The unfortunate truth is that if you compete in triathlon, as in any other sport, you will at some point suffer an injury.
Pushing on through the pain caused by injury is also something most athletes are familiar with, but only the dumbest of the dumb would continue riding for over a year with a painful right knee. Which is precisely what I did, before deciding that enough was enough.
I considered going to see a physio but after consulting with friends and colleagues I came to the conclusion that I should get a proper bike fitting first in case the problem was one of posture. My rationale was that if my position on the bike was wrong, the injury would recur regardless of anything a physio could do for me.
So step forward Richard Melik of Freespeed, a London-based bespoke bike fitting service catering for everyone from the first-time rider to elite long-distance pros. The reason I chose to go to Freespeed is that Richard specializes in bike fitting for triathlon. Richard explained more while we covered the basics of my problems:
"I get all levels, from professionals down to people doing their first race. The thing that I can really give to people alongside the bike fit is experience, because I've raced at all levels. We're here for three hours just chatting most of the time while I'm doing stuff. People say 'I'm doing my first Ironman and I've never done a triathlon before'. They don't even know what transition is, so I'll be chatting to them and saying make sure you do this, make sure you do that; so as well as getting a bike fit they get a lot more than that. It can be very valuable to anyone new to it. It's a really nice job because I get such a broad range of people and everyone's got their questions or fears. I spend half the time talking about swimming technique or running, it's not just cycling".
Before going on to assess my needs and hopes as well as my flexibility and core strength, Richard and I talk about my knee pain. Richard says, "It could be a number of things, it could be your seat, it could be that your knee is a little bit forward of where it should be so it's not kind of supported by the foot as you're pedalling, and it could be that simply you're pushing too slow a cadence and too hard a gear. Where you're pushing more force through the knee you tend to get pain - they're the things we'll take a look at."
I am then wired up with connection points on all of my joints, from the forefoot through the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and wrist. Then it's time to hop onto the bike. After cycling for five minutes I get off and take a look at the results compiled by Richard's Retul motion capture system. The system takes a vast number of precise measurements of all the movements through all my joints as I pedal.
It seems that more by luck than design my riding position is reasonably good and my pedaling technique even better. I do however have a weak core, which will cause me problems especially on longer distances. Despite a good starting point there are still improvements to be made which will hopefully put me in the perfect riding position and eventually let me ride pain-free.
Over the next couple of hours I get on and off the bike repeatedly while Richard expertly tweaks my bike and by the end of the session on paper - literally as we examine before and after printouts - I am set up to ride in as biomechanically efficient a position as possible.
During this time Richard lives up to his early promise and we discuss everything from commuter riding to mainstream bike shops to clip-on TT bars on road bikes and even the state of the publishing industry - I definitely feel that I've had more than just a bike fit.
I went to see Richard in the hope that he might be able to stop my right knee hurting, and the proof is in the riding. Even with a perfect riding position a long-term knee injury isn't going to disappear overnight, so I have waited several weeks before coming to a conclusion and I can happily report that my knee pain has subsided and is virtually gone. A serious bike fitting service like the one Freespeed provide is a considerable benefit to anyone - whatever level of triathlete you may be - and the advantages in terms of performance and injury prevention and treatment are considerable.
Find out more at www.freespeed.co.uk.