It’s been a long road to get back to racing for Alison Powers (TIBCO/To The Top) following an elbow injury sustained at the Redlands Bicycle Classic at the beginning of the season.
After a long recovery, Powers came back to racing in mid-July in a small Boulder race but due to UCI rules, was forced to look out of State to continue racing. That brought her to the Tour de Nez in Nevada at the end of July.
“It hurt bad, I suffered so much but it was fun.” she said about the Reno criterium. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited to race, actually have a lot of fun in a race. So I needed that, I needed to feel excited and have a lot of fun and then to be excited to race again, that was fun. But the race was hard, while my fitness is not very good I suffered from minute 11 on.”
Though she suffered, the good news is that her elbow was doing fine after the technical crit. “It’s doing really well, it didn’t hurt racing and it didn’t hurt after racing which is impressive. As my strength gets better then it gets more pain-free.”
She said that she did not worry about crashing once. “I think that’s because I was suffering too much”, she laughed. “all I could focus on was the wheel in front of me. Where’s the wind? I need to be out of the wind, I need to be as efficient as possible so there wasn’t even room in my brain for crashing thoughts.”
Powers finished 8th in the NRC criterium. She then raced the NRC Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove, a 3-day/3-crit event in August and will take part in the Aspen/Snowmass Women’s Pro Stage Race.
So what took her off the bike so long?
“There was a girl in front of me in the straightaway in the crit that fell down and all I remember, I needed to bunny hop her which – I’m not going to bunny hop a person – so I ran right into her and must have fell down and must have landed all on my elbow.” Powers said about the crash during the Redlands Criterium on the straightaway on April 2nd 2011.
The most serous injury was to her olecranon. “Pretty much shattered the tip of my elbow, and it was an open fracture so I had road rash on there. I had surgery the next day in Fontana, I broke my humerus too but that didn’t require anything.”
The surgery and its aftermath forced her off the bike. “I have a plate and 11 screws in there so it was in a cast for a while, then I was in a splint, in total my arm was immobilized for six weeks, and so then you lose all your range of motion and your strength.”
“I didn’t realize it but you put a lot of pressure on your arm and your triceps, so I couldn’t ride, there was no way I could ride and I honestly didn’t want to. I’ve had enough injuries with ski racing and other sports that I just learned that if you get injured, some higher power tells you you need to have rest and have a break, so I put the bike away and found other things to do which was very nice.” Powers commented.
No mopping around for the almost-always smiling Powers, who turned to other activities. “I started to get sad in June when the weather was getting nice and everyone was talking about their awesome mountain bike ride or this ride or that ride, that’s when I started to get sad and miss my riding. But I was hiking and hiking with friends, and going for dog walk, it was nice to do other things.”
The 7-year member of the US Ski Team had to learn how to deal with injury a decade ago. “I had a far worst knee injury about 10 years ago, ski racing. So this elbow injury is nothing compared to that.”
That injury was a tough one mentally. “For my elbow injury, it wasn’t as bad because I’ve gotten to the point where I have a little bit of a life at home. I have friends, I have family, I have a job coaching so I have other stuff to do but when I was a ski racer and I got injured, it was horrible because the only thing I knew was skiing and ski racing. Luckily I’ve matured and my life is a little bit more balanced now.”
Powers got back on the trainer in mid-June for three days a week and finally was able to ride outside. “My first bike ride outside was the 22nd of June for a whole one hour. One hour of riding almost killed me.”
After enjoying her summer off, she had pretty much written off her season. “Honestly at that time I didn’t have any desire to race, and then I did a little race in Boulder and then was fun.”
She immediately called her DS Lisa Hunt to say that was fun. “I want to race hence going to Reno and doing the Tour de Nez. I’ll go race in Aspen, that women’s stage race and then I don’t know what’s next. There’s not much racing left.”
Though there’s not much racing left, there is one time trial left this year for the 2008 National Time Trial Champion.
“On the elbow it’s fine. The elbow pad on your forearm is right where my plate is, fortunately I played around with it two nights ago and my boyfriend added an extra pad on top of the left elbow pad and that felt pretty good.” she said about her first training ride on her time trial bike following the Reno race.
The Aspen/Snowmass Women’s Pro Stage Race starts off with a 8-mile uphill time trial. “I think if I just keep practicing and keep getting my arm used to be bent and having pressure on it for 20 minutes at a time I should be fine.”
What’s next? The 31-year old is not done. “I’d like to come back, I’d like to come back to racing. I wasn’t sure but I want to now, it’s fun, I like racing my bike.”
Once her road season is over this year, she’s planning to do a few cyclocross races with a local Colorado team, CrossPops. And more importantly, another surgery.
“But I also want to have my hardware taken out of my elbow. I go back to the doctor in September and we’re going to come up with a hardware removal date. That’s a whole other surgery and a whole other recovery, they take all the stuff out and your bone is like swiss cheese. It will probably be a good six to eight weeks (of recovery). I just want to have this injury be over with. The ultimate goal for me is to be able to nordic ski this winter, I enjoy that much more than I enjoy cross racing so I need all this stuff out and healed so I can go nordic skiing.”
As for next year, her plans are still up in the air. “ I know I want to have fun, and I know I want fun teammates so that limits my options a little bit with teams.” she said.
“Honestly I’m going to be picky. I’m at this point where if I don’t like something or if you’re going to force me to do something I don’t want to do then I don’t want any part of it. That’s a little bit high maintenance but I feel I can do that. If nobody wants to do that then I’ll race by myself.”
Throughout it out, it is obvious that Powers still enjoys racing. “It forces you out of your comfort zone, it forces to ace smartly, how do I win the race, you know it challenges you where you can’t challenge yourself all the time. I just like the challenge of it.”
She added with a laugh, “I’m not winning the World Championships every year so there’s plenty of challenge.”