Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Tama on Mon 9/Mar/09 4:19pm

I had been looking forward to a summer of mountain biking with lots of epic singletrack and adventures; unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. I thought I’d write up my story as:

a) It’s a situation some of you will probably find familiar.
b) It’s good to learn from other people’s mistakes.
c) It has a happy ending, which is good.

It all starts back last spring, I was riding a lot - in fact I’d been on my bike/s every day over October and due to a change in diet and lots of exercise I was losing weight and feeling really good. I couldn’t have been in a better place to be prepared for a summer of epic singletrack. At which point I rammed my head into a pine tree.

As far as crashes go it was decent, but unspectacular. If I think of the ragdolls, scorpions and supermans I’ve done in the past a relatively low speed meeting with a pine tree should of only resulted in a small amount of pain for a couple of days - not a wrecked summer. The point of impact was near the top of Billy T in Rotorua, I was on my singlespeed running dry weather tyres in the wet - but it’s not like I haven’t done that before. Coming into a downward berm my front wheel washed out pitching me over the bars and into the tree. My head glanced off the tree wrenching my neck to the left and my right shoulder took the brunt of the impact with the sort of sound that made me surprised I hadn’t broken my clavicle.

To be honest I can’t remember much of the next half hour, though I definitely had a ringing sound in my ears which subsided into other random sounds. As I was in the process of trying to catch up with my riding companions (I had stopped to take photos) the only option to my addled brain was to continue pedalling. Catching up I communicated that I’d had a big stack, hit my head and was surprised I hadn’t broken something - but as my system was flooded with adrenalin coupled with a malfunctioning brain I was feeling surprisingly good so we continued.

By the end of the ride the adrenalin had worn off and Dogboy spotted me wandering in circles with a glazed expression on my face and hustled me off to see Budgie the medic. Budgie checked me for spinal damage (negative), concussion (negative) and put me on oxygen to clear my addled brain. I spent the rest of the day traipsing around the forest filming for Vorb TV and generally feeling like I’d had a “lucky escape”. The next day I was back riding and life was good...

... getting back to the office my neck began to stiffen and I stupidly put it down to a new office/ workstation and started experimenting with different workstation configurations, but the root problem was a bit more sinister than that. By the end of November I was, and I believe this is the correct technical term - totally fucked - I couldn’t even bend down to pick things up and everything from my ears to my navel appeared to have locked solid. I was also getting strange muscle spasms which hurt like billy-oh and caused me to do weird little twitching dances at inopportune moments. As we had another week of epic singletrack planned (finishing with the QCW) I fell back onto anti-inflammatories, and got a packet of Voltaren 25s from the pharmacy. These allowed me to ride bikes, and sleep at night - but were treating the symptoms rather than the cause.

So I lined myself up for a doctor’s appointment and got a referral to a physio to try and get some movement into my upper back/ shoulders/ neck which were locking with monotonous regularity. I also got a prescription for some stronger anti-inflammatories and codeine as the pain was getting quite unbearable. The physio gave me some exercises to do (does the “funky chicken” ring any bells?) and quite suddenly it was Christmas time.

I stupidly tried to make the best of a bad situation and decided that as riding was painful I could put some work in on Vorb in front of the computer over the Christmas break. While this got a whole bunch of stuff done long days in front of the computer didn’t help my neck. By the time we headed off on our post Christmas road trip I was pretty much on a diet of Volatren, codeine and prunes (to counteract the blockage you get from too many opiates in your system.)

Riding was becoming an exercise in masochism and the motivation to get out and enjoy the great outdoors was plummeting. In desperation I revisited a bunch of stretching exercises I used 7 years ago to deal with muscular pain from another crash. The exercises seemed to work so on return to work I found myself a different physio and set myself a regime of daily stretching, physio appointments and massages.

Unfortunately the damage was done from months of inattention and my recovery has been slow, frustrating and ponderous. I had to wean myself off the drugs while gradually bringing movement back to a fairly thrashed part of my body. From what we can tell the crash had damaged the muscles between my neck and shoulder, with the impact wrenching them apart. For added fun nerves that passed through the damaged muscles were getting tweaked - hence the random spasms and pain. One of my biggest problems was that pretty much everything I do; working on computers, riding bikes, playing Playstation, reading books, driving cars involves a near identical posture for my upper body.

Which brings me to the happy ending - I’m finally back riding real singletrack and oh so much happier for it. On Saturday plans to go riding in the morning and watch racing in the arvo morphed into hours of alpine singletrack on my Transition Bottlerocket in the foothills of the Southern Alps with a couple of friends.

