I currently find myself in St. Augustine, Florida after a 77-mile ride from Yulee, Florida. My route took me through downtown Jacksonville and a fair number of strip malls in the surrounding area. I did make it out to the beach in the afternoon, but just as I did this it started to rain very heavily. This rain pounded me for the remaining 30 miles and provided the motivation to ride a bit faster than usual. I was above to cover these 30 miles, much of it during thunderstorms, in 1hr 40mins - an average about 17 MPH. There was zero wind and it was perfectly flat, so this gives me a good idea of a baseline mileage that I can cover when called on to do so. Today's ride also pushed me over the 2,000-mile mark. If I can do 1,000 miles per month (or about 35 miles per day), I should get to all the parts of the country I want and need to visit.
I am really starting to take pride in the mileage that I can cover each day. I can handle long rides on consecutive days, and I can see that I am losing fat and gaining muscle. Despite the stress that I am placing on it, my body seems to feel better with each passing day. This is especially true for my knees.
I guess it is probably an appropriate time to share something that I have kept quiet for the past few months. This trip nearly did not happen at all due to knee problems that I fought for the better part of a year during 2013. I banged my left knee on a pipe in the spring of that year. That knee was really sore for about a month after that. As is often the case, the right knee started to hurt as I compensated for the left. Problems such as soreness and apparent inflammation plagued me into the summer when I finally cracked and went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with patella-femoral syndrome in my left knee. This condition results from an improperly tracking knee cap, or patella, which itself is due to weakness in the muscles that surround the knee. I was not wholly satisfied with this diagnosis for 2 reasons. First, it was unclear to me how banging my otherwise strong and healthy knee lead to the development of the condition. Second, my knee did not respond consistently well to the physical therapy that was prescribed for it. For a stretch of days my knee would feel fine, and then, for no apparent reason, it would deteriorate to the point where simple walking would cause great discomfort. I was in and out of physical therapy all fall and winter. My last PT session was on December 17, 14 days before I was to leave for this trip. I hardly did any biking in the time leading up to the trip as I wanted to rest the knee as much as possible. My longest ride prior to departing was 32 miles, and this was done without panniers. I figured I would have to use the first few weeks of the trip as training. The first time I rode with the fully loaded bike was January 1st. I was simply to terrified of hurting my knee before this date to do any challenging riding.
My knee hurt pretty badly for the first 10-12 days of the trip. How much the extreme cold in that time contributed to the pain will never be known. However, as time wore on my knee started to feel better and better, and over the last month or so it appears to have become a non-issue. Yes, my left knee will hurt a bit on longer rides, but that's not startling considering the length of some of these rides. What appears to have happened is that the daily cycling has strengthened my knee to the point where the kneecap appears to be tracking properly now. Considering this, the patella-femoral diagnosis was likely correct even if the exact mechanism through which the pipe episode weakened the knee was not fully understood. I will continue to keep a close watch on both knees, but for the moment my knees appear to be a non-issue. I really hope they stay this way moving forward.
I did add two more birds to the list today. I heard both Northern parula (#196) and Blue-gray gnatcatcher (#197) as I biked along this morning. As with the White-eyed vireo yesterday, I did not stop to look for them. I am sure I will hear and see many more of both of these species as spring migration approaches. Maybe I'll be able to find 3 bird tomorrow to get me to 200!