Will my torn knee tear my dreams?

Will my torn knee tear my dreams? 

The healing eye of Tia will ensure not! 

Friday 25th April, two weeks after my injury, & five weeks before the Trans Am Bike Race start date; I stood fighting amongst a group of Wirralite pensioners to be first in line at the GP surgery. I indeed got my highly valued ‘on the day appointment' (daily goals!), which allowed me to receive the results of a desperately ordered £400 MRI scan of my right knee. The results were as predicted, after still being unable to walk, & having some worrying signs on ‘examination’: a tear to my lateral meniscus. But even more importantly, the tear is in the area with no blood supply (aka no, or poor healing). Ah man. 

Here is a diagram to explain what my inner knee now looks like:
I know what's on this year's Christmas list

The menisci are the knee’s protective cushions, but when harmed in this way, their bitter reaction is to either throw your knee into an unstable & regular ‘giving way’, prompting victims to constantly catch their own falls, or in my case: lock your rusty joint into a slight bend, resulting in a painful couple of weeks. Oh, & of course, they also lose some of their allegiance to your cartilage: hello arthritis! 

When life throws you bitter pecans... 

The GP soon realised that before collecting these results, I already knew my plan of action. I’m qualified not only in medicine (so have some background knowledge, & enabling me to search through relevant studies to settle my woes ), but also in stubborn obsessiveness. I don’t need surgery yet, thankfully, but the small outside chance of recovery within two months, is something I can’t let go of.
How could I ditch the new love of my life? 

So, what happened, & what am I going to do about it? 

Easter into early April: competent mileage, hills, & starting to believe I may have a chance

Due to fly 21st April, this was a hectic month of prep prep & more prep! With challenges of these proportions MANY things end up being last minute, there’s just too much to think about, plan for,  & test out for it not to end up that way. And training? Around 40h a week at times. Tough balance! 

E. G.  How to attach new bottles to your bike,  & fit them around all your bags

New location 2: rear forks! Please just don't fall into my wheel... 

Highlights of these 2 weeks were a character-building 180 mile ride to Oxford,  where not only the wall of constant wind & five hours of torrential rain in the dark cold hills tried to ruin my day (rude),  but my stomach decided there was no longer room at the proverbial inn. Yes, I cracked on through a torment of wretching,  regurgitation & unbearable nauseas pain. 

To aid the stabbing stomach pangs for the following 48h...

Suffice to say,  I almost quit a ride for the first time,  but I didn’t,  & my poor but awesome friend Fran received & fed a drenched & shaking cyclist late that night. Thanks Fran. 
Mini Fran was a total love,  too! 

The enjoyment of Easter Monday was shared with fellow Phoenix cyclist Rach, &  my new partner in crime, Jack. God knows how I’ve ended up with a boyfriend through all this crazy bike lark, I did try to fight it, but his vegan cake won me over (true story). 

Yep.. he did. 

I should mention that Jack is quite crazy,  & is in training for a mountainous (& his first ever)  Ironman triathlon. So just for extra fun in the meantime, he is doing some insane endurance event each month: like a 250 mile ride then a 70 mile run a few weeks later...  the usual. He's hoping to support the work of the mental health charity 'Mind': check it all out at jackdavy.com

So yes, the Easter Monday ride hilariously started with this phone call:

Rach, on the drive to meet us: Alaina… there’s no snow in Llanberis is there?  I’m driving through a load now… 

Me: No no,  definitely not. Just super wet! But we’re still riding! 

You can predict what we encountered that day. Feast your eyes on this fair-weather ride 😂:

Surprisingly my compadres didn't show up here

I tell you what though, not only stunning white scenery, & cracking Snowdonia hills, but we even got a full rinsing as the sky dropped a few lakes on us, free of charge. I continued to muse to the others that we’d been quite lucky with the weather. I always am!

Finally another long but fun one was a 191 miler over 4000m of mid-Wales hills, including the insane Abergwesyn valley:

Insane for its wild remote beauty, but also for the never-ending tenacious hills… including the 25% ‘Devils Staircase' (with a character so foreboding it’s in the top 100 cycle climbs of Britain). Well, those hills just kept on giving! 

These regular big rides, distances I hoped to manage EVERY day across America, were becoming routine. For the first time, only a few weeks before leaving, I felt ready. In fact not only ready, but overcome with an insatiable excitement to pit myself against the challenge. Bring it. 

How my indulgent self-torture can help vulnerable people in our community

I’m hoping to raise funds for a very small & outstanding local charity called  Asylum Link Merseyside. Every day their volunteers provide food & clothing for hundreds of people who have no other options; many of them homeless. More than that, they are a community hub of friendship & advocacy for those who have lost their lives and identities after fleeing often horrific circumstances.

I visited their bike workshop, to see what they get up to & try to lend a hand (I specialise in puncture repairs, don't you know!). I was instantly welcomed by caring & jolly volunteers who ‘firefight' for the day: like superheroes they rescue & repair the failing lumps of rust that these people depend on. This form of mobility gives them access to food or jobs where they can earn a living.
Look at me: saving lives! 

