Wednesday, March 8, 2017


With fewer than 60 days to go before the start of the mountain bike racing season, I am in trouble. You might even say that my back is up against it … literally. For the second time this year, I’m fighting lower back pain and it’s stopping me from training properly.

The first flare-up came in February after a challenging 44-mile road ride with nearly 2,000 feet of climbing. The latest discomfort came on Sunday after a comparatively sedate and flat 28-mile road ride. I’m experiencing stiffness in my lower back that lasts for days. This is absolutely not normal for me—it’s unusual for my upper body to tire out—but there can be no question that there was a Cause & Effect relationship between those bike rides and the discomfort. At the beginning of any new season there’s a hardening process as I readjust to the rigors of training, but I don’t remember anything quite like this. And I never play with saddle height or other bike fit variables, though many experts recommend lowering the saddle a bit at the start of the year and then restoring it to its normal position as flexibility returns to the body.

It has been a good winter for strength training in the home gym, which only makes this lower back issue more surprising. And I’m trying to maintain a workout schedule despite the discomfort, albeit with some concessions to my reduced range of motion. Whatever is going on, it comes and goes. I have had more pain-free days than painful ones. But I’m losing training opportunities at a time when I should be ramping up the frequency and the intensity of my rides.

This would not have been a problem last year, when cyclocross was my focus. But this year my focus is mountain bike racing. I need to be fit not by the beginning of September, but by the beginning of May. Right now, I am not on track.

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