On Dec. 4, at quarter to noon, I unclipped from my bicycle for the last time in 2011.
November turned out to be a better month than expected. I managed to ride every weekend. I stretched my rule of thumb on weather a little ("never go out on a day when the temperature is below 40 degrees"), as I found that through smart layering of the right clothing and diligently keeping extremities (toes, fingers, head) as warm as possible, the cold didn't bother me as much as last year.
Still -- there reaches a point when all the bundling gets to be a bit much, and the quality of the ride deteriorates anyway (I was out in front Sunday, doing no more than 22 to 24 miles an hour for a stretch, and looked back to see the group had lazily drifted off my back wheel -- that never happens on a July ride).
So now I plan to take at least four months off, to focus on easy spinning in the gym, on a stationary bike. It gives my knees a bit of a breather. Because here's the dirty secret: the kind of intense once-a-week riding that I do is not the best thing for a pair of knees fresh off recovery from chronic pain.
I do it because I love it so much -- and I love the super feeling that comes from this high level of conditioning. I do it because I'm confident I can recognize the danger signs, if my knees start to get in trouble again. This year, I was heartened by the fact that, when the season ended, my knees felt better than a year ago at the same time.
And yet -- a couple of weeks ago, I happened to bend down after a cycling session and heard some extra crunchiness from my right knee. That got my attention.
Which brings us to:
What is that crunchy noise from your bad knees? How concerned should you be about it? How important is it to monitor that crunch, as you try to heal? What's it trying to tell you?
Next week, I'll give you answers based on my own experience.