‘I’ve signed you up for a charity cycle’ – text received from Joe.
Cool, sounds fun, I’m up for that.
Keyline was the company that had organised it to raise money for Prostate Cancer and Joe was a regular customer in there. They knew he liked cycling so asked if he wanted to join them. He asked if I could come along and signed us up for day 3 of their 4 days. Loch Lomond to Fort William – roughly 80 miles.
We met up with the group at 8:30am. There was only one other female (Hayley) but that didn’t really bother me. Everyone introduced themselves and after seeing the extent of the sun burn on a couple of them I gladly accepted the offer of the sun cream! The brief was simple (even for me) – we were cycling on the A82 heading to Fort William. Straight road. Easy.
We set off and man it was difficult trying to figure out what position to put myself in. Do I push? Do I do a comfortable speed? Do I hang back with Hayley and keep her company? Oh my word the pressure!
But…. oh my word… instantly the views were gorgeous. We were going along Loch Lomond and I couldn’t resist a photo or 2.
The road was bumpy in places and about 3 miles in one of the guys hit a kerb. A small bump but a bump none the less. On to the road and it was a lot smoother but quite busy. At 15 miles it was decided the next part was too dangerous for a big group of cyclists as it was full of twists and turns with very few passing places for the impatience cars and vans. The bikes were loaded in to one of the support vehicles and the riders went in the mini bus behind.
A few miles down the road and we all got out and got our bikes. Cue fall number 1. I stupidly tried to clip in whilst pushing up a gravel path and promptly fell over – slow motion of course. No biggie though. It happens.
I decided to stick back with Hayley for a wee while and started chatting. She was doing all 4 days and had the attitude of ‘I will get there when I get there’. 4 days for someone who only really cycled to and from work was a bit of a difference!
Glancing down I noticed my handle bar was bent. Oh you’re kidding. How could a simple fall like that have bent my handle bars? I was going to have to see if I could get this fixed. I shouted to Hayley I was going to try and catch up with Joe and see if he could sort it. ‘See you soon’ she said. I put my foot down and pedalled harder.
It was busy but it was ok. I see another from the group just in front of me. As I began to catch up with him I see a large sunken drain in the road. I turn to my right to make sure I have space to go round and I’m met with a van so close to my face I could have stuck my tongue out and licked it. I swing my head back round but the gust from the van pushes me straight in to the hole. As I bump out of it I throw myself to the left and away from the road. The force of the bump has me flying over the handle bars. I see a solid iron man hole cover and thank the lord I’m wearing a helmet as I hit it face first, my left hip stopping my motion on the side of it.
I roll over and instantly throw my right hand on to my face, knowing I’ve hit it quite bad. It’s wet. Ok I’m not moving my hand. I lie there for a few seconds a bit shocked. Did that really just happen? I move my legs still expecting them to be attached to my bike (I’ve never crashed before! I’m amazed they unclipped!). Legs are fine – I can still run. I try to move my left hand which is sticking awkwardly out. Nope! That isn’t happening without considerable pain! Oh… shit. Ok, leave it there. You know Hayley’s not far behind you.
The rider that was in front of me is now at my side. I suspect I let out some hell of a yell or made a very loud noise as I face planted a solid object. Soon enough he says ‘Here’s Hayley now, it’s ok, she’s a nurse’. There’s a few people round me now. I feel a bit of an idiot. This wasn’t even 20 miles in! She asks me to move my hand and I garble some rubbish about there being blood – like she can’t see it! The support vehicle pulls up and she shouts for a first aid kit.
I’m lying on the ground focusing on my breathing trying desperately not to cry or think about what the hell my face looks like when there’s a thump on my cheek. For a second I remember back to Mags hitting her face at Tough Mudder, sneezing and her whole face blowing up. Please, no.
‘Fraser!’ ‘Jesus Christ!’.
Turns out Fraser had thrown the first aid kit across the road and hit me square in the face with it. No, I don’t blame you for laughing out loud at that. Comedy gold to be fair.
Hayley patches my face up with some steri strips and a bandage. She tells me I’ve punctured it and will need to get it looked at. As she’s doing it I ask if my bikes ok. I’m convinced I’ve buckled my wheel and I’m worried about Ironman in just 4 weeks time. Luckily it was just the other handle that was bent and a couple of the guys managed to push bits back in place. I sit up and try to move my shoulder, which I can do but bloody hell its sore. I can’t really move my left hand either but it’s not really grazed or anything.
