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A New Hope!

Week 19 – Not the Star wars version, but from last week’s intense physio session and then the second spinal trauma clinic visit over at SJR some clarity has been added to my mind-set going forwards now, for sure there will be some low points born out of frustration and the desire to be further than any current state offers me. The amazing wife, friends and family and the MTB community will dust away the negatives and re-endorse the positives and I need that constant kick up the arse, slap around the subliminal face to keep me in check with reality. Knowns now are that the Ti bolts and rods will stay as a revision to remove the bars has more implications than them staying put! The Left & Right movements will return to pre-crash normality, as will the chin to chest range. The rear flexation backwards will never be 100% pre-crash but with hard work it can be pushed to the max if I so desire to achieve the best possible range of movement going forwards, the latter being voiced the same by Mark booth at Body Limits, yes there is more pain and discomfort to come striving to achieve these goals but they are achievable goals. A NEW HOPE!

As previous blog week 17 the aggressive physio left me shattered later that day and worse the following day to a point of feeling like a backwards step, but as the week drew on come Friday morning I must say I felt pretty loose, those feelings bleeding into the weekend although my constant having to do stuff always wears me out come the day end but that’s just me being me, I can’t sit still for 5mins.  New sensation again I feel like something is snagging lower down in back/shoulder blade area, I guess something else has been unlocked and moving over stuff that may still be mending?  Continued exercises Saturday evening, TRX session on upper body, before neck raises and stretch out lying on the floor seems to loosen things up. Anita still maintaining the norm ride weekends, whilst I jibe her about it it is kind of an incentive to be there, get there and still the goal is to ride the trails to some extent. A bright sunny fresh Sunday I thought I’d go for the test ride see how things felt after last week. Thinking back if you’re like me your kind of excited about the ride that’s going to happen, trail, bike park or trail centre eager to shred explore be immersed in the thing you love, me now my mind set is based on how uncomfortable am I going to feel this time, how far can I get without the back going into it’s own lockdown and my head drops through shear tiredness, the excitement bit has been parked currently.  Immediately the body position felt better, but we are talking fine margins here but the sense of load on my neck and back muscles was less, with the head in a much less forced position to ride in, the local 5K ticked by with no stops, so sod it I’ll go for longer along the Ouse valley park walk, takes me around the river skirting Stony Stratford and you cross up into the local estates back to home I guess 7-8K nothing like the Devon rides but this was a constant peddle, yes a little tired and achy when arrived home but not shattered that it effects my mind-set so that’s another plus. The surgeon did state that he felt I was 4-5 weeks ahead of a normal joe in the recovery and whilst a year was normal time frame to feel ache and pain free and something like normal with my persistence, I would achieve that bench mark sooner with hard work, and perseverance. A NEW HOPE!     

A more normal week commenced always with the pretence of getting out one evening tiredness and weather permitting, but the thought is always primed. Work seems to sap my energy so most evenings I’m tired but still get some exercises in as best possible. With BUPA finally agreeing to ten more physio sessions it was back to Body limits for now my weekly beating.  Yep you guessed it, it was exactly that but it’s a means to an end an end that seems to ebb n flow constantly weekly a big life bowl of mixed emotions the end goal to feel comfortable and free on the bike with a view to take that into the new year and ride the trails again, I don’t just want to sustain a definitive time frame on the bike before I’m tired born out of neck and back dictating enough is enough I want to feel free were the only tiredness is driven by me pushing the shred feeling free on the bike once more.  A NEW HOPE!    

4 Months – A third of a year in post-accident and surgery looking back at my journey thus far I have come a long way in the big scheme of things, come 26th February 2021 I hope to get fully signed off at the SJR, prior to that I hope sitting here I would have been trail side and I’m not sure how that will feel if I feel ready come January at some point then we’ll give it a go. If I was to gauge it now having just completed my Sunday test ride some 10mile/16K known road loop out via Beachampton, Nash, Whaddon, Upper-middle and lower Weald back through Passenham into Stony I would say a definitive NO. Whilst I’m not totally spent  and the first 5-6 miles felt pretty good after that point the strain on the neck and back muscle groups started to kick in with a few miles left head was heavy due to the tension on the neck and back muscles, so transport that trail side were the terrain will demand more of your body and energy I’m not quite ready to say let’s go trail side today, but it was good to get out albeit as previously mentioned the overriding thoughts are about how long will I last and when will the discomfort start to kick in?  A NEW HOPE!    

