When the saddle is your happy place…dealing with recovery

Everyone has their hobbies, the activities they fill their free time with, however much or little of it they have. Its those things that make them happy or transports them to a place that makes them happy. Previously i have written about one of my happy places, a beautiful place just outside Maastricht in Valkenburg, a quiet loop with some beautiful ups and downs and flat and the tarmac dedicated to cycling and not the car.

Getting there requires two things that i can’t do at the moment, driving and cycling, ignoring the fact I cant walk without crutches. Being able to go abroad is a privilege and although there are plenty of local roads that have more than enough appeal, if i constrained to the UK, i’d go back to to the Mendips, not sure what it was about Cheddar Gorge but it was beautiful, the ride up, the ride down, soaking in the history those rocks have seen. It reminded me of a favourite Terry Pratchett book that was set in a valley that I imagined was much like Cheddar. Mostly though, it was probably the sheep and goats that kept me doing loops round it.

Getting on a bike would be enough, that simple pleasure of being outside and pedalling my way to peace and quiet, feeling sun and the wind on my face. The sense of freedom from everything that it gives is unmatched for me.

Exercise addiction, to some degree, is not the worst thing to suffer from because in general it should keep you fit, healthy and active which can’t be a bad thing. Although when injury or sickness strikes, whether it be a sniffle or something more serious like my shattered pelvis, the urge to exercise is hard to temper. Through many years and many miles I have pushed on occasionally or tried to get back to it as quickly as possible. Never have I come close to the heroics of some athletes. Tyler Hamilton grinding his teeth down while riding a Tour De France stage with a fractured collar bone but in contrast I’ve not earned my living from home it. Probably more appropriately is Geraint Thomas jumping back on his bike after a crash only for a post stage X-ray to show a small fracture (he continued and finished that tour almost 2 weeks of riding later).

There was definitely a few mins post crash where I thought I was going to shake it off, jump back on the bike and ride home. The frankly physically debilitating pain quickly dispelled that thought and it wasn’t long before acceptance set in, when the excellent paramedics asked if I could get in the gurney and I had to be the proverbial sack of potatoes and allow myself to be lift on.

The first 8 days post crash didn’t exactly sail by, but the complexity of my operation meant I had blood transfusions and recovering sufficiently to be let home was the only goal. This focused the mind, rather than think about the next 12 weeks and what that might entail.

My life is filled with cycling, drawers of clothing, photos…bikes in the house, not relegated to a shed or garage, which means a constant reminder of something I can’t do. In an attempt to curb this longing I have backed away from a things and let them rumble on without me, or with as little involvement as possible. Realising that watching the Pro’s races is abstracted enough I could live vicariously through others without envy. Although come April when I might normally be riding or even photographing (which despite its proximity to a given race is the worst way of spectating) it might be harder. Next year I will definitely trying to go to some Cyclocross races (assuming it’s not too rainy…)

The weather is also doing me a massive favour, my magic triangle of cycling is still flashing on 2 sides, although I might change “dark” or “cold” for “dangerously windy”. While the timing means no fitness for racing, the silver lining is that as it hopefully gets sunny and warm I’ll be ready for something, even if it’s slow and short.

All this has forced me to find some form of tranquility, an acceptance of what is, at this point in time, I can save that frustration for when I can ride properly again and mash the pedals till I am out of breath.

Since committing the first paragraphs of this post I had my six week check up, denoting the half way point of recovery. While they vehemently reinforced the “non weight bearing” conditions of the next 6 weeks, using my CT scan and the word “shattered” several times, they did say if I was careful I could do some pedalling. It’s probably been the most alien kind of cycling I’ve done, a foot on each pedal but only one doing anything, and pedalling at such a slow cadence that outside it would see me in the ditch.

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