As most readers are well aware; our sport is not the safest past time available to us. But as with most things in life, I believe the greatest joys always require a certain amount of risk and courage. Whilst I was growing up, my Dad used to wear a t-shirt that read- “If you’re not living life on the edge- you’re taking up too much space”.. I may have taken this satirical phrase a little too literally.
In 2003 I was involved in a crash with a car at speed crushing both my knee caps, in 2004 I broke my collarbone in a race in Sydney, in 2006 I snapped my right femur in 2 whilst racing the Canberra Tour, then in 2009 I broke my right hand in a MTB race, in 2010 I broke my right elbow in a wet pro road race in the USA, 2011 I broke my left hand and in April this year whilst training with the Subaru-MarathonMTB Team in Atherton, QLD I fell and broke 4 bones in my pelvis and 2 ribs.
In total I have now spent 10 months of my life on either crutches or in a wheelchair. Reading this back to myself, it does seem rather silly that I should keep continuing in my sport. But, what can’t be measured so easily is the countless smiles, endless happy relationships and fond memories the sport has given me. One of the greatest blessings of the human mind is that it has an inbuilt filter that holds on to positive memories and tends to let the painful ones fade somewhat with time. However, this positive perspective can be rather hard to grasp whilst in the midst of an injury or debilitating time of life. It can be easy to slip on the slippery slope to negativity and it is entirely understandable to do so whilst dealing with pain. It has now been 11 weeks since my most recent accident and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
If you fall off a horse, you get back on the horse! So grateful to be able to turn the pedals again after 6weeks of injury. Exercise really is a key to so many good feelings in life👍🚴👍 #comeback #health #fitness #cycling Thanks for the support- @marathonmtb @jetblack_products_ @ridemechanic @swiftsportaus
I can ride a road bike again and a return to the trails is on the horizon. On my journey’s to recovery over the past 13 years I have had time to reflect upon what helps and what does not help bring the body and the mind back to health.
1. Googling your injury never helps:
The advent of the internet has brought with it an entirely different approach to healthcare management. In a desperate urge to find a quicker path to recovery I would continuously scour the internet searching for that magic treatment that might heal bones quicker. All too often I would come across worst case scenario stories that only made me feel like I was never going to make a return to the bike. Sadly, the most tragic stories are the ones that tend to gather traction on the world wide web and become very hard to ignore. Your situation is ALWAYS unique, the best port of call is always your own physician who knows your personal circumstances and will be the BEST and MOST RELIABLE source of advice.
2. Googling inspirational recovery stories ALWAYS helps:
When I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Initially all I heard was doom and gloom and was under the impression my life was forever going to be restricted by what I had been diagnosed with. I later found out that a guy named Steve Renouf played for the Brisbane Broncos AND had diabetes just like me! Steve became a real role model for me and forced me to realise there was so much more I can do than I cannot do in life. I just needed that role model. There are good, positive role models to be found in all aspects of life. When getting back from hospital this most recent time, I began to Google ‘athletes overcoming broken pelvis’ and found countless examples of world class athletes who had broken their pelvis and made a full recovery to competition. Role models can be powerful, even if you never ever meet them.
Being in hospital can be a sobering experience. One thing that can almost always be counted upon is that there will be somebody in there worse off than yourself. Whilst in Atherton base hospital I became friendly with a fellow patient in my ward whom had lost an arm whilst working in an abbatoir and was now dealing with a seemingly incurable infection in his right leg. Chatting to this bloke, you would not know anything troubling was occurring in his life at all. A smile and a good chat with somebody enduring far more pain than yourself can keep you grounded. I was inspired by this bloke. Whilst in Canberra hospital in 2006 I became good mates with my 2 ward buddies. 1 had fallen off a quad bike and was likely losing a leg and the other was facing a rather terminal neurological condition, we stayed in touch and encouraged each other on our own recovery journeys. All these mate’s helped remind me I am NOT ALONE in my journey. At the end of the day my bones WILL heal, I have to be grateful for that!
4. Make the most of the support around you:
We are very lucky here in Australia to have one of the best health care systems in the world. Having travelled and experienced hospital systems in a few countries now, I am very grateful to live here in Australia. On dismissal from hospital I had MRI’s, X-ray’s, CT scans, ultra-sounds, ECG’s and the consistent and considerate care of very skilled nursing staff all for 0 dollars. This is such an amazing honour that most of this globe can only dream of. On top of this, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy classes were all covered by the insurance provided by my MTBA membership.
Although somewhat corny some of the best healing can be provided by our big yellow, free mate – the Sun. Recommended by health care professionals worldwide. Getting outside into fresh air and sunlight was doing wonders for my physical and mental health whilst on my road to recovery.
5. Relish in your relationships:
I was so lucky to come home from hospital to the loving arms of my wife who made my life happy for the following weeks. Feeding me, washing me and taking me places all whilst still working and taking care of all domestic duties whilst I struggled to hobble around. I also had family and friends bring me coffees, food and just friendly phone calls whilst I was immobile. It was easy to forget how lucky I am to have so many amazing people in my life whilst life was cruising along at it’s usual busy, frenetic yet happy pace. It is quite often I find that a traumatic event makes us realise how lucky/ blessed we really are in life. The paradox of pain can often teach us a lot about how rich our lives really are.
I am now 11 weeks on from this injury. I can walk, I can ride and am planning my comeback race with team Subaru-MarathonMTB soon! Having support from a team and making comeback goals along the way also has kept me motivated to get back on the bike and shredding again! As the old saying goes – If you fall of the horse- get back on!
I will be back on! I love the sport, I love what it can do for me and for the world. I am now in planning to compete in the world’s oldest and potentially most gruelling mountain bike stage event- The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge in late September 2016. Stay tuned for updates. If you’re not living life on the edge – you’re taking up too much space!