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.

Dropped

Blog post

It’s a familiar feeling to anyone on a bike!

Initially within the safety of the bunch. The general ebb and flow of riders. You drift effortlessly forwards, following the right line, easing onto the right wheel. Life is good. You relax and allow yourself to slowly sink to the back of the bunch, before recycling yourself forwards again.

Never allow yourself too far back or you risk making life difficult. Too long at the front uses just as much energy. This is where you want to be in training or if you’re working for someone else.

On a good day, time in the bunch is sweet. Distances are covered easily. Conversation flows and it feels good. It makes riding a bike such a joy.

Dropped on the other hand is agony. Moving forwards becomes harder, more difficult, too difficult…

You fixate on the wheel in front. Nothing else matters. Your pedalling becomes more and more ragged. You need to sprint, just to keep in contact with that single wheel. The sprints become harder and harder. More and more ragged until eventually you are riding flat out and the wheel begins to inch away. You know that it’s inevitable now. You play tricks with yourself, convincing yourself that you can hold the wheel. Eek out a little more shelter, recover ever so slightly and begin to move forwards again. A slight change of wind direction, slight easing of the gradient, slight slowing of the bunch and you’ll be OK.

But you’re not!

Dropped is no place to be…

The heartbreak as the commissaire’s car eases alongside you, window slowly lowered just enough to tell you that you’re on your own, before surging forwards and leaving you to your own devices on the open road.

Rarely is ‘dropped’ a good thing to be. This was a first! My pain relief was dropped. Just as when your legs (or your head) start to blow, you can feel it coming on, so it has been with the cocktail of drugs I’d found myself on. I’d gradually eased off them, eventually accepting the inevitable: that they weren’t going to be part of my recovery going forwards. Accepting that I wasn’t going to need any of it, not even on a bad day was quite a step. Finally delivering them to our local chemist was an even bigger step.

In the end the response was as underwhelming as the surge of a commissaire’s car. What seemed far too dangerous to keep at home was simply placed on the counter. No forms to sign, no explanation needed, just a simple “Thanks.”

Sketchy

Blog post

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!

Un Jour Sans

Blog post

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!

Two months

Blog post

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!

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.

Small changes

Blog post

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.

 

About

Every great dream begins with a dreamer!

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

Where I’m riding

Get Social