Sketchy

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Everything feels reassuringly familiar. It’s a warm summers day, possibly one of the hottest of the summer. The cool air of the cellar is a welcome relief. My eyes struggle to adjust to the low light down there. I have a small frog for company, sheltering from the heat in the semi darkness.

It’s a familiar routine. Large headphones on, fan blowing cool air over me, tall stool to rest my hand on for balance. I clip in, only now realising that, with the stool on my left, I will need to push off with my injured side. It’s a familiar routine, yet subtly different due to my injuries.

I push off, legs feeling the rhythm they are used to. I concentrate, my feet turning smooth circles. Slowly I lift my hand from the stool. Slowly move my hand across to rest loosely on the bars. This feels strange. I need to concentrate extra hard, willing the rest of my body to make up for the lack of strength in my left side.

My legs have a memory of cadence. My core has a memory of balance. The speed rises and my lungs even have a memory of breathing.

Sweat runs freely from me as I shed the limitations of my injuries.

Recovery is no longer just a hopeful idea, it really is possible!

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Un Jour Sans

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I must be making progress. An hour’s walk, covering around 4 miles and something like 1500ft climbing is now almost a daily thing. I’ve even done a double day! I’m generally less totally exhausted and more useful.

Mixed days

The truth is, although I’m making really good progress, I still need a lot of rest. I’m still faking normal for a few hours, then need to lie down. I’m still really sore in a lot of places. Healing is definitely happening, but my body feels different week on week. I managed a whole day job interview, but it involved a couple of days making myself really physically tired, 2 days of pre resting and a day or two after to recover.

Progress

I’m constantly thinking through next steps. I’m now allowed to try turbo. Not sure how it will work out, but I need to develop a consistent riding habit in order to continue making progress.

Looks like it’s going to be an exciting journey!

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Two months

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Two months on and I’m walking. Walking quite a lot in fact. I’m tending to do a full hour walk each day, up onto the edge of the peaks. I’m gradually getting less overwhelmingly tired and definitely less breathless. There’s a long way to go, but I’m on the road!

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Baseline

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Spend any time with coaches, training manuals or even just vaguely competitive types and before long you will hear talk of understanding your baseline. Knowing your current fitness and performance level, in order to begin planning forwards.

I’m currently almost two months on from a pretty horrific crash, whilst racing at Derby Velodrome. It was a pretty ordinary race league night. We were coming to the end of a 20 lap scratch race. My form had been building really well since the early spring and I was going well. A group of 5 of us were about to lap most of the rest of the field. As we approached them, spinning really smoothly at 37mph, one of the riders decided to turn up the track. The guy in front of me hit him pretty square on and went down. I was second wheel and had just enough time to begin turning up the track. All that meant was that I clipped the two riders and was flipped over them, landing on my back. I made some pretty loud, but ultimately feeble attempts to get air into my lungs, but ultimately that was the end of my race night.

Not everything’s broken! Not a lot of lung doing anything on the left yet.

I spent 16 days in the Trauma Unit at Nottingham, followed by a short time at home, then a further week in hospital in Sheffield. My injuries are extensive:
– 11 broken ribs on the left side. Most whats known as ‘flail’, which simply means broken in multiple places
– 4 broken ribs on the right side. These weren’t even picked up until I was discharged
– broken left collar bone
– 4 broken vertebra. Having a broken back certainly sounds dramatic
– broken breast bone. That’s a pretty big one to break.
– Haematoma behind the breast bone. Just a big bruise really, but added to the pain
– Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
– Haemothorax (collection of blood in the chest space.) Had to have the chest drained. Initially this was with an ultrasound drain, which was almost impossible to get in due to thickening of the chest wall due to the length of time that fluid had been in place. Once the first drain was blocked, I had a proper surgical drain. (Think hosepipe shoved between broken ribs and you might begin to get the picture.) This drained a total of around 2 litres of fluid and allowed my lung to begin to re-inflate.
– Pain was initially managed by a series of epidurals. Although painful to tunnel into my back, once working, they were great! Life without them however wasn’t. My cocktail of drugs was described as an addicts wish list, containing pretty much every class A drug available in a hospital setting, and plenty more besides.

So that’s my baseline. I’m currently extremely tired a lot of the time. I’m walking about an hour a day and my lung seems to be remembering how to work really well. Lying down and sleeping help a lot, although I don’t seem to be able to manage more than about 5 or 6 hours at a time, so I’m getting used to 4am youtube club.

I’m told that being this wiped out is normal. I’m also told that my progress is better than expected for this early in the recovery process. I’m expected to make a full recovery, although probably won’t be able to do anything you might consider to be training ’till about Christmas. Full fitness will take a good while longer, but I’m already enjoying the journey.

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Frozen Roaches

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This was a familiar route. One I’ve done as an Audax event during the early summer, when shorts and warm sunshine were the order of the day. I’ve also done it a couple of times as the start and end of a hilly 200km ride into Cheshire.

