Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

A summer missed

I haven't been active lately contributing new entries to my blog. That's because back in January, I fell off my bike on the way to a ride. I broke my collarbone and have been off the bike since. Not riding means I'm not thinking about things the same as I usually do, and I've avoided writing new posts.
I was on a wide grassy area when I crashed, not far from Mt Stromlo. I landed hard enough to knock 2 hours of memory out of my head too, so I have zero recollection of the accident (or the ambulance ride). Interestingly, I didn't hit my head on the ground. My Fox Speedframe Pro not only has dual density foam to deal with both low and high energy impacts, but a delicate exterior finish that reveals most contact with any rough surface. No dents, no scratches - nothing in the finish or lining to show it touched the grass. All my clothing and bike were both grassy and dusty, but not the helmet. Must have been quite an interesting impact.
I've missed out on a couple of planned days at Thredbo. I've missed out on a couple of planned races. I've missed out on a lot of on and off road activities involving bikes. I've also had to stop stretching and weight sessions because I couldn't do much of anything with my left arm.
On the positive side, I renewed my Zwift membership and rode most days on a smart trainer. My goal since they added the climb five years ago was to get to Level 12 and attempt the climb up l'Alpe d'Huez (called Alp du Zwift in Zwift). I finally achieved that and had a pleasant and low key 70 minute ascent. As I write this, my 2 months of membership on Zwift are over. I'm going back to Sufferfest (sorry, now called Wahoo System) now that I'm able to undertake structured workouts again. The free reign of just riding in Zwift and the change of virtual scenery was what I needed but I'm ready to get a bit intense with my indoor riding.
It could have been worse. A mate broke his humerus and missed almost a year of riding. And still isn't fully back. I'm at 10 weeks recovery and have full range of motion in my shoulder, but still cannot do overhead lifts and push-up type movements with more than a few kilograms. That gets better every day.
In case it helps anyone, I dug into the medical literature about clavicle fractures and found a number of quality meta-analyses on surgery versus non-surgical recovery. When any bone is surgically repaired, the muscles have to be removed from the bone to make access for the plate and screws. The "union" rate is somewhat higher for clavicles post-surgery, but full recovery is longer and there are numerous possible complications from the surgery. I had a robust discussion with an orthopaedic surgeon at The Fracture Clinic at Canberra Hospital and we came to a mutual agreement that there was no need for surgery in my case.
I'm still happy with that decision.
Yes I have a pretty big "bump" where the broken end of the collarbone sticks up. In the surgeon's words, I could have traded that bump for a surgical lump. Some breaks result in a length change in the bone as it heals. Shorter can be the result if the two pieces overlap and then heal in that position. Any change requires the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the shoulder to adjust to the new dimensions.
Everything points to 12 weeks post-fracture as the reasonable time to get back on the bike. I am going to wait two more weeks and then see how it feels. My indoor riding went from left arm in a sling, to left arm resting on the bars, to a little weight on left arm, to left arm doing pretty much half the support for my upper body in the drops. All in a couple of weeks. But then I tried to compress the suspension on a mountain bike and it really hurt all the soft tissues in my left shoulder. Definitely not ready at that point. That was 2 weeks ago. I tried to do a push-up this week and knew from the feeling that: A-one downward half was enough and B-I wasn't going to make it back up.
I'm doing daily exercises for both strength and mobility I got from my physiotherapist. They're helping, but it's a long journey back to normal.
Last year Camille Balanche broke her collarbone at one round of the UCI World Cup, and about 3 weeks later she was back at the final round to defend her lead in the overall. She was successful. I cannot imagine how she did it based on this experience. Yes she is younger and had great medical care, but it must have hurt so much. Bravo to Camille for wanting it so much that she was prepared to go through the pain. On the other hand, maybe this is not a good precedent? Do we need our sporting elite to be so aggressive in coming back to racing? Were it me, I think I'd follow Camille's path and at least try, so there's that.
I've been racing a bike since I was 14 years old. I've had quite a number of unintended dismounts from the bike in that time (otherwise known as crashes). This is the first time I've broken a bone. I'm too old for this! I hope I can avoid ever doing it again.