A little over four weeks ago I was cycling home from work, in the rain, on my mountain bike when the front wheel slipped out from under me as I crossed a paved entrance to a cycle lane. As I landed I slammed my right hand to the deck, and with a little less force, the right side of my right knee.
I got up as quick as I could to show I was ok and look around. A few people walking along the street below were looking up. I paused for a few moments before getting back on my bike. Cycling home was painful. I wasn't able to put any power into pedalling and wasn't able to hold the handlebars with both hands. By the evening the hand was swollen.
I took the remaining three days of the week off work as my job involves using my hands. I returned to work the following week and explained I wouldn't be able to perform my usual duties. I worked for two days before taking the rest of the week off again as my hand was still painful and still a little swollen, and the back of my knee felt strained, and I felt work was making it worse.
I returned to work the following week without taking more time off. Cycling was getting easier, knee still painful but by end of week felt recovered. Thumb still painful. I'd made a few off road segments on my way home that week, without adding to journey length, but thumb felt worse for it. I'd get on my bike and think it felt ok but it kept feeling worse off afterwards.
The problem is I'll be entering a six hour mountain bike race early August and need to train for it. This week I've avoided off roading until Wednesday when I decided its time to take a visit to Fowlmead Country Park for a blast round some of the twistiest single track known to man (in this area at least).
After work finished at two O'clock in the afternoon I got changed and refilled my water bottle (a 1.5l squash bottle). Popped a couple more fig rolls down my throat and set off. Getting to Sandwich involved cycle paths and roads. From Sandwich I followed the toll road and continued alongside the golf course. Once in Deal, I know Fowlmead is on my right and that somewhere or other there is a bridleway or track leading to the rear entrance of the park. The last time I cycled there I ended up taking the wrong track and having to throw my bike, and then my bag, across a dyke, before attempting to leap across. Despite the heat and potentially cooling effect of the dyke water I didn't particularly want to repeat it.
Eventually after passing over a level crossing I saw a road sign pointing the way to enter Fowlmead via it's East entrance rather than the main West entrance.
I did three laps of the twisty singletrack. Fowlmead is not famed for its hills, it only has a handful of very short climbs and descents, the bulk of the singletrack twists through woodlands completely scrambling my sense of direction. While the overall gradient is flat, there are a lot of humps, lumps, and bumps which when combined with the almost relentless cornering provide your upper body with a very good workout shifting position on the bike when riding at pace to soak it all up.
By the end of my first lap I had decided that my training for the six hour race - Brighton Big Dog - should involve frequent trips to Fowlmead, ideally twice per week, though that will be made more difficult when I only have the morning to make the journey there and back and then start work.
The first two laps felt good. Halfway round the third I stopped for a coffee from the vending machine. A group of lads came along and hired mountain bikes. They obviously weren't cyclists, and were not keen to wear helmets.
It was a very hot day and I had drained my water bottle so refilled it before resuming my last lap. Paused at the exit gate feeling tired and ate a couple more fig rolls. Neck and shoulders felt tight, they weren't use to it. Rode home. Took parts of the ancient highway (a byway) through the golf course, avoiding the sandy track I took on the way. Wind was against me going past what was once Pfizer all the way along and up past the Viking ship.
To avoid Westwood Cross and traffic I took some farm tracks but not without stopping for a much needed rest feeling zonked. I hadn't tired myself this much for what seemed like a long time, but it was less than two months since I'd ridden the Pilgrims Hospice 78 mile charity ride. I Got home and ate some cucumber and an apple. Showered.
Ride time was four and a half hours. Route from work to Fowlmead was thirteen miles. I have an idea about doing it all over again on Friday, but maybe just one or at most two laps.
Sat at the computer in the evening I experienced cramp in my left leg. I stayed up to gone half past ten writing this, was eleven pm before I got into bed. I got up ten to five am. The commute to work was harder than it had been the morning before, I had my doubts about riding Fowlmead on Friday. My right hand and thumb felt painful again at times. I recalled how during the ride at Fowlmead I was almost convinced it was recovered and at other times realized it definitely still has some time to go.
I was delayed leaving work by half an hour for a meeting which I struggled to stay awake for. Was that early-shift tiredness catching up with me, suddenly hits me and my eyes just want to close. The meeting wasn't particularly interesting as usual.
Riding home was slower paced than usual not helped by the wind. Earlier in the year the wind was almost guaranteed to help on the way home, but not lately. I took some off-road sections in the second half of the ride home, probably less than a mile and a half, hand felt painful again, legs tired, not pushing for speed at all. The lumpiness of the local bridleways vibrate the handlebars a lot which I suspect is worse for my hand than Fowlmead where the lumps oscilate at a smoother lower frequency. Still had my doubts about making a trip there on Friday.
I waited ten days after the fall until visiting the doctor. Part of the delay due to having to register. Doctor felt my hand and suggested it was time I started living my life again. I wasn't convinced he really understood how much my work involves my hands or the stresses placed on them when cycling off road. To be honest it took this injury for me to realize. Perhaps I'll just do one lap at Fowlmead tomorrow, will see.
Before this injury I had been planning on taking off road routes to work and back every day. I had been looking forward to the early shift to do a speedy ride home and video it.was going to film my route home, which is more down than up, with a few small jumps/drops, and hopefully with a tail wind.