The End of an Era

The End of an Era

I suppose somewhere down the line, it was always going to happen, but when you are finally presented with the facts then it’s sometimes quite hard to process them.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been in contact with my surgeon and had another meeting with him yesterday to review my knee and the operation that I had back in February. He was really pleased with the way the operation went and in terms of general mobility and day-to-day life then we are pretty much back to normal, albeit still with a little swelling and discomfort as the wounds heal up fully – all to be expected and I am very grateful for that.

This is how a healthy normal knee is structured:

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However, in terms of “sporting activities” it’s not such great news – actually that is not quite correct, I should say in terms of “competitive” sports the news isn’t great – I can still ride my bike and exercise but with caution.

With meniscus injuries they grade the damage one to four with four being the worst level of injury. Yesterday, the surgeon took me through the whole process showing my the x-rays done before the op and how it looked during the process.

Effectively I had lost all my cartilage at the front of my knee, simply gone – there was then a Grade 4 tear which needed a fair amount of work to trim it up – the remainder of the injury was assessed as Grade 2 – in his words “very traumatic”.

Although the damaged areas were repaired, there is still no cartilage at the front of my knee and that means we have a bone-on-bone scenario, which means the potential for pain and swelling is huge for any long periods of exercise, or for regular hard efforts – basically what I would have called “training” so the advice is to back it all off and just go out and “ride” my bike for the enjoyment of it, but limit the rides to around 90 mins to help protect the joint.

Running is completely out of the window and to be fair the surgeon said that from day one when he first got all the scans back, so I guess he kinda knew what the future was for me at that point.

I have to say the news hit me quite hard really – no more competition, no more long bike rides – well, I obviously still can do those kind of things, but it will lead to days of swelling and pain and future damage that could affect day to day life so what’s the point in that.

I sat in the car park as the news processed in my mind and I thought, well, that’s that then and I then started to think of all that achieved, and do you know what – I have done alright …

1988 – Toured Australia with Wigan Colleges playing 7 matches out there winning four and losing three

1989-1993 – played at the highest level in amateur rugby league, played for Wigan, Lancashire county and Great Britain, toured France and won there.

1993-1995 – played professional rugby league for Oldham RLFC at the same level as today’s “Super League”

1994 – Rode the length of Britain – John O’Groats to Lands End – covered over 1000 miles in just 9 days on a mountain bike raising over £8,000 for Wigan Hospice.

1995-1997 – transferred for £10,000 to Chorley RLFC playing a difficult couple of years as a major back injury took its toll (more later on this)

2006 – started to train for Ironman which is a triathlon with a 3.8km open water swim, a 180km bike ride and then a marathon at the end to finish

2007 – completed Ironman UK in Sherborne in Dorset in a time of 13hrs and 01mins

2008-2012 – completed 3 more Ironman UK events, this time close to home in Bolton, working with “Team True Spirit” (I was part of the original team that formed the organisation) – we raised over £50,000 for service charities and transformed one veteran into a Paralympian.

When I sit there and look at that list, I have to be happy don’t I – I have to be really proud and pleased with the levels I reached and the things I managed to do.

But then I can also draw up a list of injuries from the rugby days:

1988 – Major concussion, lost a full days memory and still cannot remember a thing

1990-1997 – the original injury was landing on a wooden square corner flag as I was twisting over to score – I couldn’t walk for 3 days and missed the whole of the next season – I struggled lots with it over the next few years, eventually retiring in 1997 – the x-ray showed the discs twisted 9mm one way and leaning over 5mm another way

1993 – hairline fracture of my jaw, very minor but the jaw clicks to this day

1994 – broken and dislocated middle finger (put back in place in the tunnel during the match) – basically top half of the finger was pointing back at me as I looked at it.

1994 – torn and frayed groin/pelvic muscles, requiring minor surgery to correct

1995 – big broken nose (I had suffered two minor breaks previously) – this one was a real smash in the face – again put back into place in the dressing room at half time – lots of blood and tears on that one

1995 – clash of heads and a gaping cut over my eye – eight stitches by the doctor in the medical room in the tunnel at Oldham, bandage on and back on to the field to finish the match off. (as they did back then).

1993-1995 – both left and right ankle ligaments torn, both requiring periods of about 6-8 weeks on the sideline.

When you look at the list of injuries, then really I have done well to do all the bike riding and triathlon stuff at all – it’s fair to say that my 48 year old body has been put through the rigours along its sporting career.

So, where does that leave me now? Well it leaves me to enjoy short local bike rides I guess, lots of lovely Lancashire lanes for me to trundle around and it will allow me more time to focus on the photography which at the moment is going really well and the business continues to grow.

A little bit of me is sad and disappointed, but it is what it is and we need to move on and into the next exciting chapter probably with a Canon piece of kit in my hand rather than a pair of carbon wheels, but that is still pretty exciting for me.

