Injury Timeout

Trying new things and exploring our limits carries with it an inherent risk. We all know this. As we grow we learn that trying new things and stepping outside of our comfort zone can sometimes have undesirable consequences.

With the thrill and exhilaration of pushing ourselves there’s a chance, one we acknowledge deep down in the back of our consciousness, that we can all too easily find and exceed our limits.

The limits of our skill, endurance, confidence or knowledge. We may also find the limits of the kit or accessories we are using. Or perhaps a combination of the two.

Finding your limits can hurt

A lot of the time we get away with it. A close call, a story of daring and disaster averted. A near miss to regale our riding buddies with over a post ride coffee/pint/cake.

This year I’ve had some highs and lows in my riding. Alongside new and positive experiences I’ve also had two injuries that have affected my ability to ride, though thankfully/hopefully only in the short term. Previous years Have seen me get away with only had minor scrapes and bruises and some short term knocks to my confidence.

Fractured ribs can get in the way of having fun riding your bike

Back in March I fractured two of my ribs riding a black line rock garden on Follow the Dog at Cannock. I’d successfully ridden that specific part of trail the previous week but this time my line through it was different, the bike stalled and I ended up on my side on the rocks with the wind knocked out of me. I knew something was wrong so I stayed down for a bit and allowed myself time to get my breath back.

Fortunately there were only a few sections of trail left on the route at that point so I managed to ride back to the car park, though not without some quite painful moments.

The recovery time for my ribs impacted on the training I had (loosely, real loosely) planned for the Batch Burner event I’d entered only weeks beforehand.

Aside from the pain and discomfort (when trying to sleep, get in or out of bed, sneeze, cough, lift things, generally do stuff etc) the frustration I felt at loss of time on the bike, along with what little bike fitness I had, was the hardest part to deal with. After all, it was just a rib injury.

Performing everyday physical activities and the temptation to get back on my bike quickly had to be tempered with the fear that pushing too far, too quickly, could further delay recovery.

Patience may be a virtue, it’s just not one of my virtues

I’m not the most patient of people, sorry about that. Resting and allowing myself time to recover does not come naturally to me. I doubt that’s unusual.

After awhile I was back on the bike and took things slowly to ease myself back into riding before progressing to longer and more physical rides.

As of right now I haven’t yet ridden that section of black graded trail again, not yet. Someday I will but first I want to build up my skills and regain some confidence.

I completed the Batch Burner ride and you can read about my experience on this blog. Though I enjoyed the event it was hard going and I really would have benefitted from training beforehand.

Lying on the ground, bike on top, with the sick feeling that along with the usual cuts and bruises you’ve hurt something badly

Four weeks ago while riding at Cwmcarn I found myself in this position. After a quick mental once-over most of me seemed to be intact apart from a fair bit of pain in my left arm and a small bump on my forehead. My head had hit the floor pretty hard (thank you my trusty Giro Hex helmet for saving me there) but I wasn’t in a lot of pain or dizzy, just suffering from a slight bit of shock.

I moved the bike and hobbled away to get off the trail, though anyone coming down after me would have plenty of time to see me and safely stop.

I’d lost the front wheel going down into a tunnel under the fire-road on Section 3 of the Welsh Gravity Enduro track during practice day. The entrance to the tunnel is a bit sketchy when loose and moist as it was that day and it was the first time I’d both seen and ridden it.

Despite having ended up on the floor on my right hand side, a trip to Newport A&E (again thanks to all the doctors, nurses and staff for their care) revealed I’d fractured the Radial Head in my left elbow. It’s a twisting fracture that’s apparently fairly common at my age, usually occurs when putting an arm out during a fall. Since I landed on my right I assume something happened with my left and the bars/frame/something.

The walk down the rest of the course was fairly damn painful, no way I could ride and it was too steep to walk easily. Mostly I was in pain and trying to get down so my riding buddy Paul, who’d gone ahead of me, wouldn’t start panicking as time went on and I failed to appear.

Despite having crashed I got lucky. ‘It could have been worse’, which has become a weird sort of catchphrase for me. Firstly my helmet did it’s job and took the force out of my head hitting the ground and leaving me with a only small bruise on my head. The helmet is cracked/split and ready for the bin, though currently it’s sitting on a shelf as a momento, or maybe a reminder.

Secondly the fracture is a Type 1 fracture. No displacement and no fragmentation means no surgery, usually.

A month later, 3 weeks of which were in a sling I’m not discharged as an outpatient and with some physiotherapy I might regain full range of motion in left left elbow.

It’s still going to be a while before I am back on the bike, and longer still since I am riding off-road with any kind of anger and energy. But I’m on the road to there, I just hope my patience holds out.

It’s natural, so I’m told, to loose some confidence after a crash. I have, but this time it’s confidence in my front tyre and not in myself.

Keeping my weight further forward may have helped, though I don’t believe I was leaning back pushing away from the trail even though I was unsure of it.

Picking a different line, a different speed perhaps?

This is not the first time the front tyre has washed out. I’m more than prepared to accept that sometimes it could have been my fault and not tyres, but not every time.

Following conversations with others, including my local bike shop, I’ve selected and purchased a wider and grippier front tyre. Similar in style to the Maxis Minion DHF I use on my 26er hardtail, I’ll be riding with a Specialised Butcher Control up front.

Hoping that should help get some of that confidence back.

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