closing time

three months on

Three Four months on from my accident.

I've been trying to write this for two three four weeks - I started right after the Centurion Autumn 100. ish.
I got as far as a random disconnected set of jottings, but I couldn't work out a way to thread it into a clear, er, thingy. See.

I'm typing this as my dinner cooks. I've just got back from work and I've got a slight headache and I feel a bit out of it. I really just want to go to sleep. But kittens!


In my minds eye before the A100 I'd got an idea of what I was going to write down for my next blog post.
The week of the race we'd got hold of dash-cam footage from the day of the accident (details later). I'd managed a few runs to gauge my fitness and whether I was going to be able to run, I was annoyed (really annoyed) and frustrated that the years Grand Slam dream was scuppered. But. I knew the Reading course backwards, I was feeling good, and I felt reassured that I was never going to be far from help or assistance given the nature and shape of the course. So I reckoned I'd get a finish possibly a bit slowly, but I was absolutely certain I'd be completing the run.

So. The title for the blog was going to be "closure" with a summary of what we knew about what happened in the accident three months ago, then an overview of the race I'd just done and how I got along and how finishing a final 100 in the year nicely wrapped things up.

oh and then a brief run through of the recovery so far, how it was all on track and so on.

Yay, all done, move on etc. What an excellent plan, what a brilliant blog post that would be. Celebration, awards, plaudits, etc.

That didn't happen.

First things first.

Video nasty.

We'd finally managed to obtain dashcam footage from a vehicle travelling some distance behind. It took me a few days to be able to watch it. I wasn't sure how I'd feel seeing it.
It shows me riding around the corner, riding along, and then wham.

In a lot of ways this *is* really reassuring and welcome, since this shows that this was a completely freak accident, absolutely no-one was to blame or at fault, and there was absolutely nothing I could have done about it or done to alter the outcome of events.
The footage is taken from too far back to see precisely what happens in detail, but you can see what doesn't happen (if that makes sense!).

The video shows me riding along, fairly briskly, but in full control behind a lorry (from the shadows, about a bike length back). It shows me travelling upright, in a straight line, the front wheel is perfectly straight in-line, legs pedalling smoothly.
and then.
The bike flips forwards, instantly, with no deviation or wobble, no "foot in wheel", it's a perfect forward roll. 300 milliseconds later my head hits the road.

300 milliseconds.

It takes 300 milliseconds to blink an eye. The average human reaction time is 275 milliseconds.
The video footage is 30 frames a second. 9 frames. 0.3 seconds.
Until hitting the ground my feet remain in the pedals, my hands don't move from the bars, I don't brace, I don't "put a foot out", I doubt I would have had time to even realise it was happening.
It is absolutely bizarre, and one of the weirdest things I've ever seen.

Trying to work out the exact cause is difficult, there isn't any video from close up enough, and the damage to the bike means it's hard to spot what might have been cause or effect.
We'll never know exactly what happened, but a couple of possible theories might be either there was a sudden catastrophic failure of the front wheel causing the instant drop and seizure at the front and then the flip, or some sort of debris was flicked up into the front wheel in just the wrong way, causing it to jam and lock. Both possibilities seem extremely unlikely - basically impossible - but I guess that's the nature of freak accidents, expect the unexpected.

(days later, back again, to try finishing writing this.)

Time for a run

I'd seen the date of the Autumn 100 approaching in the calendar, in fact from the day I'd missed the North Downs 100 I was determined that I'd *definitely* make it to the final Centurion race. I'd spent the weeks before experimenting with the odd run to see how it affected me. Running at max HR - bad, running at easy HR - fine. OK that's sorted, whatever anyone says. 😀

I ran a hard 10k the weekend before, it took me two days to recover.

The nature of the A100 course was reassuring to attempt, being a cross shaped "out and back" I'd never be that far from base, I'd have plenty of opportunity to stop or get help if I needed it.
We were booked into a hotel for the weekend so I would be right at the start on the morning, previously I'd cycled and then caught the train over, so this time it was going to be a laid back and leisurely start. Excellent.
So race morning, grabbed some breakfast and mooched over to the hall to register and sign on, lots of familiar faces around, said hi to Mark Thornberry nodded to James Adams, quick chat to James and Drew then strolled over to the Morrell Rooms by the start for some peace and quiet.

Then we're off, so, I won't give a mile by mile account this time. It wasn't that exciting. No dramas.
I ran. Slowly. it was frustrating, but completely underwhelming. Out to 12 miles and back. Saw Dave Stuart looking strong and lots of other Centurion stalwarts. Stuart March was staked out at the usual spots with his camera. Back to the familiar routine, I was grinning from ear to ear as I ran.
I seriously consider dropping into a pub on the return leg, but manage to control myself.

I got really annoyed seeing that someone had decided to completely ignore the "no crew" rule and has a car accompanying him filled out with full camping/cooking setup in the back. I'm tempted to stop each time I see it and ask if it's the aid station and ask for refills, but still. Such is life, and it's just the one, so. Shrug.