 I had a laugh with some of the East African guys who had fled war: their eyes lit up with awe when I told them about this beautiful mythical land called the ‘Wirral Peninsula', only 30min away by bus! I promised I’d take them one day. 
Any help you can offer would be gratefully received:

11th April a fundraiser was kindly held by Shiraz restaurant in Liverpool,  & organised by the great Adapt Outdoors Liverpool team. We treated the attendees to food, live music & presentations from the current GB Ski Mountaineer Champion Ursula Moore,  & myself. Overall an amazing £1000 was raised & given directly to Asylum Link,  so thank you to everyone who supported the night. 
Some videos on instagram/facebook

Ursula Moore

Asylum link volunteers

And back to the point: the menacing meniscus

My final two weeks were to include a huge load of interval sessions on the static bike/turbo.  I was advised to do these to capitalise on strength & power gains before I would be leaving to only do long rides up the Pacific coast. Sprinting intervals, on the hardest gears, for up to a number of hours,  between the massive rides I had been doing: I don’t know for certain what caused the tear,  but something gave. I felt a couple of strange ‘tweaks' within my right knee when on the turbo…nothing more. That following weekend,  my final one,  was to include a 376 mile route down then up Wales, an adventure I would share with fellow female riders Rach & Ali.

All was well as we left Bangor at 5am to face a breathtaking ascent of the Llanberis pass at sunrise.  

By 30 miles in, my friend ‘tweak' reappeared with new tenacity. Intermittent sharp stabs concerned me (this is NOT the time for a knee injury!!); I decided to abort the mission at our first stop Dolgellau, mile 55. The pain was now constant,  but mild. It was enough to wish that I wasn’t in a place where the nearest train station was still 40 miles away. Oh Wales,  you really didn’t help matters.

After riding these minor miles over some lovely hills, I could no longer stand without severe pain, or even straighten my right leg. 
On the bright side though, trains in Britain expose you to some kind hearted & hilariously odd people: one woman approached me in the station toilets to give me two homeopathic sugar pills that would cure all my ailments. Not sure what I found most strange, her conviction, or how I felt obliged to take them out of politeness. 

The homeopathy didn't work...

So,  now what? 

I don’t want to be overly dramatic,  & self-obsessed/pitying. But obviously I am extremely upset. 
Considering the tear location, & how slow my recovery is, I am trying to accept that managing 150+ miles per day across mountain ranges for one month is going to be very unlikely. No matter what my inner or physical strength. On top of this, I can’t help but think of all the time, & my savings sacrificed. Sadly I will not be able to enter something like this now until after GP training: I chose to focus this year on Trans Am, so it's pretty unfortunate that this has just happened eh... 

Vegan chef Jack to the rescue! 

I am blessed to know such wonderful people, whose support has been much appreciated

You mustn’t dwell on things you can’t control or change. The bigger picture is that I’m a privileged young woman, healthy, alive, & with a great career & incredible people around me. 

21st April, one week post injury, I missed my non refundable flights to San Francisco. I spent two weeks housebound & on crutches. However since the first week I have been doing rehab exercises. By week three my exercise routine amounted to two hours,  including a short period of zero resistance spinning on the turbo. By Friday of that week I could extend the leg & walk around, so I booked new flights. 
The 'diver': retrains coordination (proprioception) 

The 'extender': to maintain a full range of motion

I just like pull ups... 

Inner turmoil! 

I could easily be sensible & probably realistic: letting go of Trans Am, & using these two months to try make the most of being in America, as a tourist. I actually accepted this… for one whole morning! I'd then come across locations that fall on the race route, & would be overcome by a deep painful sadness. This trip was never about sightseeing. If I’m able to walk, hike, or even climb by the end of May,  I would never forgive myself for not even giving it a go. 

My dear,  you have no idea how much I want you. 

The no-plan plan

1) Friday 4th May: fly to San Fran with my bike & all the race kit I’d pack onto it. Also with a rucksack containing actual clothes/shoes, a tent, guidebooks etc for the month pre-race, & to have in case I can’t race & have to do something else in June. 

Potentially set up for the race (definitely need to lose some gear though) 


2) Spend roughly one week there, continuing the rehab +/- trialling some easy cycling depending on the knee status

3) Rent a car to carry all this stuff,  heading slowly up the coast towards the race start line (Astoria, Oregon), stopping off at different places to cycle,  if possible

If the above plan is is workable, aka pain-free, I‘ll need to gradually increase the cycling until I’m able to manage over 100 miles before the race. So,  four weeks to learn how to cycle again,  on a torn & still sore-to-walk-on knee...
If I’m symptomatic, I’ll have to stop (not that the pain or knee locking will even give me a choice!), & know that I tried.

Thanks mum

All we can do is ride the waves as they are. 

Thanks for your interest & support everyone. 
Love Alaina


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