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.

The First Century …

Yes a hundred, a century and it was on my training ride yesterday.

ok, not a true century as that would be in miles, and I work in km’s but a century of km’s is a big milestone for me, the longest ride I have done for 12 months, but this ride means much much more.

I have been working on my fitness and injury maintenance for about 2  years now, with a regime of stretching and regular visits for sports massage to keep the back issues well and truly hidden away.

When I was training for IM I would complete a long ride (so over 80km up to 130km) and really have what I can describe now as a “locked up” back – immediately afterwards and in the following days too – the result of injury and poor bike position. A more forgiving bike (endurance fit Domane), a proper bike fit and the aforementioned sports massage has sorted all that now and what a difference.

So yesterday: well it was a ride of two halves, to use the footballing term. The plan was for me to ride over to Horwich to meet a friend (Will Rose) who is a complete novice cyclist, has just got a bike and was trying cleats out for the first time. I rode the 14km over to Horwich and after some static work, practising clipping in and out, we headed off for a planned 30km flat loop which was excellent – Will rode very well and he seemed to like the feeling of being on a bike, which for me was great to see.

We did ride over the reservoirs in Rivington along the way:

Bridge

After saying goodbye to Will, I looked at my Garmin and I had around 48km on the clock and the sun was shining and I felt really fresh and energised. My previous longest ride this year was about 60km, so I was enthused to push this out to maybe 75km on a nice day like yesterday. Reaching into my back pocket I grabbed a gel and sucked it down with a splodge of water and started riding.

I had been riding easily with Will as he got used to the bike and the cleats, so the average pace was low up to then, so I cranked up the pace a little to work hard on the last part of my ride.

The bike is so comfortable, it was a pleasure to ride and I set off towards Westhoughton and Leigh, looping around and over towards Lowton and Golborne and then heading off towards Ashton … I was still strong and riding well as I headed up Billinge hill and over towards Orrell and it began to dawn on me that I had the 100km in my sight and with the way I was feeling I could actually do this.

Further down the hill from Orrell, I knew I had to throw a couple of loops in around estates I knew well, and this would take me to the bottom of Beech Hill with around 5km to go and if I could do that, then I would have cracked it.

The plan worked superbly and as I rolled down the street towards our house the Garmin ticked over the 100km barrier, and more importantly I was still feeling great.

I did the whole ride on that one gel and around 450ml of water (with electrolytes) which just highlights what getting rid of sugar from your general diet does for you on the bike – no need for loads of sugary gels. Ok, I need to revise my plan for the tourmalet as that approach will see me in a ditch somewhere, but at this stage I am happy to keep the fat burning going a bit longer.

Yesterdays route:

Ride1

and yesterdays stats:

Ride2

When I left Will the average speed was around 21.7km, so you can see how much faster I rode that second half of the ride to increase it up to the 24.4km that the final figures show.

BUT, and here is the big winner for me, the way I felt afterwards was like never before … I had full movement of my back, shoulders and hips, no tightness, no fatigue and I felt like I could ride again … unheard of during my time on the bike and so encouraging .. makes all those gym sessions and physio visits worth it.

It gives me great confidence for the months ahead and gives me encouraging vibes for some “adventure” days out when the hot sunshine comes (which I am hoping will happen this year).

Onwards to the Tourmalet !!!