Friday, April 10, 2009


After the awesome high of this past week I am suddenly finding myself sinking into the mother of all depressions. Somewhere around the 24-25 mile mark into a 60 mile plus training ride yesterday my ankle started to hurt. It was faint at first, but as the miles started to pile up it got more and more serious. By the time I got to my campsite I could barely walk. The pain was so severe that I had a friend come and pick me up this morning by car; there was just no way I could bike 60 miles back to DC.

What is truly scary is that I had the exact same thing happen to me about three weeks ago. At the time, I thought I was over-training so I decided to get off the bike for a week or so and that apparently did the trick. But now, I'm petrified that it could be something more serious.

So here I am, having some green tea at a coffee shop in Dupont, fighting against mounting depression and contemplating next steps. I have a 3:30pm doctor's appointment where I suspect I will be referred to a specialist. Given the time window I am working with, even just a recovery period of 3 or 4 weeks could potentially scuttle this trip. On the other hand, the last thing I want is to find myself in Kansas in the middle of the summer with a bum leg looking for a way back home.

I'll send an update when I know more.


-jd said...

Don't worry yet! The culprit could be and is likely, poor fitting shoes, over/under pronation, foot placement on pedals, bow legs....I would go to a Local Bike Shop (even better if you can find one that does professional bike fittings) and ask for issues with your bike fit, especially in the shoes/pedals. Could be the only fix you need!
This is a fairly common issue, and you can read more about it at posts on

I had a similar problem with numb toes when I first started racing in college, and come to find out, my foot was too far forward on my pedals.

Good luck.

Annetta Bunce said...

How discouraging, I've been through hell the past few years myself. But it puts me in mind of a taoist story by Huai Nan Tzu.

"A poor farmer's horse ran off into the country of the
barbarians. All his neighbors offered their
condolences, but his father said, "How do you know
that this isn't good fortune?" After a few months the
horse returned with a barbarian horse of excellent
stock. All his neighbors offered their
congratulations, but his father said, "How do you know
that this isn't a disaster?" The two horses bred, and
the family became rich in fine horses. The farmer's
son spent much of his time riding them; one day he
fell off and broke his hipbone. All his neighbors
offered the farmer their condolences, but his father
said, "How do you know that this isn't good fortune?"
Another year passed, and the barbarians invaded the
frontier. All the able-bodied young men were
conscripted, and nine-tenths of them died in the war.
Thus good fortune can be disaster and vice versa. Who
can tell how events will be transformed?"

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Awesome friends and advice you have here. Hope you are on the mend soon and back on track to your dreams, JACK. Hugs!

Jerry Critter said...

The first two comments really complement each other. All things can be a blessing in disguise. You have many paths open to you. A cross country bike ride is just one of them. There are many others that may be just as, or more, satisfying.

Maybe Karma is telling you something.

Jill Homer said...


I'm so sorry I have not been around or available. I haven't even read your blog in a couple weeks! But your plans are exciting. I'm bummed to hear about your ankle and hope you find some good news at the doctor.

I agree with JD - the culprit could very well be poor fitting shoes and/or bike. I realize you're not in a position to get a new bike this close to your trip, but it probably would pay to go to an LBS and have them adjust everything for you. I've never had this done, actually, and I have had some bike-fit problems in the past. I have osteoarthritis in my right knee, mostly brought on by a combination of riding with my seat too low, overtraining, and then racing through a thobbing injury after twisting my knee (2007 Susitna 100). I was off my bike for three months that year, and I still struggle with knee pain. Little nagging injuries stack up as the miles do. It's good to be proactive.

Another thing you can do is start out your trip slow. Don't ride 60 miles a day off the bat. Ride 20, or even 10. Cut it short of your ankle hurts, sleep a night, and see how you feel the next morning. It's early in the year, so even at a slow pace, you can do this ride over the summer. I know with my knee, pain comes and goes. I've decided to never give up on a tour unless the intense knee pain continues after 24 hours off.

The Trans-America route is a great one. I followed it loosely on my tour, although I only used the maps in Missouri. The Missouri portion of the maps was great - tiny back roads and rolling through the Ozarks.

I hope it all works out. Again, sorry I haven't been available to offer advice. I know you have a lot of bike tourist readers of your blog that have probably already given you all the great tips you need. I have a bit of experience with high multiday mileage, so if you still want to ask me any questions, please just send me an e-mail.

Anonymous said...

If you ant to make god laugh, tell him your plans.

LAS said...

I'm officially hooked on this saga. Jill's advice is good, I think. Do you think it's possible that there's any psychological component to this too? You are taking yourself very far from your comfort zone, in so many ways. You were stuck in the bonds of slavery, sure, but they were YOUR bonds of slavery.

As much as I wish it didn't, every time I change things up in my life, even in small ways, the change begins with a series of magnified negative events. It usually, in the end, has something to do with that removal from my own sense of comfort. I've found the easiest way to get through them is to look at them from a distance and adapt with no preconceived notion of what they might lead to.

You've marched through life to someone else's orders for a long time. There is a letting go that won't come easily. Listening to yourself is not something you're accustomed to. But remember, no one will be discussing your productivity on this trip, which is completely yours. If you don't bike a kajillion miles a day, who cares?

Janneke said...

Jack, do not despair just yet!! Part of simplicity is taking things as they come. I'm sure this 'll turn out to be solved easily. Gourage and strength!

Krista said...

Im crossing fingers for you that its just equipment related so its an easy fix and nothing needing much rest time for your sake.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, Janneke.

Maybe this will set you back, maybe it won't. But you are determined to do it, and if you have to wait another year, so be it. You are crafting your life around doing what you want and living simply. This is not your only opportunity.

Nicole said...

Jack, take a deep cleansing breath. As so many others have pointed out, you are living a life of simplicity. It's not like you took off a limited number of days from law firm life to accomplish this. If it doesn't happen this year, don't sweat it; there's always next year. I doubt you're short on ideas as to ways to spend your time.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Another ditto to what Janneke said.

Whatever you do, don't give into fear. I think that a fundamental component of embracing simplicity is to release yourself from all the artificial pressure that you find more worldly values systems and lifestyles.

Now that you've done a slash and burn of all the material crap that you were attached to, don't forget to stop and appreciate the freedom that you have now. :)

Jack said...


That's a great idea. I haven't talked to anyone about biking fundamentals in forever. Plus my bike shoes are ancient.


Thanks for that. I'm slowly, grudgingly coming around to this perspective. Let's see where I am in a week or so.

@ Heather,


Jack said...


Maybe you are right. If it comes down to it, I won't force it. I want to be open to everything.


No worries. I realize you are super busy and given all your travel plans things must be hectic. This is excellent advice. Besides the doc stuff I'm going to a bike shop to discuss biking technique, handlebar, saddle, shoe adjustments etc... sometime this thursday. In all likelihood it has something to do with my equipment or with my form. Let's see what happens.


How true.

Jack said...


Actually, didn't think of that possibility until you mentioned it. It's possible. I definitely dig that perspective. This trip is mine and mine alone. I will do it on my own terms. And if I can't it will be because I have decided not to.


Thanks for the kind words.


You and me both. It would be fantastic if it were just that. The doc seems to think so...

Jack said...


I think I have a lot to learn about simplicity. I have a ton to focus on internally. The intense disappointment of these past couple of days is just a reflexion that I also need to work on relaxing the inner me and accepting life in a new way.

@Miss scorpio,

Good point. See responses above. I'm slowly moving towards a new way of looking at this.


Absolutely. See my response to Leah above. Need to start focusing on the core of simplicity, away from the material encumbrances I have been focusing on till now. Very good points.