Saturday, 1 December 2012

First bike ride for 895 days.

OK, today I had to wait for some Christmas presents to be delivered, but the plan was, weather and light permitting, to get out and ride. Finally.

By two o'clock all my parcels had arrived, so I quickly put my lycra on :) and got myself sorted out, water bottle etc. gps, heart rate monitor, pumped up bike tyres to about 90 psi, basic toolkit in pocket just in case, phone, keys, looked at the roads - a bit damp but looking OK - and, nervously, I went.

After one failed attempt to clip my right foot in (it's been a long time!) I was riding my bike down the road outside the house. It's like riding a bike, you never forget. I had thought carefully about this ride. Going right out of the house means there's a flat bit for a few hundred metres. All other directions are a hill. So I gave myself 30 seconds for something to go wrong and it still be flat. So far so good. Nothing went wrong. Felt very strange after all this time. I was worried something on my bike would snap or the tyre would burst or something else equally unlikely was going to happen. It didn't. After the few hundred metres the road goes down a bit so no pedalling required - again, good. At the bottom it's flat again for a bit, maybe 400m, then there's a hill. A molehill, not worth speaking about.

As soon as I started up it, I knew my plan wasn't going to work for this ride. This hill suddenly felt like a major climb. I never really noticed it much before, sort of a warm up before the ride starts properly after the first few miles. Oh dear. Are my legs really that weak? Is that really the lowest gear on my bike? It used to go lower than that! No, it didn't. Lots of things have changed, but the gear ratios on my bike are still the same.

After that hill, there's another downhill section and then another uphill, perhaps not as steep as the first, and certainly another that I'd never really noticed, but I did today! At the top of that, at Birch Vale, the road meets the Hayfield road, I turned left. This bit is flat until the junction with the Glossop - Chinley road. There I had planned to go right and go over the hill to Chinley. That was the hill I talked about last time. What actually happened was I had a rest. I'd known since the first uphill that this wasn't going to be a good idea. When I stopped and unclipped and put my feet down, my legs were feeling so weak like they might give way :(

I dismounted (also difficult as it happens), and walked back across the road. I decided to go back exactly the way I came. The Chinley loop, for which I have pre-accident data, will have to wait a bit yet. Tijl and everyone was right - it was too much for the first ride. I hate being wrong. I hate failing, not achieving what I set out to do.

I retraced my steps along the Hayfield road - I could've gone straight on and back to New Mills going up Union Road, but that's a climb too, and it's the town's main street so there would be people around to witness my pathetic struggle in the granny gear. So I went back the back way, to avoid being seen as much as possible.

It didn't seem quite as bad on the way back, possibly I had resigned myself to just going slowly and pacing myself up the 'climbs' like I would normally have done on something much more severe. It worked, but when I got to the front door I had to wait a few minutes before I dared swing my left leg over the saddle to get off. Courage needed. You won't fall. But it feels like I might. You won't. Just do it.

What have I learned? It's going to be hard mentally as well as physically. I know what I could do. I just can't do it now. Didn't I know it was going to be hard mentally? Yes I think so, but I honestly thought I'd set a realistic goal today. Now I see I hadn't. I never thought I my legs could feel so weak on a bike as that. 

I was also quite nervous about being clipped in and generally handling the bike. I put this down to physical weakness as well as lack of even a shred of specific fitness. The more I get out on it now, the more that will return I'm sure.

Positives? Absolutely. 2012 will have bike miles! After 895 days, I did 5.6 miles.

Not much mechanical pain, at least not that I could notice next to all the pain from lack of muscle and fitness. Ankle not moving doesn't seem to cause much problem. I didn't try to stand up on the pedals going up the hills - I think that would've finished me off completely, my legs just didn't feel strong enough for that.

Will my strength for this recover. Of course it will. I just needed to get out the first time and set a benchmark for my mind and my body. On the way back I think my body was already starting to remember how to suffer and where to get the extra energy from. Or maybe I just think that because I've relaxed and recovered a bit now...

I also got to post a ride on Strava, which I've been dying to do - and I see there are some segments of even the short ride I did today which other people have times on. Amazingly, I haven't posted the lowest time on any of the three of them that are there! Almost in one case (78th out of 81) but look, I haven't ridden my bike for 29 months. Oh, and did I mention I almost lost my leg?

Look for yourself. The mechanical bone/tissue rebuild may be over, the rebuild of everything else starts here.

This Week's X-rays etc.

This week has been a bit major to say the least. I had three appointments: one with the consultant at Preston on Wednesday, one with a specialist in Sheffield on Thursday, and my physio appointment on Friday. One of the things that's kind of annoying is all the time something like this can take out of your life - I mean, each of those appointments took at least half a working day out. This is time I won't get back....

