This is the last of the kneehab diaries. I'm writing this up for other unlucky cyclists who break their patella. Unfortunately, it will probably be pretty useful! Broken kneecaps seem to be a common cycling injury.
A short recap (long version here): I was in a car accident in early January. I broke several ribs and fractured vertebrae, and my kneecap broke into three pieces. It was surgically repaired immediately after the accident. I've been in physical therapy since late January, and just started riding on the road again (the first road ride of the season was March 13, 2008).
I was allowed to ride again starting in March. Last March (2007 season), I rode a total of 18 hours and burned 12,500 calories. This March, following the knee injury, I managed to ride a little over 6 hours, and only burned 2,700 calories.
During March (3 months after the accident and knee surgery) I basically started to explore the limits of my knee pain, leg strength and endurance. I found that I could really work my bad leg on flat stretches of road. My good leg did almost all the work on climbs. That really limited the volume of hours I could ride, since I would become exhausted after 90 minutes to 2 hours.
I was not able to stand up out of the saddle and pedal until March 30. I still can't really push hard when I get out of the saddle, now (April 11).
By the end of March, I was back into my "normal" training routine. The snow on the one flat stretch of asphalt near my house finally melted, and I was able to work the bad leg a lot harder by doing intervals and focusing on my pedal stroke.
Now by mid April, I am completely back into the swing of the cycling season. My weekly training volume and intensity is comparable to last season. I actually managed to hang in the "B" field of my local training race and even took turns on the front chasing down a breakaway. Several of my peer riders were dropped!
Of course, my fitness is considerably diminished from last season (down about 33%), but it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It's improving quickly, and I have some new secret weapons in the training tool kit thanks to my physical therapist.
I still have lingering issues with the knee, namely pain when it's held in a bent position for longer than 20 minutes or so, and still have a couple of sessions of physical therapy left. But I should be done with this chapter of my life this by May at the latest.
If you're currently sitting in a recliner with your leg in a brace, possibly dozing and drooling all day long, and your bike is gathering dust don't be too worried! I went from sitting in a recliner 24 hours a day, barely able to move to racing in less than 4 months.