I started off 2015 recovering from a string of injuries. I broke my back at the Downhill National Championships at Bala in July 2013 and, having recovered from this and worked hard to get back on my bike, I was gutted to break my hand in a big crash at Antur Stiniog a week before the start of the 2014 season. After 5 weeks I was back on my bike at my local track, Aston Hill, for their first race of the season. But unfortunately my string of bad luck continued and I fractured my ribs during the practice session and was unable to race. As I continued trying to ride over the summer my ribs didn’t heal, and eventually I had to stop riding and resort to trying the Exogen ultrasound system as a last ditch attempt to get the fractures to mend. This worked wonders and they started improving almost straight away, but I’d already had to write off another whole season.
After months of rehab and hard work in the gym I was looking forward to being fit for a full season of racing in 2015. As it was the end of the ski season I decided to go away for a week of snowboarding in Austria with some friends. On the first morning of my holiday bad luck struck again when a completely out of control skier crashed into me as I turned across the hill. Luckily I was wearing my new Ossur CTi knee brace at the time which saved my knee from a lot of additional damage, but it still resulted in an injury to my posterolateral corner which I discovered on returning to the UK and a trip up to Manchester to see knee surgeon Rob Gilbert at The Spire hospital. We initially tried 3 months in the CTi brace to see if the knee would heal on it’s own, and made good progress with this, resulting in me getting back on my bike in June for a few weeks. However, as soon as I stopped wearing the brace my knee became more unstable again so we decided that the only option was to go ahead with a lateral collateral ligament reconstruction, which I had in August. This definitely wasn’t how I’d been planning on spending the winter, having already spent the majority of the last 2 years off my bike and doing rehab, but there was no real alternative, and at least my knee would then be fixed and I could start the long 9 months of rehab to get fit for the 2016 season.
I was pretty limited in what I could do for the first two weeks after the operation as I was in a full leg splint, and my main focus was trying to get the swelling down (even my foot was massive!) with the help of my Squid Compress system. However from the two week mark I moved into a leg brace and was able to start some basic exercises, and at six weeks I became fully weight bearing and finally able to progress to working on regaining my leg strength & balance. This was very welcome after 6 weeks of leg raises, static quads & desperately trying to get some bend back in my knee! One of the big turning points in my rehab was at the 8 week mark when I finally managed to bend my knee enough to do a full pedal stroke on a bike. I never thought I’d be so happy about being able to ride a spin bike!
I am currently travelling up to Manchester every two weeks to visit the Harris & Ross Clinic in Wilmslow where I have been going for most of my physio & rehabilitation over the last couple of years. This gives me a few days for treatment, including physio & hydrotherapy, and some general training to maintain my fitness. However, as I’m only up in Manchester for treatment a couple of times a month, the support I receive from the GLL Sport Foundation makes a massive difference to me when I’m back home.
I’m currently doing two rehab sessions a day, and access to the well equipped gym at Chesham Leisure Centre means I have everything that I need to be able to do my rehab. Use of the pool also means I can continue with my hydrotherapy exercises in between trips to Manchester, as these help a lot with my knee mobility. As I don’t see a physio on a weekly basis, I am also planning to make use of the physiotherapy sessions offered to members of the GLL scheme for some soft tissue work in between my trips up to Manchester. This is really important at the moment for preventing everything in my knee from stiffening up too much and interfering with my rehab.
I can’t thank the GLL Sport Foundation enough for all the support they have given me through the last couple of years of injuries, and their continuing support through this latest set back. Thanks to their help with my recovery I’m hoping to be back riding in the spring and focusing on having fun on my bike again whilst gradually building back up to racing, initially at regional races and then hopefully my first British Downhill Series National races which I never got the chance to compete in after my injuries at the start of the 2014 season. I’m also planning to use this period off my bike to work on improving the other areas that I’ve neglected in my training in the past, so will be coming back fitter and stronger, and hopefully with the ability to ‘bounce’ better when things do occasionally go wrong on the downhill tracks!