Colne Grand Prix 2013 – Marginal pains

Colne Grand Prix

Last night was my last race for a bit. Colne Grand Prix is a race I have ridden loads over the years. It’s a great race. A very simple town centre criterium on a very simple course. The corners are fast and flowing, and it always has a great atmosphere with the course packed full of people on either side. I’ve ridden there the last nine years and only missed one, and still felt I had my 2005 podium somewhere in my 43 year old legs if I got it right.

Ice cream Colne

Katie and the girls had come to watch. That’s a fairly rare thing; the pain of dragging two mildly moaning but very lovely girls to a freezing cold cyclocross course in November is bad enough to put anyone off for life, but a town centre crit on a balmy summer eve is something a bit different. And they had ice creams there. So I had my entourage.

From Casual T to Casualty

The build up to the race was the usual Haygarth chaos. Despite being very well organised (for me), and getting there in plenty of time, on a glorious summer’s evening, I forgot my racing Jersey, so had one together from the rather casual ten-year-old T-shirt I was wearing. What a nana. Actually it didn’t look too bad really. Okay, it did. But I was there, I had a number on, and there was a race to be done.

Start of the race – spot the casual guy in the red t-shirt. Photo by Andy Kennedy for British Cycling

 

The race itself was unsurprisingly very fast. Gone are those days when a 3rd cat crit is stop-start or slow. The first ten miles or so averaged 26.5 mph and only started to dip a bit as people settled in. There was no riding off the front on a warm night with little wind, so it was a matter of decompiling the forms and strengths of the riders around me and working out when to move up for the inevitable sprint.

As it worked out, I managed to avoid the inevitable sprint, by being right behind the almost inevitable crash on the final bend. With 250 metres to go, two riders in front of me hit the deck and that was it for me. I lurched over the top / side of them and hit the floor on my good side, but still somehow managed to pop out my bad shoulder.

I Scream Colne

Anyone who’s dislocated one before will identify with the all-consuming pain. I was calm in a way, reassured by knowing what I’d done and that 95% of the pain would be gone once they’d got it put back in in hospital. Panicked, to an extent about what Katie would think of me when she saw me in an ambulance – again. Never easy that stuff. But most of all, upper body movement of any description caused groaning, moaning agony. That needed sorting.

St John’s Ambulance were there and were ace. But they did run out of Entonox (gas and air!) after I’d relaxed my muscles for 15 mins or so. That was a bummer. When I eventually got to Blackburn Royal Infirmary and waited 20 minutes for some more Entonox, I was borderline passing out. Not being dramatic, just consumed by pain. Temporary pain though. Lordy, did I tote on that stuff when they got me some. It was amazing. I heard echos and weird reverberations, spoke jibberish, and saw in tunnels. But it relieved it.

X-Ray-ted words

They have to X-Ray you when they do these things. It’s easy and cynical to say they just have to follow procedure and it delays the process, but obviously they need to know what’s what, even after two prior dislocations of that shoulder. I was in for a bit of a surprise though. I knew they’d have to move me somewhat in my wheelchair to get the pictures they wanted, but after three blurry attempts to get the right angle, they leant me over in such a painful pose that something went click. I gurgled out some intense swearing, then took in so much gas that I could barely see straight. Only two minutes later did I realise that by moving me, the sonographer had accidentally manoeuvred my shoulder back in. I could have kissed her. But I didn’t. I was sweaty and half bloodied. And she was probably not that interested in me, to be fair. Don’t blame her.

Home Tweet Home

We all rolled in to the house rather late last night. Priority was to get 5 year old Elsie tucked up after an excitingly late night for her – and Lily too – but Katie and I stayed up and chatted for a while. It didn’t seem right to go to bed – we were a bit buzzing. And I wanted to tweet about it. First things first. But it was only a few polite tweets, then bed.

Marginal pains.

It could be seen as a snap, spur-of-the-moment decision, but with some clarity I’ve decided to do all I can as quickly as I can do get the Labral Repair surgery (link) done that I’ve been put on a waiting list for. I’m not prepared to put myself in any more risk positions until my body is fixed. The potential advantage of carrying on until the op was highlighted to me last night as very marginal, if indeed of any advantage at all. Towel thrown in.

It’ll be very strange in so many ways to not be training for the 3 peaks this year. The first event without a Haygarth in it for 20 years, with my brother Phil absent, too. But I’m very clear that it’s the right decision and that I will come back strong and enthusiastic. I’m quite looking forward to the idea of watching the race, in a way. A whole cross season out will be hard to deal with too, but there will be more in 2014.

Codeine brings relief

I’ve written a bit before here about how mountain biking is a lovely antidote to the routine of training for road and cyclocross racing. It’s a busy life and with a lot to pack in (read:compromise), a direct consequence is that bike time is training or racing time. I tend to ride criteriums in the summer but have had the nice distraction of a few summer ‘cross races this season. Still, in many ways, it’s much the same deal. You have an hour or so to train, so it’s outside, 3-4 seconds of warm-up, then go “gggrrrrrrraaaaaaaaarrrrrrggghhhhhhhhhh” (or something similar) for an hour, back home, in the shower, back to work / children / those other things.

