The Crash

Blog post

“What happened?”

Such a simple question.

The simple response is that …

I crashed.

Two words. So many meanings. Often what is being described is a bit of a wobble and some road rash. Maybe approaching a corner with a slightly too much speed or not quite enough skill. A moment’s inattention. A little bit embarrassing. A couple of days discomfort.

This was the other sort of crash.

One that proper hurts!

It had started as so many other race night’s do. Make sure everything at work is done. Eat as well as possible. Bike and kit already packed in the car. Topping up on food ad water as I went.

I arrived at the velodrome early. It was a familiar routine. Set up the rollers, check the bike, sign on and get changed. The usual friendly faces began to appear. Nods of recognition as I warmed up on the rollers. Everything felt good. I’d set new power bests at the weekend’s race and was keen to see how I felt on the track.

I clipped in, holding the glass wall and pushed off. I was quickly up on the track, slotting easily into the pace line on the blue. We moved smoothly on the track, circling quickly as we built up speed. It was warm and I could feel the sweat starting to build up. Not wanting to over do it on the warm up, I drifted off the back of the line and returned to my chair. A quick drink and I was ready to race.

I was feeling good. Moving on the track was easy. I could see there were a few strong riders in our group, but many were struggling to hold the pace. I dropped into the line, forming a powerful group with the strongest riders. We were lapping quickly. My computer would later tell me we were lapping at up to 34mph with a cadence of around 115rpm. It felt smooth. Four of us were moving really well. Riders were being dropped and eventually it looked like we were going to lap the field.

As we came up to the slower riders, we moved slightly up the track, in order to pass them safely. I was second wheel, tucked comfortably in. It was then, with horror, that we saw one of the riders move without looking. He swung sharply up the track right into our path. We were moving so much faster. There was no way we could avoid him.

Tim who was in front of me hit him pretty much square on. At that speed he almost flattened him, before jumping up to make his feelings known.

I had enough time to begin to turn up the track slightly with the vain hope of avoiding the worst of it. All that meant was that my front wheel was clipped by the two fallen riders. I was catapulted over the top of them and landed on my back. Howling in an effort to get air into my winded lungs.

The two riders behind me went even higher up the track, before slithering down. Burning themselves badly on the way down.

My whole world became a battle to get air in…

Control the noise…

Control the pain…

Shuffle to safety…

Support my back and rest.

My race was over.

My season was over.

My long road to recovery was only just beginning.

Baseline

Blog post

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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Every great dream begins with a dreamer!

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

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