I decide to carry on. I know that if I don’t get back on that bike right now Ironman will be over for me. I won’t make the start line. Everything still works on the bike and the support vehicle is right there. I start off with Hayley and agree to take it slow but as soon as I’m confident the bikes ok I speed up. I think the adrenaline just kicks in and I refuse to let ‘that fear’ creep in to my mind. My hip is screaming at me and I can’t move my left hand but I am doing this cycle.
I stop at the round about. Naturally both exits say A82. I wait for a minute or two to see if the rest of them catch up but all I can think about is getting to the next stop (The Green Welly Boot) where I can get red bull and pain killers. So I carry on. The van goes past me and I give it a wave to say I’m fine. Not so sure my face said that though. I was extremely aware of how close some of the cars and vans were coming and after my fall I was what can only be described as a small ball of utter fury.
I’m about a mile and a half out from the stop when this blue crappy fiat 500 literally skims past me. I blow my top shouting and screaming at it and try to chase it down – fully intent on banging on the window and letting all my rage out. It’s a car though. It has an engine. I don’t catch it.
When I finally arrive at the stop Joes standing waiting there. ‘You alright?’ He asks. ‘I need red bull and pain killers’. We walk round to the van to get his wallet and I scan the car park for the Fiat, just in case.
I am genuinely fine. The bleeding doesn’t feel like it’s stopped yet and the pain is ‘a bit much’ but overall it’s not stopping me from cycling. I can’t really eat anything as I can’t move my cheek but I can drink my red bull. What more do I need? Ha ha.
Back on the road and the wonderful sites continue. I draft Joe along one section and enjoy taking it that bit easier. Every time we stop and I put my left foot down I get a shooting pain right through my hip so I don’t stop for many photos. The faster guys in the group go on ahead and stop for selfies. This gives me a bit of a chuckle as I go past grown men in Lycra cheesing at their phones. Only for them to go past again and it all to repeat.
The views are what keep me going. Gliding down through the hills past Glen Etive – it’s astounding. Despite the pain I was enjoying it.
We were booked on the last train back to the start so it was a race against time to get there after my fall. At times I wasn’t sure we would make it and we would have to bail. With 15 miles to go I have to admit I was cracking. There was another hairy moment when another hole in the road appeared and it was a close call. There were tears shortly after that. As I counted down the miles I just wanted to get there.
The final stretch to Fort William was bad with cars and vans. They seemed to be in a competition to see who could get closest to us. Joes temper was going at this point so when we finally saw the group it was a great relief. I wanted to punch the air but my I couldn’t raise my left arm and I couldn’t hold on to the bike to raise my right. Lots of hand shaking and well dones all round – and a few ‘you’ve got bigger balls than me lass’.
Unfortunately we couldn’t wait for Hayley and Fraser to come in as we had to get the train. I went to shop there to get more painkillers. ‘Oooh that looks sore’ the woman said. ‘It is, can I have you’re strongest pain killers please’ I asked. She didn’t take card but she insisted I take them with me as I hobbled back to Joe to try and scrape some change.
Waiting for the train and I spot the drink and food trolley. ‘Are you going on this train?’ I ask her. ‘Yes I am love’. ‘Oh thank god, do you take card?’ – ‘yes, signals not great, what is it you’re after?’ She asks.
‘A cup of tea, a sandwich, biscuits – actually, everything. I will take everything’.
I’m hungry now – so is Joe.
3 hours on the train back to the start and surprisingly I can move when it stops. Pain killers were doing their job. A quick call to my mum to say I was having to nip to the hospital to get my face seen to (no jokes please) and we were back on the road heading to Perth.
For a late Friday night the emergency room was really quiet. I was seen very quickly and thoroughly checked over. An X-ray showed a tiny fracture in my hand which I thought was just bumped hard. They were a bit concerned on my hip. Said it should be ok but if it didn’t get better to go back. And I got away with glue in my cheek as the puncture didn’t penetrate all the way through.
I’ve spent the day after resting and frustrated. I missed park run, I’m tired because it was a long day and an uncomfortable sleep. I have a half marathon race tomorrow. It’s a championship race. I really don’t know if I’m going to manage it. If I do get round it’s not going to be in a spectacular time, so for me, it won’t be a race. But I do want to see if I can do it. The positive is that I cycled 75 miles yesterday and my legs are fine.
It was a spectacular day, there’s no denying that. Some great people and laughs (including the bag to the face!) and the scenery. I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to do it and I admire Keyline for encouraging its employees to do it also. It’s got me thinking what I could do at my work!