June 22nd is a date that will always stick in my mind. A few things have happened on this date in recent history. In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In 1986, Maradona scored the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the world cup quarter finals. In 1958, Evil Dead actor Bruce Campbell was born and in 1969, Wizard of Oz actress Judy Garland passed away.
On that date in 2012, I tried inflatable sumo wrestling for the first and last time. It was a glorious evening and I was at a work summer party. Drinks were flowing and there was a ton of fun shit to do. So, after a few free beers, the challenge of inflatable sumo wrestling was laid down and the bravado of drunken lads came out, myself included.
I stepped up, climbed into the inflatable suit and faced up against my buddy Jon. The ref signalled the start of the bout and we smashed into each other, each gaining a point by getting the other out of the ring. The third and final round came up and I was feeling good; I’ve got this, it’s time to be declared the champ. You could liken the atmosphere to the recent Mayweather vs McGregor clash, with drunken cheers from all sides. I went in for the kill, but my buddy had seen my move coming and, fuelled by booze, picked my fat arse up and body slammed me for the win.
It’s at that exact moment my body hit the ground that makes this day memorable. Not because I lost, but I felt a bit of a ‘pop’ when I landed, then struggled to get up. “It’s just a combination of the becks and admitting defeat”, I thought. I managed to get through the rest of the evening and went home, ready to nurse a savage hangover for the weekend.
Saturday morning came and I was in agony. I’ve got a high pain threshold and I was in tears just trying to get out of bed, so I knew something was, to quote Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys, fucky. After a week off work in serious pain (the typical man thoughts of ‘meh, it’ll go away’ were in full swing), I was forced to the doctors. After a quick check, I was told it was probably some muscle damage, was told to take some ibuprofen and was sent on my merry way.
Things didn’t get better and I was back at the doctors a few days later in even more pain. I’m talking ‘can’t put your socks on or have a piss without shedding a tear’ kinda pain. I persisted and was referred to the hospital for a scan. After waiting what felt like forever, I was told I had 2 herniated discs in my lower back (L4/L5 and L5/S1). Great.
Why am I posting this? Because it’s at this point I was told to give up cycling. I admitted defeat and eventually sold my bike, resigning to the fact that cross stich or extreme netflixing was to become my hobby of choice for the rest of my days.
I went from 3 rides a week to simple physio and ditched a balanced diet for mostly Papa Johns, so the weight ballooned. I hated life and the pain in my back was unbearable, so the doctors prescribed me with a repeat prescription of Tramadol and told me to take up to 8 a day. Now, anybody that has experienced Tramadol will already know, but hooooooly shit. Imagine floating through life without a care in the world. Tramadol is an opioid, along the lines of morphine, which essentially blocks the pain to your nerves. Whilst this helped me forget the pain (and pretty much everything else around me), it didn’t solve the problem.
Persisting with the doctors, I was finally booked in for an op… nearly two years after the fateful day and after two years of taking ridiculous amounts of Tramadol. March 19th came around and the last thing I remember on the morning of the op was a nurse spraying something very cold on my arse, then I was out like a light. I should clarify too; when I say op, it was a caudal epidural, which is effectively a very strong steroid injection directly into the spine. I came around and remember talking shit with the nurse and going home the same day.
Things were still sore, but I was given a great physio who was also a cyclist and he worked absolute wonders. I came off the Tramadol with huge difficulty (2 years of daily opioid taking had left me hooked, which fucking sucked) and slowly started to feel more human again.
It’s at the point of working with the physio that cycling came back into my life. He asked me to set a goal, and I chose to compete in a race. We focused on core exercises to strengthen my back and general core and, after a few months, I began to feel myself again. Granted, I was out of shape and super fat (topping at 17st at one point), but it was time; I needed a bike in my life and I went for a pure XC machine from German direct sell manufacturer Canyon. The Nerve 120 put a spark back in my life that had been missing for 2 years and I was complete again.
From there, I rode with a smile every time. I met increasingly more people that I’m stoked to call my buddies and I changed the Nerve for the much more enduro Bird Aeris. More importantly, in late 2015 I was feeling back to my full self and entered the 2016 Southern Enduro series, of which you can read about my crap results in earlier posts. But fuck it, I’d achieved my goal my physio set me and I wish I could thank him now. Without his help, I’d probably be an Olympic cross stitcher, but not a cyclist. However, I cannot remember his name, and I hate myself for that, but, random physio, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve made me myself again and I am forever grateful.
Thankfully, all this time later, my back is feeling much better. There’s occasional pain, but with the right exercise (mountain biking, duh), life is more than manageable and I’m stoked to sling my leg over my bike every single time.
I write this now as I’ve not yet raced in 2017, choosing to only race one event; the Swinley Forest Enduro on the 17th September. My diet has been awful and I’m not anywhere near as fit as I’d like to be, but I don’t care. Just a few years ago I was told I’d never ride a mountain bike again so, regardless of my result, I just cannot wait to get involved and be amongst friends and like minded shredders at what is sure to be an incredible event. If you’re there, give me a shout; I look forward to seeing you. If you’re hunting a podium then good luck. If you’re there for the vibes, enjoy. If you’re just there to shout and cheer, then be loud.
There’s five things this post may help you out with in terms of advice:
1 – You can do anything. Injuries heal and, with the right support, you can get back to your old self. I know some rad riders that have arthritis, false hips and many other ailments but, with the correct attention and treatment, they’re out there amongst it, shredding with the best of them. You can do it too.
2 – Take the offer of support from your friends and family. Immerse yourself around those that want to help and develop you, helping get you, back to you. If it wasn’t for them, I may have just given up completely.
3 – Whatever you’re doing, have fun doing it and remember to keep smiling. Never give up.
4 – Set yourself goals that, at the time, you may think are unrealistic and unattainable. Then go out there and smash that goal. Everybody has it in them… as Shia LeBeouf once famously said… “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.. JUST. DO. IT”.
5 – Don’t bother with inflatable sumo wrestling. It fucking sucks.
Stay stoked, see you at the Swinduro,
Ian @ Stealth Riders
Ps – I’ll leave you with point 4 above. Enjoy.