Anyway, on Wednesday I went to see my consultant in Preston - it's actually a paediatric clinic but he said I could pretend to be a child for the day.. This is to fit in with my lecturing, normally I'd go on Monday to the fracture clinic, but they've always been quite nice and flexible with me to let me have it affect my job as little as possible. The nurse in the clinic said she wanted no tantrums from me when I said I was going to pretend to be a child! Pretend! As if - I am a child. Mostly. 
So over the last few weeks I've been convincing myself alternately that my leg wasn't bending again, and that it was. This x-ray would provide the proof one way or the other. Thankfully, it shows that my tibia is straight as an arrow! This is good! I've been fully weight-bearing as much as possible on it for 3 weeks since the frame was removed. Of course the struts were unlocked for something like 6 weeks already, so really it's more like 9 weeks when it could've bent. But this shows it hasn't.
Top view. No bend in tibia.Yippee!
Side view - the angle in this plane is not as important, but it's still pretty straight anyway.

OK, so, it looks like it worked :) What a relief! Now I can push as much as I want / can. I don't have to go back to see my consultant now for 3 months - until March 4 2013. This is a bit like a semi-discharge compared to what I've been used to for the last 29 months!

You can see from the top view that there is an illusion now of it being bent - there is much more of a taper of the soft tissue on the outside than the inside. It looks bent. It isn't.

I asked about driving. No problem, he said, if I feel like I can do an emergency stop, everything's OK. I do. So I will have a little practice in Mum's car next weekend, and then we're all good for renting a car at Christmas. This will make Rebecca's life then much more enjoyable - and mine too :) Freedom!
When I wake up, it looks a lot less swollen :)
Possibly it's shorter too, but hey. You can't have it all (so I'm told).
I also got some tubi-grip to put around it so that maybe the swelling will go down quicker. That's good too. When my consultant said 3 months, I think I knew that deep down, but still, it meant saying thank you for the time being and that is a bit hard because thank you just doesn't seem to cover it. He said he thought it was good that in the end they had fixed it so that I hadn't lost my leg, and that it looked like from that point of view it was a success. I know it's their jobs, but really, how can you repay something like that?

Next, Sheffield on Thursday. There is a whole side of this accident that I haven't spoken about in my blog - the claim against the insurance company. For obvious reasons I don't want to go too much into it yet because it's ongoing, but my visit to the specialist in Sheffield was at the behest of the insurance company. It passed off without incident - the guy was nice, possibly a (retired?) orthopaedic consultant. He asked a lot of the usual questions which I don't really like going over again but I've been over it so many times now with so many people I could practically do it in my sleep. He measured up all of my scars, asked about pain etc. and how it's affected my life. My file is massive! No doubt that's copies of all my medical records. One day I will write up my thoughts on all this side of it.

On Friday I had physiotherapy at Stepping Hill. My physio was pleased to see me amble in almost without crutch. I explained I was showing off because I was there, but he said you have to be able to do it to show off. I guess that's right. We went through my stretches and step exercises, which have got easier over the last fortnight to be fair, especially stepping up backwards leading with my left leg. Now I have sideways step ups to do, and heel dips and raises over the edge of the step. They are hard on my calves.

We talked about the motion in my ankle. He said realistically it was unlikely I'll recover much more than I've got at the moment. I have no fibula anymore (you can see the wreckage of it in my first x-ray above) so he thinks it is possible that my ankle has fused to compensate for the lack of stability that brings. I do have some plantar flexion, but hardly any dorsi flexion. Cycling wise it shouldn't matter too much - I am mildly concerned about balance on the mountain bike since some of that comes from dropping your heels a bit, but we'll see about that later on. Of course, I can keep working on it to see if it will loosen up a bit, but I guess he was telling me not to be too hopeful. Maybe I knew that deep down already, it wasn't a surprise but still a disappointment. He said (as have others) that I have to look at it as a leg saved. But I suppose I want to believe it'll be back to normal eventually, mechanically. What matters I guess is what I can do with it. I intend for that to surpass what was normal before, eventually. Walking barefoot is never going to be easy now though. You don't walk around outside with no shoes on was his reply. :)

I told him that I was intending to go out on my bike on Saturday - there hadn't yet been the right combination of light, dry roads and time.

Finally, he gave me a target - off crutches completely by New Year. Now that seems ambitious to me, but what is certainly true is that I could do a lot more without. Just carry the one and use it when necessary - in two weeks when I go back, I have to be at 50% crutch usage.