So it is mountain biking that brings me my distraction and the highest pleasure-per-effort levels. No average speeds to chase, not much worry about headwinds, traffic, etc. There’s a great simplicity to it, and if you’re not in a rush, it brings some lovely warm rewards.

on one codeine 2So… when a good morning is put in the diary for a good ride and catch-up with close friend Matthew, I intend to make the most of it. If I’m going for leisure, relaxation and fun on the bike, then let’s do this properly. Step into the light, On One Codeine.

This leisure-centre of a bicycle is still in its prototype stage but built with “big stuff” in mind, it was always going to be a very fun ride at the rather mature but still fun Gisburn Forest bike trails. Many of the formerly great bits at Gisburn are a bit fatigued these days, and with trail centres’ tendencies to attract funding for new stuff (rather than unattractive maintenance of old stuff), the bumpy bits are a bit bumpier and rockier than you might like them.

With 29″ wheels and the gigantic, Smorgasbord tyres thicker than a circular Yorkie, 128mm of rear travel and about that up front, the Codeine was not going to struggle with any amount of gnarl that you wanted to throw at it. And if it did, you just drop the seatpost. I’m not an expert with full suspension bikes and have only ridden a couple, but it was obvious that this is a tank of a bike. Crashing it would be tricky, in a way. Its rather Brantish 31.8mm stem means that it flicks about much better than a 67° head angle bike should. All this fun / soft / bouncy stuff comes at a cost, of course, and climbing is for the patient. You stay in one position and the bike just goes uphill. It’s a bit like a ski lift. With all that traction going on, you don’t have to pick your line, but you’ll need to not be in any sort of rush. You can spend the time still going ‘wow’ from the previous descent.

No Production date is currently planned‘, so the one I was kindly lent by On One is going to illude you, for now, if you want one. But in the middle of a busy, racing, training life, Codeine brought me a remedy from an ailment I didn’t realise I had.

When it all goes wrong – an apology to my brother.

After more than 3 weeks of reflection, all I really know is that, sometimes, very small things happen that have very big consequences.

To set the scene, simply put, it’s a day of joy and fun. I don’t get much time to spend in close quarters with my brother, Phil. Acting from my own selfishness and attempts to put that right, I’d planned a mini trip away, where we’d meet with my cousin, Adrian, for a rare treat of time together. A few beers, an evening in a hotel, a decent breakfast, and a great bike ride. An amalgamation of simple pleasures combining to make a rare treat.

Man down.

When Phil fell from his bike and hit the ground, he hit it hard. Nobody knew what happened and nobody ever will. He was concussed and his own memory of the incident does not exist. Sandwiched between Adrian and I on an innocuous and pretty harmless part of the track at Llandegla, his fall wasn’t seen by either of us – out of our lines of vision. As such, we only have the consequences to dwell upon. Phil’s fall shattered his clavicle and broke two of his ribs.

The immediate few days after obviously brought him significant pain and discomfort, loss of sleep and probably a lot of anxiety from the loss of consciousness and feeling of vulnerability this presents. It’s the longer term consequences that are probably causing me as much distress as Phil at the moment. I feel I’ve been instrumental in a knock-back in Phil’s life.

Long term prognosis?

Whether Phil gets back on a mountain bike or tackles anything with some similar risk attached is probably the furthest thing from his mind now. He faces eight weeks in a sling whilst his clavicle gets a chance to knit together helped by the titanium plate they have put in. That cuts across family holiday time, his work, his family time… a temporary but major disability.

Yes – Phil’s an adult and a very capable cyclist, but without my having the idea, we simply wouldn’t have been there.

If, for whatever reason, and however well justified, Phil decided in future to maybe not ride that race or make that trip, or not to ski, to run down a fell… all those little things that need confidence, then I will be whatever the next step up from regretful is. That’s because these are the little things that define my own life. The little extras around the edge of the life stuff. The bits that can make a day remarkable.

Broken Helmet

A broken helmet and torn clothing can be replaced. Bones generally do heal. Even those rare chances to have fun with one’s brother and cousin can be rearranged and refactored into busy lives. But I’m so worried that knocked-back that can-do confidence,

Yes, the impact on Anne an Phil’s children, and other inconveniences are immeasurable here and those things prey on me.

Sorry.

Phil, I’m just feeling sorry it turned bad.

Half full.

I’m not sure whether this is a half-empty or half full thing, but Phil, you’ve either been very lucky or very unlucky. It could have gone so much worse and please let’s not dwell on that. On the other hand, it could have just been a great day out, and could have been finished by a great gig in Lancaster later that evening. Let’s just assume that you were lucky. That we were lucky.