As the gloom lifted, I grabbed my kit bag and headed out in the evening sunshine to bury myself deep in a hedge and photograph the local Southport 10 mile time trial and as the sun shone down, I allowed myself a little wry smile – you know what, life is good and whilst it is the end of an era, there is another one ahead, just as good.

Make it Happen!

So what has changed ?

So what has changed ?

A lot can happen in nine months. A hell of a lot.

One thing I do plan on doing now is keeping this blog active and to perhaps do a lot more writing as well as including as much of my photography as I can within the articles that I write.

The last blog post pretty much summed up the last 18 months for me – injuries catching up with me and I guess that my older body was starting to pay for all the pain I put it through when it was much younger. All that rugby league and Ironman stuff really does wreck your body – glad it’s all behind me if I am honest.

So let’s start with the catch ups, what has happened since I last wrote the depressing and sad post back in July. Well first up I missed my trip up the Tourmalet, but no shock there – I knew the injury was serious, but more about that later.

August

I started to formulate longer term plans with the writing and the images, I transformed my sole trader status into a fully fledged company and started to lay out the plans and framework for the future – it’s a pretty long-term plan as I have plenty of other business interests at the moment. I did manage a few articles and some imagery that got printed and published, so the testing of the water shows that I can do this, just need to be a bit bolder and creative from now on. Part of the process was to revamp my photography website and that is now finalized HERE – I would love to hear what you think of it.

September

Still on a roll with the new empire, I created and published my first ever book – it’s an e-book for kindle and the link for anyone interested is HERE – I also produced one single hard copy of the book which sit’s proudly at home on my book case. The book details all my adventures at the 2014 and 2015 Tours of Flanders and with over 80 pages of commentary and images, it’s something that I am highly proud of.

October – November

We have rented a couple houses locally over the last 10 years, never moved far and really have loved both of them and the times we had there, but the opportunity came for us to once again own our own home. It kinda took us by surprise and everything just fell into place really to present us with a question – yes, you can buy up £x and yes, if you can do it, then you can be in by Xmas. Errr, ok that sounds like fun – two days later, we had viewed it and had an offer accepted on the house that we would eventually move into. We do not hang around when it comes to doing stuff, that’s for sure.

As November rolled into play, we were off to the airport and onto a plane for a much-needed city break in what has become my new favorite city, Barcelona. The family loved our 5 days there, we explored, we walked, we saw the sights, we ate great food, enjoyed the museums, visited the Camp Nou and relaxed on the beach and just had the very best time.

December

It was finally time to sort the knee out. After a visit to my doctors I was referred for an MRI scan and the results were back. It was indeed pretty traumatic cartilage damage – tears from front to back, side to side, ripped and very inflamed. No wonder I couldn’t walk around or ride a bike properly. The consultant advised me to stop running and that he could sort it all out with an arthroscopy and that was all booked for April 2017

Only trouble was, I had a cycling holiday planned for the end of April, but then in a stroke of complete luck I got a cancellation and I was booked into Fairfield Hospital at the end of February.

Wow, what an experience – the above image was taken in the first couple of days when you needed to keep the bandage on, when I took it off the leg looked like this:

It was a little bit swollen, but nothing too serious, no pain whatsoever and I could walk around unaided – I even walked out of the hospital on my own 3 hours after coming out of surgery.

To think I had a camera in one side, a small tool and drill into the other (oh yes, forgot to mention that they drilled into my bones as an extra add on to encourage new cartilage growth) and that was all that was left is quite incredible.

I visited the physio after 10 days and was given the all clear to ride again, so I did, nice and slowly to begin with, but within a week or so I was back up to normal speed and endurance. All I have left are two small scars and a little swelling – like I said – WOW !

The cancellation means that I can now go to Mallorca and ride in the sunshine as planned and that will be a fitting return after the disappointment of recent years.

The House

We completed and grabbed our keys a few days before Xmas, but only actually moved into the new house in the new year – that allowed us to get some new carpets and flooring sorted and to decorate the rooms – lots of other stuff to sort yet, but we love our new house – open fields in front of us, huge garden for the kids to play and run around it, big double garage/workshop for me and lots of privacy – we could not be happier.

More Tattoos

You will remember my tattoo project from last year, well I am now half way through completing the “stars” part of it. Last year I had three small stars on my inner forearm, each one to represent my boys. This year, I have had a large star on my chest as a tribute to my wife, and I am not in the process of linking them all up with a half sleeve of stars … only the big one and three small ones will be colored but when it is done, it’s gonna look incredible. I still have a couple more sessions booked in, probably 4-5 hours of work needed yet, but this is where we are up to now.

Getting some consistency

When I first knew about the Tourmalet Challenge and decided to accept the offer, I knew I had lots to do in terms of getting myself ready and fit for the event.

One of the keys to that is consistency. Not just making sure I ride the hills, not making sure I ride the right bike, but making sure that each week that goes by has me riding, more and more and increasing.