Week 20 – Functionality wise these days looking back at the robotic me a couple of months back waist down all has always been fine never losing any functionality, lower back and hips again all functioning. Wrist arms also no change however the pins and needles are back I thought it stemmed from a slam on the bike at Chicksands or that seemed to be the catalyst. With the neck and spine injury and I guess the surgery kind of numbed that but it’s back with vengeance waking me up most mornings and it can be either side “median nerve distribution paraesthesia bi-laterally” according to the consultant  so going to have some nerve conduction studies done. So the star of the show the neck and upper back T3 upwards, my left neck rotation is back to normal, my right also back to  where it was or I can remember the right still pulls a little downwards into the trapezius but it’s a substantial improvement. My general mobility in and around the upper back and neck region looks pretty normal to the un-trained eye. Rotate my head in a circular motion left or right, chin to chest and rearwards extraction all pretty good. Looking up reaches a natural position easily I still push this and it’s limits as and when I can this can be said for the back in general lower, upper into the neck my physio currently works all the muscle groups and connectivity. Last week’s test ride extended out to a 10mile 16k road circular loop, so a constant peddle, fitness wise my cardio has dropped off a bit but I guess this is a given thinking about what’s happened. Head position felt ok as I peddled off and 6/7mile marker I stopped for a stretch out, the long straight out of Whaddon must be a mile means you can also get your head down, up the gears and get a sustained cadence going that also gives the neck and upper back a rest. 2 miles to go neck and back starting to get angry with me head feels heavy and feels forced now as it starts to drop or you hold your grips by finger tips to try in vain to abate the inevitable tiredness starting to kick in, and home accomplished but tired, a quick drink and bike away get changed and recovery seems to be quicker where’s once that’ll be it for the rest of the day, so 20, 30minutes is a plus.  A NEW HOPE!    

Physio currently is quiet aggressive and it’s more in general now keeping things released and as much as the deep probing hurts to almost and sometimes tear inducing, Mark (Body Limits knows that he can push my limits just more than a normal client) This week was no different and as previously covered as one thing gets loosened up something else hurts and takes over centre stage.  Something in my neck this week after a big session seems really tender, is it muscle over screw and bars I can feel? My shoulders seem to be suffering this week post physio, immediately there’s that it’s over relief but I did feel a bit nauseous , Wednesday the discomfort starts to build, this week seemed quicker, the ice pack was out and I didn’t feel great at all even with pain killers on board it was an early to bed night, Thursday again a very uncomfortable day and more ice that evening and I guess working as normal now there is no rest the internal ambulance crews back on full alert still mending my shit and now having to up their game week on week after physio. Perhaps it was a bit to much Tuesday, lots of bending, spine pops and cracks on top of the muscle group beatings. Here we are week 20 post surgery a Saturday and I can still feel the aftermath of the session, test ride tomorrow? We’ll have to wait and see. A NEW HOPE!    

Chugging into week 21 and Sunday’s test ride didn’t happen as I was still feeling sore, but the next Physio wasn’t until Thursday this week a full 9 days on and I must admit as this week wore on a felt really loose around the neck and between the shoulder blades, come Thursday 2pm my RH side felt like nothing had ever happened, but the LH side still had a twinge to say “HEY your still broken ner ner ner ner !”  I spoke to Mark about the previous week’s session, yes it was a tough one with a longer recovery but as you can see the dividends it’s produced, and I couldn’t argue that. A check over and a general all over this session with a promise to be back to the beatings next week, mind you I think physio’s as a rule just know where to hit that spot that make your feet twitch and your breathing like you’re in a balloon blowing up comp! My general home based stretches can now be changed to add additional weights to the session trying to build some tone in those muscle groups. Recovery from this week’s session seemed seamless and I felt loose almost straight away, Anita checked my neck scare and tissue areas around the sight and was surprised on how free it all moved and felt since her last check back in November. So, we decided to have our test ride out today Saturday 12Dec, same 11mile road loop, with the droppr back on my YT, I decided it was time to put the SPD’s back on and we clocked the loop in under an hour 58mins averaging 5.3mph, wifey on my wheel all the way, teasing at times poking her front wheel into peripheral vision, boy her cardio fitness has come on doing all these HiiT sessions every morning, proper stoked for her. Full loop nonstop today so add to the physio works loosening me up, quicker recovery, bike back to normal lots of small progress steps to my goal of going Woburn trail side in January 2021.  A NEW HOPE! 

