This week my thoughts have turned to illness and injury - not a happy topic, but seeing as I've been struck down by one of the most serious ailments known to humankind, it's unavoidable. If you haven't already guessed, I've been afflicted by man flu!
When you take on a challenge such as this your mind does tend to settle on the things that may scupper your chances of crossing the finish line. That's not to say I spend my whole time preoccupied by downsides and disaster, it's just part of the planning process to think about all the things that could crop up and work out ways to manage them. Injury and illness is just one of those things, but one of them that is a little more difficult to mitigate. If a spell of flu happens upon me, there is not so much I can do about it, except be miserable and mope about. In some ways, it's good I've been hit now and actually it's the first time I've been ill for a good few years, hopefully that's it now for another few years.
Injury probably worries me more and is something that will just sit at the back of my mind until I finish LEJOG. Ever since my early 20's I have had problems with my left knee. In the early days I would find my knee would simply collapse from under me without warning and or wake up with my knee locked in position and absolute agony to move. What I didn't know then, or even after a few arthroscopies later, was that some of the articular cartilage in my knee had deteriorated and bits of it had broken free, sometimes getting caught up in the knee joint like something trapped in the hinge of a door - ouch!
I've now had several operations on my knee to try and help it recover. In one, called Microfracture, the surgeon shaved away the damaged cartilage and drilled holes into the underlying bone to enable bone marrow to seep out, form a scab of stem cells that would hopefully form cartilage. An operation pioneered by Dr Richard Steadman in Colarado, famous for treating footballers and basketball players the world over. I even managed to get a video of the operation which I'v copied below, have a look:
More recently I had a a cartilage graft on my left knee from one of the top knee surgeons in the country. The op, called a 'matrix induced chondrocyte implantation' is where cartilage was harvested from my knee and sent of to be grown in a laboratory. Once sufficient cartilage was grown it was effectively super glued back in to my knee during open knee surgery.
I had the operation about three and half years ago now, I still recall the recovery clearly, it was long and it was tough. Back then I'd have thought you mad (one flu over the cuckoo's nest mad) to suggest I would go on to cycle LEJOG, in fact, there were times that I didn't think I'd ever do much. Struggling to walk on crutches, leg in a brace and lacking any confidence on my knee I just couldn't see how things could get better, but somewhere inside me, some part of me just didn't want to give up.
So, no matter how mad it might be to take on 950 miles of cycling, however crazy it may seem to spend day after day covering 100 miles of tough, unrelenting hills, that part of me that didn't give up on my knee three and half years ago is now bigger and more confident and really looking forward to the challenge.
Hope you've enjoyed my blog
Onwards and Upwards!