium next week for one of the first spring classics, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, all with good form and huge motivation. I will be joining director Peter Meinert in the team car during the race. I know almost every road like the back of my hand; it should give the guys some more technical back up.

Home-trainer Award

Man, this was a hard one!

First of all: thanks for all the interest. I had some good laughs reading the humorous remarks, while some other entries really astounded me! Some guys must be really motivated, or a few sandwiches short of a picnic...

A few people gave me reports on great performances in the name of charity. It was fantastic to read all of them but as some nominated with the same event, it was impossible to award one of them.

Anyway, to pick only one winner was not easy.

I have decided however to send the Team fakta jersey to entry number 2, David Power, Wilmington, Delaware USA. He is into the ultra distance cycling (doing 1200 km in 50 hours, minimal stops). To challenge yourself in that way is fantastic I reckon; although I do wonder where the thrill of it lies? I guess I'm more addicted to the adrenaline kicks you get in shorter cycling events!

Click for larger image
Scott & Sabine
Photo: © Team fakta

But, entry number 34 caught my eye too and I cannot leave Michael Stechow's funnily sarcastic report on his indoor training efforts unmentioned. My admiration for his strength of character to work for the UN in Kosovo, under very uncomfortable circumstances, is something I want to materialize by sending him some gloves. I know he can use those well! Maybe someone else could send him some ideas on alternative heating systems.

(Can both of you contact me again with details of mailing addresses)

Home trainer award entries: Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV

That's all folks!

And for those waiting for a lovely spring in Belgium: Give me a yell when you see me out on the road, whether it's on the bike or in the team car!