Sunday 27 February 2011

Near misses

Most people remember their big crashes, especially if they result in injuries, broken bikes or particular amusement for friends. My first spectacular accident resulted in none of the above, so it probably falls into the near miss category.

I was on my first proper mountain bike holiday. I'd been on a trip the year before, but as one of the guides did the ride on a Brompton I don't think it really counted as mountain biking. This time I'd gone to Sardinia with Saddle Skedaddle where I was promised sun, singletrack and most of all fabulous food. The trip delivered on all three, and threw in some fantastic company as well. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

It was fairly early in the week - the second day perhaps - and we were on a ride that followed the line of a stream out to sea. The route promised 23 (count 'em, kids!) crossings of the same stream before we got to the beach and excitement levels were high. We were riding along a ledge that was ten to twelve feet above the stream, with a rock face on the right and the sheer drop to the stream on the left. The ledge was about three feet wide, flat with the odd small rock. Now, these days I'd barely blink at such a thing but back then I was nervous about this section.

When you get nervous, riding a bike, a couple of things start to happen - especially if you are a beginner. You tense up. You wobble. You focus on the places that you don't want to go to, rather than the ones that you do. I was looking at the rock face, looking at the small rocks on the trail and most of all, looking at the drop.

The small rock. Never, ever look at obstacles right in front of your wheel. You hit them, it's human instinct. As a prehistoric hunter, chasing velociraptors and dragons across the jungle (my view on history may be slightly confused) you want to hit the thing you are looking at. That's what you are going to kill with your stone age shotgun. Target aquisition. So I hit the rock.

I came to a halt. I wobbled and toppled left. Left, towards the twelve foot drop.

I think I got my left foot down. I certainly got my right foot over the bike, swinging and spinning me round so that I ended up standing on the edge of the drop looking out towards it.

Often people teaching mountain biking will say "momentum is your friend". This can be true, but when you are on the edge of a drop having just swung and spun off a toppling bike, momentum is not your friend. Momentum causes you to carry on over the edge.

Freeze frame. I'm standing right on the edge of a twelve foot cliff, above a stream, facing outwards, with momentum about to take me over. My bike is falling towards me. There was only one thing I could do.

I ran down the sheer cliff face. Upright. My feet skimmed off the rock two or three times before I landed on my feet in the stream with a slightly turned ankle and wet shoes. Wet underwear too. I turned and looked back up to see my bike hanging on a rock six feet above me. To my left, and up on the trail, the guide was running back down the trail having seen my spectacular demonstration of mountain goat style descending.

I could not believe I was more or less unharmed. The guide said she had visions of helicopter rescues and lots of paperwork. The rest of the guests were standing open mouthed.

If only I'd had the presence of mind to shout out "ta-daaaa!" and throw my arms wide with a big grin.

Crashes are so much better when you can ride away, and finish the day with ice cream on a beach.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Ricotta Legs

After mentioning in my last post that my leg muscles have been replaced by cheese I can now conclude, after a week of turbo trainer sessions, that the cheese is ricotta.

My mid-range turbo gives an indication of the power that I'm generating. I doubt it's accurate but it's useful as a comparison tool.

In early January, my "endurance" zone (i.e. what I could keep doing for a 12 hour race) was about 150-185 watts. This is pretty normal for that time of year. When I'm in shape, for example before the LEJOG, it was about 170-210 watts. About mid-Feb I'd expect it to be about 160-200 watts.

It's currently about 150-165 watts. I think the solar panel on my 80's Casio calculator can generate more.

My threshold power is even more pathetic. I'd expect maybe 260 watts now, rising to about 290-300 when in shape. Now - 190w. I have a power band narrower than a BNP member's mind.

Still, plenty of room to improve and at least I'm back on the turbo.

I'm aiming for mozzarella next.

(Two weeks to go before fracture clinic check up.... I might, just might, be slingless after that!)

Thursday 17 February 2011

The um... eight? Stages of cycling injuries

We're all no doubt familiar with the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief. These also translate into a number of stages people go through when dealing with change - from denial to acceptance. There is also a lesser known "dislocatedMTBs 8ish Stages of Being Injured", which I shall try to explain to make it slighty less lesser known.

Stage 1: Denial
I'm not broken. I didn't crash that hard. I can talk, move most of my limbs and that's only a small puddle of blood on the floor. No way is my collar bone broken, even though it is sticking out a bit. I'm sure it's just popped out of position, they can pop it back and I'll be fine.

Stage 2: Anger
Bastard collarbone! How dare it break! And as for that accident, how come I'm always the one crashing and breaking things?  Frickin' fate.

Stage 3: Acceptance
OK, so I'm broken. Just rest. Let it heal. Don't plan on doing anything this year, take things as they come. No point thinking about bikes. Except for selling the stupid feckin' things.

