A change of direction.

It’s 4 weeks now since I dislocated my shoulder (for the third time) and had what I now see as an epiphany. I was unceremoniously dispatched to the tarmac at the Colne Grand Prix about a week after hearing that I needed surgery on the shoulder. It was inevitable in hindsight that it was going to pop out when my next crash came. Anyway… that’s the physical. It’s the mental stuff that’s been preoccupying me since then. That’s come as some sort of a surprise to me, in a way. It’s hit me a bit harder than I thought.

Let’s get this straight. The decision not to race until this is sorted is unequivocally made and not in question. The pain that happens with my dislocation when it happens is as near to all-consuming as I have experienced. To race – either a bike or fell running, would elevate the risk of a fall and I’m in no doubt at all that I do not want that.

I’ve yet to get a date for the surgery but am happy for now to sit it out. (It looks like October, if you’re interested)

There’s a few things that have caught me by surprise since ‘the decision’.

Routine.

The first thing is, life is about routine more than I realise. Bringing up children, I became aware of that. Routine is your best friend with children with so many things. It helps them immensely – and you – especially when they are very little. But I’m only just coming to realise how strong an influence the routine of my cycling life has had upon me over the years. This time of year is deeply engrained in me. The scene is familiar but the stage has been taken away. It’s the end of family holidays and about 6 weeks until the 3 peaks cyclocross. In my normal routine that means lots of things; coping with a minor weight loss burdon, running with the bike, hill reps, longer rides with the harder last hour, fine-tuning the bike, obsessing over minor frills, there’s a long long list (and each worthy of its own blog post over the years!).

But that’s all gone. I’m not riding the 3 peaks, and on the surface, that’s making things simple. Except it isn’t. It makes it strange, unfamiliar, partly exciting, mildly depressing, but very, very out of routine.

Any speed you like as long as it hurts.

Another thing I have come to realise is that I ride bikes and run because I am competitive in nature. I have ‘tried’ riding my bike a couple of times now in the last four weeks, and also ‘tried’ a couple of runs. (These are – by my own strict rules – away from competition. There is a clear self-preservation thing in me keeping me from situations where I might fall until the surgery and recovery has taken its course). I actually enjoyed both riding and running. But only because I went fast. I hurt. My legs hurt. My feet hurt when I ran. My chest was straining on climbs on the bike. I got in that zone as soon as I could. And that’s why I enjoyed it. I did try, when I set off, to go easy. I’d love to think that I could just go out for a spin… or for a jog… just an amble. That’s not going to happen for me. Not easily, anyway. I do try not to go hard, but it’s hard.

So, for now, I’ve decided to carry on not racing as fast and aggressively as I can.

The beaten track

I thought I’d miss off-roading on the bike, but I don’t. I’m really unsure as to why, but have an incling that this really won’t nag me too much over the next six months or so. I can – for the time being – get my fix of the rural by running, when I want (I’m permitting myself to run off road – just not go silly downhill*). There is a bit more faff in off-road biking and I’m not missing that at all. I can pedal on the roads, and I can run off. So that’s fine. Surprisingly fine. For now.

Mind Games

It may be a break from sport, but my subconscious has never been so rushed off its feet. All my holiday, I read tales of people’s cycling adventures. Those of my team mate Alan off in the Pyrenees were particularly, disturbingly envy-inducing. But even everywhere we went on our holidays, driving to chunky altitudes in the Picos de Europa Picos de Europa Roadsup swooping smooth roads, driving through the dramatic tree-smothered hills of the Basque country, the swirling Mediterranean Carreteras of the Costa Brava… all of it was basically one huge monologue-to-self about how the Planet X N2A would feel swooping around on roads like that. An itch that will have to remain unscratched, for now.

It bled into my dreams and my sleep was disturbed by a combination of bike pining and worrying about my arm popping out. An comfortable mix of a mind not at rest.

On the up

Every cloud…

I’m starting to resolve some excitement about this rare opportunity to do a few different things this Autumn (aside from keyhole surgery and six weeks in a sling). There are a few things I can put to my advantage. I’m ‘watching’ my first 3 Peaks since 1994, for a start. I plan to do a bit of filming and make a short piece about a support team for the day. I can do things like ‘drink alcohol’ in September. That will be novel. I may even get to take Lily to some cross country races, or take Elsie to do a cyclocross without it all being a rushed compromise of a day. I can go on my friend Alan’s stag do without feeling guilty… and even attend his wedding in January without going straight there “filthy from the nationals” , as was the original plan.

It’s not all bad. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s different. I must make a point of keeping a half-full glass. Unless it’s someone else’s round.

* Just on climbs – see here

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.

A slow recovery

I had my checkup earlier today at the hospital 34 days after my crash at Lee Quarry that gave me a broken collarbone. I’m so intrigued about the healing process that my body has gone through so far. When I first had my X-Ray on the day of the fracture, I was a bit shocked to see how clearly ‘snapped’ the bone was – with the two ‘pieces’ about two centimetres apart from each other.
Continue reading “A slow recovery”

Broken left collarbone and 7 lug stitches




Not a very good day on the bike really. It was meant to be a relaxed reintroduction to mountainbike racing after ages off the sport but it turned out to be 20 minutes racing then a trip to Fairfield hospital via Mountain Rescue Land Rover and an ambulance.

Complicated feelings just now and I need to go back tomorrow to find out if the broken collarbone needs to be pinned. Continue reading “Broken left collarbone and 7 lug stitches”