Back to the HQ at 25, in and out, said hi to the family (well moaned about going so slowly) and off up the Ridgeway. Feeling great.

And now we're on the twisty, rooty, part of the course. I stub my toes a few times, and swear profusely, loudly, openly and creatively. At 32 miles I have my first "wobble", I feel dizzy and have the sensation of being drunk, a couple of Nurofen seem to keep this under control and I'm back on track a few miles later, but I'm aware I need to keep that under control and take care with the painkillers. Up to the turn, don't hang about and on again. At some point (I think it was about here) I spot Kate Driskell and shout a Hi.

Darkness descends on the return leg and after running as long as I can in the dusk it's time to light up. I bump into another runner who asks if he can run with me since his headtorch is flat. I'm tempted to ask exactly how this is possible, and why can't he use his (mandatory) backup. but. Shrug.

Anyway I run back into the HQ for 50, and still feeling good. I sit down and get some hot food and drinks. Have a quick chat with Cat Simpson who's standing next to someone who looks vaguely familiar but I can't quite place him and don't really want to say "er who are you", then do a double take seeing Dick Kearn of the GUCR mopping up the floor! Ok it's way too early to be hallucinating.

(Artists impression :) )

Heading out again, and my stomach just isn't settling. Decide to walk for a few miles and try to ease back into it but it just doesn't work. Finally my stomach settles, but now my legs feel dead. With the shuffling along at some point I stub my toe on a large rock, and it explodes in pain. I simply can't get going, I try to move into a little jog a few times, but nothing's working.
I think things over, and consider that I've got further than I thought I'd manage (or it seems Cara), but I've just walked for 12 miles, and I don't think walking for another 40 would be much point. It's an easy decision to make, I'm absolutely not a 'death before DNF' type of guy - I do this for fun. I've come through a lot, if I'm not having fun, what's the point.
I call for the cavalry, I'll be dropping at 62 miles Chain Hill, and what a sight the aid station is, full on Disco!

Back to the hotel for a good nights sleep, I'm dead to the world in seconds.

In the morning, I wake and lie there feeling guilty. People are still out on the course running, and I'm lying under a duvet!


I wonder if my body flipped into 'recovery mode' when I stopped, never experienced that before, and it was so sudden, it wasn't a slow decline or a nagging injury, one moment I'm running into the HQ, and then I walk out broken. Will have to look into that a bit more, yet another learning experience.

So that's the final (proper) race of the year, although I do appear to have been volunteered for a cross country race for the work team.

Time for an injury roundup.

I'm slowly getting better.

I'm stubborn and hate admitting that I'm not quite right. I don't want the accident to define me in any way. I want to beat it.

After a bit of time looking into the topic it's reassuring to see pages and pages describing the symptoms and issues I have as being very common post-concussion symptoms. This is normal. Everyone is affected slightly differently.

So this is both good to know, but also infuriating that no-one warns you about any of this stuff, I assume the logic is something like - you might be fine in which case we don't want to worry you, but you might not, in which case you're bound to go to your doctor and they'll tell you all about it. Perhaps handing people a leaflet as they left hospital would be a good start.

My symptoms are mild. I get occasional headaches that are sharp and stabbing and sudden.
These coincide with feeling unsteady. Not stable. A bit vacant.

Motion from car journeys, not great.
Bright lights or seeing fast moving images, not great.
Ringing in ears. heh.
Randomly emotional.

But getting better.

It is still really strange having a hole in my memory. I have memory of lunch on Friday, but then nothing, I start forming memories again sometime late on Sunday, and it's not until the start of the next week that they make any sense and are tangible.

Thankfully, running (carefully) and cycling (more carefully) don't seem to cause any issues, well don't make anything worse.

I still need to remember not to push a door, or reflexively try to stop one closing with my left hand which still hurts. a lot. but.. again.. getting better.

My teeth are settling in, today was a nervous assault on a fresh apple. A strange sensation to feel nervous before biting in, but it was awesome. They still feel weird and not quite right. but. getting better although I still have a lip full of tooth fragments which feels odd. Got an appointment with a plastic surgeon next week to look at that.... hmm wonder if they can give me a cute nose while they're at it...

Finally, I still have trouble dealing with the fact that this could have been worse, a lot worse. I might not be here, and that, is really hard. Again, I expect I'll get over that, in time. I am lucky.

Cunning plan

Time to come up with a plan for 2019. I foolishly enter the GUCR ballot (oh I'm in. ah. lucky me?), then start looking for what else to attempt, then wonder whether to just pop stuff in the calendar or actually mention to Cara what I've lined up so far. Ask for forgiveness later? - that seems like a good plan.

I've still got vague dreams about planning something properly epic, but haven't made my mind up, and so think I'll keep it all very secret until it's definitely on (if it is).

It will be a milestone to get a proper race in, and a proper finish chalked up.

Perhaps that's something for January.


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