Stage 4: Frustration
I canot believe that my carefully planned season, with all those events I've already entered, is out of the window. Here I am lying on the sofa when I've got a perfectly good turbo trainer downstairs and perfectly good legs to make it go round.

Stage 5: Fantasy
Now, I've got a first check-up coming. I'm sure they'll say it's healing well and I can get out of the sling, on the turbo and get training again. I'll only have missed three weeks, that's not so bad. Still leaves a few months to get in shape before the first big event, and it's just extra incentive to train even harder and long.

Stage 6: Testing
Right, no-one is looking. Let's see if  can get on the turbo... hmm not to bad. The physio said it won't do any harm if I wear the sling and take things easy. Right, an easy 180watts. Ah, someone seems to have removed half my lung capacity and replaced my leg muscles with cheese triangles.

Stage 7: Planning
Right, I can do 45min at a time. 12 weeks to 100km event, that mean 3 x 4 week periods, do a base 3 followed by a couple of builds, increase the time and mileage by an hour a week... where's my spreadsheet? And last fitness test results?

Stage 8: Training
This is where is really starts to hurt. And where you realise that it's going to be a whole lot harder than you imagined.

Where am I now? About stage 6.

Hoping to enter Stage 7 on the 9th of March...

Friday 11 February 2011

A day in the life of a broken person

I've been struggling to think of what to write about, simply because I've not been doing anything interesting. So I thought I'd tell you about my current routine. It's not very interesting either.

3am. Get up and wander round the house. Given that I have to sleep flat on my back, and I'm a natural wriggler in bed (insert joke here), I tend to seize up after a couple of hours. So when I wake up with various back and rib pains the only cure is getting up and doing something else. I find that "Gems TV" has the best overnight entertainment.

6am. Wake up again. Try and doze for a while before giving in and gettin up. Fire up the Gaggia.

7am. Wave hello to Elaine as she gets up. Plan day. First item on the list is always "write a list".

9am. Spend 10 minutes getting ready to go out. I'm fairly limited in what I can wear so I'm making use of all those MuuMuus I've collected over the years. They're practical and scare the local scroats away. I'll then stroll to the shops, waving at all the cheery people who greet me with shouts of "freak", "mentalist" and "tent-boy".

10am. Log onto work, see if anything interesting has happened. Fire of a couple of emails. Settle down for some solid, productive activity.

1010am. Quick check of Singletrack. Just in case there's anything I can contribute to. Add my thoughts to a discussion on best rock tambourine players.

12pm. Eurosport. Tour of Qatar. I really should time being broken with one of the big bike races.

1pm. Lunch. Squirty cream on garibaldi biscuits. I've got to watch what I'm eating at the moment.

Afternoon. Post-lunch nap, the odd work email, episodes of ER, Angel and Britain's Worst Drain Engineers. I've got the box sets of them all.

Evening. Elaine comes home so I wander aimlessly around the house complaining about how bored and restless I am. Watch her cook tea, try and "help", get sent back to the sofa for my own safety. Eat slumped backwards on cushions, dribble food down my front. I really need some bibs.

Later evening. More internet browsing, shopping. Wipe up spilt food.

Midnight. Bedtime. Need my sleep, another exciting day ahead!

Repeat for 4 weeks....

(I'm slightly more active now... physio has given the go ahead to try using the turbo trainer too. Fingers crossed!)

Wednesday 2 February 2011


I must be feeling better. I want to do things.

Mainly internet window shopping. This has an advantage over traditional window shopping, as the range of things I can window shop for is much wider and there is less of that tedious walking around. It also has a disadvantage, as I think I'm mentally ignoring price tags. So far I have shopped for:
  • A new car. I figure that I won't be doing any mountain biking this year so I can throw all practical considerations out the equation. So long as I can get a road bike in it that's fine. I think that might rule out a Caterham or an Aerial Atom but not much else. Plus, I don't do any miles, I'm a low insurance risk and I don't need to carry people in great quantity.
  • Another watch. You know, as a present to myself for, um, passing a certain age and being broken. I also received a watch box for Christmas that has twelve empty slots so that's pretty convincing evidence for having to buy more watches. Hey, I didn't buy the box, it was clearly a hint to buy more watches. Clearly. Would be crazy not to.
  • Something to help my recovery. I discovered I can upgrade my turbo trainer to a virtual reality one where I can race against strangers on the internet. I hear doing things with strangers on the internet is really in right now.
  • Something else to help my recovery. How can I understand if I'm improving without having a Powertap wheel? Vital. I think the consultant mentioned that I should get one, whilst I was coming round from the operation.
So I clearly need a Porsche, a big watch, expensive bike bits and to do things with strangers on the internet.

What's that? Mid-life what? No....