Born slippy

Saturday morning, and I set out from my parents (Cambridgeshire) towards London, with the idea of riding to somewhere like Stevenage and getting the train from there into town. Within 5 miles, the headwind, rain and cold had ruined this resolution and I decided to ride to Cambridge and get the train from there instead. So, 20 grim miles, and I’m thinking about the cup of tea I’m going to have at Cambridge station, and all the things I’m going to do when I get back to London… and then I slip.

I don’t really know why it happened. It was wet, there was a lot of standing water on the roundabout I was on, there were painted lines (double yellows, a red bike lane type thing and a white line) which seemed liberally applied, but nothing extraordinary. I had my carradice on, fully loaded, so about 15kg weight behind me, which didn’t help. Once I slipped I just couldn’t wrestle it back.

I hit the ground face first, smashing a tooth and hard on to my chin. Next down came a leg, the bike, another leg onto the bike, and my arm onto the ground with a thud.

A man ran over, and I managed to unclip and get out of the road. I tried to pat myself down but couldn’t move my arm. “Are you ok? Can I call someone for you? Are you alright?” I had no fucking clue. My face hurt. My hand… it didn’t even feel like a hand. I told him that I didn’t know, I was ok in that I could stand but I didn’t think I was actually ok. We propped my bike against a fence and I sheltered from the rain under a tree. What had he said? Call someone? Maybe that was a good idea. I called my parents. My dad sounded frantic and said he’d come straight away. I stood by the road for an hour while blood dripped from my face and my hand and my leg, staring at the spot of road where I’d come off, occasionally having epiphanies like WHATABOUTTHECAT OMGWHOWILLFEEDTHECAT.

Eventually my dad came, we put the bike in the car and drove to hospital. I finally went into shock and lost the vision in one eye and started shaking uncontrollably. The nurses spent some time trying to remove my rings from my massive swollen hand and amazingly managed to get my gloves off without cutting them (brand new gloves! I was so relieved, even if the pain of this made me cry).

I saw a whole load of doctors and nurses and had lots of xrays, before specialists from plastic surgery were called to come and have a look at my “acute claw”. My hand was amusing me by now, it really did look like a claw and I seemed to have no knuckles. All the xrays showed no broken bones and after testing loads of things it was decided that I have neurapraxia, or nerve damage. My ulnar nerve has taken such a hit that it’s shut down. My 3rd and 4th fingers won’t move, are numb and can’t stay out of a claw position. I had a bit of a debate with a doctor who was keen for me to stay in overnight (not a chance – what about the cat?!) and after about 6 hours I was finally allowed to leave, with my arm in plastercast and a referral to see specialists at St Thomas’ on monday. I came back to london, fed the cat, got drunk and went to sleep.

On monday I went to St Thomas’ and had all sorts of people prod my arm and exclaim “I’ve never seen anything like it!” and had more xrays as everyone was convinced I must have broken SOMETHING as my hand is so swollen. “Look how fat you are!” said one nurse, before apologising profusely and assuring me she was talking only about my hand. My hateful cast was cut off and has been replaced by a thermoplastic splint, in which I am completely unable to move. Neurapraxia can take over a year to get better but if there’s improvement by friday, and given that I’m young and healthy etc, it could be weeks/months rather than anything longer. I’ve got strict instructions to keep a positive mental attitude.

And my bike? The handlebars were knocked off centre, but other than that, there doesn’t appear to be a scratch (although I have already arranged for it to have a check up).

Here I am, modelling this season’s latest look…

Party Party Preston

This weekend I went up to Preston and decided to take my bike again. On Friday, Betty and I went out for a ride in the pouring rain. We headed up to Garstang to eat scones (pronounced the proper way), and on the way we tried to take a nice scenic route but didn’t really know where we were going so rejoined the main road about a mile after we’d turned off. We ended up covered in manure, soaking wet and sheltering from some apocalyptic rain. Then we rode back the whole way on the main road, no niceties for us. 33 mile jaunt, good chat, excellent scones.

On Sunday Betty invited me to ride with her club, Ribble Valley CC. I met them in a carpark in north Preston (who would have thought my life would come to this?) and after a few rounds of applause for the awesome achievements of some of the club elders (all called Peter) we set out. Everyone was very friendly and no one seemed to mind me screeching the names of all the animals I saw, like the city dweller I have so shamefully become (seriously though, miniature donkeys and WILD BOAR – I defy you not to be impressed). The roads to the east of Preston have a few rolling hills, with a nice ascent/descend north of Chipping. After 17 miles we stopped at a WI hall for tea and cake and I had possibly the nicest Victoria Sponge I’ve ever had. A muggy day, it started to rain at this point, but I wasn’t bothered as I’d decided that I’d head back to town for an afternoon of city-based frolics. I asked one of the club members for directions, made a loose mental note and set off on my own.

Here began a catalogue of errors:

– I’d been told to head back the way I came and follow the road to Chipping, where I’d see a turning to Preston. I managed to miss all signs for/around Chipping so blundered blindly on.
– I came across a sportive and was so engrossed in saying hello to everyone that it seemed quite natural to me that I joined in on the long route. I seem to have some sort of problem when it comes to signposted routes as I will follow them even if I know they’re not right. The first time I found myself on a cycle superhighway I ended up miles in the wrong direction as I just assumed that it would take me where I wanted to go. The same, it seems, is true for sportives that I’m not actually taking part in.
– I started chatting to one of the riders on the sportive and when he asked where I was from I – and I don’t know why I did this – said I was from Preston. This meant that when I realised I was lost I couldn’t admit it and had to sprint up a hill and wait until there was enough of a gap before I could hide behind a wall and wait for him to go by and leave me to re-navigate myself.
– I realised that I was lost, heading in the wrong direction, and that things had got hilly. I began to wish that I had a map or some sort of other navigational device on me, completely forgetting that I had a garmin right in front of me. I am an idiot.
– I saw a sign to Longridge and had a vague recollection of this being the right way, so followed the sign. Inexplicably the sign saying “Longridge 6 miles” was then followed by a 25 minute ride before I finally saw “Longridge 5 miles”, leading me to think that I must have taken another wrong turn, but who knows by this point. In any event, I think I went the hilly way.
– Finally I saw a sign to Preston, hooray! I celebrated by stopping to put my ipod in, just as a man walked past with two whippets and I was overcome by the urge to say something (I really like whippets) but couldn’t think of anything to say and just shouted WHIPPETS at him and his startled looking dogs, and had to ride away as quickly as possible, headphones trailing in the wind.

All in all, it was a 17 mile ride out, with a shortcut that resulted in a 28 mile return trip, which even for my pisspoor navigational skills is quite some achievement.
Beautiful scenery though, when it wasn’t raining horizontally into my face.