Vastus Medialis

Let me explain the title. The first part is Latin: the second part is pigeon Latin. I’ve always found Latin particularly useful  in making up new ways of describing stuff, such as precipitus maximus, meaning it’s pissing down outside.

Vastus Medialis: what the fox hat, I hear you say? Vastus Medialis is the muscle that sits on the inside of the thigh bone, just above your knee. Its job is to control the movement of your kneecap and it has an attachment via the patella tendon at the top of the shin. When Vastus Medialis is weak, and you engage in a lot of sport, the kneecap wobbles about and causes inflammation, a condition often referred to as Runner’s Knee. I don’t have Runner’s Knee. What I do have is sudden, acute, agonising attacks of cramp in Vastus Medialis in my right leg some hours after I get off the bike. Usually, it’s in the evening while I’m sat on the couch. Occasionally it’s when I’m in bed. Whenever it happens, Vastus Medialis turns to concrete and I’m instantly incapacitated. However I’ve come to the realise that the evening attacks are induced by bad posture and that’s something I can address. It’s all to do with Dennis. The cat likes to sit on my lap when I’ve got my feet up the couch, tucked up beside me. It’s a comfy position, but deadly when you’ve just got off the bike. What it does is put Vastus Medialis on permastretch  so that when you eventually decide to move your legs half an hour later, cramp kicks in. Dennis, sorry son, but we’re gonna have to find another way for you to get your fuss: this just ain’t working son!

Now that would be fine if it was the only issue I was dealing with: but it’s not. Same leg, same rough location, different injury. See those two wee gristley bits at the back of your knee, one on each side? They’re the hamstring tendons, and what they do is connect your hamstrings to your lower leg bones in order to bend the knee: cycling, bent knee… yup, quite important. My right inside one is sore, not while I’m on the bike, but afterwards. It’s an overuse injury. Now at this point, I can hear you thinking to yourself “well just stop then. Take a rest”. I’m sorry but that’s plan Z and there are 25 others ahead of it in the queue. Tyneside No 1 knows what you do here: you manage the situation such that you can carry on doing what you need to do. Rest is the very last resort.

I’m lucky because I’ve had a long and somewhat indistinguished career in a number of sports and for a good part of that time, I’ve been injured. Basically I wasn’t made to do the things I do, but I was born with a threshold that allows me to park the pain and get on with the job. I’ve also spent a small fortune down the years at Sports Injuries Clinics, so I know the script that works for me: ice, occasional anti-inflammatories and ultrasound. I keep a re-usable neoprene gel ice pack in the freezer and I have a portable ultrasound machine that I bought for a hundred quid fifteen years ago. So for the next wee while, say two or three weeks, ice and ultrasound are going to keep me mobile, keep me on the bike, and keep those LifeCycle miles going through the roof. Taking time out is simply not an option, just like it isn’t for a kid who’s suffering with the effects of Neuroblastoma.

The journey goes on…

For years I’ve been telling my athletes that they were unlimited yet week after week I’ve been writing in the blog that I’ve done maximum miles. Now when I really stop to think about it, those two statements are completely  at odds with each other and this week has proved beyond all doubt that I should have been listening to myself all along. Please don’t take this the wrong way but I discovered this week that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is limitless. I’ve come to realise that within the confines of this challenge, limits are just imaginary boundaries that constrain me: but now they don’t. This has been the most remarkable week to date and here’s why. But first it helps if I define the rules of the game.

I commute from Stewarton to Glasgow and vice versa. I can go by whatever route I deem fit, but when I get within a mile of the other end, I can’t go round in circles, or head out the other side, just to make up miles. But what I can do, is approach the other end by whatever direction takes my fancy and that’s where the fun kicks in. Going into work is pretty much always the same. When you’re getting up at the back of five, who wants to get up half an hour earlier to bang in extra miles? No thank you, I’ll take the lie in every day of the week thank you very much. So coming home is where it all happens. There are a variety of routes into Stewarton (eight in total) and by careful consideration of the wind, you can quite easily add a few miles here and there. They are what I call Oscar miles.

The game changer was the Highland Bike two weeks ago. 165 miles from Motherwell to Carrbridge in one go blew away any notion that 20 miles was the limit on any one LifeCycle journey. It also blew away the idea that 36 miles was the daily limit.  Those 165 Highland Bike miles were originally not meant to be part of LifeCycle at all but when wee Oscar passed away while I was out on the road, I reckoned that with the wee man’s inspiration onboard, I should use the long summer days to good effect…

209 miles this week.

The crazy thing is, it wasn’t even intended to be that way. 188 was the previous maximum. Monday was a normal run into work, but it was a pleasant day and I was quite gobsmacked when I came out of work and realised just how warm it was. For the first time this year, I actually found myself in just a short sleeved top and shorts. I also had a tailwind and that proved crucial in what was to follow. I was down the road in double quick time, almost at Fenwick in an hour, so I decided to detour via Kingsford, up to Fulwood, then onward to Dunlop and into Stewarton that way. Six extra miles instead of two (coming in from Kingsford) and suddenly I was looking at 186 minimum. So then I started thinking “what if I did the Kingsford loop every day for the rest of the week, that would take me over 190 and I’ve never done 190”? Well you can guess the rest. “All it needs is one more detour via Dunlop, perhaps with an extra bit on top, and I could hit 200”. So by Tuesday morning, that’s how I was thinking. However I do the fitness training at Joe’s football on Tuesday and Thursday evening so I knew that if 200 was going to happen, it would have to Wednesday or Friday. Wednesday’s forecast wasn’t great so the extra miles were pencilled in for Friday: last day, last trip, no pressure there then!

The hard part of going where you’ve never been before, distancewise, is thinking about the difficult miles before you actually get to them. “What if I’m knackered before I get to X, what happens then”? It’s a fictional problem because in reality it’s not a problem at all: it’s just mind games. Friday’s are now a half day and I’ve learned to cope with jumping back on the bike five hours after getting off it. And I’ve also learned about refuelling throughout the morning so that when I do get back on the road, what’s in the tank is easily enough to get me home, and more.

So yesterday, 19 into work (I went a devious route round the south side of Glasgow at 6:30am to bag an extra mile) was followed by another 32 meandering homeward miles at lunchtime. A day that started on 158 at 5:15am finished on 209 eight hours (and a shift at work) later. What a marvellous feeling to still be in one piece, knowing that the LIfeCycle record book had just been tossed out of the window.

And you know what? After ice and ultrasound, there was nae sign of Vastus Medialis – Injurus Crampus.


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