Today was a very different ride. A recent back injury meant that this would be significantly further and more climbing than I’d done for probably a couple of months. This meant I took it very conservatively! I geared down and just rolled along very easily.

The sky remained grey throughout. Alternating between cold, freezing fog and eventually dark. The temperature topped out at 1degree above freezing, sinking well below at times. Wrapped up like the Michelin Man, I made slow but steady progress. Never really putting myself out and just steadily getting round.

My reward, growing confidence. I can now move on. Enter some of the longer Audax events that I was unsure of. Begin to rebuild some of the endurance and get on with some intensity on the Turbo. The season looks like it might be on!

Here is the route. Definitely one to do again with more confidence and fresher legs.

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Snakes and ladders

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Not a bad year

Life can be like a giant game of snakes and ladders. You roll the dice. Work hard. Make progress. Keep moving forwards. Climb the ladders. Then get dumped out at the bottom of a giant snake. 2018 was a good year, with some really memorable highlights!

2019 starts with me returning from a back injury and starting a new job. Again, I’m ready to see what progress I can make and where life will take me.

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Secret Training

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It used to be that we judged a rider by the way that they smoothly turned the pedals in perfect circles. Their ease on the bike. The definition in their legs. The weathered look about them and the confidence gained from miles on the bike in all weathers.

You could ‘see’ who had put the work in and who had ‘form’. No ‘kudos’ was given. If you weren’t on the ride, you could only imagine, but you could see the effects of hard work.

 

 

I’ve been largely off Strava over the last couple of months. The opportunity to be social and even to show off or self depreciate has been strangely absent. 

Secret training has a strange satisfaction. The effects are beginning to show. Pedalling smoothly and beginning to feel the hunger again gives hope in the dark months. Winter may be coming, but the form of spring must surely follow.

 

 

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30daysofbiking.com 

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It all starts here.

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It all starts here.

It often starts here.

As one of the Common Lane Occasionals, Saturday is a key ride.

What started with a handful of us meeting at Common Lane … Occasionally, has turned into a thriving club and Saturday’s ride is the mainstay.

Today around 20 of us pedal off into the murky Derbyshire Peak District for a morning ride that includes everything from steady climbs, sketchy descents, stunning views and even some through and off action.

Today is the first of 30 Days of Biking and I look forward to plenty more!

 

 

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New things 

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It’s always good to keep it fresh and try new things. Derby track league, here I come! 

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Getting close to Season’s End

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It looks as though my season of recovery is ever so slowly drawing to a close. I’ve been waiting for some dramatic development to write about, but instead there have been imperceptibly small steps of progress over the last six months or so. It’s only looking back that I can see how far I’ve come.

It’s been a very different season, as I’ve not really been able to plan anything. I’ve just had to rely on being really consistent in my riding, trusting that the progress will come. however slowly.

Unexpectedly it’s been a good season with a number of highlights:

 

30 Days of Biking: Such a simple concept. Ride your bike every day in April. This was probably the foundation of my recovery, as I got into the habit. This included using the rollers at unusual times, commuting when it wasn’t an easy option and a couple of really wet rides! Great fun though and good to feel part of something much bigger. Tweeting pictures of my commute and getting responses from around the world was certainly an encouragement.

 

Perfecting the rollers: This time last year I had never even been on rollers. Learning to ride them whilst injured was a bit of a leap of faith. Riding a fixed wheel track bike meant that my injured leg was carried round, which felt odd to say the least. Mastering a new skill is always satisfying and I have to say that I now really enjoy getting the headphones on and ‘rolling along’.

 

Organising an open time trial: This was another first. Not only for me, but also for the Common Lane Occasionals. Our first open time trial. Went really well, so I’m now organising two for the coming season. Watch this space.

 

Women’s Tour of Britain: Acting as a marshal for the women’s Tour Of Britain (and the Tour Series) in Stoke was great! Being o the inside of an event gives you a whole new perspective. Even got to look after Lizzie Armistead’s bikes (and make sure Marianne Vos’s cat got a good parking space!)

 

L’Eroica: I was only partially recovered for this one, so volunteered for the short route. We were sweepers, so had to ride behind the last people on the road, offer assistance and then let marshals know that the last riders had passed. Sounds simple and it was a great day out. Most of the riders wanted to make the most of their day out, so 27 miles took around 10 hours to complete!

 

21 Minute 10: This was when I knew things were starting to go in the right direction. A good day on the superfast V718 course near Hull meant cruising at over 30mph for a large part of the ride. Putting together the preparation and previous events was pretty good too. 21:51 for 10 miles should get me into most events that I fancy this season.

 

Track Legs: Reduced power on one side and some time away from the track meant that I had to go through the accreditation process again. First time on the boards for over a year was pretty terrifying. As the power came back, so did my skills and confidence and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into SQTs at Manchester.

 

Strava KOM: A little bit of planning and a good turn of speed and I gained my first STRAVA King of the Mountain!

 

Now I’m busy planning for a really good 2017. Wonder what the highlights will be?

 

 

 

 

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Patience…. comes in a small pot!