You’ve spent some brief time sidelined from your busy life – and I know you’ve said that it’s been actually quite welcome, too. Small mercies.

I wish you a full and speedier recovery than anyone thinks is possible.

Scarface Claw

First loser. A big win.

Tunnel Vision

Everyone knows that second place is the first loser. I’m happy with that. Three weeks and a day after a general anaesthetic, a night in North Manchester Hospital and a few painful days of ‘peeing red’, most people would be happy with just riding their bike. That’s why I’m happy as I’ve been in a long time. This short page in my cycling book has been a pretty turbulent one but it seems to be creating a happy ending a bit sooner than I’d have thought.
Continue reading “First loser. A big win.”

I had a fit.

Retul Bike Fitting

I’m 42 and had my first fit yesterday. You might think it’s young to have your first fit. For me, it’s about 26 years later than it ought to have been.

With a mix of health problems cropping up over the last year or so from bad backs to kidney stones to even more bad backs, I took it on myself to see a Chinese Physiotherapist recommended by Alan (crossjunkie). The experience was quite enlightening (aside from the fact that she told me I had a very very weak kidney pulse – prophetic, to say the least, a few days before my diagnosis). One of the major things that Leslie (she herself isn’t Chinese… but the practice is!) mentioned was assumption that I had my bike all fitting me well and I’d been measured up, etc. Time to fess up… I hadn’t. Ever. Been fitted for a bike. Ever.

Time to call Brant.

I’d seen a promotional video about Planet X’s Retul fitting service and decided the time had come for me to arrange a session… ‘just in case’ anything I’d been doing for the last 25 years or so was a bit wrong.

I had indeed been doing things a bit wrong. Well… a bit more than a bit actually.

I called my bike sugar daddy Brant to see if I could book a fitting.

Planet X ShopI’d just taken delivery of a very very handsome Planet X N2A bike so with the brand new bike only a couple of rides old I headed down to Rotherham. Aside from the fitting itself, this whole things was a real treat. Kid in a sweet factory. You get the picture. This is a big shop and a bigger warehouse. Mmmmmmm! The fact that I’ve been riding for Planet X for six months or so but never made the time to get down to their place was playing on my mind, so the fitting made the perfect opportunity.

Last Fit

I was greeted by Chris Last – Planet X’s soigneur and an experienced cyclist who took me through the Retul process amidst a mass of fairly untamed cycling chit chat from both our mouthes. Chris’ experience of local riders over the last few years overlapped a bit of my time in Sheffield in the early 90s and it was great to chat away whilst simultaneously finding out my bike was pretty hilariously adjusted. Watching a stick man of myself on the screen, live, is a strange enough experience, but watching a cramped up one made it very plain to my eyes that something wasn’t really right. Through an hour or so of careful adjustment, bit by bit, we corrected all those bad angles, until everything fell within the right tolerances. New bike or no new bike, I had been riding a saddle that was 35mm too low and it seems I had been for quite some time. Talk about having a fit. Shocking, mildly embarrassing (but I’m bigger than that and I can take it), and all in all a bit of a revelation.

So… one day later, I gave the bike a really good kicking yesterday for 90 mins and over a couple of big climbs in a bloody headwind and crappy drizzle. All held up really well and if I could summarize the change I’d say that I feel like I’m getting the sort of power down that I would have done in the past by standing up. Makes sense really.

What a tit

So once you’ve all stopped laughing at my “discovery”, spare a thought for how this bodes for someone who has suffered from lower back pain. Watch out… here I come. The final word goes to a certain person I know who commented: “It’s a bit like when I went to get myself properly measured for a bra in my mid 30s. I’d been wearing a 36C – then I found out I was actually a 32F”. The minor details count, but the big details count more.

Video below of the experience and if you like my soundtrack you can hear it in full here

Everything’s gonna be all Whyte

Interesting project on at the moment on behalf the design team for Whyte Bikes. Ian (who works on product design there) and I go back a long way and given my boundless enthusiasm for cyclocross (and what younger people might call ‘experience’), I’m starting to test a bit of a new venture for them. Whyte are an English brand famous for their mountain bike range, but wanted to get into the cyclocross market. Their new frame – currently a prototype – is highly immersed in that. It’s radically mountainbike, actually – in many ways. Certainly an interesting prospect. Continue reading “Everything’s gonna be all Whyte”

Cannondale Six Carbon – my lovely new bike

Had the great pleasure of building up my new bike from Wheelbase on Wednesday night. Just waiting for a slighly nicer day than today to take it for a spin… it’s light, as it looks, and I’m sure it’s going to handle as well as it looks. Decided to stay with the compact chainset for now til the big crits start in the mid summer time. I might as well use those generously twiddly gears for the ridiculously hilly Fred Whitton wide in May. It also needs another 2cm ont he stem – it’s a bit shorter than my last frame – but that’s on order. Continue reading “Cannondale Six Carbon – my lovely new bike”