5 MONTHS –  Time is ticking by and the last physio session was a doozie, guess he was adding in extra to tide me over as a few weeks in some Spanish sunshine may keep me nice and loose until the sessions resume in the New Year.     Felt a bit nauseous after the session today, even with the water taken on board, bit more of a general spinal workout today with all the added oomph, cracks n aaaaarrrrggghhhh, Grrrrrrrr, FFS, mmmmmmmhhhhhh, phew’s added in so guess more toxins released. Think the internal ambulance crews are back on half days now as things have settled into the new norm and what I mean by that is I kinda move freely, the test rides are now constant as in duration of peddling, the lower neck to middle back is in a state of semi fixed flux, liken to a good work out when your muscle groups have that work out tightness ooh yeah feeling – I’m just missing the “ooh yeah bit currently “.  Mine are in the constant state of work out tightness now that’s not a bad thing 5 months in so am I being hard on myself?

I have set in my mind that I want to go trail side come end of January 2021, but on the grounds I’m getting the bike out, ready to shred the trails with excitement and desire, and get tired by just riding the trails I hope with my wifey and awesome mates. I want to feel free in movement, the neck and upper back feeling loose and un-hindered, something Santa can bring or promise in this festive season.  My mind set isn’t set to that position yet it’s still test ride and lets see how my neck and upper back feels, how long will it last before it tightens up, how fluid and loose do I feel subliminal note taking like a stenographer taking shorthand mind notes to be compared at the next ride out. There are lots of positives still, my head is in a comfortable position currently, not held on lock-out for the duration ( day, work, exercise permitting can alter that feel) but generally its good, recovery is quicker too, yes the cardio is a little off par currently but that will come back.   A NEW HOPE! 

FCUK YOU COVID:   Well that put that out the window with the announcement  Saturday MK moving into tier4 you might as well say lockdown, no sunshine rides and chilling with wifey and her parents Spain side, with the van locked and loaded your knee jerk reaction is to try and massage the rules to meet your personal needs but then are you just being part of the pandemic problem and that’s the whole reason the UK is on this roller coaster pandemic ride as we just can’t adhere to basic rules add a sprinkling of constant changing government guidelines and we are where we are!!  A very sad state of affairs but we’ll make the most of it getting in more test rides over the last few days and the exercises too. Seemed strange being it is Tuesday 22nd no beating at physio to recover from so ride and exercise it is today.

GOING URBAN:   Switching from road to Urban MK rides me wifey set off for our Boxing day ride from Stony up towards the city centre where I hit my first technical section since the accident, a shallow close set  long step section, with two plateaus. How would the vibration feel, how would the neck position feel, seat down dropping in! Neck could be in a better position, head felt like a bobble head toy but down and out to flat, subliminal notes being taken. The neck and upper back feels taught but sustainable as it has been for a month or so now so at least I can get the miles in. Riding across the city heading towards Linford Woods and another test on a different set of stairs. The same opinion formed in my head that the neck needs more strength work and building of those muscles.  A loop around the bridleway woods and off to my parents via Stantonbury, then home amounting in an approx 17K loop, felt good and things to work on for sure, and still trying to figure out if the cold temperatures are adding to the issues of feeling taught?

Following day I hooked up with A close friend Tony for another Urban ride over from Stony to Bradwell then up to loop around CMK perhaps the urban loop of old including some more features, with parting words from Anita don’t do anything stupid! Who Me!  Temperatures felt warmer today not hitting double figures but I felt looser as we got into the city centre and looked to try a step up onto the marble ledges that adorn the city underpasses, something I’d done thousands of times, and boom first attempt straight up rolling the length and hucking off the end bloody hell it felt ok, bit taken by surprise but I guess the technique and muscle memory was still in place. Neck and upper back feeling loose today so it was worth trying out other features along the ride, various step sections and ledges to play on and as above the neck does need some strength work. A massive positive day today and although the peddle home things started to become tight again the temperatures were dropping, and I was in that fixed position so everything point to it hindering the neck.

CHICKSANDS BP:   Switching from urban to a bike park park scenario, was it the next step in the recovery programme, who is to say it was an offer out the blue, felt good so unless you dip your toe you’ll never know.  Was going to stick with a ride plan few runs on the dual, not padding up or getting the full face out, small things to keep me reigned in as well as wifey, but was good to feel like I’m starting to get back to what I love doing riding my bike with my mates.  Another cold day the park was busy so more reason to keep away and follow the 1-2-1 guidelines and not follow the maddening crowds. Few tentative runs down the dual trying to relax, with time runs became more fluid, first notable thing was head position in berms was not on point as in looking through the corner, the same on any take off ramp seems to push the neck flexibility to its max in its current state perhaps hindered by the cold temperatures.  A run down the mini DH again trying to relax and not get carried away hitting the drop (that’s been re-configured) missing the gap before heading over to try the new mini DH2 line.  It’s got the making of a nice line perhaps an alteration to the start as after the step up jump it goes slightly up hill, but who am I at this stage to say anything it’s just good to be out riding.  A positive morning session with A and good to see some of the guys again albeit from a distance.