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I’d never ridden tubs before I got onto the track. My time on a bike has matched the evolution of standard high pressure tyres. From the original Michelin Hi Lite and Vittoria Corsa CX to their modern equivalents. Standard tyres have always been good enough and are almost foolproof. They are convenient, light, reliable and feel good on the road. For track however, the ability to ride out a puncture at the top of the banking has a certain appeal, so tubs it is!

The amazing technological advances of road bikes have largely passed the track by. A solid frame, pedals and a bomb proof set of wheels are all you need. Many of us ride random selections of Bitsa bikes and it can be fascinating spotting where everything comes from. On this front E-bay has definitely been my friend. I’m running an old Madison Team stem, an ancient Pete Matthews time trial front wheel (complete with a pencil thin original Hope hub and 24 bladed spokes). The rear wheel, that’s been receiving some attention this week came from Julian Ramsbottom, featuring a gold Hope track hub and a hefty deep section aluminium rim.

So whereas a puncture on a normal tyre means a couple of minutes with a new inner tube and away you go. With tubs it means buying a whole new tub, then investing in the patient game of ‘preparation’.

The first day I stretch the tyre out, then mount it on the rim and inflate to 150 PSI and leave overnight. Time at that pressure gradually relaxes the tyre, making it ready to mount for real. Then I need to thoroughly clean the rim. Any loose bits of the old glue etc are scraped off. Acetone completes the cleaning process and I’m ready to start glueing. For this I need my trusty pot of Mastik One. This is great stuff! It sticks the tub so solidly to the rim that at the fun side of 30 MPH, on a 42 degree banking, I don’t have to think twice! The last tub had become so attached that it actually got ripped apart in removing it from the rim!! So on the second day of the ‘preparation’ process, I apply a really thin, even coat of glue to the tub’s base tape and the rim. When it comes to glue, tub and rim are good, clothes are definitely not! So an apron ( and no distractions) are the best way.

Day three means another thin layer of glue and yet more time waiting. Day four is the last coat and once this is just going tacky I’m ready to mount the tyre. Fortunately this goes OK and I’m not left frantically trying to push the last few gluey inches onto the rim. There is room for a little adjustment, just to get it perfectly centred and even, and to roll and press out the wheel, just to make sure everything is seated nicely. Finally it’s all pumped to 150 PSI and left overnight, just to make sure it’s fully set.

Five days later and I’m finally ready to ride! All I’ve got to do now is make sure the chain is plenty tight enough and then wipe the tub down with white vinegar to remove any dirt, dust or debris so that it will grip properly on the track. The whole process is like a ritual, readying the bike over a far longer period of time than simply popping in a new inner tube.

The patience taken to ready the bike is similar to that which is readying my body (finally) to get riding again. The daily ritual of stretching (and newly introduced strength work), needs to be followed. It is a long term process that will in the end have me back to full strength and on the road. The process needs to be followed carefully. Daily additions are the way forward, just nudging the process on a little at a time. With the recent scandals, ranging from Rob being chemically enhanced towards national time trial fame to the Belgian cyclocross rider Femke Van Den Driessche riding the world championships with a motor onboard, it can be reassuring to go back to older ways. The time and patience spent gluing a tub, a reminder of the time and patience taken to cultivate good form. In cycling, as in life there are no shortcuts only interesting routes.

 

Small changes

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I’m told recovery will be slow. Adjusting to how slow that will be has been a struggle. Apparently nerves regrow at a rate of about an inch a month.Being 6’2″ and being unable to use my left leg properly, this isn’t much comfort. There’s nothing I can do to speed this up. I’m not used to being so unable to affect my own future.

I am seeing small changes though!

Riding rollers was initially a clunky, scary experience. It felt like I had one good leg and one donkey trotter. I’d stab at the pedals, just hoping for the best. Things are much smoother now. I’ve learnt to roll! Riding an 88″ fixed gear, means I’m developing some strength and the ability to roll the pedals round. I can comfortably balance at 75 rpm doing 16 or 17 mph. I’m also able to spin quite happily at 90 rpm and 20 mph. Sprinting up to 130 rpm and 25 mph is also good fun, although still a bit choppy!

I can happily shift around on the bike, taking a hand off the bars to adjust my headphones or wipe the sweat away. My only reminder is the return of shrek leg after about half an hour. (Having limited muscle function on the left side just means that what I’m using gets tired so much quicker.) Still at least I’m pedalling circles now rather than throwing squares.

 

New Year – New Legs!

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The joy of Strava. Last year at 8:30 on New Year’s Day I did an hour on the turbo. (No doubt that wasn’t too much of a stretch at that time.) This year managing a whole half hour on the rollers was a real milestone. (My longest ride yet.) Riding sort of one legged still feels pretty choppy, especially towards the end. Pedalling gets more and more difficult as I feel more and more like I’m riding with a donkey’s trotter. Seeing 27mph was fun though. Kind of like one legged ice skating, just trying to keep it really smooth!

 

 

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Every great dream begins with a dreamer!

Tales of an almost has been, taking small steps on a great journey.

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