Coralie, James and I revisited a favourite ride I’d first ridden with Drop In five years back. It starts in the scree, descends through scrub and into beech forest, finally finishing off in a mixture of native forest and pine. I’m not going to give directions because while there aren’t any “no bikes” signs I’m not sure about the official access status - and it’s a fairly gnarly piece of work that would only interest lovers of rocky, rooty technical muntfests.

I find it a great challenge trail as the whole 1,000 odd metre descent is technically 100% cleanable but would require a superhuman effort of skill, endurance, strength and luck to do so. So I dropped some air out of my shocks and readied myself for a rough ride and a bit of flailing. Even including the inevitable flailing I had a great ride and best of all felt like myself again. Time and time again I remind myself (and anyone else in ear shot) how lucky we are to live on the doorstep of such an awesome outdoors playground.

If/ when I come across this situation again there’s some things I hope I’ll do differently - namely:

1.) Get to a physio as soon as possible rather than spending 6 weeks gradually locking up.
2.) Spend less time hunched in front of the computer.
3.) Setup a daily stretching routine.
4.) Accept that I no long snap back from injuries and treat rather than ignore the symptoms.

So yeah, I’m back and it feels damn fine. I can’t wait to get out and hit the trails again. Cue a bunch of photos from Saturday as motivation for the next adventure:
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"Come on Ruthie let's dance"
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Tinkerbell on Mon 9/Mar/09 4:28pm

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"I am smiling"
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby phunk on Mon 9/Mar/09 4:29pm

Wahoo! Glad to hear you are on the mend T-man.

I love that ride.
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby grahamt on Mon 9/Mar/09 4:30pm

Great piccys. Luv that track - overdue for another mission. :thumbsup:
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Trail on Mon 9/Mar/09 4:32pm

Ha, I know someone else that rode that ride recently, and had been told that it was "similar to riding Craigieburn". I told him that it was similar in that it had trees and single track, but that he should strap on an extra big pair of bollocks if he wanted to ride much of it!! Especially through the native section!!

Great fun piece of track!! Good to hear you are back on the bike!! I go a bit crazy if I am not given regular doses of single track!!!
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Colin on Mon 9/Mar/09 4:51pm

Pleased your back Tama

End of summer does not have to mean the end of epic singletrack and adventures, just where you take these adventures
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby rackerrack on Mon 9/Mar/09 5:35pm

Good to hear your up and atom again after all that.
Dam I need some good medicine.
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Oli on Mon 9/Mar/09 5:54pm

Good stuff, Tama. That's way too long between feeling good, so I'm glad you do now. :thumbsup:
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby slowMTB on Mon 9/Mar/09 6:22pm

This sounds soooooooooooooo familiar . Unfortunately I am living it right now but with many more broken bits :( . Funny thing is I thought I saw you Saturday morning at the DH Open but maybe not huh .
Fortunately I did a real number on myself and got immediate attention :crazy: . Looking forward to getting back in the saddle :thumbsup:

Nice to hear your back :)
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby poundme on Mon 9/Mar/09 8:12pm

Great to hear you are of the drugs and riding the wicked singletrack again! That ride looked very sweet-would love to no where it is. Ride on bro!
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Mel on Mon 9/Mar/09 8:28pm

Nice comeback story Tama. I'm glad to hear you have mended enough to enjoy your riding again. :thumbsup:
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby crazychris on Mon 9/Mar/09 11:38pm

:) singletrack + sunshine = modern day snake oil
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Tama on Tue 10/Mar/09 8:16am

slowMTB wrote:Funny thing is I thought I saw you Saturday morning at the DH Open but maybe not huh .
You did, originally my plan was for a short ride in the morning so I could take photos in the afternoon - but as you can see that blew out a bit :)

slowMTB wrote: Fortunately I did a real number on myself and got immediate attention :crazy: . Looking forward to getting back in the saddle :thumbsup:
I tip my hat to you - I only wish I'd had the nous to realize what was going on and get myself sorted right after the crash.

Now... where to ride next? :thumbsup:
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"Come on Ruthie let's dance"
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby Mr_Bob on Tue 10/Mar/09 8:20am

Glad You've "found Your riding Mojo" again Tama

If you need any more reasons to ride, Please see below:


Riding = better than prozac :)
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Re: Singletrack Is The Best Medicine

Postby jerms669 on Tue 10/Mar/09 8:54am

slowMTB wrote:This sounds soooooooooooooo familiar .

Yep unfortunately ignoring injuries like this is as "kiwi male" as beer and rugby, when will we learn :(

Ive used the old "well theres nothing a doc can do but give me pain killers and to tell me to stay off the bike" line way too many times.

Im beginning to learn that ACC funded recoveries are the left wings gift to the everyman :)
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