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.

Beyond Belief !

Beyond Belief !

At the moment, I am just so frustrated and disappointed, quite numb actually and really am at the end of my tether.

For the last 4 months I have worked so hard, trained consistently and made sure that I kept all my sports massage appointments – the body was strong and all was set for a wonderful day in the Pyrenees and then …..

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For the last week I have been struggling big time, hard to walk with the knee in lots of pain .. swelling and a total lack of stability around the joint. The most annoying part is that I cannot put it down to one single event, no trip over a kerbstone, no banging it into a table, no unfortunate twist .. nothing at all.

I finished my last hilly training session and from then on it has just deteriorated to the point that I have had to withdraw from the event. Closer examination has revealed more cartilage damage but now that the swelling has started to go down, at least we seem to be able to rule out ligament tears.

I have been told no bike riding now for an extended time and a regime of specific exercises and rehab, strengthening the joint. I need to be back on the anti-inflam’s and lots of ice … the physio suggested swimming would be a good option for me, so I guess its time for some more new goggles and more splashing around.

All that work, the best fitness on a bike for nearly 10 years and then this out of nowhere … really it gutting.

It has made me think hard about my “competitive” future, which I guess is now finally over … the 10 years of top level rugby league and then 10 years of ironman training has finally caught up with me – the list of injuries I have had is long and I have to face up to that.

In the short term, I need to recover from this setback and then take stock, but I have hung up the “events and races” boots and retired any idea of adventures or long distance extravaganzas. I think it’s time to really just enjoy the bike for what it is and not worry about trying to prove I can still hack it, cos clearly I can’t.

The Tour de France starts tomorrow, I should have been there, but sometimes life takes a different route and for me that dream is over. I am really looking forward to the race itself, although Stage 8 will be hard to watch.

It’s beer time tonight, I need it.

Ramping It Up …

It’s only around 7 weeks until I depart for the shores of France and the mountains of the Pyrenees to take on Stage 8 of this year’s Tour de France.

My training has been consistent and steady, nothing immense but more importantly very few weeks at all with little or no riding (this week excepted). I am confident in terms of distance now – 100km is right back on my radar as something that is really easy to complete and I am feeling strong.

My injuries all seem to be under control and the strength and speed on the bike is improving week upon week.

Last weekend saw me complete three very good rides, especially the longer one which was done at a record speed for me (in excess of 28 kmh) without any flare-ups or problems afterward.

data

Obviously, the next 7 weeks will be spent working more and more on my core and hill work – I have the endurance for the ride, I now need to train specifically for the hills and the long, long time in the saddle.

Yesterday saw the completion of my cycling themed tattoo – it has taken 5 sittings of two hours each with a fantastic artist and the end product is something I am really pleased with.

full tattoo

I don’t think I am finished with tattoo’s just yet, I still have two specific things that I want to have on me at some point, but I think for now this looks amazing and really does make me smile with happiness.

Due to work and other issues, I have only managed two short commute rides, but a bit of rest after last weeks loading will do my battered body no harm at all in the long run.

 

Tattoo update ….

Around three weeks ago, I had my first sitting for the chest, back and arm tattoo that I have had planned for a while now and yesterday was time to finish off the chest part with another 2 hour session.

The finished article is something I am delighted with and is just what I wanted when I started to imagine the design:

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Below shows the two sittings and how the tattoo developed into the finished article, amazing art work !

Two Sittings

Just got the back piece to start and finish and then on to the Ironman logo refresh and additional work around it ….. then we are pretty much done.

Very pleased with the outcome and can’t wait for the next sitting.

 

An Order Placed

Since the last blog post quite a bit has happened.

The original plan was to upgrade/change the set up on the FELT and ride that on my quest to defeat Stage 8 of this years Tour and the Tourmalet. But a couple of days to think on it and I decided that I really rather fancied a new bike instead.

After all there are three very good reasons for that:

  1. You can NEVER have enough bikes.
  2. I got my FELT about 4 years ago now and it’s time for a change.
  3. You can NEVER have enough bikes.

I have been a massive TREK fan for ages, and my current 29er/MTB is a TREK and I have been hugely impressed with it since day 1, so my search had to start with the TREK brand.

The Emonda looks a great bike, but perhaps a bit too racy for me, and therefore I naturally then turned to the Domane (doh-mah-nee) range, and wow, what a range of bikes they are.

In the end I settled for the 4.3 below:

trek domane 4.3

The bike is currently being built up and will be ready next week for me, and I am extremely excited by it – it really does seem to be the perfect bike for me.

I am also going to running tubeless tires, quite an innovation in the road bike world but after a fair amount of research and some good first hand experience evidence I am happy to go with this set up.

The bike comes with a compact set up and 11-32 cassette, so pretty much perfect for the stage that I am riding.

The training is coming along well now too, with a mix of indoor trainer work, and commutes with added lunchtime rides – I had my first physio visit last week as well to keep on top of the bodywork, so all is going perfectly to plan so far.

In the next blog, I will go into more detail on diet and nutrition, which opens up a whole different can of worms (that’s not the nutrition by the way).

The Right Set Up

The bike set up for the #TourmaletChallenge is going to be very important indeed, ok fitness and strength will be the factors that carry me home, but without the right tools for the job then it’s doomed to failure.

I am going to ride the event on my FELT F95 aluminium framed bike – I just love this bike, but it has changed quite a bit since I bought it. The only bit of kit that is “original” is the frameset. It was a fairly low level bike when I got it and I have upgraded most components to become the custom bike that I really enjoy riding. It’s very comfortable and since the RETUL bike fit, I have no issues anymore with back or leg problems.

Felt Road Bike

However, for this trip the bike gets a further upgrade … meet my new friends ….. the compact chainset and the 11-36 cassette which are going to be installed pretty soon – that should give me enough to tackle the long long hills in the Pyrenees this summer.

compact cassette

Clearly my focus is now on the training and my weight and body composition – I am not going to go daft, but the more kg’s I can drop between now and July the better I will feel on the mountains.

The weekend long rides will be back and I am quite looking forward to them having not had to train for a few years now. I will also try and ride as many sportives as I can between now and then, so all suggestions are welcome – at the moment I am signed up for the Cheshire Cat in June – I will use March to get more miles in and so all sportives in April/May are welcome especially the hilly ones.

More news to come on the next post about nutrition and further kit choices !

First Event Entered …

I’m going to have a much busier 2016 than 2015 in terms of actual organised events – this year has been one of those years when it just hasn’t worked out for lots of reasons.

However, this year has also been the year that I got bike fit again, cured the cycling  injuries and stayed free of them and also the year that I lost a stone in weight, so more of a preparation year ready to get stuck in again in 2016.

And I have now entered my first event, something I came across the other day and something that really is ideal for me.

Liverpool Roubaix

It’s effectively a big loop which is relatively flat but has the sections of cobbles and unpaved roads that I love to ride and so it seemed a pretty straightforward decision to enter, and enter I have. First event booked in for 2016.

I am now toying with trying to arrange something every month and link them all together for a charitable cause, not 100% sure on that just yet, but its worth some exploring I think.

The weather of late has been horrible .. I don’t mind the wind, I don’t mind the cold, but put those two together and add in torrential rain and that really does put the kaibosh on riding outside. This week has been the worst with the tail end of the storm/hurricane to contend with – no commutes at all and no rides in the evenings either … probably should set up the turbo, but that is always last resort for me.

Today looks like it will be another day for the 29er, its grey, dark and has impending rain on the horizon, so we will play it by ear … but it’s only November and so lets not get carried away eh !!!