Armed with these positives Anita and I decided to bring forward my end of January to go trail side ride to new year’s day, seemed quite apt really. A new start to a new year that can only really better surely?  Didn’t really play on my mind waking Saturday morning to freezing temps, but pain killers in, deep heat rubbed into neck and shoulders, borrowed one of Anita’s buff’s we set off with the pretense of doing the hill climb, skirt between the golf course and loop Backwoods, known stuff for sure. We got to the start of the old Brickshore/Mr Woods Freeway section (Enduro line), just sat there lost in the moment thinking about what we were about to embark. A stretch out and off we went, my mind a merry go round of subliminal thoughts, how’s this gonna feel, how am I gonna ride, will the neck hurt and hinder, reading the trails and surface like never before, saying to myself stay relaxed, stay relaxed.    Anything that jolts me seems to bobble the head as mentioned above so the fast step down on this section did exactly that even driving  the front down into the ground to lessen the impact , first section done onwards we rode.   Climb out feeling strong and down Slippery when wet first two sections and a short climb back up to hub, I sat on the bike looking out at the eerie misty vista that is our local woods , a flood of emotion took over me and I started to well up in that calm tranquil setting, provoking thoughts of good times shared in these woods, creating and shredding with some amazing people and my wife Anita, funnily as she arrived off the climb, “Hey you ok?”  “Yeah just having a moment!”  Gathered my shit together and set off again into light to Dark, had a bit of foot out moment but stayed on the bike and rode out the trail, back up out and down the switchbacks that seemed to have eroded out a bit another little dab but out safe, I wasn’t tense I guess battling with keeping it safe and letting it go.  Frenchmans I was looking forward to, just to peddle in and stop and just flow down the trail pumping and pushing taking me back to those warmer days and the trail craft sessions. The transition from section 1 to 2 I’d normally pre jump into this time it was a roll again the neck not feeling as I’d like but onwards and out at the shed, and we peddled back up to the hub, kinda de-ja-vu the same as that fateful evening, fending off those thoughts of that night keep focus , keep relaxed, keep focus on repeat in my head, looking at the gate to hole 6 on the golf course the last time I was here on a bike I was on a spine board at 11pm at night about to start on the reason I’m writing this blog.  More checks from Anita. I said “lets do this” again scanning the trail like never before, heart pounding in my chest and ears like a base drum in my head that night flashing back as I had that line pinned that night, I mitigated the drop based on impact neck wobble, and headed back up the bank and onto the THAT section that in a few seconds back on 21st July 2020 spat me 18feet head and neck first into a tree stump, peddles flat scanning, scanning past that section, keep it together Mark, down the bank through the corner sections and out the other side water works on at this point as the tears of relief trickled down my face. Totally overwhelmed with the emotions that warm arm and hug from Anita taking the edge off it and bringing back some normality, wipe away the tears before they freeze and off to tackle the impossible climb and hit up Hogans Run, something I had been working on the last few weeks getting it almost like a red carpet (well sandy smooth groomed woodland  carpet) We dropped in felt sooooooooo good, berm, step, step, step last one set head wobble off, cresting and taking the B line as the drop would be harsh currently and I’d done some work on the B line as the rain and weather had worn a tram line in it, so I shored it up, out and down the old Roller Coaster and we were back at the van, feeling stoked for sure again some pointers to work on and I guess over the next few months building strength and riding I’ll know if I’ll have to adapt my riding in some way to get full potential out of my shred!?

Goodbye 2020 you started out so well, became a pandemic nightmare with added pain in the bloody neck LOL, thank you to my amazing wifey Anita for dealing with my shit over these five months, my family support, my close friends and ridding buddies, Stu Melbourne physio for getting me started on my road to recovery, my MTB family from around the world known and un-known that took the time to offer words of support, Mark Booth at Body Limits for taking up the rehab physio baton, all who have got  me here 5 months 11 days on – you all got me here by believing in ME – thank you from my heart

BRING ON 2021 

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