I always record all my rides on Strava, it’s a great reference tool and I also use VeloViewer which is linked to it – it gives you some amazing data and stats that you can refer and relate to.

The last 4 weeks for me have been decent:

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As we enter April I have some consistency in my legs, nothing major yet, the longest ride so far is around 60km, but good frequency and that is important too.

I have been having fortnightly sports massage to keep on top of any niggles and to help maintain the existing issues I have. I always make at least one visit to the gym to get the core work and stretching done and I am starting to have a “love/hate” relationship with the foam roller at home.

As a family we have been on a crusade for about 18 months now, to eat fresh food as much as we can and to cut back on the processed rubbish. During this time I have cut out sugar completely in my hot drinks and I have cut out 99% of my white bread addiction – now having a very small amount of wholemeal once or twice a week. I have lost over a stone by cutting these things out, we still eat well and there is no restriction on volume, so no hunger pangs along the way … sure it takes time, but this is a much healthier way of re-shaping your body.

Over the coming weeks, I need to start to build the “long ride” up towards and over 100km which is very achievable indeed – combine that with the regular work in the week (a bit of commuting and grabbing an hour or so when I can) and we are making great progress.

I have three solid months now to continue the training and work for the challenge and if you would like to support me in my efforts to raise £1,000 for The Christie then please click the link HERE and donate to the cause.

Pleased with Progress …

This year has been one of the best for me for a long time, so many small changes made for the better, so many decisions made and so much clarity achieved.

One of the big things we did as a family at the turn of the year was to make nutrition changes, and not the “let’s juice for 30 days” type of change, but a commitment to long term dietary changes.

We decided that we would try as much as possible to cut out the processed foods that the super markets tempt you with during the “weekly shop” – we would commit to cooking from fresh as much as we could, and we would also try and source our meat and fish locally.

Changes like that can’t happen overnight, it takes weeks and months to achieve them, but they are so worth it. So what does a typical meal look like for us these days? Well here are some snaps I took before I ate the plate of food in front of me ….

Tuna, Anchovy, Olive, Tomato, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Hot Chicken, Onion, Garlic, Tomato, Celery, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Scrambled Eggs with herbs, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and walnut oil drizzle:

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Roast Lamb, Kale, Sanfire with a touch of salt and butter, mashed sweet potato:

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I have to say, we don’t always get it right, there are still the “emergency chippy” days and the “I really do fancy a curry tonight” days …. but these are rare now … and they really are a treat when they come along and it feels like a splurge.

Over the months one the of surprising things I managed was in August when I made a brew and found we had no sugar in the house, so I drank it without and thought, wow, if I could do that all the time that would be good …. I have tried many times before, usually lasting a couple of days before falling back to my half teaspoon …… but this time it stuck …. not had sugar now for over 6 weeks and I don’t miss it … happy days.

I have also made a massive effort on the white bread …. I love my bread and could easily eat 10-16 slices a day, especially when training hard … these days, I try and not touch the stuff, maybe a few slices a week and even then, they are not white, they are gluten and wheat free options.

But what does this mean as we come to the end of September?

It means this:

I started the year weighing 107.5kg (or 16st 12lb) and although I was fit and healthy, I needed to drop some of that size ….. this morning on the scales I was 101kg (or 15st 12lb) …. but even more impressive has been the change to my body shape …. my belt has 5 notches on it and I was on notch 2 at the start of the year but this has dramatically dropped and I am now on notch 5 and it’s soon to be time for a new belt !!!

I have had to throw away loads of old clothes as they now bury me and I have only really just started, so may be loads more to go as well …… a stone over the course of 9 months has been done without any “dieting” at all … just eating healthy foods, cooked from scratch.

I even make my own salsa and fajita seasoning these days too:

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Testing it Out …

It’s been a really busy week and despite a couple of attempts I haven’t been able to get an appointment with my physio, but maybe I actually don’t need to.

The additional rest has given the joint some time to calm down and it seems much better now and I think it might be ok to test it out with a gentle run.

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Hopefully it will be just a little reaction to the faster pace and will have healed itself, but I guess that only time will tell. It certainly isn’t causing me any issues in my normal day to day life, so I am hoping it will react well to a easy run.

I still have the option of visiting the physio if it reacts badly but I will test it out first and see what happens …

 

Slightly Run Down …

Well it seems that my week away in the sunshine, relaxing and partying has left me feeling a bit run down and open to attack. We got back from our trip and within a day or two I started to feel congested and had a sore throat. Over the next couple of days, this has developed into a head cold which has now left me a little wheezy too … typical signs of burning the candle at both ends I think.

I have needed quite a few of these over the last 48hrs to be able to function and carry on:

Lemsip

At this stage I would have to say that running the Wigan 10km on Sunday isn’t going to happen – I won’t be in any state to do so and to try would just be silly really – it would have been nice to do it, but in the longer term plan it really isn’t that important.

Hopefully a few more early nights, hot baths and good food will help me recover and then I can start to run again.

But for now, I will keep up the meds ….